First adventure in Europe; Krakow, Poland! I found out on Wednesday around noon that classes got cancelled for Thursday and Friday. Wednesday night I booked my flight and hostel for Krakow. Got into Krakow around 2pm and it was sooo hot. It was 30 degrees and sunny. In Stuttgart it had only ever been 22 so one last summer day was blissful.
Krakow… my god, so beautiful and may i say cheap!! I instantly fell in love with the Old Town Square and all the building surrounding it. Stuttgart is very industrial looking, so being in this city, with this typical gorgeous architecture. it finally felt like i was in Europe. Kraków is also quite the party city.. when i first got to my hostel, they provide travelers with free maps, and the only information on the map was places like, clubs, pubs, bars, and which bar to visit each night. Some of the deals were, women get free vodka before 11pm. There was no info on actual attractions, just night life.
I did a free walking tour that afternoon to see the city and history. I went with Free Walking Tour and the tour guide was very knowledgeable and I was very happy with the experience. We started around old town; I loved how small the old town was, and how there’s a park that surrounds the whole perimeter. I liked that in the old town center, there were hardly any cars, and absolutely no busses, mainly cause of the tight corners. Finally some cute cobble stone to put you back in the day and such a friendly and safe environment. I was only there for one full day, but oh it felt like home. I got familiar with the city so quickly.
After the old town square, we walked up to the Castle/Cathedral on a “hill”. Something, i guess.. interesting about Kraków is that it’s associated with dragons. In the last image with the green door, on the left side, those are “dragon bones”. Apparently there was a dragon that lived in the cave below the the castle and those are its bones that guarantee good luck. Legend has it that if those bones ever fall, it will be the end of the world.
So there’s the beauty of Kraków. Now, the next day, i went to Auschwitz. The largest concentration camp from WWII.
With my hostel, they booked tours to Auschwitz so i booked with them. Overall, i was very unimpressed with the tour. The tour was ~6 hours long, but i takes 1.5 hours to get there, so 3 hours you’re in the bus. We spent 2 hours as Auschwitz I and then 1 hour at Auschwitz II – Birkenau. You spend so little time at Auschwitz II – Birkenau because most of it was destroyed by the Natzis, even though it is a much, much larger camp. I felt like there wasn’t enough time to spend at each site. Our guide was rushing us through everything and there were sooo many people there. He wasn’t really knowledgeable either, he mainly read off the signs. When people asked questions he got mad or talked around the questions, saying he would ‘answer it later’. For anyone looking to go here, rent a car, go there yourself, take your time. You don’t need a tour guide, there is plenty of information signs that will tell you a lot of info, we were in such a rush that our guide never let us read them, you never got the gravity and severity of the situation, the place, sink into you. I felt the place deserved more respect. What i also expected was that the museum would be an entirely, separately built building. Instead what they did was use barocks and made them into museums. it was like walking into a classroom from the 90s, the buildings didn’t have any natural feel to them. So that being said… what did i see?
When people arrived to Auschwitz, they thought they’d be starting a new life, they were offered jobs. They brought a lot of belongings with them. I saw all of these belongings. The place where the Natzis kept all their belonging, the prisoners nicked named Canada; a place bountiful. I saw hair that they collected from the prisoners which were used to make stockings and socks. I saw 2,000 pairs of shoes, i saw glasses, i saw kitchen wear, a saw hairbrushes, i saw the suitcases they brought… with their names still attached. I saw baby clothes, because anyone pregnant, or between the ages of 0-12 were instantly sent to the gas chambers. And here’s the thing, i didn’t see, say 4 hair brushes, no, i saw hundreds, maybe even thousands. And this went for every article. And then you have to remember, every article is a life. I also walked through the gas chamber and saw the crematorium. I saw and heard about the living and sanitary conditions. There was one hallway where they had pictures of the prisoners.. they also had a date of when they got there and when they died. I couldn’t see a date that lasted more than 3 months. I cannot explain what being there felt like. There’s really no word for it. It’s just something you have to experience for yourself.
Got back into town around 3 and went for a late lunch and shopped, sorry, window showed one of the main streets, oh i loved every store there, such beautiful clothing. I did a Free Photography Tour that night at 6pm with the same company as the Old Town Walking Tour. It’s a very new tour, but the guide was very insightful, offering different view points. But unfortunately, all the points we went to, i had been there before when i was exploring on my own. But i did get some great night photography in!
The next day, my last day, in the morning i went to Oskar Schindler’s Factory. Kinda in a sketchy neighbourhood, but i mean it is industrial. The factory has been turned into the museum. The museum is visually stunning, i was so impressed. It goes through Kraków during the events leading up to the war, the war, and then the ending of the war. They even had a room dedicated to Oskar Schindler. I would highly recommend this museum.
So that was my mini vacation in Kraków. I didn’t get to go to the Salt Mines or explore the Jewish District. But i’m sure it’s safe to say… i’ll be back.