In just over a week I'll be heading to Eastern Europe for a trip I've always wanted to go on. It's a short trip for traveling so far away, but it'll be worth it as it is something I have wanted to do for over five years.
This trip is going to cover some pretty emotionally heavy locations, some which are possibly dangerous to my health, and some locations in which millions of people died. I know it's going to be a challenge for me as I found it hard enough to go to the Anne Frank Huis in Amsterdam and the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York, and this will be thousands of times more emotional, so I hope I can convey my experiences to you when I get back (or as I live them, assuming I can get my long distance cell coverage figured out).
Here is my day-by-day schedule of where I will be and what I'll be doing. It would be really exciting if I could meet up with some of you while I'm traveling.
Day 1 - 2
This is the day I leave Canada and fly to Europe. I have a quick layover in Toronto, then another in Warsaw and I arrive in Krakow.
I've been reading up on a lot of different ways to cut down on jetlag because I'll be arriving here around 2 in the afternoon. Krakow looks like an absolutely incredible city and my next day is pretty packed, so I'm hoping that, if I'm feeling awake enough, I'll be heading to Schindler's Factory. This is the factory Oskar Schindler owned and operated during World War II where he saved the lives of over 1,200 Jews from the Holocaust. As embarrassing as this might sound, I've never seen the movie Schindler's List, so I plan to watch it before I head over there and get some context surrounding this destination.
The factory is about a forty five minute walk away from my Airbnb suite, so I might see if I can get a taxi and then walk back. I could just walk there too. I haven't decided how I'm going to get there but Schindler's Factory is my only destination this day.
This day starts at 8:05 AM a block away from mysuite. I'm meeting up with SeeKrakow and we are taking a tour of Auschwitz, a concentration camp created during World War II to exterminate 1.1 million Jews. It's an hour long bus ride there, and an hour ride back. I believe in total we will have about 3 or 4 hours in the concentration camp. I'm not sure what we will all be seeing as the website says the majority of documents and records were destroyed by the Nazis. I also believe the camp was held by the Soviets for some time during the war. I'm not sure what I'll see here, but I have a feeling it will be unforgettable.
It's also interesting to note that during my last trip to Europe I visited Anne Frank's house, and this time I'm heading to the concentration camp she was held in. It was here she saw her father Otto Frank for the last time. Anne and her family would die in Bergen-Belsen, and Otto would be the only survivor.
Once we arrive back in Krakow, I have half an hour before my next tour. While most of SeeKrakow's tours are over this late at night, I arranged a special individual tour of Krakow's Old Town. Krakow is home to beautiful churches, castles and even a statue of a dragon that breathes fire. Unlike Warsaw, Krakow wasn't completely razed during World War II so I'll be able to visit actual buildings that saw the horrors of the war, much like I did in Munich and Paris.
I leave Krakow this day, fly back up to Warsaw and arrive in Kyiv, Ukraine. Kyiv is over 1,500 years old, being one of the oldest cities in Europe. The history of this city is incredible, having been invaded by over a dozen different groups over years. This city is lined with underground tunnels and crypts, one of the most haunted cemeteries in Europe, castles, war memorials and Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the location where the 2014 Revolution took place.
I've heard Kyiv is in a bit of a transitioning period from being part of the former Soviet Union, so my ability to get around with English will probably be limited. However, I felt that about Japan and was surprised to see that wasn't the case, so I guess I'll find out when I get there!
I have also looked into the current conflict going on in Eastern Ukraine and I have been told by multiple sources that Kyiv is safe to visit as it is far from the rebels.
I am once again arriving around two in the afternoon, and my very first hostel is right downtown, so I might do some exploration around the area if I have time. Much like in Krakow, I won't be in this city for very long.
Day 5 - 6
This day is what made me organize this trip to begin with. At 8 in the morning I will be meeting up with the staff of ChernobylWel.com, a tour group that offers tours inside Ukraine's Exclusion Zone, a zone around the area where a nuclear reactor exploded and poisoned the area with deadly radiation. The time and day we arrive in this city will mirror the events exactly thirty years previous where busloads of people were evacuated and never returned.
