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Quack quack: Duck Village

I was going through some of my older photos when I came across a few from a short visit to Duck Village so I thought that I would share.

Firstly you should know that It’s not your typical tourist attraction.

I found a few reviews before writing this which summed the place up as a bit ‘weird’ and all I can say to that is, well…esthetically, yes I suppose it’s not your average home for ducks but it’s a home nonetheless and since quirky is my thing, I quite like it.

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A hanging teddy bear adorns one section… I guess the ducks like it?

Duck village is a little area set up on Manoel Island in Gzira and from what I can tell is run entirely on charitable donations.

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As well as ducks, it’s also the home to a few cats, chickens, rabbits and guinea pigs all of which seem content with their lives.

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Why not go and check this little haven out whilst you’re in the Sliema/Gzira area? Buy some bread from a local shop and go and feed our little quacky friends (don’t forget the bunnies and guinea pigs too!). There’s also a box to leave a little donation.

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10

Haunting me – Auschwitz & Birkenau

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I wrote this on the evening after visiting Auschwitz & Birkenau and I felt that it needed to be shared. I was feeling a little ‘creeped out’ by the whole experience so excuse the mournful tone.

I’m having trouble sleeping tonight. Every time I close my eyes all I see are visions of Auschwitz & Birkenau scorched into the back of my eyelids. Today we visited two of the death camps that I’ve heard so much about. It felt so wrong that the sun was shining on this place, yet despite it being a bright and sunny day full of curious tourists I still felt an eery stillness walking around.

Before arriving there, I kind of felt it was a little wrong to visit a place which was the resting place of millions of Jews. Did people really get a kick out of this? I wondered. Now I’ve been there however, I can’t emphasise just how important it was to go and see the camp with my own eyes.

We need to remember. We need to be educated. We need to pay our respects for those who perished and the few who risked their lives for the sake of others.

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Inside one of the buildings at Auschwitz, there was a wall of photos of some of the men and women registered into the death camp. Some, though only having just arrived showed signs that they had been beaten; some wore a blank expression and some (and the ones that really got to me) were faces of men and women wearing genuine smiles with what seemed like no inclination of what was soon to happen to them.

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One of the gas chambers at Birkenau

Of about eight hundred jews who tried to escape, only about one hundred and fifty managed. It didn’t matter how long it took to search for an escaped prisoner, the Nazis would carry on searching even if it took a whole year.

We learnt about the medical experiments performed on the jews for various purposes and how a lot of the prisoners would end up physically handicapped and thus  would meet their end much faster because they could no longer work and were therefore deemed useless to the Nazis.

We learnt about Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish priest who died as a prisoner in Auschwitz. When a prisoner escaped, the prisoners in the camp would be punished. This was to discourage other prisoners from having even the notion of thinking about escaping (and also because they were just merciless bastards). On this occasion there were ten jews selected to be eliminated in the starvation bunker including Franciszek Gajowniczec who began sobbing for his wife and children. Maximilian stepped forward and asked to take this mans place. Oddly enough, the officer agreed and the priest was thrown down the stairs into the starvation bunker and left to starve. Whilst the other prisoners were gnawed at by their thirst and hunger (often drinking their own urine and licking the cold walls) the priest would pray.

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After two weeks only four of the ten were still alive.  The Nazis grew impatient as they needed the cells for more victims so an executioner was sent to inject a lethal dose of carbolic acid into each of the men. Maximilian was the last to die and whilst fully conscious, he lifted his arm to receive the shot. A true saint

Franciszek Gajowniczek survived to tell the story and died in 1995 at the age of 95.

After putting pen to paper, I finally managed to get some sleep. I won’t ever forget my visit nor will I forget the fluttering wings of the butterfly that danced past a gas chamber that day.

On another note; try to be respectful if you go. Taking pictures of you smiling next to a display case of glasses (or whatever) just makes you look like a fool.

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3

The land of everything and more

Ah Krakow.


It’s been almost a year since I was there but I can still remember the city quite vividly despite my terrible memory. It’s a place that has something for everyone’s tastes whether it’s history you enjoy, vibrant cities or wonderful food.
Here’s what we covered in a week:



We took a walk around the city by foot. We went in July so the weather was fortunately perfect for a bit of walking.

There’s also free walking tour from Market Square every day which has been highly recommended. Just look out for someone holding a sign post!


We soaked in the atmosphere at Rynek Glowny (Market Square), the largest medieval square in Europe. I could have spent all day just walking around, sipping on cappuccino’s and watching the world go by.
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You can take a horse-drawn carriage for a ride around the city. I was extremely impressed by the care that the owners obviously take of their horses. Maltese karozzin drivers should take note.
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We succumbed to the touristy part of ourselves and took a buggy ride around the city (it was my mums idea). It’s not the cheapest but it’s pretty fun and you’ll probably get to see more than if you were walking by foot especially if you’re there for a really short stay.


We got to sneak a peek inside St Mary’s Church (Koscial Mariacki) for free but I would recommend paying the small 6 PLN fee for a ticket since that’s the only way you’ll be allowed to take photos. Honestly, I don’t say this about many religious buildings but this was really something.


We sat with our coffees at a cafe close by to the church tower and listened out for the bugle call. It’s every hour so you’re bound to hear it at some point but we wanted to play ‘Spot the bugler’ too. He’s a bit tough to see if you’re short-sighted (and don’t happen to be wearing your glasses). I’ve read quite a few different stories about the bugler call but the one that my parents told me is that a bugler was sounding the alarm and was cut short when a Tatar archer shot him in the throat, thus his alarm was cut short. Now, whenever the bugle is played it stops abruptly to commemorate that moment forever. I hope I got that right, if I didn’t then I’m sure I’ll be corrected at some point.
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Eat Polish food. Namely potato pancakes and pierogi! The food is delicious and they cater really well to vegetarians too which initially surprised me. For pierogi try the popular Babci Maliny, so cheap and the place is really quirky. Click here for their website…oh yeah and be prepared for the musical introduction.
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Visit the local Farmer’s Market. The fresh fruit and veg are a sight for sore eyes…and taste great too.
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Take a stroll along the Vistula River before heading Wawel Castle to meet the fire-breathing dragon! Ooh.
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Meet some dwarves in the Wieliczka Salt Mine.  It’s the home of some pretty fantastic sculptures and an underground Cathedral (all made of salt). It’s quite enchanting and I kind of felt like I’d stepped into a Tolkien book. You’ll have to go down a lot of steps to get there, I didn’t count but our guide said there were about 400+. You’ll also have to go with a guide so I would suggest pre-booking the tour and saving yourself the big queue at the actual entrance to the mine. I didn’t take many pictures and I had left my camera…bring yours! You’ll also have to pay about 20 PLN for a photography permit although you could probably get away with not buying one if you’re discreet…I really shouldn’t be saying this sort of stuff should I? Oh yeah, and lick the salt, just because.


Head to Schindler’s Factory to scrub up on your history (and learn tons more in the process). The exhibition tells the story of Krakow under Nazi occupation from 1939 – 1945. This museum is probably one of the best I have seen; It was informative, captivating and moving. You’ll need to allow yourself about three hours to explore and the couple of short films that they show are worth watching too.


Pay your respects by visiting Auschwitz – Birkenau, the death camp which was the last place that so many jews saw…and feel thankful to leave.
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Notes:
We went to the salt mines and Auschwitz-Birkenau with Cracow Tours and I would totally recommend them. I was feeling sick on one of the days so was going to have to cancel and do the trip alone the next day but they rescheduled at the last minute for all four of us to go the next day together instead without any hassle at all. The guides are also brilliant too!