Two Days in the Tatra Mountains

This is the very last of the Poland blogs (although there will be a VLOG so brace yourselves!). 
For the last two days of the program, we got to go to the Tatra Mountains and stayed in a little town called Niedzica (I have no idea how to pronounce that so I cannot help you!). We had a very lovely time up there seeing things I would never normally think to visit on a trip to Poland. I am very grateful to the program for providing us with this so we could do something totally out of the ordinary!
Here's what we got up to:

Cutest and happiest puppy ever.

cheese making

Cheese making

Milk in the sun

This puppy was over the moon to see all of the new people
The castle

The castle
Beware of castle ghosties!

View from the castle

I'm on a castle!!

View from our lunch restaurant

Rafting on the Dunajec
Beautiful view from our raft

Our guide!

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Bedzin, Bobowa, Tarnow--A Life Lost

Traveling through Poland and looking at Jewish spots gave me a distinct feeling of a void in the country. Because so long as passed, it may be that many people no longer feel this, but it seems impossible that for many years afterward, there wouldn't be something real missing from daily life. In some towns we visited, up to 50% of the town population was Jewish (sometimes even more) and almost all perished during the Holocaust. How could you not feel as though something was missing?

Today, you see remnants of the once vibrant Jewish life--a deserted synagogue here, a house of prayer that sits longing to be used there. This was the feeling I got from three cities we visited: Bedzin (pronounced Benjin), Tarnow (pronounced Tarnuff) and Bobowa (pronounced Bub-ova). The loss was striking to me, although life did and does continue to go on around these sites, which sit lonely without their congregations, without those who keep it vibrant and alive.

I will share with you a few photos of these downs below:

Neighborhood house of prayer in Bedzin...literally in an apartment complex. This shows how many Jews there were to necessitate and use a house of prayer in an apartment complex.

In the same apartment complex in Bedzin

An apartment that was once a house of prayer in Bedzin.

The bimah from a temple in Tarnow that was destroyed by the Nazis. The bimah still stands protected, yet unused.

This says "Various Snacks" in Yiddish in Tarnow. One of the many remnants of the Jewish life that is no longer.

Bimah in Bobowa that has been redone...faded frescos in the background

Faded frescos in the abandoned Bobowa synagogue

The front of the Bobowa Synagogue

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Gender Relations in Modernity--or How Feminism Makes One a Target Online--SEMI NSFW

Not so long ago (about three weeks ago), I uploaded my video On Being a Feminine Feminist. I shared it with a few people, including the Reddit Feminism group. Reddit is often where I share many of my blog posts (for better or worse), but sharing this particular post on Reddit turned out to be a huge mistake.

Evidently, the Feminism Reddit is a target for even further harassment by men who are clearly threatened by feminism. I got three comments there before I deleted my post: one about how unattractive and "unbangable" I am and one about how I have saggy breasts. The third commenter revealed himself in an email, in which he sent me not just a picture of a penis, but one particularly mutilated. I believe this was in an effort to get me to play along with their game and get upset. Of course, the subject line was false in an attempt to get me to open the link. 

But why? Because I dared post a video with feminist ideals? This concept is hardly new. So why are there people so threatened by it? And why is it something people are so scared of that they must respond with virtual harassment? 
People say Feminism isn't necessary, that the concept is purely outdated. Men are equal to women, they say, it isn't necessary to make a big fuss out of it anymore. But really? Can it be true when the very notion of equality freaks someone out so much that they then rush to try and shut up the women who try and discuss it? 
This harassment continued onto the YouTube video itself and I got some comment gems...particularly highlighting exactly why feminism is necessary and the concept is very much one that needs to be addressed. I debated on whether or not to upload the comments on my blog, but decided in the end not to, as they were incredibly graphic. However, one such comment basically said he wanted to have sex with me so I would understand that he has full power over me, which to be reads like a thinly veiled rape threat. Like, honestly, I'm getting a rape threat by a random stranger because he is that scared of anything to do with the word feminism?
One thing I also found interesting was the following video, promoting the idea of bystander intervention during street harassment, particularly by other women.

