Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Giving a Helping Hand...and a Giveaway!

According to Feeding America, approximately 5.7 million different people receive emergency food assistance from the organization in any given week.  Wow!  That is a startling number.  And to think this is happening in our own backyard! 

To raise awareness about the national issue of hunger, Hamburger Helper® is partnering with GRAMMY® Award-winning singer, songwriter and actor Tim McGraw to help Feeding America deliver millions of meals to local food banks through the Show Your Helping HandTM campaign. McGraw will lend his voice to the campaign through a Public Service Announcement which will be distributed nationwide.

Support the campaign by submitting codes from specially marked boxes of Hamburger Helper at or by logging on to make a donation. Hamburger Helper has already donated more than half a million dollars and will contribute up to an additional $100,000 to Feeding America through this program. Don´t think one code will make a difference? The 17 cents Hamburger Helper donates per code is enough for Feeding America to deliver one meal to a local food bank.

Show Your Helping Hand is an amazing opportunity to help those who are less fortunate, especially during the holiday season!

Would you like to win a prize pack that includes a box of Hamburger Helper skillet meals, a Hamburger Helper foam "Helping Hand" and a copy of Tim McGraw´s "Southern Voice" CD? If so, just leave a comment here telling me how you give a "helping hand" during the holidays. Do you volunteer somewhere? Donate food, money or clothing to local food banks or shelters?  It could be something as sending cards to troops far from home.  Just let me know and you will be entered to win.  I will pick a winner on the morning of Sunday, December 19th.

***I received the same prize pack being donated to one of my readers in exchange for sharing this information with you.  Please be assured that I support this campaign and would never share a product with you that I don't like.***

Saturday, December 4, 2010

December Daily

My December Daily album foundation has been completed for a while and now that December is underway I am taking a photo every single day to add to the album.  This is my third year doing an album and I absolutely enjoy the process.  This year I am being a little more flexible with the process and will also be waiting until the end of the month to print my photos but plan on journaling every day while the stories/feelings are fresh.  

On December 1st the girls opened the first window on their advent calendars and were so very excited to do so! 

The December 1 is an overlay from the amazing Ali Edwards that I purchased from Designer Digitals last year.  Ali has so many great products for the December Daily album there and most of them I reuse every year.  That is just one reason I am a hybrid scrapper! 

I will try to update when I get home later.  Since I am printing all my photos at the end of the month I will not have a completed page to share but would love to share what I have so far.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


When it comes to starting off your day right, a new survey from Kix found that 84 percent of parents turn to cereal with milk for a quick and healthy breakfast.  Cereal is one of the healthiest breakfast choices parents can make. Ready-to-eat cereal has fewer calories than almost any other common breakfast option, while also being nutrient-dense and convenient. In addition, cereal eaters consume less cholesterol and more fiber than non-cereal eaters.

With the same great taste kids have loved for more than 70 years, Kix makes it easy to serve your family a simple and healthy breakfast! Whether you choose to serve Original Kix or Honey Kix, you can be sure that your kids are getting a wholesome food with nutrients they need to grow.  The "Kid-Tested Mother-Approved®"cereal is made with whole grain corn and is an excellent source of iron. It also is a good source of calcium, fiber, and Vitamins C and D. Original Kix has no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.

To find out more, visit the recently launched Kix website,, featuring background on the history of Kix, nutritional content, and special offers.

My girls love Kix cereal and to be honest I do too.  I loved Kix as a kid and it tastes just as good to me now.  The cereal fills them up and I feel good about giving them a simple breakfast that they enjoy. I like the slightly sweet flavor of the Honey Kix and feel good giving this cereal to my girls.  

Kix provided me with the awesome prize pack you see in the photo above and has an additional one to giveaway to one of my readers!  The floor puzzle and number flashcards have been a huge hit around here with the girls and we are happily eating our way through the cereal.

