Saturday, June 11, 2011


I always knew this would be a difficult day.

We did the same breakfast routine as yesterday. I encouraged the students to get downstairs a little earlier if they wanted to pick up coffee next door, but Coffeeheaven turned out be closed and cordoned off with police tape, so no coffee. But since I had bought the train tickets the day before, we had time at the main station for them to buy their morning coffee.

More problems dealing with the construction in the main station, and the fact that the 9am train turned out to be at 9:21. Finally, we got on. Not enough seats for all of us in one compartment, so one student ended up a few doors down. One person in that cabin wanted all the doors and windows closed so he roasted; the rest of us were very comfortable.

We reached Lublin by noon, and I suggested we eat first, since I didn't think we'd be hungry afterwards. We went into the old town and admired the medieval and renaissance buildings. Then we stopped off at a crepe place for lunch. It was called "Zadora" (as in Pia). The crepes were all made with buckwheat flour and were really good. I had the mushroom one with mushroom sauce. Afterwards we walked down to the lower gate that divided the upper, Christian city, from the lower, Jewish ghetto.

We then made our way to Majdanek. I had been here in 2006 and it had strongly affected me. I was worried how I would react this time. They've updated the signs since I was last here, though the main exhibits are still the same. I found the signage far more understandable now. I did very little talking as we walked through the exhibits. It was overcast and there was a light wind. The green grass that covers most of the camp was full of crows. The only sound, besides the wind, was the incessant cawing of the crows. For 2.5 hours we walked silently through the camp, making our way to the crematorium. When I had seen this place in 2006, I completely broke down. Now I was impassive. Perhaps because I anticipated my reaction; perhaps because I was self conscious in front of the students. I could tell that many of them were strongly affected.

We quietly left the camp and returned to the train station. 1 hour and 40 minute wait for the train back to Warsaw. We sat in the cafe, had lattes and cappucinos and talked. I bought a slice of chocolate cream cake that was so dry, the cream filling flaked. We got back to Warsaw aroudn 9:30 pm, and then I joined three of the students for dinner at a pierogi place they found one or two nights ago and really liked. They were good, but by 11 pm I crashed and so we skipped dessert.

Tomorrow is our first "mental health day:" a free day with no assignments. I had originally intended to go to Kazimierz Dolny, but I told the students I can't face 5 more hours on the train. Instead, I will walk with them through the Old City. Several want to see the castle. If it's open, we'll try to go to the palace at Wilanow in the afternoon.

No comments: