We had a tour booked to Auschwitz on Saturday so we were collected by minivan in the morning and driven an hour and a bit outside of Krakow. The scene was set along the way by a documentary about a Soviet Soldier who's job it was to film the liberation of the Auschwitz extermination camp. This film set the tone for what was to be a somber day. We walked around the grounds of the first camp - there were 3 altogether that make up what we know as Auschwitz. The fact that the German Army destroyed villages to make way for these places is infuriating enough let alone the horrors that took place here during the war. For me, visiting the camp, it was almost like going through a grieving process
. You're sad at first, then really angry, then you wonder 'what if someone had done this or that...'. It's hard to grasp the magnitude of death and despair and the loss experienced by so many. I feel a bit silly using words like horror and despair because I don't think these really describe what happened to these people. To see the massive piles of hair, glasses, hair brushes, shoes and kitchen utensils pillaged by the Nazis from the Jews, Poles and other poor souls barely begins to give you a material measure of the number of people who died here. They have 40 000 pair of shoes left, piled from floor to ceiling in a room bigger than most of our living rooms and kitchens combined. Perfect plaits of hair cut off and bowls and saucepans once eaten from by happy families are left on display here. But we were assured that this collection of belongings are a meager amount when compared to what was taken overall. The pictures of many who died in Auschwitz line the corridors of the blocks along with information about who they were. Teachers, farmers, confectioners...most lived for less than a few months and many for several days. Most children were murdered on arrival. I could go on and on...
We left Krakow by train late that night on a path to Prague. Thankfully, we had a couchette with bunk beds all to ourselves. While not luxurious, it allowed several hours sleep without strangers and much to Graham's delight, a lock on the door. He slept on a top bunk, right beside an open window and maintains that he almost fell out. We arrived the Prague with enough energy to head into town and to Charles Bridge for the day. We wander the cobble stone alley ways and admired the views along the way
. It's a really beautiful city, now one of my favorites. We found our way to the castle and St Vitus Cathedral which I think rivals Notre Dame in beauty. We also watch the Astronomical Clock do its thing. Some of us braved the flesh eating fish and had a magic fish pedicure. See the image below... Czechs rule in the beer consumption stakes as the biggest beer drinkers in the world. So we took ourselves off on a beer tour led by Michal. He took us to 3 microbreweries in the city centre and we tested 4 different beers. We met some lovely Swedish people and a guy from Kentucky. We were graded at the end and I only got a B...I'd get an A+ if it were and ice cream eating comp.
We began our day today by taking a paddle up the Vlatva River in a swan shaped paddle boat. We then headed to a pub for some Czech food for lunch followed by a spot of shopping. I had been warned that Prague was exy but it's cheap as! We made a reservation at Bellevue for dinner. I'd read that it was considered as one of the best in Prague and it didn't disappoint. We just finished an amazing 3 course dinner, up there with l'Entricote in Paris. Yum.
Now we are off to bed. We will meet the Walshes for lunch tomorrow in London.
We've come along way since I last wrote. We are coming to the end of our three night stay in the beautiful city of Prague. We're actually heading to London first thing in the morning. But first, let me tell you about our visit to Auschwitz and Prague.