I wasn’t too sure about wanting to visit Auschwitz. There’s something very uncomfortable, almost voyeuristic, about visiting the scene of something so very terrible; but I was persuaded to make the visit, and in truth I’m glad to have done so. We only made it as far as Auschwitz I, which is the original camp established by the Germans on the site of a former Polish Army barracks about 40km to the west of Krakow – there are two more, and I think larger, camps and a number of smaller ones nearby – but one was enough.
The place itself is well preserved and contains a number of extremely informative exhibitions that explain exactly what went on there and just how inhumane and brutal the Germans were to those they regarded as being less human than themselves. The scale and the depth of the depravity that was displayed at Auschwitz and elsewhere is overwhelming and highlights just how thin the veneer of our so called civilisation really is – look around the world even now and you don’t have to strain the eyes or the imagination too hard to see what man can be capable of.
And with that depressing thought perhaps we should move on and get back to our holiday!
Having indulged ourselves with our ‘big trip’ to Australia and New Zealand earlier in the year we thought that we’d stick a little closer to home for our summer/autumn break this year. Poland has been on my ‘bucket list’ (if Obama can have one why not me?) for quite a while, so this seemed like a good time to see what the south of the country has to offer. The plan is to start with a spot of sightseeing in Krakow before heading down about 100km to the south to do some exploring and walking in the Tatra mountains around Zakopane.
Our first impression of Krakow is that it’s a gem. We’re staying B&B pretty much in the heart of the old town which, despite the horrors that befell Poland between 1939 and 1990, seems to have survived remarkably well. Plenty of medieval squares, a castle rising up in the centre of the city and more churches than you could genuflect at in a month of Sundays.
But the really good thing is that it’s cheap! Good beer at around £3 a litre and a wide selection of restaurants where you can get a reasonable choice of meals (not just pork, cabbage and potatoes) for around £30 for two. If these are city prices I can’t wait to see what’s on offer in the rural areas to the south.
The weather, I’m happy to say, looks good so far. Bright sun and temperatures in the mid 20s for most of today – hopefully the threatened thunderstorms will give us a miss this evening!
….holiday blogs, motoring obsessions and a look at our family history