Do you want a box of goodies from Kix to arrive at your door?  Leave me comment telling me if you or your kids eat cereal for breakfast of if you eat Kix at your house.  I will pick a winner on Monday, November 22nd.  Please make sure you check back then or leave your email in the comments so I can contact you if you are the winner.  If you are reading this on Facebook and would like to entry the drawing please comment visit my blog at

***Kix provided me with the information I have shared in this post, prize package and additional prize package for my readers.  I have shared my opinion because I genuinely like Kix cereal and feel comfortable sharing this information with my readers.***

Friday, November 12, 2010

Holiday Cards

I have been working on my third December Daily album and decided to make some cards as a plug away on my album.  My album is 8x8 so that leaves me with scraps the perfect size for cards.  I purchased the adorable stamp set (by Hampton Arts) last year but decided to not make my cards so the cute penguin and snowman are making an appearance this year.  The papers are from Echo Park and if you haven't checked them out you really should.  Their papers are wonderful and they are quickly becoming a new favorite of mine.  The border punch is from Fiskars.  I used a ton of Stickles on these cards too.  I love glitter!

I would usually approach my Christmas cards in an assembly line fashion but find by the end I am not really enjoying the process so this year I am going to just go with the flow and see what I can come up with. 

Finally, today is my husbands birthday!  Happy Birthday JG!  We love you so much and are grateful for all you do for the Gibson girls!  ♥ ♥ ♥

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hedgehog Love!

We are big fans of cute hedgehogs here at the Gibson house.  The girls have adorable hedgie jammies from Old Navy and a cute hedgie inflatable toy we picked up from Ikea a few years ago.  Now we have a real live hedgehog in our yard!  This little guy (or maybe gal) has been a frequent visitor as of late.  A few weeks ago, just as it was getting dark, I told JG we had a giant rat running across our yard and he told me it was a hedgehog and after a better look I could see it really was.  Yesterday the hedgie returned several times throughout the day and I was able to get this photo from the safety of our patio!  Not that I am scared of him, I didn't want to scare him away.  I think he has been hiding out in our bushes and I don't mind.  I hope he becomes a regular visitor as he is fun to watch.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Party Prep

We are T-2 for the Gibson 2010 Halloween Party and I am starting to put things together.  Up until now I have had things scattered around the house because I had to do some rearranging to make room for this display and for some party food on Friday night. 

I love the Eat, Drink and Be Scary sign and the gal that created this has it as a free download from her blog, Craftily Ever After.  She also has another great sign here.  After you download them take a look around her blog as there are lots of great ideas and inspiration there.  The Crafty Witches Book of Magic Spells was also a free download from the Chickabug blog.  There is an abundance of great party ideas there and I have added it to my favorites.  For the book you simply download the file, print it, cut it out and stick it on a book you already have on hand.  The Apothecary label on the flower pot (a re-purposed Yankee candle jar) is from Echo Park.  I love digital downloads because you can re-use them! 

I really love DIY decorations and with the power of the internet, a few minutes and a printer you can find just about anything these days.  Now I need to actually get off the computer and start cleaning up!  Have a great day.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Just One More....I Promise!

Last Friday Creating Keepsakes Dream Team Member Cindy Tobey was the Guest Blogger on the CK Blog and she shared a pattern for this fabulous little paper pieced haunted house!  I loved this idea when I saw it in the Creating Keepsakes October issue and knew I wanted to make this ASAP.  So after printing the pattern and cutting out all the pieces and then busting out a craft knife so I could make all the little cuts I had an adorable house of my very own. 

Once it was finished I had no idea what I was going to do with it but knew I wanted it on display so I used an 8x8 piece of a Scenic Route chipboard album and printed out the background from Echo Park's Apothecary patterned paper pack (I have gotten so much use out of this line and to think I only paid $1 for it from the Jessica Sprague Website on One Buck Wednesday).  I used a thin coat of Mod Podge to adhere the paper and then used a dry adhesive to attach the house.  The adorable little bat is from a free download I got from the Paper Glitter blog.  It was originally part of a tag but I just needed the bat so I fussy cut it and attached just his body so the wings lift slightly off the paper. 

