Intro Picture

Intro Picture
Hi! My name is Anne. Welcome to my traveling blog! Read the latest stories below or check out the list of previous stories in the blog archive on the right!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The plans so far

It's been a while again.
Unfortunately I'm not that great at keeping up with blogs haha. I've had one or two before, and always ran out of interesting stuff to talk about.
I'm not the kind of guy who feels the need to share with the world what I've had for breakfast, so to speak.
Posts will hopefully pick up in speed once I'm finally on the road. Untill then, posts might be a bit slow, but I'll try to make them as interesting and informative as possible.
This particular post will be going into a bit more detail about my plans so far, both for the blog untill I'm out there travelling, as well as the travel plans so far.

So, the more interesting things first: travel plans!
I'm currently still busy trying to obtain a Canadian work-holiday visa, but the first set of documents are underway!
The amount of visas available is limited however, so I hope I'm not too late!
With the work-holiday visa I can travel and work freely within the Canadian borders for the length of a whole year from the moment I first set foot in Canada.
Money isn't a big problem for me on this moment, but it'll surely help if I can land a job or two after a few months have passed!
At the same time, I'm looking into getting a travel visa for the US, which will allow me 90 days of travel time inside the US borders, so I will have to make the most of that time.

I will most likely land somewhere in Qu├ębec or Ontario, and I'll head west-ward from there.
The idea is that I will follow the US-Canadian border at first.
Then, when I'm approximately somewhere above Utah I'll head south into the US, where I plan to look around Utah for an undetermined period of time and visit some national parks while I'm there!
The nature in Utah is something that appeals to me greatly and is something you probably won't find anywhere else! The contrast between the green of the trees and the red of the rock is simply beautiful beyond description.
Some of the national parks that I'm interested in so far are Zion, Bryce, Moab, and Canyonlands but I'm sure there are many more I haven't heard of yet that are just as good-looking as these places!
So, if anybody has any more suggestions, I'd be more than pleased to hear about them!
After that I ofcourse fully intend to see the Grand Canyon. I simply cannot pass up that opportunity!

A look at Zion National Park. It's natural art!

Another picture of Zion.

This is a picture from Bryce, best known for these funky spires!

This place is apparently called False Kiva. Picture taken in Canyonlands National Park.
Looks like it would be a fantastic sleeping place, doesn't it? :)

The Grand Canyon. What else can one say? Look at the grandeur of this place! It's huge!

From there I'd like to head further west and make my way into California, and head back up north from there.
I figure that by the time I reach California I will have used most of the days available to me in the US,
so I'll use the remainder of days heading back to Canada through the Sequoia forests and see how large those trees really are!

Hint: pretty freaking large! :D

Hopefully I'll have plenty of days left so I can hitchhike out of the US, instead of having to rely on other methods of travelling.
I'd love to see as many states as I can before having to get out, and Oregon looks like such a grand place too!
When I get out of the US I plan to take a trip through the Canadian Rockies.

This picture says it all, I'd think. It's magnificent!

And after that? Who knows! We'll see where the wind blows me! :)
This is far as my plans have come, and I don't really care to make them more detailed. I don't know how or when I'll get there, and for me that's part of the charm. I'm really excited to get going, though unfortunately it might still take a while.

Which brings me to the next point: the plans for this blog for the duration I'll still spend at home.
Perhaps it would have been better for me to wait with creating a traveling blog untill I was actually sure of the time of departure, but I felt I simply had to write a post about Auschwitz and I didn't want time delude my memory. (Though I'm not sure how I could ever forget that place...)

