I debated whether I wanted to visit Auschwitz and Birkenau on this trip. I went in the end and it was such a sobering experience. Auschwitz and Birkenau were the largest of the Nazi concentration camps built during WWII. From 1942-1944, transport trains brought Jews from all over German-occupied Europe to these camps. At least 1.1 million prisoners died at Auschwitz with most of them being Jewish. The surviving prisoners were finally liberated in 1945 when Germany surrendered and WWII ended.
Krakow is one of the oldest cities in Poland. During World War II, Krakow became the capital of the German General Government and because of that, it was spared from much destruction during the war. Krakow has traditionally been one of the leading centers of Polish academic and cultural life with one of the oldest universities, Jagiellonian University, in the world. In 1978, the entire old town of Krakow was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
1933 Shanghai is located in Hongkou District of Shanghai. It is designed by the British and built in 1933 to be used as a slaughterhouse. Now, it has been restored as a creative hub with cafes, restaurants, shops, and design workshops. The four storey concrete building is built around a central atrium and has a spiderweb of ramps, “air bridges”, stairs, and corridors, like one of Escher’s paintings.
I spent a day wandering around the city of Singapore and checking out some of the streets with old shophouses and colonial buildings side by side with modern high rises. Shophouses here are mostly constructed between the 1840s and the 1960s and are at most two to three storeys tall. The ground floor was used as a shopfront with the owners of the business living in the upstairs quarters. Once dilapidated, these shophouses are now restored and used as galleries, boutiques, cafes, and bars.
Yungang Grottoes are ancient Buddhist grottoes near the city of Datong in Shanxi province built in the Northern Wei period between the Tang and Song Dynasties. It is one of the three major cave clusters in China, the other two being Longmen and Mogao Grottoes. Here at Yungang, there are altogether 252 grottoes with more than 51,000 buddha statues. These grottoes represent the peak of Buddhist cave art and tell the story of past glory.
The Hanging Temple of Henshan or Xuankong Temple is a temple built into a cliff more than 1,500 years ago. It is about 65 km outside of Datong City in Shanxi Province. The temple is famous not only for its location on a cliff, but also because it is the only existing temple that caters to all three Chinese traditional religions: Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. It is believed that the reason for catering to all three religions of the time was to prevent the destruction of the temple through regime changes and the resulting more prevalent religion of the regime.