Trip Start Apr 05, 2007
20Trip End Aug 15, 2007
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Did a couple of day trips outside of Krakow. Caught the bus out to the Salt Mine and did a tour there. We had to book down something ridiculous like 400 steps then were taken around the most interesting points. The most fabulous is of course the Cathedral where almost everything is made from salt - stairs, altars, art (eg. last supper) and they still hold weddings here. A couple of days later I got the bus to Oswiecim which is known better as Auschwitz. It was actually ... disappointing. It felt more like an attraction park, even though at Auschwitz all the original buildings are intact, there were just soooo many tourists that you couldn't pause to reflect at anything. There was just no feeling, almost like it had lost all soul. From there, there was a shuttle bus to Birkenau, which was more what I was expecting I suppose. It was a massive area that was so obviously set up for the sole purpose of genocide. There are few buildings standing now at Birkenau but they have set some up some examples of barracks and washrooms which obviously encouraged disease and ultimately death. Barracks were intially for 52 horses but they managed to cram 700 'undesirable' human beings into each one.
Spent one day wandering around the Jewish Quarter and old Jewish Ghetto and even managed to get out as far as the ruins of another concentration camp, Plasnow. There is nothing there now except for some mass burial sites with memorials to victims and is now used as a park by some locals. The Old Synagogue had a great little museum on Jewish customs and traditions, which was even better since entry was free on monday. Went into Remuh Synagogue and Cemetery then later into Tempel Progressive Synagogue, which is the newest and heavily influenced from Christian churches. Walked to Oskar Schindler's factory, took the obligatory photos from outside but didn't go to the small exhibition inside.
Krakow is a great city steeped in historz with an amazing old town and lots to keep everyone busy!