I love, love, love the way this turned out!  I seriously couldn't be happier.  I worked with supplies I had on hand and that certainly helps to clear out some of my stash. 

On another Halloween note my paper cone wreath is featured on the Creating Keepsakes Blog today!  I am so flattered that Megan Hoeppner was inspired by my project and asked to share it on the blog alongside her take on the project!  If you get the chance you should check it out! 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Summer Lovin'

I completed this layout in July and posted it in my Club Creating Keepsakes gallery and it was chosen as a Gallery Highlight for that week!  I love the way this turned out and I especially love the papers from Sassafrass's Nerdy Bird line.  I made the collages in Photoshop Elements 7 and had them printed at Shutterfly.  The photos are from the summer of 2009 and I was just waiting for the perfect papers to get them scrapped.  The Nerdy Bird lines compliments the colors in the photos perfectly.

Thanks for looking!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Best Friend Layout

I have loved Cosmo Cricket's Nutmeg line since they released it.  The papers are gorgeous and the embellishments are so cute.  The entire line is perfect for pictures of my girls.  The layout is one I made recently from a sketch challenge Cosmo Cricket shared on their blog last January/February-ish.  I loved the sketch so much I decided to re-use it!

These photos are from 2 years ago when we first moved here!  I love scrapping older photos because it reminds me of how fast my girls are growing but I also get to remember the day I snapped these.  I am not a chronological scrapper so I jump around scrapping the photos that I love the most when an idea or mood strikes. 

All the papers and embellishments on this layout are from Cosmo Cricket and I used a Fiskar's border punch on the strip of brown patterned paper.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Felt Halloween Banner

I have really been struggling with getting a good photo of this banner because it is so long but also because it is not hanging in a good place to get some natural light. I was inspired by this mini felt banner after visiting a blog in search of Halloween decoration ideas....unfortunately I did not write down the blog so I cannot give credit but if you know where this came from please let me know so I can give proper credit. I was sure I would remember the blog but after much searching I have not come across it again.
Here are the instructions in case you want to stitch your own. This was super easy and did not take too much time. The triangles are about 3 inches high and I used 3 9x12 inch sheets of black felt and another 3 sheets of orange felt for this. I used a rotary cutter and a ruler for this and it took me about an hour to cut all the triangles. I stacked the pieces so they were alternating and then stitched them together using my sewing machine. I slightly overlapped the edges and then back stitched across them to give a little extra durability to the banner. I stitched 3 inch pieces of black ribbon in the ends so I could hang it up. That's it! I said it was easy!
I have the banner hanging across the wall and window in my living room and it has really held up well. It has been up for a month now and I love looking at it every day.
This is the last Halloween project I have unless I feel the need to make something else but I am ready to move on to some Thanksgiving and Christmas projects that I can share. Thanks for sticking around through all the Halloween ideas. I have been going a little overboard this year in preparation for our Halloween Party.
Have a great day!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fall Colors

Over Columbus Day weekend we went to Dresden for 3 nights. Dresden is a lovely city located along the banks of the Elbe River. I am not going to make this a long post but just wanted share some photos of the beautiful fall foliage.

I have plans on posting the last couple Halloween projects this week as long as Blogger cooperates with me. I planned on posting these photos earlier in the week but I did not have the patience to mess with the blog settings to fix the problem.

I hope you had a great weekend and a chance to enjoy the weather in your neck of the woods.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Halloween Garland Wreath

The stars have finally aligned and I was able to actually add a photo to my blog!  I have had the hardest time with Blogger lately.  I am not sure if it is due to our slooooow internet connection or changes that Blogger has made but it has been nothing but frustrating for me as of late.  Here is my next DIY project....a super simple and fast Halloween wreath using nothing but a 12 foot Halloween garland that I picked up, a cardboard circle and some hot glue.

