Tag Archives: history

Baltic Amber

Jurassic Park is one of the greatest movies ever made. From a pair of spunky kids outsmarting a herd of velociraptors to a T-rex seriously ruining someone’s toilet time, the movie has it all. But one of the most underrated aspects of the flick is how it pushed amber into the public conscious. The Baltic region produces the vast majority of the world’s amber so the odds that fly with the dinosaur DNA was Northern European is pretty high.

Since the dawn of humans, amber has been marveled at and desired for it’s beauty. Then golden color can just mesmerize a person. The tourist industries in the Baltic states have taken full advantage of this. Walk through any tourist area in Gdansk or Vilnius (also probably Kaliningrad, Tallinn, and Riga) and you’ll see hundreds of amber trinkets for sale. You can also get them in Germany, but according to a German friend I toured Poland, Polish prices are less than half of German prices. Whether it’s just a little necklace for a special girl in your life or a huge ship that can dominate your mantle, amber artisans are still able to practice their craft.

Carry-on?  Vilnius, Lithuania

Carry-on baggage? Vilnius, Lithuania

Amber just isn’t for looking pretty. It has left it’s mark on European history. After the Crusades the Teutonic Knights conquered the amber rich Baltic region eventually building Malbork Castle. As the seat of the Teutonic power, it was where the knights enforced their monopoly over the amber trade. Amber was used for rosaries and by controlling the production and supply of the precious materials, the Teutonic Order was able to leverage concessions and power from various other world leaders. Kind of like OPEC. Eventually this license to print money collapsed with the Protestant Reformation and the Lutheran lack of rosaries.

The history of amber in Poland is shown through a surprisingly modern and well equipped museum located in Malbork Castle. You can see how amber is born millions of years ago and all the exact geologic processes that have to occur in order to complete the formation. You’ll also find dozens of pieces of jewelry stretching from the Neolithic time right up until today. The evolution of the craft as tools got stronger, smaller, and more precise is great to see. It’s like two attractions for the price of one. Just another reason you should visit one of the best draws in Poland.


Keeping a Language

A language is a pillar of a nation’s culture. It can provide a link back through history and a view of the future. Protecting a language from dying off like so many others is not a natural act. People need to make a conscious effort to teach their children the language, normally though the schools. No where is this shown better than in Armenia. Throughout elementary school students are taught to respect and love the Armenian language. A pair of poems they learn are translated below.

Keep it
[Armenian language] high and pure as the sacred snow of Ararat is,

Keep it close to your heart as you remember your grandfathers’ memories…

Even if it happens so that you forget your mother,

You should never forget your mother language


Our caravan would have lost his way, we would have been lost, if we did not have our language to light for us in the night ways. Thus, let us glorify and burnish as a sword, so that the Armenian language, always bright, could tinkle under the sun


Malbork Castle

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997, Malbork Castle is one of the preeminent attractions in Poland. It was built by the Teutonic Order to be the seat of their power in the region. It is enormous, the largest castle in the world. After years of warfare and sieges the Teutonic Order finally gave Malbork over to the Polish kings who used it as their residence for a time. During the partitions of Poland, the castle changed hands multiple times and it wasn’t until after WWII the area was returned to Poland. Of course like much of Europe Malbork was a pile of smoking rubble after the war. The pictures you can see of the restoration are amazing. My first reaction when I saw the damage in the photos was, ‘Why didn’t they just bulldoze the whole thing and chalk it up as a loss?’ But if I guess they did that half of Europe would be a parking lot today.

Malbork is located about an hour south of Gdansk by train and very easy to visit as you’ll see.

I was in Poland and my friend lives in Warsaw. My original plan was to stay with her a few nights but she had just accepted a job offer in Bucharest and was busy packing and getting ready to move. She told me that it would be easier if I didn’t stay with her because moving sucks. She didn’t want to be frustrated or angry with me being in the way. So I decided to visit Malbork. I was traveling onwards after my CELTA course in Wroclaw but I had three nights in between the end of my course and my flight from Warsaw. So I did the only rational thing I could and turned Malbork into a two night trek.

