Visiting Auschwitz and Krakow

It took us about 5 hours to reach Krakow from Gdansk. Luckily it was a direct High-speed train that travelled across Poland. The Krakow Glowny station was considerably bigger than Gdansk main station and connected with Krakow shopping mall called Galleria Krakowska. Our Apartment Hotel was about 14 minutes by walk.

In the train to Krakov

We were delighted to be at the apartment because of the size and space we had. Also, the apartment was neat and well equipped. But unlike our last apartment, the television was all in polish or dubbed in polish.
Fun fact: Most of the time it’s one only one person who voice over man or woman or children in the Hollywood movie without any tone. Weird and Funny.

Because we had a kitchen, we decided to do some grocery for breakfast lunch and dinner.
Weirdly there were minimarkets like Carrefour Express and Zebka in every 100 metres. But no big supermarket we found open on the 26th of December. There aren’t many big supermarkets anyway.

We are in Krakow

Next day we made an effort to go to a cemetery behind the train station. It’s called Cmentarz Rakowicki. It’s the final resting place of many WW fallen soldiers. And pope John Paul 2’s parents are resting here. And he himself visited here as well. Tombs are known for their sculptures.
Anyway, the weather was not on our favor. Cold, rain and windy. In fact it was so cold that the rain water was turning in to ice. We stayed brave because it’s all part of an adventure and adventures are not meant to be always with blue sky and rainbows.
We reached at the gate of the cemetery just to find out that the cemetery is closed.

Not so happy at Cmentarz Rakowicki

So let’s get back for an hot shower and hot coffee, that’s what we thought infront of the closed gate.
Evening we had a little friend who joined us. He is a future graphic designer who is from Bangladesh and studying in Poland.
Good to have some company for change.

We headed to the station in the morning to buy out tickets for Auschwitz due to failure of reserving our spots online for our third day. And there are only few tickets appearantly available on the spot. So our goal was to get there by the earliest bus possible at the opening time so that we can get the tickets and get it. After buying the bus ticket which costed us 15 polish currency (a little bit less than 4e) per person for 6.20am, we started our mission to discover Krakow.

Krakow is the 2nd largest polish city and the ex-capital of Poland. Unlike GDANSK, Kracow was not heavily bombed, hence many pre WW2 sculptures and buildings were still there. It’s Cracov in English and Cracovie in French. The city had somehow gave us an impression like Prague. We walked around the old City. Their streets and transportation are well organized. Trams and cars do respect the zebra crossings, hard to find this kind of manners in France. The city centre, specially around Rynek Glowny main square was the main tourists attractions because you won’t miss it.

Many horse rides or mini cars for the city tours were everywhere calling us to get on. The main square is the largest main square in Europe. It’s surrounded by historical townhouses and churches. We went inside one of them. The St. Mary’s Church.
It’s big, gigantic and inside there was beautiful extraordinary design. Paintings as we never saw. A lot of people were in here, even though big signs are telling you to not visite and to not take photos. After a lunch break with Pierogi, the dumplings polish speciality, we headed to the Zamek Krolewski na Wawelu Wawal Castle.

It’s as big as its name. It’s a UNESCO listed site on the bank of WILSA.
Then, we arrived at the Historical Jewish quarter Kazimierz. Did you know the Spielberg movie Schindler’s List was made here? The area looks very old. However, from an artistic point of view, it’s beautiful.

The Jews who remained in the once vibrant Oppidum were “only the poor and the ultraconservative.” However, this same exodus was the reason why most of the buildings in the Oppidum are preserved today in something close to their 18th century shape.

In a tourist guide that was published in 1935, Meir Balaban, a Reform rabbi and professor of History at the University of Warsaw.

So, it’s clear why the area feels old.
It’s getting dark. Our objective now to get back, sleep early and get up 5 am in the dark morning.
Destination : Auschwitz.

We woke up early in a dark cold morning to get at the station at 6am. Bus was due to depart at 6.20am. when we walked in the bus, it was almost already full. Luckily we had the last 3 seats left for us. There were some passengers who were standing all the way.
When we finally reached at the Auschwitz museum, it was full of visitors from ALL OVER THE WORLD. We literally ran at the gate to find out where to get our pass. When whole area was confusing. Hard to figure out “what is where” without previous knowledge of visit.

Eventually after standing in the line for long time, we all got in. Link for some tips.

Ok before we continue, something you should know. There were many books were written, many photographs were taken, many movies were made by many famous people on World war 2, Holocaust, genocide, Auschwitz. Even the survivors spoke and wrote themselves about the horrors of Auschwitz. We are none of them above. So, apologies in advance if this blog failed to express what we felt there in written words. There aren’t many proper vocabularies to describe the emotion of being here in our disposal.

It’s one of the many camps where minorities and Jews were brought over for hard labor in a horrible condition. Either they died because of it, starving or disease or there were faced an extreme horrible death in gas chamber or by being shot. And if you know the history of Auschwitz, you will then understand if I say that being killed with gun was the easiest of all.
As we were walking into the area, between the blocks, smelling the air, looking at the trees, overlooking the cages, touching the fences, staring at the brown brick walls, and looking at the photos, reasons the stories …. we tried our best to put ourselves in their shoes but we couldn’t. All we felt was a horrible sad feeling in the stomach, felt weak in the knees and mind was full of one question. How one human could do such harms to another human

“Traces of Life” – One of the images were sourced from Yad Vashem as well as the Shoah History Archive of the Jewish Museum in Prague, portraying diary-like drawings made by Jewish children before their tragic deaths. Rovner uncovered the images herself, copying the drawings by hand and displaying them on the walls of Block 27 in Auschwitz-Birkenau, as part of the larger permanent exhibit, “Shoah.”

There were many rooms where on the wall the photos with Birthdates, job, date of arrival in Auschwitz and death. Many didn’t even survived a month. In one of those rooms as we were going through the photos, we noticed that it was snowing outside, which was a reminder that, in that very place in same cold temperature they were forced to be outside for forced labour.

Everything was too much for us to absorb. We then took a free shuttle bus to Birkenau where the gas Chambers were located. A huge empty land with chimneys and blocks. And with heavy hearts, we have ended our time in Poland.

” I thank those who gave their lives so that we can say, Life is Beautiful”

Italian actor Roberto Begnini for his Oscar speech for the movie Life is Beautiful