I used a 12 inch cardboard cake circle and removed the center after tracing a large bowl and using a box cutter.  I actually ran out of garland about 3 inches from the end so I would recommend using a 10 inch circle for a 12 foot garland.  I was able to use a piece of black garland from last Halloween to piece it together but meant a little extra work removing the pumpkins from it and then cutting some bats from the back side of the wreath to glue onto the front so it looks the same.  I simply hot glued the garland in place as I wrapped it around the circle.  I tied a 8 inch piece of black ribbon around the top before hot gluing a bat I cut from poster board on to the wreath.  The bat helped cover my pieced together garland. 

This project took me 15 minutes and I used supplies I had on hand, minus the cost of the garland which was $6 and I picked it up at the Post Exchange about a month ago.  The garland is fluffy enough that you would not really need a foam or metal wreath form unless you wanted to or have one on hand.

I am linking up with Eighteen25 for this post...if you haven't visited their blog before you really should!  It is full of great ideas.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Happy World Card Making Day

What a fun day!  Do you have plans to make some cards today?  Maybe get a jump on your holiday cards?  I am having a couple of friends over today and plan on making some Halloween and Thanksgiving cards.  I even have plans for my girls to play along too. 

I want to share this card that I made to include with a housewarming gift.  I was so pleased with the way this came together and was looking for a reason to use this stamp set again but have yet to sit down and play with it some more.  I fussy cut the trees from a scrap of patterned paper and then used my micro tip scissors to fringe cut the scrap of green to make the grass.  I cut the rectangle for HOME and then used a hole punch placed over the corners to make the tag.

Here is a list of the supplies I used:
White Cardstock - Xerox
All inks - Stampin' Up!
Stamps - We Are Memory Keepers
Twine - Martha Stewart
Trees - Kaisercraft patterned paper
Grass - green cardstock from my stash
Zots to place behind the trees and green house

Thanks for stopping by my blog today! 

Friday, October 1, 2010

Halloween Digital Layout

I am not a digi scrapper but I wanted to play along on a Club Creating Keepsakes challenge and I don't have any Halloween-ish papers so I tried my hand at a digi page.  I used PSE 7 and find myself working on many projects and have taken a few free classes from Jessica Sprague so I know enough to do a basic page but I never took the plunge until now.

I also do not have an abundance of Halloween photos so I pulled this gem out of my photo album and scanned it in.  Yup!  That is me.  I am pretty sure it was 1985 or 86 and I was dressed as a here if you don't know what a Wuzzle is. I was a huge fan and I think I felt pretty darn cute wearing this costume. 

The digi papers and adorable little characters across the bottom are from Echo Park and you can find those on the Jessica Sprague website.  The bats and title across the top are from a Club CK freebie download that you can find here.  If you have never been to the Club CK page before you should take a look around.  You can create an account for free and there are a ton of resources available just be clicking around.

I have a few more Halloween projects to share but I have had a hard time getting good photos so I will keep working on it and give it another go next week. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Another DIY Halloween Project

I made a red, white and blue version of this decoration back in June after seeing the instructions over on Martha Stewarts website.  I looked so I could share the directions here but now can't seem to find the project so I will tell you how I made mine.  I want to add that the one I completed in June looks different because it only had 12 cones and this one has 16.  To be honest I like the fuller version better.

You will need: 

4 sheets of 12x12 double sided scrapbook paper
Paper Trimmer
White Craft Glue (I used Martha Stewarts glue and really liked it for this project)
8 inch cardboard circle (an empty cereal box works great for this)
Hot Glue Gun and glue sticks
6 inch piece of ribbon
Some type of embellishment to cover the center

First you will need to cut your papers into 6x6 inch squares.  Once your papers are cut roll each square into a cone shape and run a thin bead of glue down the edge of paper and press it together.  I generally hold the seam with my fingers for a minute until the glue takes hold.  Do this for all the squares of paper until you have 16 cones.

Take your cardboard circle and a cone and run a line of glue from the center of the circle to the edge and then press the cone down into it.  Repeat until you have all the cones glued down.  Hot glue your embellishment over the center of the circle to cover the tips of the cones.  I always have a difficult time getting the center to stick using regular glue.  This time around I actually used some dimensional glue dots to hold the center on so if you have that on hand go ahead and use it.  Finally, fold your ribbon in half and hot glue it onto the back so you can hang the decoration up.