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I left Warsaw after having dinner with my friend on a train heading to Gdansk at 11:00 PM. It was an over night train that would get into Gdansk at 7:00 AM. I pulled into the station and went over to the automated ticket machine to get my ride to Malbork. There was a train leaving in twenty minutes, but I passed on that. I wanted to get to Malbork at around 10:00 AM when it actually opened. It was too cold to be standing and waiting. The tickets from Gdansk to Malbork are quite cheap and the ride isn’t bad. It takes a little under an hour so if you’re already visiting the lovely city of Gdansk, Malbork is an easy day trip by train.

Getting closer to the station I caught my first glimpse of the castle. It was pretty awe inspiring. We pulled into Malbork and the first thing I noticed was an awful smell in the air. I looked around and noticed that quite close to the train station is a large factory belching out fumes. Luckily I had seen the castle from the train so I knew the general direction to head in from the station. It’s about a kilometer and a half, maybe two kilometer walk to the castle. I’m pretty sure I saw a bus that ran the route but I felt like seeing if the town of Malbork had anything else interesting to offer. It doesn’t.

To enter castle you need to purchase a ticket. If I’m being honest it was kind of expensive. More than I would like to pay normally, but I bit the bullet. It was definitely worth the money though. You can get in cheaper if you arrive later in the day, but since the tour takes about three hours you might miss much of it. Make sure to bring your passport with you. Normally I leave my passport somewhere safe when I make day trips, but this time I just had a gut feeling I should have it on me. I’m glad I did. If you have your passport they’ll let you borrow an audioguide for a self tour. The audioguide is in five or six different languages that you can choose from when you receive it. Physically it’s a small iPod touch in a case with some headphones and a custom app made for it. That’s why you need your passport, they don’t want their nice gadgets walking off. Not getting the audioguide isn’t much of an option because you won’t find a whole lot of signs explaining the different rooms in the castle.

You’ll get the chance to tour the knights quarters, mess halls, privies, chapels, an armory, even a really nice museum dedicated to amber. There are some beautiful pieces of jewelry and decoration that can take your breath away. All in all, the castle feels like something right out of Dungeons and Dragons.

After I finished my tour I headed back to Gdansk. I was leaving Gdansk on another over night train to Warsaw leaving at 11:30 PM so I had plenty of time to waste. I spent some time wandering the streets, I was quite surprised there was no Christmas market. Gdansk is a beautiful city so I was happy to spend time. I got some dinner and then headed back to the train station to wait. I had my Kindle with me so it wasn’t too bad. Also the train station has free wifi so I pulled out my iPhone and chatted with people on Facebook. I don’t like waiting but it wasn’t too terrible.

We boarded the train and my plan was to go straight to sleep. Unfortunately that wasn’t going to happen. Two other travelers in my car kept talking to each other with the lights on. Whenever there was a break in the conversation I would doze off for about twenty minutes then a conductor would come through asking to see our tickets. This would kick off their conversation for another hour easily. They weren’t going all the way to Warsaw and when they got off I was alone in the car. I immediately hopped up and turned the lights off, a sign to anyone else coming into the car that it was going to be quite. A few other travelers boarded and they didn’t make any noise, everyone just tried to get comfortable in their seats for the ride.

I arrived in Warsaw around 5:30 and felt like a zombie. In the last 48 hours I had spent seven hours on a bus from Wroclaw to Warsaw, 16 hours on trains from Warsaw to Gdansk and back, and two hours on trains from Gdansk to Malbork. And that didn’t include any of the time I spent walking around in Malbork exploring the place.

As a whole the experience wasn’t the most pleasant.  The obscene amount of travelling in such a short time really took a mental toll on me.  But it was worth it to see Malkbork.  The castle was awesome, one of the best things I’ve ever seen.  But from now on I’m going to try and avoid multiple nights of overnight travel.


This is the first entry in a long saga about how the Peace Corps ended their relationship in Bolivia.  You can read more about the political situation here.

What is coca? At the most basic it’s a plant. But there’s much more than that. If you ask the United States government they’ll tell you it’s a security threat that needs to be wiped off the map through prodigious use of herbacides and fire. If you ask many people in South America they’ll tell you coca is a miracle cure. Harvested for over eight thousand years, coca has helped the Andean people fight altitude sickness, fix hangovers and stomach problems, relieve pain, even combat malaria. Where’s the disconnect?

