Auschwitz/Birkinau

Trip Start Apr 28, 2009
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12
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Trip End Jun 01, 2009


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Where I stayed

Flag of Poland  , Southern Poland,
Friday, May 8, 2009

So I made it in one piece after my claustrophobic train ride with a half naked old Polish guy. The train pulled into Krakow at 6:33 this morning. Luckily my hostel is a block away from the train station. The guy at the hostel was really nice. He couldn't sign me into my room just yet, but he let me store my bags there, shower and have breakfast. This hostel is great for all the freebies. It has free breakfast, laundry, wifi/internet and free dinners! And it is only around 18 dollars a night.

I caught the 8 am tour to Auschwitz/Birkinau. They take you on a big bus to the town of Oszwiem (?) which is just over an hour to get there. Auschwitz is located in the town. They showed a movie on the bus that a Soviet cameraman filmed when they liberated the camp. It was awful. They showed emaciated babies that had died from complete starvation. When they picked the babies up they were just skin and bone. They showed piles of half burnt people and other ones who were shot. It made me sick.

At the camp we were given a tour guide that took us around the camp and described to us what each building was. You could take pictures outside the camp, but not inside the buildings. Some of the buildings he showed us were the cramped living quarters of the prisoners. One building showed where they punished the prisoners for various reasons. They would lock a bunch of prisoners in a cell and starve them to death. One was a cell that was so small they could only stand and there was no room for them to bend over and sit down. Some would be in there for 2 weeks (they would work during the day). One was the suffocation cell where prisoners were deprived of oxygen and light. Sometimes in these rooms there were 10 or more prisoners. Other buildings showed their uniforms that they wore, the hair that was shaven and personal belongings (bags, shoes, combs, artificial limbs, chamberpots). It was so depressing. Then we went to the crematorium and gas chambers which was even more depressing.

After we went to Birkinau which was a 5 minute drive away. This was where most of them lived. Up to 100, 000 prisoners were here at one time. They were all put to work.  This is where the train would drop them off as well. They said that when the train came, guards would separate the healthy from the weak. This meant the the elderly, children, babies and pregnant women were sent to the gas chamber immediately.

After that they drove us back into Krakow where I checked myself in at the hostel. My roommates are 3 guys from Brazil who are checking out early tomorrow. I headed out to the old town to check it out and I fell in love with Krakow. It has some of the charm of Prague but without the carnival atmosphere. No tacky tourist shops dominated this place, and I felt that people weren't trying to rip you off every chance they could get. The main square is impressive, it is so huge! There were many buskers all over the place and it was very lively. I went to this fantastic Polish restaurant that was super cheap and made great food. Half a liter of beer, huge plate of perogies and white borscht soup was under 10 dollars and was so huge I couldn't finish it. The borscht was so good I will definitely go back and have more!

Have a feeling it will be an early night tonight as I am beat. It will be nice as my roommates are all sleeping and its only 930 pm. Hopefully they aren't resting up for a big party night!
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