So now I have to keep up some interesting blog posts on a more or less regular interval to not let this place die down (too much :P).
The way I figured I would do that is by writing some posts on people that have inspired me to travel, post and discuss quotes that really speak to me, and various other things like that.
By doing so, I hope to give everybody reading this a little bit more insight into the enigma that is me.
I hope I will succeed in making people understand what I'm all about :)

So, this is it for now. I'll see you guys and gals again later, as I write my first post about inspiring people!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The reasons why

So, time to tell you a little bit about me and the reasons behind me wanting to travel so badly.
I decided to wait for a bit before moving on to a new blog post as I think the topic of Auschwitz deserved some time to 'let the dust settle' before moving on straight away.
But now it's time to talk about what this blog was made for: travel!

Traveling is something I want to do for various reasons.
I don't feel satisfied with my current life. I finished college a year or so ago and after that I've had several jobs that were pretty mediocre (with one exception) and they were certainly not what I went to school for either.
I have friends but I see them just occasionally as they live a short while away and I can't just pop in when I feel like it, and if I'm there all I can see them for is a few hours each time.
That's all fine and I'm not complaining about that, as I love my friends. But a man needs something to occupy his days with, something that gives him satisfaction and allows him to lean back and say "I love my life."
If your days suck, visiting your friends is a bandaid to stop the bleeding. I don't mean this at all in a negative way, but they can't fill your days, your job does.

These days my job consists of standing at a factory line like a robot. I hate every single minute of it.
Every hour feels like two. When I get home, all I want to do is sit back alone and do nothing.
I feel like a piece of machinery. All the while I'm left thinking, is this life? Is this all there is to it?
But I know there is a difference between being alive and feeling alive, and I currently spend my days on auto-pilot.
Every day you get up at the same time, go to work, get home, watch tv or sit behind your pc and go to sleep again. Rinse repeat.
I want to, I need to feel alive. And this just does not cut it. I want surprises, adventure, something new and unexpected.
Now there are many people who do enjoy having a routine and spending their days in relative safety, and I don't want to or mean to judge or put it down, but it's just not for me.

On top of that, I feel as if all my life I have only been doing what I have had to do, not necessarily that what I want to do.
Take school for instance. For years you are obligated to attend school, and this is not at all bad by the way. But if you want to make something of your life, you need to attend school.
So there is something you HAVE to do. But if you want anything else in life, you need money. So you need to work. This is all very logical, but all this time I feel like I'm forced into these things.
Now that I have saved up a bit of money, I want to be able to break free for a while and just do the things that I want to do.
I don't want to take into account that what others expect of me for a while.
If I want to relax, I can relax. If I want to move on, I move on. If I want to change plans and do something else for a while, I don't want to have to check in with anyone.
I want to be free.

But ofcourse there is also a genuine desire to see the world, which is the most important factor.
As Eddie Vedder sang in Guaranteed, "I've got my indignations but I'm pure in all my thoughts."
I'm genuinely interested to see how other people live their life in various parts of the world.
Sometimes I sit out in the dark at night in other places, towns or cities, just looking at the lights.
And I often think to myself that each light represents another person's life. Behind those closed curtains, another person lives. Another person with his or her own sorrows, dreams and ambitions.
And often I marvel at the fact that no matter where you are in the world, there are people living their life in their own unique way. They don't just fade in or fade out as you pass by, and it interests me immensely to see how they live and what they think.

Culture is a very interesting thing, and you don't get to see it by just visiting tourist hotspots.
You learn about a country through it's people and the environment that shapes them.
You need to get in there and live among the people, work among the people, talk to the people.
All things your ordinary tourist does not do. He simply checks off a list of 'been there's'.
To him, the destination is all that matters, and he'll stick to the well-trodden path.
Lao Tzu said "A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving."
And I think there is some real truth to that.

Currently I'm looking into obtaining a Canadian Work-Holiday Visa.
This visa would allow me to travel and work for a year within the Canadian border, without pre-made plans or finding a place to work before arrival.
And this suits me perfectly fine, because apart from a very loose idea of where I want to go, I don't want to plan my trips into perfection.
I have a couple of places I'd love to see on the North-American continent, but no plan on how to get there other than to hitchhike and see where life takes me.
I want adventure, to not know what to expect every day, "For each day to have a new and different sun."

