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Auschwitz Concentration Camp

POLAND | Monday, 29 August 2016 | Views [363]

We bought tickets to Auschwitz the day we arrived. During the busy summer months it is required to purchase a guided tour; versus walking through at your own pace. Sounded alright but it was a good thing we had 5 days because it was sold out until today.

The site is located about 75 KM east of Krakow. The easiest, albiet most expensive, is to book through a tour company. Clearly, that was not adventurous, or cheap, for Tim. That being said, he had done his homework and the trip was quite easy and comfortable.

We set out around 9am, picked up a picnic lunch and purchased tram tickets. The tram took us directly to the main train/bus station. After quickly checking the train schedule, none fit our needs, we hopped on a minibus; $4. Only problem with it was there is no toilet and its about 1.5 hours; should have drank less coffee!

 

The bus dropped us directly in front of the museum; versus the 2 Km walk (or local bus) from the train. Being a couple hours early for our tour, we scooped out the place. The prices at the museum are understandably high; however, we found a patio restaurant just across the street. Beers and picnic lunch was awesome! Not to mention some yummy ice cream!

 

Unless you grew up under a rock, you know Auschwitz was a WWII Jewish concentration and extermination camp. There are two main parts, Auschwitz one, an old Polish military base, and Birkeneau.

 

Auschwitz one is very reminiscent of any late 19th early 20th century military garrison. It reminded us especially of Quebec City.

 

It was packed! Our tour was quickly ushered along with a large group directly in front and behind; almost impossible to get solitary pictures. We passed by the infamous sign in German, Hard work will set you free; false promise to so many that were also ushered past it.

 

The barracks were basically emptied; hollow shells that your imagination had to fill. We saw reproductions of old photos and lots of statistics.

 

Some of the later barracks held more evidence of the sinister activities; especially a room filled with three thousand pounds of human hair; mostly dreadlocks. No photos please...

 

Finally we were paraded past a recreate death wall, crudely constructed gallows and ultimately a gas chamber and crematorium.

 

The electric fences were particularly blood chilling.

 

After a short bus ride we arrived to Birkeneau, the newer and larger death camp.

 

 

Although it was newer, most of the buildings were strangely destroyed; most appeared to have been burned with only the chimney and foundation remaining.

 

We fought threw the Jewish school kids and arrived to selection, where a German doctor would either select new arrivals (about 2 – 4 thousand per day from as far away as Belgium) for work, or immediate death.

 

We viewed the remains of gas chamber 2 and 3, bombed by the retreating German troops.

 

Finally, we toured one of the remaining barracks which simply reminded us of a barn; sad!

 

Ending our tour right as it started to rain, we hopped onto the minibus back to town. It poured the whole way back which was a nice setting for a head bobbing snooze.

We dropped Mom and Dad at the hotel; well, kicked them off the tram at the proper stop. We continued to a local mall where I purchased a couple things for going back to Africa. We thought Polish malls would be cheaper than America, but we were mostly disappointed.

 

Finishing the long day, Tim and I sat down to a delicious and romantic... milk bar. This one was much more high end than the last one; food was amazing. I had perogies and chicken schnitzel; Tim had mutton goulash with mouth watering cabbage and rice. Perfect ending to Krakow and a refreshing evening after a somber day.

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