We arrived into Krakow by train and went straight to the hotel to go to bed. Capitalizing on the last night free promotion from Radisson, we stayed at the Radisson Blu again, and were not disappointed. We were upgraded to a suite and despite a small spider incident, the place was comfy and relaxing.
After a good night's rest, we headed into the walled area of town known a the HIstoric Centre and began our day Wawel Royal Castle. After a hike to the top, we toured the inside of each of the buildings in the square. It was gorgeous!
There was an underground "Dragon Cave" we were able to walk through and legend has it, a dragon used to live here and terrorize people who came near it. It was meant to guard the church and it's people.
We headed towards the center of the square and found a cute coffee shop to warm up, only to discover it had a cave below it as well! We later found out that Krakow sits on top of an extensive cave system that people used hundreds of years ago discovered when the city wanted to rebuild part of their square.
The next day was hubby's birthday and he was pretty insistent on going to Auschwitz. Honestly, I don't like visiting places like that because my imagination and stories are all I need to go by to understand the atrocities that happened but he wanted to see it and so we did.
To say it was overwhelming would be a severe understatement. To say I spent 8 hours fighting back tears would also be a severe understatement. It is one of the worst places on the planet and I still don't understand how the Nazis got away with this for as long as they did.
The photos, the stories, standing where so many died for no reason was haunting. There is no peace here, to put it simply. It's the only place I've ever been where I was surrounded by a thousand tourists and no one spoke a word.
People were transported from the Jewish Ghetto and thought they were being moved to better housing with more opportunities. Most women and children were immediately sent to the gas chambers and only about 15% of the people who arrived were actually put to work.
Every item was stripped from the families and most were stolen by the Nazis. We entered rooms that had actual luggage and shoes from victims of this camp. It was really hard to see this because it made even more real and in our face. People used to write their name on their luggage back then and as a result, you have names of the Jews who died right in front of you.
The hardest room to enter was hair room. Everyone's head was basically shaved and the hair was kept aside. What I never knew was that this hair was purchased by clothing companies and clothes were made out of it. I would give ANYTHING to know the names of the companies who purchased this hair so I could forever boycott them. It was apparently much cheaper and just as strong as other materials so the companies knew what they were buying.
The last stop in Auschwitz 1 was where the bodies were burned.
Once the tour ended at Auschwitz 1, we were transported a few miles away to Auschwitz 2-Birkenau. This is where the tour became sickeningly overwhelming. Jews couldn't be killed off fast enough at 1 so a massive facility was built to house hundreds of thousands of workers. It also had a massive gas chamber and handy rail system that could deliver people directly to the staff for their fates to be determined.
Each rail car held 80 Jews at a time, and 10 or so arrived every hour during the day.
Once the world discovered what was happening at this camp, the staff burned as much of it as they could to hide the evidence. This is what is left of half of the gas chamber.
Here's a video I made of the experience.
Trying to continue on with a vacation after this was difficult so we headed back to downtown in the rain (fitting for the day) to see what else we could find. To cheer ourselves up, we bought at crepe at the fair going on and had a few beers and Polish sausage. We called this the birthday crepe!
We waited for the sun to go down before grabbing a bite to eat and heading to the train station for our overnight train to Budapest. As much of an emotional roller coaster this portion of the trip was, I am so thankful we had the ability to see it.
Our video of Krakow!
Hotel: Radisson Blu Krakow