Last weekend I went to Krakow, Poland. I spent 3 days with about 70 other students from Masaryk University. The first day was interesting to say the least. We spend most of the day at Auschwitz, and Auschwitz II- Birkenau. The whole experience seemed really surreal, but it was very interesting. The whole thing felt less like an experience to have an emotional response, and more like a herd of cattle being led through a tourist trap. Auschwitz was packed with tourists. I don’t mean just a few, but more like the crowded nature of Disney World with a dark past. The guides had little microphones and every visitor had a headset to listen to their specific guide. This sort of ruined the experience for me and made me feel rushed from room to room and unable to let the reality of this place really set in. Birkenau was a bit more startling and real for me because we did not have the headphones and our guides spoke directly to us. The area around the camp was barren and cold. The fact that I could tell that I was standing on the same train platform where so many families were torn apart was very surreal. Knowing so many had walked the same path I was taking had been sent to either the gas chambers as soon as they arrived, or had been sentenced to work until they either died or were liberated was very sobering. As we walked around Birkenau I realized how cold I was. I refrained from any sort of complaint when I realized that the past inhabitants of this camp were clothed in so little. Walking around in my coat, scarf, and fairly warm boots almost seemed unfair when thinking back on the thin clothing and wooden(or often no) shoes of the captives who had lived here. Thinking about how cold the winters must have been in this area of Poland really made me think that I was so fortunate to be there as a visitor. After leaving Auschwitz, we went to our Hostel in the city center.
The second day was dedicated to exploring the whole city. We were shown many beautiful churches, important locations, the Castle, even the cave of the infamous Krakow dragon. This day was packed full of walking from place to place in a group of about 30 and felt very touristy. It was nice to see the city and the view from the Castle was beautiful.
The third day took us to a salt mine. Some may ask, why on earth would you go to a salt mine? To them I say, I have no idea. I had a tour guide who did not have very much to say and she was hard to understand most of the time. The mine consisted of 9 levels, we were only capable of seeing the top 3 in the 3 hours we were on the walking tour. We also did not see very much of each of those levels. Supposedly we saw less than 1% of the mine passages on our tour and in order to explore the whole system of levels you would need 5 months to dedicate to the adventure.
Overall this was a great weekend spend with some ladies who were awesome. The views were beautiful but the weather was less than desirable. The food was fantastic and I did not have a bad meal the whole time I was there.
Thanks for reading,