This video is fantastic, but the responses it got caused me serious anguish:

Do these men think they are helping their case that feminism is stupid? Do they think I, or any other woman, am going to back down because of these threats? And over something so incredibly stupid like a woman voicing her opinion. So are they not just validating her point over and over? Is this how people are responding to dialogue in the 21st century, by feeling so threatened by the idea of feminism that they must threaten those who are feminists? 
The odd thing was that in my video, I'm not necessarily even talking about men, but discussing the idea of femininity in the feminist culture--yet even that is clearly far too much for people to handle. Having a conversation about street harassment is too much for people to handle. Wanting people to all be equal to one another is too much for people to handle. And that makes me incredibly sad for humanity.
Feminism is not the hatred of men, but the idea that men and women are equal. Nothing less, nothing more. Of course, there are issues raised depending on a variety of socioeconomic factors within the feminist movement in general, but the underlying belief is simple equality. Why is that so difficult for some? And why must they try to wield their power (and dole out abuse) over those who are doing nothing but trying to work for the common good of all humans? Feminism even benefits men, but I think that would blow these responders minds far too much to even attempt to express the notion.


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What Are You Waiting For? Giveaway Ends Today!

Because I've been a away for a month, new video Monday is not happening this week. I know you're all screaming in horror, but given that my videos just haven't been as popular as my blog (YET!), I'm not so worried.

I am hosting a great giveaway (I know, I've gone giveaway mad haven't I?) of  What Are You Waiting For?: Learn How to Rise to the Occasion of Your Life by Kristen Moeller, MS. Viva Editions and Publishers Group West, Moeller's publisher, has kindly offered to set up this giveaway with me.

A bit about the prize:

"A self-confessed 'self-help junkie,' Moeller shares how she got past the persistent feeling of falling short and started living."
Publishers Weekly

"Where does patience end and procrastination begin? Kristen Moeller bares her soul to help us understand the answer. She wants readers to start participating in their lives instead of watching them like a movie. AA calls it showing up. Moeller calls it remembering who we really are. She takes us on a journey through the hidden places within us where we give up before we try and value the outside view more than our own inner knowing. She has written a little book full of big lessons. She has framed those lessons within the context of her own life, beginning with the loss of her dream house to a raging wildfire. She gently nudges readers toward the starting gate as she shares her journey to a better (not perfect) place. She warns us that we will forget to keep trying, then tells us not to let that stop us from trying again. Let customers know that this is a perfect gift for anyone they know who is stuck and wants to get unstuck."
Retailing Insight, Anna Jedrziewski

What are you waiting for? Do you find yourself waiting for the right moment? The ideal relationship? The perfect job? Are you waiting for your “real” life to begin? Do think that the gifts of life are right around the corner? That one day you will arrive and everything will be okay? Do you endlessly search, yet never seem to find? Through the sharing of authentic personal stories and profound life lessons, Kristen Moeller explores our pervasive human tendency to wait for life and to look outside ourselves for answers. So we don’t try; we give up. We sell out and we forget who we are. We are afraid to succeed, afraid to fail, and afraid to say we are afraid. But as Wayne Gretzky said, “You'll always miss one-hundred percent of the shots you don't take!” Kristen Moeller's mission in life is to inspire you to get on the path, move forward and take the shot.

Interested? Here are the rules:
-Must be 18+ (under 18 WITH parents' expression permission)
-Giveaway open to the US, Canada, UK, Ireland and Continental Europe
-Gain entries by completing the Rafflecopter tasks below
-All winners will be verified
-Winner has 72 hours to claim prize before a second winner is chosen
-Winner will be chosen at random 
-You may tweet about the giveaway once per day for more entries
-Winner will receive one paperback copy of the book sent directly from Viva Editions/Publishers Group West.
-Giveaway ENDS on July 28 at 11:59 EST

Ready? (Set...Go...!) (Or Ready...Steady...Go! if you're British!)
  a Rafflecopter giveaway

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And Now...a Word from Our Sponspors...

