Visiting Krakow

Krakow Travel Blog

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Entrance to Auschwitz

Once again I return to Krakow to experiences the delights this city has to offer, with its museums, galleries, shops and markets and Poland further obsession with me, yes, Krakow also loves me with some of the buildings and signs I found with my name on them.  Perhaps I should charge naming rights?

While I was in town I did a couple of the usual touristy things, the tragic and thought provoking Auschwitz, the informative Oscar Schindler Factory Museum, and the magical and jaw dropping Wieliczka Salt Mines.

Now most people know about the atrocities that were committed at the largest Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz between 1940 – 1945, but walking around the barracks, into the cellblocks, past the rooms filled with shoes, artificial limbs, hair, and personal effects was hard.

The train tickets some Jews had to purchase
  Furthermore walking along the train tracks, which transported 1.3 million innocent people to their deaths, was a very sobering task.

The 1.3 million people were made up of:

  • 1,100,000 million Jewish,
  • 140,000 – 150,000 Poles,
  • 23,000 were Gypsies,
  • 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war and
  • 25, 000 prisoners of other ethnic groups

At the end of the Nazi regime, it is estimated at 1,100,000 people died at Auschwitz and of this number; approximately 90% of the victims were Jews.  The majority of those murdered were killed in the gas chambers under the ‘Final Solution’ directive.

Strange to think what it would have been like to turn up in a packed freight car with all your family members and some meager possessions, not knowing what to expect before being told to either ‘Go to the left’, or ‘Go to the right’.

Shoes - a room with two large windows either side completely filled with shoes
  This fact is made all the more frightening because this only occurred some 65 years ago.

The stories you hear about families having to purchase their train tickets for the pleasure of being ‘sent to work’ or exterminated, or the postcards given to new arrivals to post to family members saying they had arrived safely made you realise just how sadistic the Nazi regime really was. 

Auschwitz was founded as a museum in 1947 and gets visited by annually by 1.2 million people, and the way into the complex is through the infamous gate ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’.  A worthwhile place to visit, and even though this was my second time, I learnt a lot more of the camp layout and how it was run.

Another place I visited was the Oscar Schindler Factory Museum.

Sign says it all
  This is within walking distance from the old town, but over the river.  As it was Monday, it was free entry and the exhibits were presented in a way that was logical, flowed and interactive.  I highly enjoyed this museum, especially after my disappointing visit to the Warsaw Uprising Museum. 

A lot of the artifacts and displays were about life in Krakow and the ghetto, not just about Schindler, or the movie.  In fact the only mention I found to the 1993 Spielberg film was at the end in the restaurant.  There were photos of the cast.

Wieliczka Salt Mines was a place I had been meaning to visit after hearing great reviews, but never got there on my previous time.  I paid 100 zloty (USD$32) and got a bus to take me there and it included a tour.  Just beware with this place as I was caught out, the tour does not include photos and if you want to take them you need to pay a further 10 zloty for the privilege.

Outside Block 11

The mines themselves were better than I expected.  Working for over 900 years, I traveled to areas 135 metres under ground and then I found I could use the Wifi!   Strange to think that while I was above ground in Krakow I struggled to use my accommodation’s Internet, but 135 meters underground I could.  What a strange world we live in.

While in the mines you are transported from room to room seeing sculptures and structures you would not imagine to find subterranean.  The highlight was the Chapel of Saint Kinga, which is completely carved out of rock salt and includes Da Vinci ‘Last Supper’ and a life size carving of the late Pope John Paul II.

Although I didn’t take any pictures there (the money situation stopped me), I can verify that the walls are indeed salt, mixed with sand.

  The first try I had I obviously tasted sand, but the second was salt.  Maybe I had licked and area already tried and that is why there was no salt left? 

Now I am packing for tonight I am taking an overnight train to Prague where I will do my best to ‘Czech’ out the country.

Until next time …..

Na razie

vances says:
It is sobering to think how recent this was. When visiting the Anne Frank house it dawned on me that she could have been an eighty year old grandmother today...

Posted on: Dec 12, 2010
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Entrance to Auschwitz
Entrance to Auschwitz
The train tickets some Jews had to…
The train tickets some Jews had t…
Shoes - a room with two large wind…
Shoes - a room with two large win…
Sign says it all
Sign says it all
Outside Block 11
Outside Block 11
In Birkenau barracks
In Birkenau barracks
Me in Birkenau (just down the road…
Me in Birkenau (just down the roa…
View of Prague
View of Prague
Homage to me
Homage to me
photo by: EmyG