Thursday, December 13, 2012

Central and Eastern Europe

I know I never really reflected on my trip - and honestly, I've had to think a lot about this one because it was so profound on so many levels.

When a colleague from another school suggested we travel through those areas I got super excited as everyone always wants to head to the popular Western European countries. Our travels were also going to bring us though some of the major areas I teach specifically about during our Holocaust unit.

I didn't really think about how significant these areas had become due to teaching year after year about them.  It was easy to teach about a place you've never been to without having an emotional attachment to the area or the things that happened there.

Things changed over the time I spent traveling through parts of Germany, The Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary.

Reminders of WWII, the Holocaust and the Iron Curtain are still very much alive, the economy is still very much affected, and I strongly believe the people are not the same people they were before the these events rolled over them. I found the people to be very friendly and helpful, but they hesitated to engage in conversation unless spoken to first.  This was very different than Western Europe where it seems everyone is vying for your attention - and money.

Berlin was disturbing.  A beautiful, edgy city, overshadowed by the Nazi party buildings and constant reminders of the communist regime; including stark, empty, abandoned buildings - and the wall.   Monuments to people who attempted to assassinate Hitler, died under his rule, tried to escape by climbing the wall, and to the Holocaust dot the city as daily reminders of what people believed could never happen.  It was sad. It was disturbing. It was fascinating   I was happy to leave the city, but could visit again and learn so much more.

Dresden was a peaceful contrast, until we found out that all the rebuilding we saw was due to the horrific civilian bombing at the end of WWII.  It was a beautiful and sad city.

Prague and Krakow were awesome. Again, reminders everywhere, but the original artistry and beauty of the cities remain.  I especially loved Krakow and would love to spend a lot more time there.

Budapest was chic and ancient and way cool all wrapped into one. I would have loved to have seen more of the city.   As it was, I explored the castle and the Christmas markets - and needed to see so much more.

For details and pictures see the link to the left.

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