MonthAugust 2016

Auschwitz

As part of the trip to Krakow, we visited the Auschwitz concentration camp. We bought tickets in advance (guided tour) so we didn’t have to wait in line to buy tickets or anything. An Uber took us from the city center to the entrance (190.70 PLN = ~$49 USD). At the entrance, we were greeted by the icon sign that read “Arbeit macht frei”.

The tour took us to various locations in the camp, where prisoners were experimented on, suffered in standing cells, etc. The guide also explained how the Germans ran the camps day to day, how they used certain prisoners to oversee other prisoners (Kapos), and of course the extermination. One of the most impactful exhibits here was a room full of just shoes – shoes of many who died at the camp. It’s one thing to be told a bunch of numbers of how many died, but it’s another thing to see thousands of shoes just laid out in front of you.

The camp was split into two: Auschwitz I and II, where the main purpose of Auschwitz I was for political prisoners while Auschwitz II was for extermination and forced labour. Originally, Auschwitz I had many one story buildings, but an additional floor was added to increase capacity.

Guardtowers and electrified barbed wire fences prevented escapes. They really thought of everything.

The death wall is where people were lined up to be executed by firing squad.

The next part of the tour took us to Auschwitz II. Railway tracks efficiently brought prisoners directly into the camp. It’s impressive how efficient they were – that’s what made so scary.

As the Allies closed in on the camp, the Germans destroyed many of the buildings to try and hide what they did. But nonetheless, the truth came to light at the end and many of those responsible were tried and executed.

It was really hard to imagine millions of people were killed in this one place alone. People didn’t talk much during the tour as if to informally have a moment of silence for all the victims. There was nothing to be said. Everyone felt the aura of sadness just by being there.

Link to photo album: here

Krakow

In June 2016, I made yet again another trip to Europe! This time, my travels have taken me to Krakow in Poland! I flew Vancouver to Montreal to Paris, AND THEN to Krakow. It took basically a whole 24 hours, but at least I got a $200 Air Canada voucher out of it by volunteering to get bumped to a later flight.

Travel tip: THERE IS UBER IN KRAKOW!!! To go from the airport to the old town, it costed only 25.46 PLN, which is not even $7 USD to go about 12km. That total was split by 3 people, so that’s about $2-something per person.

Our hostel was in the old town, and was in walking distance to the market square.

South of the old town is Wawel Castle.

And it’s got a great view of the Vistula River. It’s a got a great bike/jogging path that runs along it too.

We went on a walking tour to the old Jewish quarter. Since the war, it no longer housed the vibrant Jewish community that once existed.  The Old Synagogue, built in the 15th century still stands today.

The former ghetto now looks like this. Each chair represents 1000 victims.

The tour ended at the former Schindler Factory. It is now the site of museums for art and the history of Krakow. One of the exhibits is a cable car that used to run through the city. The sign says “Use by Jews forbidden”. It’s one thing to hear about what the tour guide says about the holocaust, but this sign was much much more impactful.

A less depressing topic: food. I can’t go to a new place without drinking their beer. I definitely like it a lot better than the beers I can get in North America. And then there’s bread. I really like bread. A local brand of orange juice, called Cappy was amazing too.

Somebody also told me to try perogies, but perogies to me are alright I guess. I also ate some deep fried calf brain. I would not eat that again. One of the restaurants we went to was called Wierzynek, and the cool thing about it is that it’s been around since 1364!

Link to photo album: here

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