My next blog will go into a bit more detail on my current plans, both for travel as well as this blog.
I hope to see you back then!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The trip to Auschwitz

So we managed to visit Auschwitz the day after my first blogpost. We did an earlier attempt the previous day but we were stuck due to bad weather.
It's taken a time to write this post due to exhaustion on the trip back home, and getting together all the pictures that were taken, and selecting a few of the best ones to show in this blog.

It was a long drive, but it was definitely worth it. Visiting Auschwitz has affected me deeply.
I have always been very aware of the Holocaust, but standing face to face with Auschwitz was in a way still an eye opener.
I read about the Holocaust, I read survivor's stories, I've seen movies and documentaries concerning Auschwitz, but standing in the place where thousands and yes, even millions suffered was something different entirely.
When we first arrived we could already see the guard towers on the perimeter of Auschwitz I, the main work camp, looming over the area inside.
Auschwitz II, or better known as Birkenau, was a few kilometres away.
We walked into the Museum entrance and signed in. We were with a group of four people: my mother, my father, the daughter of my parent's friends, and myself.
The museum is free of costs so that all may visit. Tour guides are available for groups which you can either book in advance, or you might try your luck joining a tour group on site.
It is also possible to roam the camp by yourself, which is what we did. We arrived fairly late in the morning, at around 11 o'clock, despite leaving very early in the morning.
Upon exiting the Museum building we encountered something of a courtyard.
There was a road going straight ahead along some buildings on our left, and after perhaps 25 metres a road bended off to the right, into the living quarters of the Auschwitz prisoners.
Over this road stood the well-known sign telling prisoners that 'work sets you free', Arbeit macht frei.

This was, ofcourse, a lie told by the Nazi's to keep the prisoners in a state of hope.
However, they were never meant to go free. The Nazi's were keeping them in Auschwitz as a work detail untill they either got sent away to the gas chambers, or died of starvation.
Workers never received enough food for even a regular day, let alone a day in which they had to work 11 or more backbreaking hours. Many prisoners died during the march towards work or during work itself.
They simply collapsed, or got beaten or shot as they became less and less efficient. Should they survive, they might very well be the next group of people to be sent off to a gas chamber.

As you pass under the arch and walk into the camp you'll soon come across signs with information on them.
They tell you stories about life in the camp, or describe in detail what a building was used for.
Many of these buildings were housing for prisoners, and in many of these buildings you'll come across exhibits.
Each building has a particular exhibit. One tells you about the initial attack on Poland, and the places the Polish army has fought afterwards during World War 2.
Another building will tell you about acts of racism first displayed when the Nazi's came into power, and another will tell you about life inside the camp. There are many exhibits and all of them are very interesting and disturbing to watch.

Walking through the camp was like walking through a graveyard.
Barracks rose up to either side, looming sinisterly over our heads. Walls were all around us. 
This is a place filled with history. Taking a right at the nearest road led us to a place that was used to hang prisoners. To the left was a building where they would prop up the dead bodies of prisoners who had fled but who were caught. A warning to all those who thought of trying.

Here are some photographs from the exterior of Auschwitz I (Note that some photo's might seem a bit distorted. Some of them were taken with my GoPro camera, which is notorious for it's fishbowl effect):

  A double fence running around the living area.

      Looking towards the Museum area, which probably was a guardhouse.

        Looking off to the right from the same position as the picture above.

     The centre of the living area.

Most of these buildings are enterable and contain an exhibit, of which I'll show you another few photographs:

     Among many of these photographs are quotes by Nazi leaders.
            This picture shows a German soldier preparing to shoot a woman and her child.

    This wall contained multiple photographs of groups of prisoners.
       The picture on the right was taken in the Birkenau barracks.

       Children were as good a target as any man or woman. No one was spared.
  Are these the faces of children who deserved to die? Why?