It takes less than an hour to complete this project and I love how easy it is to make a cute and fairly inexpensive decoration.  Here are a few things I learned this time around.  First, when working with a patterned paper that has stripes (or words) make sure you fold the cones so the design goes in the same direction (you will notice that this did not happen for me but I was not going to start over).  Second, it is much easier to use hot glue when putting the paper onto the cardboard. 

I do not have an abundance of Halloween themed papers so I used Photoshop Elements 7 and digital papers to create my project.  The papers are from Echo Park's Apothecary Paper Pack #2 that you can purchase and download from here

I hope you feel inspired to give this a try.  I plan on making another one for Christmas!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fall Tea Party

Last Thursday was gorgeous!  The temperature was 70 degrees and the sun was shining and I knew our days of beautiful weather are numbered so I put tutus on the girls and set up a tea party for them outside.  I am so glad I did this!  Aubrey and Lorelei had such a great time and I was able to get a few great photos.  Win for all of us! 

I purchased the tutus from Paisley and Posies on and I have been more than satisfied with my purchases from here.  The adorable smiling pink tea pot is from Fisher-Price.  It was a Christmas gift for the girls last year and this has gotten a ton of use and it has taken a beating and still works like a charm.  It sings and talks and makes real tea pot noises. 

I challenge you to surprise your kids with something special this week!  I bet there will be lots of smiles from everyone. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

DIY Halloween Decoration

With Halloween just 38 days away I have been in full on decorating mode!  Not that we have one of those extremely decorated houses, it is just the opposite, but I do not have an abundance of decorations and decided that this year I would make as much as I could.  Now that I have kids I want each holiday to be fun for them so I find myself wanting to go a little overboard with our decorating.  Unfortunately for me (but better for JG's checking account) the Germans do not really celebrate Halloween so heading out to purchase decorations on the economy is impossible.  The Post Exchange is not any better as they carry a very small amount of decorations and costumes.  So if I want anything I need to order it online.  And I do but it is generally limited to costumes and party supplies. 

So now that I have rambled on let's talk about the cute BOO frame I made after seeing this idea on the eighteen25 blog.  I loved the idea but instead of creating 3 5x7 frames I went with 1 since I was using supplies that I had on hand.  Digging through my stash of scrapbooking supplies I found some chipboard letters that were covered in a design that I no longer liked so I carefully peeled off the top layer and coated the bare surface with a layer of Mod Podge before completely covering the letters with glitter.  Since this was a messy project I used a sheet of wax paper to cover the work surface and a toothpick to help get the glitter onto the sides of the letters. 

The background paper is a digital paper from the Echo Park Trick or Treat collection that you can find here.  I don't have any Halloween papers in my stash so I am glad that I could use digi papers to make this a hybrid project.  I used Photoshop Elements 7 to create a clipping mask sized slightly larger than my 5x7 frame and moved the paper around until I was happy with the placement of the spider and webs.  Then I printed out the paper and trimmed it to fit the opening of my frame.  I removed the glass from the frame and saved it so after Halloween I can use the it for something else.  Finally, I added the letters using glue dots once they were dry.

This was a simple project that adds some glitter to my book shelf and I love it so much.  I am thinking of ways to use this idea for other holidays. 

Don't forget to enter the giveaway below.  I am leaving the comments open until this Saturday.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


As promised I am offering a giveaway here today.  Since I have had many posts on Eastern Europe I thought I would giveaway a Rick Steves' Eastern Europe 2000-2007 DVD.  This DVD has 5 episodes covering Prague, Krakow, Budapest, Slovenia and Croatia and Bulgaria. 

Want to win?  Leave me a comment telling me if you have ever traveled to Eastern Europe.  Want 2 entries in the drawing?  Become a follower of my blog and leave another comment telling me you are a follower.  I will leave this giveaway open until Saturday, September 25th and I will select a winner using and post the winner here.  If you are reading this on Facebook please visit my blog and leave a comment here.

