|Trip from October 2011
I recently undertook an inspection visit to Krakow with a visit to Auschwitz, here is my experience.
Krakow is a city swathed in history, and a place I had always wanted to explore. After a delayed arrival due to poor weather we eventually checked into our hotel, the Wyspianski Hotel which is in the city centre and a plush, welcome retreat after a long journey.
After dumping our bags, we headed off into the Old Market Square, the largest square in Europe. As we walked around, the history and mystique just oozes from every corner. Shooting off the market square are endless winding alleyways, buildings that would not look out of place in a film set with a bustling atmosphere. We ventured to the castle on Wawel Hill, to what is the strangest castle I have ever seen, with an extension it seems from every period in history from medieval to Nazi.
The next day, we woke early to embark on the main purpose of our visit – Auschwitz. The journey from the hotel to Auschwitz (approx 1hour) consisted of a friendly guide and a documentary about Auschwitz – this gave a short prelude to what was to come. Nothing could prepare us for what we experienced upon arrival. As we stepped off the coach, it was a cold, wintery day which showcased Auschwitz in all of its’ grim splendour. After passing under the imposing entrance with the slogan ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ (work sets you free), we then joined our tour of Auschwitz I. We ventured into each of the single storey buildings, which remain largely untouched since the day of the Nazis. Some of the interior displays are utterly shocking, filled with artefacts of those who perished, including human hair, false teeth, suitcases and toothbrushes. Interspersed with the visits to the buildings were explanations of other aspects of the site, including the ‘Death Wall’, gas chambers and the ‘Prison within the prison’. Everything we saw was a display of mankind at its worst.
This humbling experience was followed by a visit to nearby Auschwitz II, an extension to the main site built as an extermination camp. This was more familiar due to its use during the filming of Schindlers List. On arrival you are greeted by the chilling site of the SS Watch Tower, with its train track running through. The scale of this place is mind boggling and difficult to comprehend what happened there. After departing Auschwitz, although very sombre and reflective, we unanimously agreed that a pilgrimage to the site should be a must for everyone as it made such a powerful impression on us.
That evening we ventured into Krakow city centre for an evening meal. After wandering around, we eventually decided upon a nice looking old restaurant off the main square, which unbeknown to us has hosted dinners for world leaders including Clinton, Bush, Blair and more. Despite the illustrious guest list, the price was very reasonable and food fit for a king (or politician).
The next day, we had a guided tour of Krakow which brought the amazing buildings to life and the history of Krakow is simply amazing. This was certainly a trip to remember and Krakow did not disappoint and comes high upon my recommendation list.
Written by Matt Connelly, Sales Manager at Adaptable Travel