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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As I stood in the courtyard of Fort Henry, I heard screams emanating from within. Fort Henry was constructed to protect the Kingston Royal Dockyard from the invading American forces during the War of 1812. The threat was so real that the capital of Canada – which was then Kingston – was moved to Quebec to protect it. The docks are all that stood between the United States and the St. Lawrence River and both countries were all too familiar with how easily it would turn the tides of battle.
As the screams from inside Fort Henry faded, I turned to the man beside me. He had come with his family. We got talking, trying to calm our nerves as bloodied clowns and undead mimes began wandering out from inside the fort.
I was recently asked if I preferred my time in Montreal or Quebec City more, and while Montreal is a gorgeous city, decorated with thousands of green copper spires, hosts incredible festivals, has some of the most fantastic food I have ever tasted, and is spotted with beautiful parks, there was just something about Quebec City that spoke to me. Being over four hundred years old, Quebec City is one of the last remaining "walled cities" in North America, and is the only one north of Mexico. Quebec City was the location of some of the greatest conflicts in Canadian history, including the Siege of Quebec by the British.
Belonging to three very different countries (France, England, and Canada) in its four hundred year existence, Quebec City is a mixing pot of old traditions, new ideas, cobblestone streets and modern architecture. Since there is so much to see in Quebec City, I figured I would narrow it down to a couple and let you discover the rest! Here is "8 Places to Visit in Quebec City".
Cemeteries are a place of solace. All people, regardless of wealth, status, religion or creed are equals within a cemetery. It's a place of remembrance, respect and reconciliation. If you visit a cemetery, you are visiting the graves of lost loved ones. These may be children, pioneers, rebels or everyday people. Every grave has a story, and all are longing to be told.
Because of this, cemeteries are a library of knowledge. They hold the lessons of our past, and the wisdom of our future. As the leaves change and the days get shorter, cemeteries attract a much different crowd than that of just historians and family members. With autumn crisp in the air, cemeteries fill with thrill-seekers and paranormal believers. There is a fine line between what is and isn't acceptable within a cemetery and those who dabble into the affairs of the afterlife know this all too well. Few people go into cemeteries looking to disrespect the graves; instead, most are just hoping they can answer their own questions about life after death.
Not all cemeteries are haunted, but each holds their own stories. Keep this in mind while you read this article. If you end up visiting any of these sites, remember to step softly, speak quietly and respect the surrounding graves. You might not be as alone as you think.