Disclaimer - I am in no way associated with Rick Steves.  My husband purchased the same DVD twice so I am giving one away to my readers rather than return it.  If you don't win but are interested in purchasing a copy you can click on the link below.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Krivoklat Castle, Czech Republic

The Krivoklat Castle was our last stop in the Czech Republic.  It gave us a chance to admire the Czech country side and see a few other castles in the hills along the way.  This is an older castle which was originally built as a hunting castle for Bohemian kings then later used as a royal prison.  There have been several rebuilds on this site due to fire.  The current structure was built in 1800s. 

I liked this simplistic castle.  The grounds were small and craftsman were scattered about.  There were a few things to do for people of all ages such as a small archery demo and even an old fashioned coin press where you do the work and a small play area for kids. This was a great place for my girls to stretch their legs.  We parked near the castle and had just a short walk to the grounds.  A 30 minute tour is offered (not sure if they offer it in English) but we skipped it because it is hard to keep the girls quiet for such a long stretch of time and they really have quick fingers that want to touch everything...which does not go over well with the guides.
This door was stunning.  I love the contrast between the iron and red paint.

Thanks for sticking around as I finished up the photos from our last trip to Berlin, Prague and the Czech Republic.  We have had a busy summer and now that fall is here we plan on being home a bit more.  Come back tomorrow as I have a Rick Steves' Eastern Europe DVD to giveaway to one of my readers.  Next week I will get back to the scrapping side of things for a bit as I have been busy making some decorations and completing some scrappy layouts. 

Have a great Saturday!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sedlec Bone Church, Czech Republic

The Sedlec Bone Church  is a mildly interesting church located about an hour outside of Prague and if you are in the area worth a quick stop but unless you are really interested in bones arranged into piles and chandeliers I wouldn't go out of my way to visit.  We were driving from Krakow and James wanted to stop so we planned on this visit a couple of months ago.

The bones are from roughly 40,000 people who were buried in the church cemetery in the 1300s but the current arrangement of bones is from the 1870s.  I found the building to have a stronger than normal musty smell and went outside while James took the photos.

The chandelier contains at least 1 of every bone in the human body.

It should come as no surprise that James liked it more than I did. A bit creepy and slightly interesting for at least a minute. At least it wasn't expensive to take a quick look around...50 crowns or roughly $2.50 per adult and students were discounted.

At least, with the help of the Pioneer Woman's Photoshop actions and the CK Pirate Font, I was able to use a photo for our Halloween Party invitation which I designed all by myself!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Krakow, Poland

After we left Berlin we drove into Boleslawiec, Poland so I could pick up a few pieces of polish pottery on our way to Krakow.  If you are interested in reading about the history of this beautiful pottery click here.  The town has an abundance of factory stores but we went in search of the Zaklady store after a recommendation from another blog ( I can't remember the site).  The photo above is of giant pieces of pottery in front of the store. 

I was so excited to finally start my collection of beautiful pieces.  I was shocked at how very affordable everything was and the most difficult decision was what pattern I wanted.  I ended up going with a simple pattern that I should be able to find later on when I want to purchase more.  I left the store with salt and pepper shakers, a small bottle with stopper, gravy boat, sugar bowl and small creamer, small platter, small and medium sized serving bowls and spent roughly $59!  They sell the sugar bowl and creamer for close to 20 euros at the small kiosks at the Px!  I am glad I held out to get my pieces.  Since the Jeep was full of our luggage, sleeping cots for the girls and strollers I had the pottery by my feet for the rest of the trip! 

So after my quick shopping trip (less than 30 minutes) we continued in to Krakow. We really enjoyed our trip to Krakow in May (if you want to check out that post please click here) but unfortunately for us we were in Krakow while many areas of Poland were experiencing severe flooding.  This time around we had beautiful weather so we were able to do a lot more walking and exploring.  We checked out the Wawel Dragon because last time we could not walk down by the river to see it.  This statue actually blows flames out of his mouth every few minutes and was a fun, quick stop. 

