JOURNAL – Trip to Slovakia (part 2)

By Rachel Lytie

“Hearing about what people had to go through to be able to worship God and to have the freedom to be able to make their own choices was very interesting and shocking. This makes me appreciate how easy I have it so much more and makes me realize how I should try and regularly stop and think about all the good things and people I have in my life”, Rachel Lytie, student of Concordia University Wisconsin who spent one week in Martin, Slovakia. Read second part of the article about her experiences in this blog ☺

Tuesday January 14, 2014 | Slovakia

Today I saw a historical church that was built about 300 years ago. I also saw a castle that was built in the twelve century. After that we went to the hot springs that are known for their healing properties.

I heard about the history of the Lutheran church in Slovakia and challenges that the people had to face if they wanted to worship God. Slovakia had a history of being a religious nation until the anti-religion communist regime forced change upon the citizens. Freedoms were taken away during this time.

Hearing about what people had to go through to be able to worship God and to have the freedom to be able to make their own choices was very interesting and shocking. This makes me appreciate how easy I have it so much more and makes me realize how I should try and regularly stop and think about all the good things and people I have in my life.

While talking about the effects of the communist regime on religion, it also came up that during this time the incidence of alcoholism started increasing. Alcohol and cigarettes where easily accessible. After the fall of the communist regime many people lost their jobs, this also contributed to an increase in alcoholism. Alcoholism is a major problem in Slovakia as well as many other countries including the United States. I think that this is a community problem and steps should be taken at the community level and not just the individual level. We also talked about the health benefits of the hot springs. I believe that a lot of the health benefits may be related to how beneficial the person believes the springs will be. I think that if someone has a belief in the healing effects of the springs, then this will help to relax the person and decrease stress. Since stress can lead to many different illnesses, reducing stress can play an important role in improving health.

Tomorrow I believe we will have a very emotional and historical experience. We will be going to see the site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum.

Wednesday January 15, 2014 Slovakia, Poland

Today I went to Poland and saw the museum where the labor camp and concentration camp, Auschwitz, and Birkenau took place. Also we saw the Polish city of Krakow. We were able to see the outside of a royal castle and I was able to compare this with the regular castle that I saw the day before.

I heard about the horrors that took place in the camp during our tour of the museum. While seeing the different exhibits we went over how the people who were herded up thought that they were being relocated. They were given a lot of misinformation such as fake train tickets and told to pack personal items with them. I was also surprised to hear a story of two Slovak Jews escaping. When they went back home to warn people, no one would believe them.

It made me feel sad that so many people suffered during the holocaust and scared that something like this happened and has the potential to happen again. I think that it is important to know what is going on in other countries and for countries to work together to prevent human suffering.

We learned about the medical experiments that took place at Auschwitz through a film before the tour and then saw buildings where the experiments took place. Physicians experimented on Jews doing horrific medical experiments since Nazi propaganda made some people think that the Jews as well as other groups did not have human rights. Examples of experiments conducted by the physicians included sterilizing men, seeing how long it took a prisoner to starve to death, and giving prisoners injections of infectious agents. They also did many tests on identical twins.

Tomorrow we will be traveling to Vienna. We will be stopping at the capital city in Slovakia, Bratislava, on the way there.

Thursday January 16, 2014 Slovakia, Austria

Today we drove through Bratislava on the way to Vienna, Austria. We went to the art museum and looked at Renaissance and Baroque period paintings. Also at the museum there was a Roman, Greek, and Egyptian collection.

I heard about the history of the paintings we saw and learned the focus of the paintings was on religious scenes, history, rich patrons, or mythical creatures. I found it interesting to see the paintings and how much the artistic style changes between the different artists and how much it changed between the different time periods.

The paintings did bring out emotion, especially while looking at some of the darker paintings. I think that the artists did a good job at trying to convey certain feelings. I appreciate seeing the artwork even though I have never been very artistic myself.

I noticed there were a lot of people who smoked in Vienna and a lot of bins especially for cigarette disposal on the light poles. I also saw that there were many tobacco stores right by the tram along with the food stands.

Tomorrow I expect to explore more of the city and visit more historical sites.

Friday January 17, 2014 Austria

Today we saw more of the city of Vienna. We went to the cathedral of St Stephen’s and spent a good portion of the day touring this. We went in the cathedral and did an audio guided tour. After that we got a tour of the crypts below the cathedral. Then we went up the tower to be able to overlook the city. After this we went to the Belvedere. In this building which used to be residence to Prince Eugene, we saw a gallery of paintings from the 19th and 20th century.

I heard more about the history of Vienna and the history of the artworks that we saw. It was very interesting to be able to see the artwork from a different time period and compare it to the artwork that I saw yesterday. I enjoyed the artwork that I saw today more, because I found the people to look more relatable.

I felt very homesick today being so far away from my family and not knowing the language that all the signs were in. After having such a wonderful trip and immersing myself in a different culture, I was ready to have the comforts of home again. However it was a nice experience to be able to disconnect myself from the electronics that I am usually surrounded with.

Today we saw a monument made to commemorate victims of the Bubonic Plague and saw the bones of plague victims while we were touring underneath the cathedral. It was shocking to see so many skeletons all in one location piled on top of one another. Seeing this gave me an eerie feeling and gave more meaning to the fact that one third of the population passed away during this time

Tomorrow we will be traveling home starting right away in the morning.

read also – Part 1

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