The Genocide Tour Part I: Auschwitz-Birkenau
Trip Start Oct 20, 2010
79Trip End May 03, 2011
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Ever since I left Bulgaria just after New Year I have catapulting back and forth between going east and west as I forged further north through this side of the continent. You only need to look at my travel map to understand what I mean. This rather unusual route has been mentioned to me on more than one occasion as "being a bit of a daft way of going about things."
Well, good news, I am mending my ways! From Krakow onwards I will be heading along a much more sensible, direct route, first heading pretty much directly north up through Poland and then the Baltics before swinging around through Scandinavia and back down in to Germany.
It occurred to me the other day that I am nearly two thirds of the way through my trip, it being six and a half months long now. This is a strange feeling indeed, that I have conquered so much of Europe already, and sometimes it still feels like I have barely been travelling for any time at all.
So, Krakow. I didn't really come here with the intention of seeing a whole lot of the town. I had hoped to catch a Wisla Krakow match (them being one of my extensive collection of teams I vaguely support) but they are still on winter break until the 28th, by which time I will be long gone from Poland.
The main reason I came out to Krakow is because it is an excellent base to take a day trip out to the the most famous of all the concentration camps, Auschwitz-Birkenau. Auschwitz really is a sobering place. As those of you reading this may or may not know, for the whole of my third year history course at Keele I studied genocide. For the best part of a year I read accounts of horrific crimes and saw pictures and videos that would turn the stomach of most people. I thought this would prepare me for being at one of the sites where it all took place.
I was sorely, sorely mistaken. I had met a couple of Irish girls on the train on the way out and we had passed the time laughing and joking, right up to the walk from the station in nearby Oswiecim to the entrance to the museum. It wasn't long before we weren't laughing anymore.
The best way I can describe it is gut-wrenching
I didn't get to make it out to the Birkenau section unfortunately, as the whole site closed a lot earlier than we expected. I will be back at some point to see the rest, though.
That night I signed on to another pub crawl. After the shenanigans in Prague, where I let myself get WAY too drunk, I had made a personal vow to myself that I would never again get so drunk that I don't remember parts of an evening. It is a vow I intend to stick to, as I no longer enjoy getting that drunk, in the way that I once did when I was maybe 18-21.
The first step on this road was to go on the pub crawl and not end up passed out in some gutter somewhere in Krakow. Particularly important because Krakowian gutters are bladdy cold, and also a challenge as we were promised at least 4 shots of vodka.
The 4 shots were all flavoured and included Cherry, Chocolate, Hazelnut and Honey. Honey was the nicest, whilst hazelnut proved to be like drinking a Kinder Bueno. A very alcoholic Kinder Bueno.
Anyway, I managed to stay in full control of all my motor functions all the way to the end which proved to be a very good thing indeed, as I ended up having what was probably the best night out of the entire trip. I really can't put in to words how good it was and to try would almost certainly fail to do it justice, so I won't.
All in I really enjoyed Krakow and I will definitely be back to see more of the city and also to re-visit Auschwitz-Birkenau. I was sad to leave such a great place and such great people, but I had to keep going on to Warsaw. The train, of course, was late...