Every year Lloydminster Comprehensive High School students travel with EF Educational Tours. The Source’s student columnist was among the 16 who went abroad this year.
Following is her diary of the event.
March 23-March 24
Students met at the school at midnight and drove to the airport where we broke into two groups.
One group took a tour of Frankfurt, Germany, before taking the final flight to Berlin where all the students came together.
At that point everyone was exhausted so we had diner, met our guide, Agnes, and called it a night.
This was the first full day in Europe.
We spent the day doing a bus tour with lots of places to walk around and take pictures with an incredibly knowledgeable and humorous tour guide.
We saw lots of the typical historic sights, such as the Berlin wall, the Olympic stadium, the Brandenburg Gate, and Potsdam Palace.
We also saw a holocaust memorial that looked like a collection of cement blocks from the outside, but when we walked between the blocks the ground went lower and gradually the blocks were towering all around us.
While the Second World War sites were both incredible and humbling, our guide emphasized Germany is not just a place for tourists to marvel at the horrible acts committed by the Nazi party.
Germany is one of the few countries that acknowledges its horrible past and faces it head on. Tourists should realize Berlin, and all of Germany, has so much more to offer than war history.
We drove from Berlin to Dresden, still in Germany, and visited the palace and then had free time.
The buildings there were all beautiful but my favorite part was the currywurst.
It’s probably the best meal I’ve ever had.
We then drove to Prague in the Czech Republic.
Prague was, in one word, crowded.
The city itself was beautiful and I loved the castle that we visited, but it was difficult to traverse the busy streets.
With the Easter market out there were people all around and we had to be careful of pickpockets.
I loved Easter in Prague.
When we went for a tour of the old city square we could hear the Czech hymns floating out of the church and over the grounds.
Everything was done up for Easter and everything was bright.
After we toured the area of Sir Charles’ palace, we crossed the famous Charles Bridge and had free time in the square.
Many of us went up towers and took in the shops and Easter Market.
We only met up again to tour the underground city.
A driving day from Prague to Kraków, with one very powerful stop—this was the day we toured Auschwitz, the notorious concentration camp where at least 1.1 million prisoners died, about 90 per cent of them Jewish.
I thought I knew what to expect, but you really can’t be ready.
I knew it would scare me and break my heart, which it did, but there was so much more that shocked me.
The most shocking was how close the camp was to the city.
I knew Auschwitz was the name of the city close by, but I hadn’t realized it was right there.
I couldn’t imagine anyone being so close to the devastation, or having to come to accept what happened in their own back yard.
Something else shocking was the hair.
Auschwitz has been turned into a museum and many of the rooms are filled with artifacts from the victims: shoes, suitcases, baby’s clothes, glasses, and human hair.
Piles of it, tonnes of it, an incomprehensible amount of it.
The hair was used to make blankets, of which there was an example right beside a mound of all colours of hair.
Then there was the gas chamber.
You can feel the desperation in the tiny chamber and can see the fingernail marks on the wall where people were trying to claw their way out of the deadly rooms.
It was terrifying being there—I can’t imagine what the victims felt before their end.
We left Auschwitz to go to Auschwitz II, Birkenau.
This is the big one shown on every movie with the train coming in.
The Nazis tried to destroy this camp at the end of the war but they couldn’t get rid of the sheer vastness of it.
Everywhere you look there are the remains of barracks and gas chambers.
I can’t say I enjoyed visiting Auschwitz, but I recommend it to anyone for the experience.
We spent the day in Kraków, Poland starting with a bus tour where we visited the Jewish quarter and visited Oscar Schindler’s factory.
Once we got off the bus we took a walking tour of the palace and the city square, including a beautiful church.
After lunch we went to the salt mines, which were amazing.
Three-hundred twenty-seven meters below the surface are sculptures made of salt, a church hall that’s still in use, and gift shops.
We could lick the walls and they were pure salt.
This was a driving day but it was cool to have breakfast in Poland, lunch in Slovakia, and supper in Hungary.
Thursday, March 31:
Budapest, Hungary, was our tour guide’s home city, so she was excited to show us.
We started with a bus tour where we visited hero square and went to the palace overlooking the Danube River.
There was a nearby horse farm where we went for a show and supper.
The day was ended with a beautiful night cruise of the Danube.
Friday, April 1
This day we went to Vienna and had some free time where we could go to an art, history, or modern art museum, or the treasury, library, catacombs, or shopping center.
Saturday, April 2
This was our last bus tour, followed by more free time for what we couldn’t do the day before.
We ended our last day in Europe with an amazing Strauss/Mozart concert. It was a wonderful experience that I would recommend to anyone and I would go back in a heartbeat.