        These children were victims of Dr. Mengele, 'famous' for his experiments on prisoners.
This man also earned the nickname 'Angel of Death', as he would often be deciding on a persons fate upon his or her arrival. He would just stand there, pointing with his finger. Left to live, to the right to die.

              Starvation was a powerful ally to the Nazi's. It kept the prisoners too weak to resist.
              The woman in this picture weighed around 75 kilogram upon arrival.
               When this photograph was taken she weighed a mere 25 kilogram's.

  More photograps of starving women.

  On this picture you can see a baby. This baby was once part of a triplet, before Mengele got his hands on them. To the right you can see a fourteen year old girl, completely emaciated.

What did these people ever do to receive such treatment? Children, babies, the elderly, all were held accountable to the crime of being a Jew.
As I said in my very first post, to me Auschwitz was the symbol of what blind hate can do. Look at these pictures. Look at the people in them. How could anybody just hate anybody else over something as shallow as race, the colour of your skin? The faith you have? Your appearance? How?

But history has proven that one man can find a way to incite other people to madness.
Just think of this: there were thousands of people needed to kill all of the Jews. How is it possible that there are so many? How can a man look upon the death of a child, and approve of it?

Now take a look at this. These are pictures of  a gas chamber located in Auschwitz I, and as far as I know the only one to remain of the five crematoriums the Nazi's had at Auschwitz.

This picture was taken upon entering the building. This door would normally be closed, as you can look inside and see an oven used for cremation of dead bodies. The prisoners would be herded off to the right.

This is the actual gas chamber. The chamber was cold and damp, and bone chilling. Upon entering all I could mutter was 'Oh my God...'
This is a place where thousands of people lost their life. As the shivers ran down my spine I could almost hear this place's history screaming at me: "Why? What have we done to deserve this?"

  A memorial stands in the centre of the chamber.

     Directly to the left was a door that led to the cremation ovens, situated not 10 metres away.

Like worthless junk people were shoved inside these ovens to be cremated, leaving no trace of their existance.

Notice how the ceiling of this place is completely blackened by the years of burning dead bodies inside.

It is clear that the Jews and other unwanted people (Auschwitz was also a prison for political prisoners, Russian prisoners of war, resistance fighters, Roma gypsies, homosexuals and various other groups) were thought of as less than human.
The groups that were led in to be gassed were shaved before going inside the gas chamber, their hair to be sold as a raw material for manufacturers, as if they were sheep. In Birkenau, people lived in shacks that would be considered inhumane even to pigs.
This madness wasn't limited to a small group of people either, as thousands of people were needed to be able to systematically murder over six million people.
Note that word, systematically.
This systematic mass murder indicates one thing: at some point in time, a group of people sat down together, in order to calmly discuss how best to kill as many 'Unterw├╝nschten" as possible.
They came up with a plan to do so. These were not crimes of passion, these were crimes of a cold and calculative nature.
These people, somehow, were absolutely convinced that they were in the right. How many of these people had actually met a Jew? How were they able to grow such a hate for people they didn't even know? A hate so strong that they would kill even babies?

There were several other buildings in Auschwitz that I think were absolutely terrifying to see as well.
One of them contained a glass showcase imbedded into the wall, holding dozens of cans of Zyklon B, the gas that was used inside the gas chambers.

Another room contained another glass showcase that fitted half the room.
You aren't allowed to take pictures there and so I didn't, and you'll have to believe me when I tell you this.
This showcase was at least 25 metres long and 5 metres deep, and it was filled to nearly my own height with human hair. Victim's hair. This showcase contained 1950 kilograms of human hair.
When I entered the room and noticed the case, I was speechless. There was so much!
And suddenly I found myself to be extremely close to the remains of victims. These weren't 'just' photographs anymore. It was as if the victims materialised before my eyes.
They have been gone for over 70 years, yet here I stood face to face with something that was a part of them, so near to me that if it wasn't for the glass I could have touched them, as if my hand went back in time. I felt as if I was walking in a mausoleum, face to face with a part of the nameless dead.
Who's hair was contained in this case?

