Well, it has been four weeks since I last posted, sorry about that! A lot has been happening with school, friends, trips, etc. And since I only have exactly one month left here, I have to make the most of it! It's crazy to wrap my mind around the thought of leaving in only a month, but I am really excited to be reunited with my friends and family. In regards to what has been going on these past four weeks, the main highlights were going to Poland and Spring Break, which was so much later than I'm used to.
Ashley and I went to Kraków, Poland on March 17-20, and we booked our entire trip with the company escape2poland, and I highly recommend going here and doing it with them! We got such a great deal with that company, and it all went so smoothly. We arrived to Poland around 7 at night and the company had a driver pick us up, which was so convenient, and then dropped us off at the hotel we booked through them. It was a great location the hotel because it was only a 10 minute walk from the center of Kraków. Ashley and I met up with her friend Beth, who is studying abroad in Paris, and we just decided to go get something to eat and then come back and crash to get ready for the next day. One of the many great things about Poland is how cheap it is! One US Dollar there is over 3 Polish złoty's there, so we seriously took advantage of this.
The next day we had to get up and be ready to get picked up by escape2poland to go to our tours of the concentration camps, Auschwitz and Birkenau. This has to be one of the top things I've done throughout the duration abroad because it was such an incredibly humbling experience. I can't even explain to you in words how unbelievable it was to be there, to just see and walk through the actual camps that I have learned about so extensively in school for so many years. I think every person should go and experience this because it is unreal. So, for any of you who are planning to go abroad, you really need to consider going to Poland and visiting the concentration camps. Overall, our tour lasted about four hours. It was a hard, sad four hours, but totally eye-opening nonetheless. Once we got back to our hotel, all three of us decided to go to the main square and eat there. After dinner, we got some dessert and then headed back to crash.
On Saturday, we woke up and had a good amount of time before we had to be ready to get picked up for our salt mine tour at 4. We all wanted to go see one of Kraków's major attractions, the Wawel Castle, and then spend more time in the main square during the rest of the day. When we arrived to the Wawel Castle, it was breathtaking. It was so charming and I seriously felt like it come out of a fairytale. It was so pretty, and the weather was sunny and perfect, which made it even better. We spent a good two hours there because we loved it so much, and I couldn't stop taking my eyes off of it. I was so happy and content with just wandering around and staring at it. When we figured it was time to start moving, we headed towards the main square. The main square and their castle just look like it was pulled out of a storybook. The colors of the buildings, the small streets, and the city's square was just so enchanting. Can you tell I fell in love with Poland? Haha. Since Poland is so cheap, I bought a lot of souvenirs there. As we were walking, we found a bagel shop, THANK GOD. I missed bagels so much, and while I thought I was going to be disappointed with the bagel because nothing can compare to Jersey's, I was actually surprised! It was a quality bagel, and much better than I anticipated.
After wandering around beautiful Kraków, we went back to the hotel to wait to be picked up for the salt mine tour! When we arrived to the salt mines, we got our own personal tour guide with everyone else that was going through escape2poland, and got started right away. The tour took about 2 hours in total, but it was so cool! We went about 150 meters down, even though it goes down much further. The salt mines were beautiful, and we even witnessed a wedding ceremony there, which was so cool! They have a whole chapel in the salt mines and a big room/restaurant with bars for the reception that follows. It was really cool to see that with the rest of salt mine tour. We got back to our hotel later at night, so we just tried to find somewhere closer to get dinner because we were all exhausted at that point. I got pierogi's that night and they were delicious! I've never really had one before, and my first experience really set the bar high.
Our last day in Poland, Sunday, was a more relaxed day. Our flight wasn't until later in the day, so we had some time to kill in the morning. We wanted to see the Jewish Ghetto before going home, so that's what we did during the morning. The weather set the tone for it too because it was very gloomy and cloudy. We went to see Schindler's factory as well, which was turned into two museums. We didn't have enough time to go in the museum, but we walked around the outside and some of the inside. This just gives me another reason to come back to Poland sometime in the future. Our time in Poland was so moving, and nothing short of incredible; I'm really glad we decided to do this as one of our trips.
The weekend after Poland was the start of our week long Spring Break, and this was much needed! Ashley's family came to Rome that Thursday it started, and we met up with them at the Vatican. It was really refreshing to see some familiar faces from home. We spent the rest of the day Thursday with them, and went to dinner near our neighborhood, Trastevere, which they loved! Throughout the duration of their stay, which was until Tuesday, we visited and saw a lot of places with them. We went to the Trevi Fountain, got a tour to see the inside of the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, visited all four Holy doors in Rome, and went into almost every single leather shop we passed to find the best deals. We were also really lucky because we ended up getting tickets to Easter Mass with Pope Francis at the Vatican. This was a once in a lifetime experience that we got to have, and I am so fortunate that we had the opportunity to do this. We got to the Vatican on Sunday morning at 6:45 am, and we waited on line until around 8, when we were finally let in through the barricades. We had to go through security twice, and then we were allowed to finally be let in. Not only did we get seats, but we got seats in the very first section that you can, and we got the aisle. It was absolutely perfect. The whole day went flawlessly, and I couldn't have asked for a better, more spiritual experience. At the end of Mass, Pope Francis went around in his Popemobile, and Ashley's family and I were literally 5 feet away from him. It was absolutely insane. I will never forget that day.
Ashley's family left that Tuesday, and I ended up staying in Rome the rest of the break, which I was totally fine with! I hadn't seen enough of Rome at that point as much as I wanted to, so it was really nice exploring all of Rome. Stef and I hung out Thursday and Friday, and I finally visited Eataly, which is such a cool place! Everything has been working out really well here, and I'm so happy that I did this. I've benefitted from this experience in several ways, and I intend on making the most out of the last four weeks I have left here.