Coca can be refined into cocaine. This makes coca a premier target for US law enforcement. A key tenet of the war on drugs in South America, is the eradication of coca. Aerial fumigation and bulldozing of coca fields happen on a regular basis. This doesn’t stop the peasants from growing coca, there’s just not enough money to be made elsewhere. Study after study has shown that to effectively reduce the amount of coca being grown to reduce the amount of cocaine coming into America development projects aimed at helping the cocaleros transfer from growing coca to other crops need to be ramped up with money and personnel. Unfortunately this isn’t happening quick enough so the status quo remains. It’s a Catch-22. When coca is destroyed, prices go up. When prices go up more people plant it. The unfortunate result is that cocaine is still easy to find in America.

Daniel Ritiere

On the other side, coca is an integral part of traditional Andean culture. Along with the medicinal uses, some people believe that coca leaves can be used in divination. It also plays a heavy role in traditional religions. This connection to the past should be no surprise in the Andes where many people still speak Quecha, the language of the Incas. My host grandmother I lived with only spoke Quecha, her daughter had to translate the Quecha into Spanish so we would be able to communicate. With coca being so important to their culture, the coca eradication program has fanned anti-US sentiment in the region. A common refrain I heard through conversations, ‘If cocaine is such a problem in America, why aren’t they fixing the problem in America?’ There are those who claim that the war on drugs is nothing more than an attempt to finish the job the Spanish tried and crush out all indigenous culture. US law enforcement officials are no more than neo-conquistadors in their eyes.

Coca is legal in Bolivia and the Bolivian government does cooperate with US authorities to destroy illegal coca fields. Evo Morales does have many issues with the United States, but he agrees that cocaine manufacturers are a security risk and need to be dealt with. He has worked to extend protection to legal growers and tried to reduce the eradication program from the US with varying degrees of success.

Legal coca leaves are sold in bags by weight, ranging from a few ounces for a day’s supply up to hundreds of pounds to resell in local markets. It is often chewed giving off a slight tingling and numbing sensation. You can also find mate de coca which is a tea made of coca leaves. This is more common throughout the whole country, the chewing intake is normally limited to the more indigenous parts of the country.

As a foreigner there are some risks involved with coca. Outside of South America, most countries don’t differentiate between cocaine and coca. In America coca is considered a Schedule II drug, just like cocaine. So bringing any back to the states is a big no-no. Customs may let you slide on an ignorance plea, especially since the amount of coca needed to refine cocaine is outrageous, but in this day of constant security risks in airports it’s not worth it.

Gnomes of Wroclaw

During the Soviet times, the USSR was understandably not too popular (see Katyn) in Poland. People would often paint anti-Soviet graffiti all over the place.  The militia would be called in and paint right over it.  They couldn’t let those hurtful words be seen by the toiling proletariat could they?   Eventually a couple of artists calling themselves the ‘Orange Alternative’ movement decided that instead of wasting everyone’s time with new graffiti that would be painted over within hours they would paint gnomes out of Polish folklore because folklore is awesome.  Fight oppression with absurdity.

This went on for a while and even after the collapse of the Soviet Union Wroclaw sort of adopted the gnome as their town symbol.  All around the city, not just the tourist sections, there are these gnome statues about a foot high. You’ll find them everywhere. On sidewalks near schools and businesses. Next to curbs for absolutely no reason. By government buildings because it’s entertaining. Many local businesses have caught the gnome fever and commission artists to make one specially for them, a tiny little advertising man.  One of the gnomes is even special just for the Christmas Market; they bring him out on his pedestal and if you rub his hat you’re supposed to get what you want for the holidays.

I’ve read there are something like 200 of them around, I was only able to find about 40 during my time there.  That wasn’t for lack of effort, I tried multiple times a week to get out and just walk around.  I know I could have looked up the locations online, but that’s sort of like cheating.

It’s surprisingly entertaining, like a city wide scavenger hunt.  It forced me to take so many side streets that I would normally ignore.  Sometimes I would find a gnome secreted away in a hidden corner, sometimes I wouldn’t.  But the thought that maybe there was something to be found made exploring Wroclaw far more entertaining than it could have been.  I think more cities should introduce city-wide art work ideas.

Here’s some more info and pictures to look at

The Churches on the Hill

One of the most popular tourist draws to Armenia, churches can be found all through the mountainous region. Dating back hundreds, even a thousand years, some churches are run down and decrepit, others have been rebuilt for posterity. A person could easily revolve their entire trip to Armenia and not be disappointed. However if you are not one of those people, don’t give up reading just yet. There’s an easy trip to the shores of lovely Lake Sevan that gives you just a taste without being overwhelming. I’ve recommended this to every person who visits the country because it hits three quality sites and can be done in a few hours. So far they haven’t complained. At least to my face.