Since that fateful day in 1986, Chernobyl and the nearby city of Pripyat have been abandoned. Nature has taken over the city, and the once great Soviet architecture has fallen to rust and ruin. Each day I'm there will be equivalent to having a full bodied X-Ray.
The first day I'll be seeing, according to their itinerary: Chernobyl City, the power plant and Reactor 5 and 6, the Sarcophagus that covers the blown Reactor 4, Chernobyl Zoo and the inhabitants that returned to the area even after it went into quarantine.
I'm not sure where I will be spending that night, as it is apparently a “secret”. I thought at first it was a military base, but I've been told since that it's a hotel with power and “limited” wifi.
The next day we will be visiting Pripyat, a city of 50,000 that was evacuated overnight. We will be visiting the school, a hotel, a hospital, a railway station, a soccer stadium and much more.
I'm not sure when we will be returning to Kyiv, but I imagine it will be late at night.
This is my only “free day” on my trip. I have a few museums, churches, parks and monuments I want to visit, such as the Castle of Richard Lionheart, the Golden Gates, St. Volodymyr's Cathedral and Genocide Holodomor Memorial Museum, along with Mother Motherland. This day will mostly be me stumbling around the millennium and a half year old city, so if anybody happens to be in the city, it would be a great time to meet up.
Parts of this city were saturated by the nuclear fallout from Chernobyl, so I might actively search out some of them. I won't be visiting the haunted cemetery, however, as I think I would have been around enough death on this trip.
This is the last day of my trip, and I fly back home. Nothing too spectacular but I'll be able to catch up on some long needed sleep after a very busy week in Eastern Europe.
Most parts of my itinerary are pretty fixed, but I do have some extra time in Krakow and Kyiv. Is there anything I should see or do while I'm over there? Let me know in the comments below. If you've ever been to Ukraine, let me know how you found visiting it. I'm a little anxious as I'm a bit concerned about the language barrier.
Inspired by my trip? Give it a pin!
And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.
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Although the hot summer days of July are long behind us, 2017 is still Canada's 150th year. In honour of Canada's sesquicentennial birthday, I decided to put together a list of 150 things about Canada. This list talks about our quirkiness, our strengths, our weakness, and our legacy, for better and for worse. There are some sad facts, some odd facts and some facts that will probably make you open another tab to look into for yourself.
Hope you enjoy this list, and I hope you all had a great 2017!
1. Canada's two official languages are French and English, but only 20.6% of Canadians speak French.
If you're visiting Alberta this summer, you probably have your heart set on visiting the mountains. After all, places like Lake Louise, Banff, Waterton and now Castle Provincial Park are some of the most beautiful sites in Canada, and they're always a hit on Instagram (if you're into that kind of thing). But, between Regina and the mountains is a whole province with plenty of sights to explore.
Last year I took more trips than I could count to southern Alberta, but most of them ended near Medicine Hat. Had I gone a bit further, I would have found myself in a myriad of attractions to see, from historical museums to sites of natural disasters and just about everything in-between.
For those looking to make a few stops on their way to the Rocky Mountains, or for those who are just looking for an Alberta road trip, here are six attractions you must visit while in southern Alberta.
They say hope was the last thing to die in Auschwitz.
It's been just over 70 years since the Allies liberated the death camp and the horrors of the "Final Solution" were revealed to the world. Prior to their arrival, Auschwitz was the most effective death camp ever created, having taken the lives of over 1.1 million Jews.
Block 4 of Auschwitz holds the museum, explaining the best it can about what happened seven decades past. The museum explains what Auschwitz was originally built for – a camp for Polish prisoners of war – and how it became key to the Nazi's "Final Solution". The museum goes over the construction of Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II (Birkenau) and Auschwitz III (Monowitz), the increased sizes and effectiveness of gas chambers and the factories of death that stood and smoked over the camp during its operation.