exploring krakow

Today, thankfully, was a shorter and much smoother day than our last. After waking up quite early (about 6:45) to get off the train in Krakow, we set off to find our hostel (called “Bling Bling Hostel”!) It was supposed to be really close to the train station, however due to construction in the area, it took the assistance of a police officer to get us pointed in the right direction (we had walked a bit out of the way). We did eventually find it and it’s quite close to the center of town as well, which is quite convenient. They have been really accommodating here, and we were able to stow our luggage until check-in, plus sign up for an Auschwitz tour leaving not long after our arrival. In the meantime, we wandered into town and discovered a plethora of delicious things to eat… one bakery in particular was amazing. Baked goods are not only yummy but also cheap here in Poland! I don’t know how these people don’t put on more weight… I think I would risk eating doughnuts, bagels, and pastries every single day for breakfast if I lived here.

We returned to our hostel and met up with the small group to go to Auschwitz-Birkenau, and it turned out to be a pretty convenient setup. We paid about $30 (99 zloty) for the daytrip which took roughly six hours total.

A driver picked us up (about six or eight or us) from the hostel and the one next door and drove us nearly two hours to Auschwitz. We then were joined with another smaller group of Irish boys who by the end of the excursion proved to be annoying and way too obsessed with their cameras, but we did have a guide in English which was good. It was hard to hear a lot of the time because our total group was of a good size, and most of what our guide said was information that we already knew through our studies… but I am still glad to have gone. It was really hard to walk though a lot of the buildings and see where everything actually happened that we have grown up learning about, especially because a lot of people there were incredibly disrespectful given the nature of the place… poking fun at things or obnoxiously snapping photos inappropriately as others were wiping their tears and experiencing really intense emotions. Amy even saw a father taking pictures of his little girl pretending to be electrocuted when she touched the fences, which I found to be entirely disturbing. There was also a Canadian man in our group, who initially seemed really cool… until he started carving his name into one of the prison walls and videotaping everything in an inconsiderately pushy manner. I guess I was surprised because on the ship we even talked in advance about visiting Auschwitz specifically and I had expected the Americans to be the most obnoxious and disrespectful there… yet I am surprised (but pleased) to say that we weren’t.

When our guide had walked us all the way around the grounds of Auschwitz, we drove a few minutes to Birkenau. Visiting Birkenau was almost more surreal for me because of how much Schindler’s List centered there (or what I remember of having watched it). There were far less people at Birkenau, which made it a bit easier to have a moment and take in just how much had happened there.

After we walked through Birkenau, we were driven back to the hostel and went to find dinner somewhere. We surely didn’t have to walk far, because we found a pierogi place quite close and it was an amazing meal! For the equivalent of a few dollars each, we were able to have fried potato/cheese pierogies, blueberry filled pierogies, and a drink – yum!

Following dinner, we decided to look into the phone situation. We were told that the hostel next to us, Dizzy Daisy, had cheap international calls… but when we went over to investigate, it was just one phone sitting on the reception counter that you had to call from – a little weird. We walked down the street looking for local phonecards (so that we could dial our access numbers) but when we found somewhere selling them, the woman working had no clue what we were trying to buy from her (we thought we used pretty clever gestures, too). We asked around elsewhere, but everyone pointed us back to that same kiosk where we had been unable to successfully communicate what we needed.

We eventually headed back to the hostel, but were excited because we got to do laundry there. We had actually dragged some dirty laundry with us on the train to wash at the hostel, because we were running low on clothes (and we never know laundry day until the day before… if there’s a schedule, I know nothing of it). While our laundry was washing we met some interesting people in the lounge while playing cards – a couple of British girls backpacking together, a guy from Canada traveling solo, and a guy, Matthew, from New Zealand, backpacking solo as well. It’s always so much fun to meet people our age who are adventuring on their own as well!

inside auschwitz

the fences of auschwitz

near a watchtower

ruins at birkenau

chimneys... all that remains of the birkenau crematoriums

again, ruins at birkenau

the traintracks at birknau...


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