Before touring the sites, it’s pretty important to get there. You have a few possible options available. The first would be to hire a taxi from Yerevan for the day. In theory you negotiate a price upfront after telling the driver what you want to do. In reality if you don’t speak Armenian or Russian the odds of this happening without a huge markup are pretty low. The second option is easier, contact a tour company and work with them. One of the best in the country is Envoy Hostel. The extremely helpful staff run a wonderful hostel in Yerevan for your accommodation and they can set you up with a packaged tour or even one you create yourself. With the hostel being very popular with Yerevan visitors, finding a few others to go with should be easy. And finally if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous (read: cheap) you can take a mixture of public transportation and hitchhiking. Take a morning marshutni to Sevan from Yerevan, hitch down to Gavar, then marshutni or hitch back into Yerevan.

On to the sites.

Now you’ve covered a decent tourist area, maybe had a transcendental experience like I did, what’s next? Time for a superlative.  Noratus is the largest collection of Armenia’s famed khatchkars in the world. Previously that title was held Julfa in Nakhchivan until the khatckars there were bulldozed by Azerbaijani authorities. So now Noratus is the place to see the evolution of the stone cross.

Evolution is not a stretch when it comes to what you’ll find through the field of khatchkars. There are extraordinarily old stones that have been worn smooth with nothing more than a cross etched on to them using a harder stone. Some are covered in lichen and moss. Others are beautiful examples of medieval Armenian art. Still others tell stories. There are a lot of them.

This is the sad story of two young lovers. There once was a young man in the village who was a tailor (represented by the scissors near his head) and caught the attention of the most beautiful girl in the area. When the two decided to wed there was great rejoicing because she was so lovely and he was a well brought up and responsible young man. Although the two families were poor they were able to provide enough for a large wedding party (the food and wine jugs) and invited the whole town. The young couple were standing in front of the priest staring lovingly into each other’s eyes when a force of marauding bandits (man on horse) swept down from the hills and began to slaughter the populace. The couple were violently butchered along with many of the other people, but somehow half of the population was able to survive. The groom’s younger brother vowed revenge, and as he marched to the blacksmith to turn his plowshares to swords, his mother begged him to reconsider. She could not bear the idea of losing her only remaining child. After the rage subsided, the brother understood the wisdom of his mother and apprenticed himself to the town’s stone cutter. After three years of apprenticeship he carved out this scene to remember his brother and would-be sister in law and placed it over the place where the two were killed.

Most recently in order to help Armenia preserve its cultural heritage as well as promote tourism, USAID sponsored a project to install sign posts and make information available to Noratus visitors.  Visit to show USAID and governments that cultural heritage is worth saving.  Preservation can be a viable source of income if we as travelers do our part.

Wielizcka Salt Mine, Krakow

Normally I’m not one for the very touristy attractions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not pretentious and think that ‘I’m a traveler not a tourist,’ or feel there is something inherently wrong with popular attractions. Do you know why visitors are attracted to certain places? Because they’re worth seeing, that’s why. No I’m not big on tourist attractions because they most often cost money and I am notoriously cheap. So I never planned on visiting the Wielizcka Salt Mine. But all my Polish friends said Wielizcka is one of the best attractions in the country and I would be missing out if I skipped it. So I went.

Constructed in the 13th century the mine continued to produce salt up until the mid 2000s. For seven hundred years it was a prime source of employment for Poles in the Krakow area. In the days before refrigeration salt was one of the best ways to preserve food. This made Wielizcka vital to generations of Polish kings and leaders as a source of wealth.

Wielizcka is a pretty easy day trip out of Krakow if you’re not stupid. Unfortunately that seems to exclude me. I was CouchSurfing in Krakow with a wonderful local student who helped me find the bus I needed to take from the city to Wielizcka. I jotted her instructions down and hit the road. The first leg of my journey was easy. I got on a bus heading out of town in the direction I was going. However I must have missed a stop because I rode the bus to the very end of the line and I did not see any mine. That was the first problem. After that the entire day was an adventure.