Engrossed by all of this information we slightly lost track of time. We simply didn't want to rush through anything. This was far too important.
However, there was still Birkenau to see, and time was running out. We ended up being unable to see one or two of the last exhibit buildings as we hurried to catch the museum bus to Birkenau.
Where Auschwitz I was intended as the primary work camp, Birkenau was intended to be the main death camp. It was the place where the other crematoriums were located.
Unfortunately almost all of them were destroyed in an attempt to cover up evidence. Most of the crematoria were dismantled fairly early as the Nazi's realised they were starting to lose the war.
However one of the crematoria remained to be in use up to a few days prior to liberation of the camp.

Because Birkenau was the death camp, living conditions were increasingly harsh.
Roads made way for muddy paths, brick buildings made way for wooden barracks with sleeping cots that could fit several people, stacked upon eachother.
Many of the prisoners first arriving to Birkenau were immediately sent off to die in the gas chambers, while a small percentage was allowed to live for a little while longer, still doing hard slave labour.

The entrance of Birkenau, same as the arbeit macht frei-sign in Auschwitz I, is recognizable for most people. A large towered brick building, arching over railroad tracks.

Upon entering Birkenau  you encounter a sad picture. The camp stretches off into the distance, but most of the buildings have been burned to the ground. Only brick chimneys remain, and it is a desolate ghost town.
There were still some wooden barracks left and several brick buildings, which were mainly used for storage, housing kitchens etc.
Nearly all the barracks looked the same, each row of buildings neatly stacked in a symmetrical fashion. Again, one can clearly see the systematic nature of the events that took place here.
There were, however, a few barracks with their own story.

    One of the remaining ruins. One can see several lone chimneys trailing off into the distance.

This is one of those barracks with it's own story. The barracks you see here were known as the 'Death Barracks'. It is the place where the sick and dying were taken to await 'special treatment'.
There were times where the crematoriums were so busy they couldn't handle these extra people to be 'processed', and so the people who were brought here could sometimes wait for days.
When these barracks started to overflow, the Nazi's would just fling the rest of the sick outside in the courtyard between the two buildings. This building also didn't have a working latrine, as these people were considered to be dead already. They could do nothing but lie there and defecate on themselves.

This is a look inside one of the regular barracks. Looking at this picture you would think that something is missing, that something was torn down or decayed. Unfortunately, what you see here is what they got. These were the places they would sleep, stacked upon one another like a chicken coop.

There also was the children's barrack. Inside one can see drawings made by the children.

One of the last things I want to show you is a picture taken in one of the latrine buildings.

 The public latrine. Should I have to say more?

After wandering around through Birkenau we were again running out of time.
We decided to quickly check the other side of the camp, which was mostly burned down during the war. There wasn't much left to see.

  We think this might have been one of the crematoria.

As we rushed to catch a bus (which my father and I missed, as we took a while longer to look around), I saw a rose caught between the barbed wire.

I also managed to be the last person to get into the tower overlooking Birkenau, as we were waiting for a bus that never came. We ended up taking a cab back into town.

    The entrance to Birkenau from the front.

Looking out from within the tower, one can get a real sense of the scale of the camp.       
It was huge. What you see here is only the right side of the camp.

As we prepared to leave and do the five hour drive back into the Czech Republic, I felt pretty depressed. We had spent nearly an entire day walking through a place that closely resembles a mausoleum, a place that is a constant reminder of the human capacity for hatred.
That said, I am really glad I went, and I would not mind paying Auschwitz a second visit to see the things I missed. Fortunately, we did manage to nearly see everything.

                        In closing I would like to say to all of those Holocaust victims: rest in peace.
 May we never forget.