[David Strom's Web Informant] Some additional thoughts on my Poland trip

David Strom david at strom.com
Mon May 1 14:58:32 EDT 2017

Web Informant, May 1, 2017: Some additional thoughts on my Poland trip

My sister and I are back from our trip to Poland. We had a fantastic time,
visiting many Holocaust sites and other places. Some general thoughts about
my experience. First, while I have been to Europe a number of times, being
in Poland was different. The level of destruction of the cities, the
emptying out of its pre-war Jewish population, the massive loss of life
somehow were more poignant and brought more to the forefront. Maybe because
we went looking for this specifically. Maybe because the post-war Soviet
years weren't all that kind to the country either.

he challenge of visiting someplace is understanding its history, and
understanding the various layers of the city that you don’t see, along with
the ones that are part of the modern fabric. Part of travel is discovering
these new places and how they weave the old with the new. One of the
reasons why I am drawn to Europe is that the old is very old, and the new
is often very new.
​ But visiting Poland is often about what you don't see rather than what
you do.

Second, while most of us have heard the numbers and know something about
the Holocaust, it is something else when you see first hand the number of
camps and how extensive a network they were throughout Europe. The level of
scale of their murder is beyond comprehension and the sheer scale of the
devastation is numbing.

But there are many facets to the story of the Holocaust in Poland, and you
can explore them to whatever depth you wish and what you can stomach. You
need to see things first hand to understand that even some of the
celebrated and honored people, such as Schindler, have their darker sides.
It is all a matter of degree.

Also, it is hard to travel independently in Poland. It can be done, but it
will take a lot of work and preparation. If you don't like tour groups,
then this is a consideration. One thing in your favor to travel there now
is the number of Uber-like ride hailing services. I don't particularly like
the corporate attitude of Uber and how its app tracks your movements
regardless of whether you are using it or not. But the rise of Uber has
brought about a new boon for foreign tourists because you don't need to
share a common language to order a cab or to tell the driver where to drop
you off. These ride hailing apps also eliminate the need to carry local
currency too. So before you go abroad, check out which apps are available
in English in the cities you intend to visit.

​As I wrote earlier this week, w
hat makes it hard
 a Holocaust tourist is the delicate balance between being morbid and
sympathetic, being understanding and being judgmental, being nosy and being
inquisitive. I learned a lot this past week.

I have a lot more to say but will let you review the entire series of posts
that I have already posted on my blog, and my photos posted on Pinterest.
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