I trekked a bit back down the road we came in on to try and catch my bearings. Maybe the stop was close. I wasn’t able to find any help in the way of signs and being a stupid guy I didn’t want to ask for directions either. Eventually I found my way to a hotel where I swallowed my pride and asked for some help. The lovely lady working at the front desk spoke English and told me that I was close, only a mile and a half away from the mines. Well that wasn’t too far, so I started walking in the direction she pointed me to. In a bit I realized that she thought I had a car because her directions would have taken my on to a highway. I felt like I was being clever though following the highway on a little side path that ran parallel.

Eventually the path hit a split and I guessed I should take the route that took me through a small town. I didn’t have any idea what I was looking for and assumed that Wielizcka was located near a town. So I start walking through town and then realize I’m in the wrong town and I also had no idea how to get back to where I was. I might be not the brightest guy, but I did bring a compass so I could get a general idea of where I was going. South and west were where I came from so I started to follow roads that could take me there. There was a nice little Saturday market I found in the town, but no signs pointing me towards the mine.

After approximately two hours or so of meandering through the town I end up heading down a hill and guess what I found? The hotel I stopped in before! At least I knew where I was, that was a good thing. I continued my trek but this time paid more attention to the highway and noticed that there were a couple of signs pointing to the turnoffs drivers would need to take to get to Wielizcka.

I cutting this story short here because it’s not very interesting and I’m tired of writing about it. The basic version is that I got lost again trying to follow the signs and some wrong intuition. I hooved around some more and eventually I found myself orientated in the the right direction and got a bus heading out that way. All in all what should have been a twenty minute bus ride from Krakow took close to four hours. When traveling though I’m not one to complain. The weather was nice, it was good exercise, and it showed me a part of Poland I doubt most tourists see. The journey is half the fun right?

But it was worth it. Oh it was so worth it. Even though Wielizcka was probably the most expensive single thing (there’s no way to visit without an organized tour) I did in my entire trip and one of the largest pains, the reward more than made up for it. There’s a reason it was one of the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world. Hundreds of years of carvings and artwork by the salt miners has been preserved for your pleasure. With a guided group you get a chance to tour parts of the mine and marvel at statues carved from salt. Images of Polish historical figures are everywhere. The tour lasts a few hours and outside of the statues there’s an underground lake, giant chapel, light show, and journey back to the surface in a tightly packed elevator. Since it’s a mine it’s quite dark even with all the lights. It’s not dangerous or worrisome, but hard to get decent photos. So sorry about that.

Since I’m a bit of a nerd I immediately compared Wielizcka to Moria from Lord of the Rings. Not the Moria the fellowship went through full of orcs trying to kill them and a giant, fire whip wielding Balrog reasonably asking for a toll across the only bridge over a bottomless chasm. No, Wielizcka is what I imaged Moria to be like during the good years full of lights and history and carvings. Tolkienesque. Is that a real word?

While visit Krakow do yourself a favor and make a day trip out the mine. There are dozens of tour operators who can arrange it for you. Or you can purchase tickets online here. I simply arrived and bought a ticket from the counter, but that may not be a good idea during the high season.

Uganda Museum, Kampala

One of the last things I did while in Uganda was visit the Uganda Museum in Kampala. I originally didn’t plan on stopping by since my guide book talked fairly disparagingly of it. But I’m a museum nerd and I realized that the only way for this museum to receive more funding to get bigger and better would be to attract more visitors. So I did my duty and took a few hours to make the trek. Kampala may be chaotic but it is not so extremely big that it’s impossible to walk. Once you get away from the bus stations where it feels like just a swarm of humanity, Kampala is fairly calm and quite enjoyable. The hour and a half walk was no big deal.

I carried my backpack up there because I was leaving for Kigali that evening and had checked out of my guest house. One of the greatest things about Uganda is the people. Things may not be very organized all the time, but you can easily use that to your advantage. Just like my visit to the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre, I just asked the people at the ticket counter if I could leave my pack with them. Of course they said yes and locked it up in their office and told me who to find to get the key when I left. So now it was time to start exploring.