Since I've been away for the past month (and now I'm back, hooray!), I haven't been as focused as I could on promoting my lovely sponsored ladies. Here are some of the highlights from their blogs:

Camis & Cushions
Photo copyright Camis & Cushions
 Laura over at Camis & Cushions recently did an epic Primark haul, which is very helpful since the store doesn't stock its wares online. Laura's post is a great way to take a peek into her personal style and see what Primark has on offer! Click on over to her post or to check it out or more of her posts.

Snowstorm the Blog
Photo copyright Snowstorm the Blog
Alicia of Snowstorm the Blog recently posted some breathtaking photographs of her family that are definitely worth checking out. This adorable snap is of her niece, and one of the baby's first photo shoots. Head on over to her blog to read more about it (and lots of details about Alicia's wedding to her husband Andrew). Click to go to Snowstorm. 
The Sassy Southerner 
Copyright Nicole at The Sassy Southerner
 If you're a travel junkie like I am, you will totally love the latest posts from Nicole over at The Sassy Southerner. She just recently went on a trip to Bavaria, where she showcases some amazing and jaw dropping photographs, particularly the one featured above at Eibsee in Bavaria. Gorgeous. Click here to go visit her.

The Beautyholic Confusion
My most recent sponsor is Shruti over at Beautyholic Confusion. Shruti's blog is fairly new, but she does all sorts of cool stuff like showing us new recipes, portable make-up products and how to shop for less. The two ear jackets above are $1250 and $22 respectively, and Shruti tells you how to get the look for less here. Check her out! 

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A Visit to KL Auschwitz II-Birkenau

Auschwitz II, or Birkenau as it was called, is the most notorious concentration camp from the Holocaust. Although a large portion of people died in the Holocaust through random round ups and executions or at killing centres like Treblinka and Chelmno and Majdanek, Auschwitz has become the symbol of the Holocaust...or more specifically Birkenau. Auschwitz-Birkenau was unique in that it was the only place where prisoners were tattooed (something that has long now been associated with all Holocaust victims) and the only camp where prisoners were both put to work and executed. Other camps had working gas chambers (such as Dachau), but these were used when prisoners were too exhausted to continue working. In Birkenau, they were used both for that purpose, and for simply killing people on arrival.

If you read my book, Unravelled, much of the beginning takes place in the hell that is Birkenau. Although the hospital where the twins were experimented on no longer stands, the barn-like barrack where the twins were kept still stands as testament to all of the real children Aliz and Hajna's fictional story represent.

Birkenau has always been a part of me, ever since I was a little girl. I knew so much about it that although this was my first visit, it seemed as though I had been there many, many times. I could point out places without consulting the guide, and most of the time I found I was correct.

I have so many thoughts and emotions about Birkenau swirling through my head, but many of them are incredibly emotional and I would like to keep them private. Instead of delving into that, I will instead show you some of the photographs I took inside of the camp (and the ruins).
Jews originally arrived further away from the camp, marked by this space.

"Sauna" where new inmates to Birkenau were processed.

"Sauna," the very first stop on the way to inmates being processed in Birkenau. They were made to strip off their clothes before running to the other side of the room.
This is where the new inmates' heads were shaved. This is particularly interesting to me as this is the first loss of your identity within the confines of Auschwitz.

One of the only displays at Birkenau...photographs from the town of Bedzin (pronounced Benjin) that were brought to Auschwitz with the victims.

Photos from Bedzin brought to Auschwitz

Stairs to one of the gas chambers.
Barracks in Birkenau...these are in the brick buildings where four people slept to one bed.

Ruins of a gas chamber and crematorium

Ramp where Jews were selected (for work or the gas) before entrance to Birkenau

Famous entrance to Birkenau

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