Krakow Pictures    Auschwitz-Birkenau Pictures


    I left Prague, after spending the better part of a week there, headed for Krakow. I had one motive for going and I knew that my time here wasn't going to be very pleasant, but also a time that I would never forget. My sole purpose for going to Poland was to go to the Auschwitz and Birkenau death camps. 

    My train didn't arrive into Krakow until late and I had no accommodation booked. I ended up walking around the city for two hours with my pack trying to find the one and only hostel in town. It was the largest hostel in all of Poland and it was September, and you guessed it, the place was booked right full. After walking back into the old town to look for a place to stay, which was probably a mistake, I wound up in a seventy dollar a night bathroom less room. The first thing I did the next morning was look for another place to stay and ended up at a private room in this woman's apartment. After sorting that out, I got on a bus and headed for Auschwitz. 

    We were dropped off just a short walk from the main entrance and I could feel the energy go bad as I made my way up to the camp. Inside was a horrifying experience, I saw some things that seem inconceivable for a human being to do to another. The Auschwitz camp isn't very big but it is the one with all the exhibits, Birkenau is massive but a lot of the buildings were destroyed so there isn't as much to see. One thing in particular stood out while I was walking around Auschwitz, the camp itself isn't completely closed off. There are houses built up around the camp and although there is a fence segregating the two, there are openings directly into the camp. There were three small children riding their bikes near one of these openings, they then rode into the camp, laughing amongst each other, right by an SS building where thousands of people were executed. These kids had grown up with this literally in their backyards and seemed desensitized towards the horrors that had taken place here. It was shocking. I want everyone to go to Auschwitz-Birkenau just once in their life. I am so glad I went, yet I never want to go back.

    I had heard so many good things about Krakow that I was a little disappointed that I didn't get to spend more time there. As I stated, Krakow wasn't the reason I was there, but the old town was beautiful and the city was much more deserving of a trip on itself. I only spent the two nights there before taking a bus south through Zakopane and into Slovakia and the Mala Fatras. I felt as though I needed to get away for a couple of days after my experience at the camps. A little bit of peace and solitude in the mountains seemed like a good idea to me.

2003 Paul Inglis