The first thing you notice about the museum is that it’s no Smithsonian. I’ve been spoiled by having some of the best museums in the world available to me for free for so long that I inevitably compare any new museum to them. But don’t think this means the Uganda Museum is bad, it isn’t. There’s this haphazard charm about it that makes it interesting. One wing is full of artifacts such as baskets, musical instruments and native toys. Another focuses on the geology of Armenia. Make your way to the back to learn about local animals. There’s even an exhibit on the Bujugali hydroelectric dam and a Ford Model T. In my opinion however the most off the wall exhibition was a collection of Olympic posters commemorating all the modern games. These posters are one of the most interesting exhibits I’ve seen in any museum. Watching how art styles changed across the years and countries was eye opening. I took pictures of every poster so I look at them later, but the glare from the protective glass prevents me from uploading them to the world. All in all, a really fun museum. The exhibits are not the highest quality or super interactive, but still awesome enough to warrant a visit for any Kampala traveler.

However outside the museum is where it really shines. Mention ‘Africa’ to many Americans and they think of straw huts. While that isn’t exactly true any more, in the more rural areas these huts can be found. Or instead of going on a countrywide scavenger hunt you can see them at the Uganda Museum. There is an outside exhibit behind the building with a dozen or so huts, not models put full scale and livable huts. There are far more styles than I imagined. Ranging from the Hima style which looks like a giant mound with the straw reaching all the way to the ground to Ankoli with supports around the roof to make a sort of awning circling the structure, the museum has all the examples labeled with a small blurb about the architectural styles and where they are found. This alone warrants the small entrance fee; since the arson of the Kasabi tombs it is one of the better attractions in Kampala.

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Rwandan Rememberence

In the scheme of history, 1994 was just yesterday. Not even twenty years ago Rwanda was wracked by a civil war and a genocide that took the lives of approximately eight hundred thousand people, nearly twenty percent of the population. Think about that. One out of five people were killed. The country was a graveyard.

While this isn’t a post about the actual genocide, a brief and simple history lesson on how it all happened is not out of place. During colonial times, Belgium ruled over Rwanda and order to control the country the people were divided into the Tutsis and the Hutus. A Tutsi simply was someone who owned at least ten cows. The Tutsi people controlled power in the country for years and eventually the majority Hutus had enough of the tension and took over the country in the early 1960’s through a violent coup. However instead of using their new power to make peace, Hutu politicians and leaders continued to fan the flames of anti-Tutsi sentiment.

Later in 1990 Tutsi refugees launched an attack from neighboring Uganda that led to a civil war. Eventually a ceasefire was signed. Then the Hutu president and many high ranking officials were killed when their plane was shot down. All hell broke loose and then the real killings began. Evidence seems to implicate Hutu leaders in planning for mass killings before the assassination.

But that was then, this is now. As a tourist in Rwanda you would never think the country went through such a terrible phase so recently. The roads are nice, people friendly, buses run on time, and stores are stocked. There’s no feeling of danger or unease, but as a foreigner I couldn’t stop thinking about the history. This wasn’t like being in Armenia where the killings happened nearly a hundred years ago, or Poland where people were sent to the gulags under Stalin’s orders. During my first few days whenever I would pass a middle aged man I would ask myself, ‘What was his role?’ Victim? Perpetrator? Innocent bystander? I was in no position to ask.

Fortunately after a few days the thoughts faded and were replaced with optimism and hope. The lack of revenge killings leading to a continuous cycle of violence is nothing short of amazing. If Rwanda can move on after such a tragedy anyone can. After peace was restored Rwandans seemed to have taken a step backwards and saw the carnage they were responsible for and swore ‘Never Again.’ They will never forget. Nearly every town where the killings happened has some memorial, and not just a plaque or statue. Graphic memorials. The gorgeous town of Kibuye has a glass shed lined with rows of skulls in front of the local church. Kigali’s large genocide museum has pieces of clothing worn by victims especially small clothing for children.

But nothing compares to the museum in Gikongoro near the city of Butare. Site of one of the largest scale killings, mass graves are still being found today. What makes it intense is not the museum, it is the exhibition in the back. Originally a technical school, the dorms and workshops are now filled with bodies. Thousands of bodies were exhumed from the mass graves and preserved with lime. There are dozens of buildings in the Gikongoro complex and bodies are just stacked like firewood. The effect is beyond powerful. It is one thing to read a bunch of numbers, it is another to see a table covered with the bodies of children. Gikongoro was by far the most moving and hardest thing I have ever seen traveling.

It isn’t for the faint of heart but everyone who visits Rwanda needs to visit, even for just a moment.