Very early on the morning of Tuesday 19th November Year 12 pupils from SJP and SMCC departed from Liverpool John Lennon to Krakow. Once we had arrived and settled in the hotel we set off for the first of our visits. This was a walking tour of the Jewish Quarter of Krakow. The Jewish population of Krakow is not very big since WW2 however they do have several synagogues which we visited and a selection of lovely restaurants tucked away in a beautiful square of the Jewish Quarter. Pupils also had the opportunity to try some traditional Polish food as we went to a street market for lunch. Later on we had a tour of Schindler's Factory Museum which has been devoted to the wartime experiences in Krakow under the five-year Nazi occupation during the World War II.
The next morning pupils were up early as we had our tour of Auschwitz and Birkenau. Our excellent guide shared stories about its history, its former prisoners and survivors. Pupils found this to be very interesting but also incredibly sad. We saw the prisoner’s personal possessions such as suitcases, glasses and shoes. This was a very powerful experience, reminding us that the prisoners were human beings who did not expect the hideous experience they had to endure. We also saw the cell that Maximillian Kolbe died in, an example of a self-less love given to a stranger. Among the terrible darkness of Auschwitz, we also heard about the acts of kindness amongst the prisoners.
Following this we had an uplifting afternoon spent in Krakow town center. People were busily setting up stores for the Christmas markets and a festive feel was in the air. Pupils had an opportunity to do some shopping and visit the cloth markets before we headed back to the hotel for an evening of bowling.
Our final morning was a wonderful experience as we took the pupils to the Salt Mines. Magnificent chambers chiselled out in rock salt. Amazing underground saline lakes, majestic timber constructions and unique statues sculpted in salt. Almost 3 kilometres of meandering corridors, 800 steps to climb of which 350 have to be descended to reach the depth of 135 meters underground. It was lovely to see the faces of our pupils as they marveled at the beautiful carvings and breathtaking chapel of St Kinga, and quite funny to see their face as they realized they had to squeeze into a miners lift to get back up to ground level!
Later on that evening after a bit more shopping we headed to the airport for our journey home. The pupils had a fantastic trip and returned home viewing the world we live in with a different perspective. It was lovely to see our pupils also making new friends with children from SMCC. They were all a credit to our schools and great company over the three days.