Krakow, Poland and a Visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau Extermination Camp

Jenny here…

I decided to head to Krakow after Prague, to cidit the city but more importantly to visit Auschwitz. I know the importance of visiting all places with a history, however horrific they may be. It’s what makes me well-rounded in my travels; we can’t only go to the fun places, sometimes you have to see the bad to remember how far we’ve come. 

I stayed in a nice hostel right smack dab in old Town Krakow and wasted no time walking around the city. I made some friends and had a nice dinner before calling it a night. 

On my first full day in Krakow, it was below freezing and pouring rain, but I only had 2 full days here and the following would be at Auschwitz, so I bundled up and threw on a poncho and headed out for a walking tour. This was honestly my first day that I can recall on this trip where the weather was really just miserable, but I’d probably only be here once so I made the most of it! 

Papal Window – Pope John Paul II is from Poland and visited Krakow many times. He would stay here and greet people from this window.

Beautiful park in the city

One of the many churches in Krakow

We ended the tour near the castle and I wandered about the grounds for a bit before deciding I needed warmer socks. So I went on a search for warm wool socks and found some within an hour. I then settled in for a couple hours by a heater in a tented bar in the old town square where I got acquainted with Glühwein, or hot red mulled wine. Yum! It was warm and tasted like Christmas in a cup! 

I decided on some local fair for dinner and ordered pierogis from a restaurant near my hostel before calling it a night. They were so delicious!!

Polish Pierogis filled with potato, onion, cabbage and yummy!

I woke up the next morning knowing the day would be a gloomy one. I made it to the bus to head to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration and Extermination Camp, where we had a guided tour for a few hours, taking us through the grounds of the 2 different camps. We heard horrifying stories of how the people arriving at the camps truly had no idea where they were heading and what was going to happen to them. Some of the Jews even paid the Nazis for essentially their own death, but thinking they were buying homes in another city where they were to be allowed to live. Most people were sent directly to the gas chamber upon arrival to the camp, and walked right into the chamber under the impression that they would be showered. So incredibly shocking and painful to hear, but necessary. 

Arbeit Macht Frei – Work will set you free

Cans of Zyklon-B, the poison of choice used by the Nazis to kill thousands of people at once in the gas chamber

The SS told them to label bags so they had a better chance of returning to the owner, all lies in order to keep everyone calm

A small percentage of the shoes turned in by the now prisoners

A railcar that would arrive to the camp carrying no less than 100 people on it for up to 3 days

One of the crematoriums that the Nazis blew up prior to liberation

That evening I made it to a restaurant recommended by my friend Kim, who I hung out with in Spain, and it was truly adorable and lifted my spirits a bit after such a depressing day. The food and beer were simply delicious! 

Still all bundled up…it’s freezing out!

Delicious Kielbasa (Polish sausage)…Yum!

I wasn’t originally planning on making it to Poland, but I’m so thankful that I did. Krakow is absolutely adorable and I really liked my time spent here, even if some of the history from the region was horrendous. 

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