Arriving in Poland and a Sunday in Krakow

Trip Start Sep 01, 2010
Trip End Oct 13, 2010

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Where I stayed
Garden Hostel, Krakow

Flag of Poland  , Lesser Poland Voivodeship,
Sunday, September 19, 2010

Well it has been a few days since I have posted something. We kind of hit the wall with tiredness in Krakow and have not yet regained our momentum.  Too much church history, too many cathedrals, too many opulent government buildings, too much military history.  We really enjoyed Krakow and would have been good to have had an extra day there. 

The first day there we walked around the old city centre area. It was a Sunday and there was a big market in the square and lots of families out and about with their children and their dogs.  We enjoyed a lovely sunny day. We also booked our train trip from Krakow to Berlin and some tours we wanted to do the next day.  So what turned out to be quite quiet and relaxed became quite harrowing.

On Monday we met an 8 am tour group to Auschwitz and Birkenau, two concentration camps very close together.  I found the whole experience of seeing them quite traumatic. Our guide, a Polish woman whose grandparents were in Auschwitz (do not know if they survived, I am surprised anyone did) obviously holds the place very close to her soul.

She gave us detail after gory detail and left nothing out.  Her manner of presentation was riveting and she really wants every person on earth to visit there to see what happened.  I took a lot of photos but upon reflection am not going to post them up. I did not take any photos of people's faces who were in the large photographs on site.  They are very confronting and I think if people wish to make a personal choice for details there is enough one can access online or through books.  I don't want to visit it again through the photos. 

I will give the photos to a friend whose mother was in Auschwitz as a teenager b/c she has a personal interst but others may do their own research.

One thing the guide said to us though that really stuck in my mind was, "If you want to have a minute of silence for everyone who died in Auschwitz then you need to stand still for 24 hours a day for 2 years.  That explains the magnitude of it

When the Russians liberated the concentration camps the Nazis destroyed pretty  much everything at Birkenau but much was saved in Auschwitz including buildings and smuggled photographs and many documents.  It was the release of these documents and photos as well as one Russian photographer who filmed the liberation (the only one) and the subsequent release of all of this information that brought to light what happened there. 3,000 people died there.

I found it hard to sleep that night with all the images in my mind.  I really believe everyone should visit who has the opportunity but it is extremely disturbing. 

Two thousands people visits per day.

We arrived back at our hotel at 2:45 and then went on a 3:15 tour to the Unesco World Heritage Site of the Salt Mines. After an hour's drive on a bus we then walked down about 60 short flights of stairs to 155 metres below the ground. It is an amazing place but I could not get many photos as one needs to buy a camera permit and I had taken so many photos earlier in the day I just could not do it.  If you are really interested in seeing the salt sculptures which are great then google the Krakow salt mines Unesco World Heritage and it will be there for you. No use recreating the wheel.

The underground walk was about 2 hours long and then another hour back to the hotel by bus. We went out and grabbed some food and by then weary with exhaustion happily took our sore knees and backs to bed for an early night.

We had to catch a 7:19 am train the next day so left the hotel a little after 6:00 am and dragged our bags over cobblestone ( we really have lost nostalgic thoughts for cobblestone) to the train station. Our train ride to Berlin finished about 6:00 pm that night.  A very long couple of days. 

Now we are in Berlin but that is another story. Enjoy the photos of Krakow as it is a beautiful place but if you are going to do tours, allow some extra time there.

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Marney on

I loved Krakow! It's too bad you didn't have more time to explore it. I did a fantastic bike tour when I was there. I was also at Auschwitz and Birkenau and I feel the same as you - glad that I've had the opportunity to see for myself the extent of the devestation but don't ever want to go back.

Enjoy Berlin!

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