Auschwitz is a piece of history and keeping it open as a tourist destination may seem a bit wrong but it was an eye opener. I chose Krakow over going to Warsaw so that I can go to Auschwitz. I’ve always had an interest in morbid places (like the time I went to a forced labour prison in Estonia).
Getting to the concentration camp is easy. I got up early on Saturday and took a bus from Krakow main bus station and it cost 14PLN (about £2.50) for the hour journey.
Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum
Getting off the Auschwitz bus at the entrance to the state museum it’s obvious the day will be really busy. Joining back of the long ass queue for the museum it seemed like the day won’t be that great and just full of tourists getting in the way.
Once inside the compound there was a lot of people in large tour groups making it hard to get a feel for the place. It’s hard to take a photograph of something if there’s people waving selfie sticks about everywhere you look. I quickly gave up on the idea of getting some good photographs and just went around the museum grounds.
The museum is a collection of the original restored buildings. I expected an old creepy place but this place is perfectly restored. I’m not sure if it’s me, but remaking something to look old takes away from the experience. Half of the buildings are now exibitions that explain many of the stories behind the people there.
Up until this point it was some buildings and a photographs on the walls. It’s not until I got to buildings that have rooms full of items left from the people who died. There is something disturbing about seeing a pile of hair so large that it touches the ceiling. Rooms full of old leather shoes, suit cases, pots & pans and piles of glasses. It’s seeing the sheer amount of things left behind that the scale of what happened there sets in.
Museums always have so much to take in and Auschwitz is the same with a difference. Getting there at 12 didn’t leave a lot of time to see everything and 3 hours later I headed to Auschwitz II.
I got on the free shuttle bus to Auschwitz II. It goes from outside the Museum grounds and drops off at the iconic entrance building with the train tracks.
Auschwitz II is an intense place. This was where all the prisoners lived and died. It has a weird calmness about the place. Seeing the photos earlier in the day of the prisoners arriving by train; standing in the same spot. Watching documentaries and then seeing the place in real life is creepy.
Auschwitz II is massive. The train tracks lead straight up to the now blown up gas chambers. Either side of the tracks are the rows of buildings where everyone lived, all surrounded by electrical fences.
I’m bad with words so it’s hard to explain the feeling there. You have to be there to experience it. My thoughts on Auschwitz are a bit mixed; I wouldn’t reccommend anybody to go there. It’s a piece of history that is there to serve and show an example of what should never happen again. I’m not sure it should still exist. A lot of people died there and maybe everybody should mourn them and not walk around a rebuilt camp.