A strange combination, but that’s how the day went.
Again, we slept later than was originally planned before our group gathered (the same as yesterday but the ranks swollen with the two Danish girls, the Swedish lass who’d arrived overnight and a German girl and Aussie girl who were travel together). We walked to the bus station and forked over our 7zl each for the 90-minute ride to Auschwitz.
TIP – don’t buy your bus ticket from the Tourist Information. They charge 20zl return, whereas the bus is only 7zl each way.
TIP – don’t get a tour guide at Auschwitz. They’re good, but you will see more if you get a guide book for a couple of Zloty and walk yourself around. Much cheaper and better value for money.
What can I say about Auschwitz? Well, it was the largest extermination camp in the Nazi “regime” during the war. Jews (and other dissidents) were ferried there under the pretence that they were being relocated to a new area. Around 80% of those who arrived were killed within hours; gassed then cremated, their ashes scattered in rivers.
The others – those reckoned as being fit enough to work – were put to forced labour and made to live in the most horrific conditions. Up to 15 people on a bunk designed for one, with three layers. Those below would be covered in the mess from people above as dysentery was rife.
Punishments were frequent and cruel, experiments and torture carried out on prisoners on a regular basis. And the sheer scale of the operation simple mind-numbing. The view from the guard house at Birkenau (Auschwitz B-camp) shows buildings as far as the eye can see, or at least their remains.
Some of the exhibits are really harrowing. The 2 tonnes of human hair. The countless thousands of shoes and suitcases. I couldn’t even bring myself to look at the huge collection of childrens’ clothing.
So in all an educational but depressing day. But like so many other similar places I’ve been, it does drive home how damn lucky we are to live how we do today. And that we shouldn’t forget the past – we should learn from it. So if you find any Holocaust deniers, give them a clip round the ear and force them to see sense so we can prevent this kind of horror in the future.
Away from all that, we returned to Krakow and arranged to have dinner at a recommended Indian restaurant with some Geordie girls I got talking to. Unfortunately, with everyone on different schedules, people wanting to shower, some wanting to eat sooner and so forth, our large group ended up whittling down to myself, Tommi and Michael.
Well, it was everyone else’s loss. The food was superb and very reasonably priced. So if you’re in Krakow and you want an amazing curry: Bombaj Tandoori is the place to go. Michael and I had a madras and a vindaloo respectively (“as hot as you can make it”) while Tommi settled on a more mild tikka masala. All were top notch. And the waitress was a cutie, to boot.
We were supposed to meet the girls in town later, but they didn’t show – I assume Laura was navigating… Instead we went back to the hostel and – for a change – drank beer before going to bed.