We took a quick tour of the Old Jewish Cemetery which was used from 1552 to 1800.  After World War II the cemetery was renovated and the damaged headstones were used to make a mosaic wall around the grounds. 

We walked from the Jewish Quarter over to the "Ghetto" for a tour of the recently renovated Oskar Schindler's Factory.  A brand new exhibit takes you through Krakow during World War II.  There is much to see here but strollers are not permitted so we had to rush through as the girls were more than ready for a nap.  There are video screens at certain points that have the option of translating the text into English and but the newspapers and other documents that are on display are not translated at all, which was a bit of a disappointment but hopefully something they think to add in the future.  The last room of the museum is covered in newspaper and then coated in layers of wax. So interesting to look at. 

We only had one problem while we were in Krakow and using the public transportation.  James purchased our tram tickets from the ticket window at the station near the hotel as we did not have a small enough bill to stick into the ticket machine.  The lady helping him did not speak any English but another lady did and James told her we needed a ticket.  We validated the tickets as soon as we boarded the tram and went about our business.  After visiting Schindler's Factory we hopped back on the tram.  A stop or two later a group of 3 men got on and as soon as the tram was underway one of them got up and started checking passenger tickets.  As they approached us we fumbled to find our tickets and James handed them to the gentleman.  The guy was mad at us and told us we had to pay a fine because our ticket wasn't valid.  Huh?  We just purchased the ticket in the morning and validated it right away.  We had to get off the tram and another guy who spoke English told us that we had to pay a fine before we could get back on the tram because the ticket that was given to James was only valid on the weekends and we were traveling on a Tuesday.  The lady sold us the wrong ticket!  So after a few minutes of disagreeing the dude told us to purchase the correct ticket before boarding the tram again and they went on their way and we did not pay a fine. 

This was seriously a bit scary because we have been told about people who pretend to be these inspectors that will target unsuspecting tourists to try and steal money from them.  After we made it back to the hotel we spoke to the manager who assured us it was legit.  We attempt to use public transportation whenever we possibly can while in large cities and we have never been stopped to show tickets before. 

This wraps up our trip to Krakow.  I am so glad we were able to get back and see the things we missed last time due to the rain.  I really love Krakow!  It is an old city that is often overlooked when people are planning their European vacations.  I know Eastern Europe isn't as exciting as France but it deserves more attention from tourists.  The locals are friendly, hotels and food are reasonably priced and there is plenty of sights, shopping and cafes to help fill your days.  As long as you have a valid tram ticket Krakow is easy to get around. 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Birkenau Concentration Camp, Poland

After our visit to Auschwitz we drove the short distance to Birkenau.  After Auschwitz became too small for what the Nazi's had envisioned they took this piece of land and built it up into a second camp.  The train tracks lead back to a dividing platform where families were separated forever.  Those who were chosen to work went off to the left, those who were deemed unfit were sent straight to the gas chambers.  You will notice in the photos that there are not a lot of buildings and that is because most of the buildings were destroyed and used for fuel after the camp was liberated.  The buildings that are standing now were actually rebuilt from materials left from the original structures.  The Nazi's destroyed the four crematoriums prior to their departure ahead of the Allied Forces arrival so all that remain are ruins. 

The train tracks lead to the dividing platform and then the back of the camp.

Toilets from a latrine building.

Bunks where an average of 400 prisoners slept.
View of the camp from the dividing platform.
Looking back towards the gate from the dividing platform.
Rail car placed here as a memorial to the Hungarian Jews that were murdered.
Only the chimneys of many buildings remain today.
Crematorium ruins

Camp monument in tribute to all that were murdered here.

Visiting the two camps was a very sad experience for me but seeing it all first hand was important to me.  Of all of our travels so far this was by far the most meaningful place we have visited and I hope that if you have the opportunity to come here that you do.  Reading about this part of history is so important but seeing it all up close really gives a new perspective on the horrible crimes committed against millions of innocent people.