Tuesday morning, I boarded a bus from Berlin to Prague with five of my fellow classmates.
This marked the end of my WWII study tour and while I was excited for Prague, I was sad to be ending the course. Never in my life had I been more upset to finish a class.
However, when I arrived in Prague, I couldn’t help but look at everything as if I was still on the study tour. Obviously, the war affected Prague, but how exactly?
Unfortunately, there were no WWII museums on my Czech itinerary. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help myself from looking at the city from a historian’s perspective. What did each statue represent? Who built them? For example, there was a Czech Flag monument near our hostel.
After a closer look, I realized it was a memorial for the second resistance movement to the Nazi Occupation in Czechoslovakia from 1938-1945. Reminders of the war are present almost everywhere you go. My trip made that abundantly clear.
Since I arrived in Dublin, Ireland on May 5th, I have been to 6 countries seen over 15 museums and created 22 close friendships.
In London, I explored the city, learned about Churchill and was privileged to hear a first-person account of the war. In Normandy, I stood on the actual beaches where soldiers fought on D-Day.
Today is June 6th, 2017 and it is insane that exactly seventy-three years ago, men stormed Utah and Omaha beach and climbed Pointe du Hoc to liberate France from Germany.
Next I went to Paris, saw the Mona Lisa and learned about Charles de Gaulle from the French perspective.
In France, he is placed on a pedestal. It’s no wonder they named an airport after him. Then in Kraków, I had my eyes opened at Auschwitz.
I visited a camp where 1.1 million innocent people were murdered. No book is the same as walking through the actual place. Lastly, the trip ended in Berlin. I never made it to Checkpoint Charlie, but I did enjoy time with my close friends.
I learned a lot about WWII, as well as my capacity for bus travel and my tolerance for hotel packed lunches.
Most importantly, I learned about myself. I love history and I love to travel. There is still so much out there to see and this study tour was the best possible introduction to Europe I could have had. Thank you to everyone who made this trip so amazing. It was a life changing experience.