Yesterday we made out way by train to Krakow. Given we left at 10:24am and arrived in Krakow at 17:30, the day went remarkably quickly – I guess it helps when you have comfy seats and a waiter coming by every so often to ask if you would like anything from the extensive food and drink menu!
My plan for Saturday was to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau and even though I had seen you could buy tickets online, I hadn’t bothered to book anything in advance. Imagine my panic when I logged on again this morning only to see all the entry tickets for Saturday and Sunday were sold out!
Leaving Craig in the shower, I raced down to the main square and found an Information Centre which also sold tours and quickly booked the last place for early the next morning. I realised later in the day that there were probably a lot of tours that still had vacancies but there was no way I was going to risk it when the last spot was available then and there. Phew!
Have I mentioned how short the days are? Sunrise isn’t until after 7:30am and its nearly dark by 4pm. I am so used to eating when it gets dark (normally no earlier than 6pm in Winter at home) that this lack of sunlight is really throwing me off!
We headed off just before 10am and Krakow was still shroud in fog. No sunshine, fog and around 2oC – perfect weather for our first museum.
After buying another set of tickets, we made our way over the Wisla river toward the Oskar Schindler Factory Museum. Neither of us has ever seen the movie Schindlers List but we knew roughly the story. We both agreed that this is one of the best, if not THE best museums we have ever been to. The exhibition route walks you through a great deal of Polish history; from a recovering Poland after WW1 to occupation and finally the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question”. In places it was like being in a room in the ghetto or a barber shop where collaborators would gather. It was an incredibly moving, emotional and confronting experience.
From there we moved to the Ghetto Heros Square, with 33 memorial chairs of iron and bronze symbolising the tragedy of the Polish Jews. These inhabitants of Krakow were imprisoned in the Krakow Ghetto during the Second World War and the German occupation of Poland. And then, afterwards, losing their lives to the Germans on the premises of the ghetto and in several German death camps.
Across from the square is The Eagle Pharmacy, where the only non-Jewish inhabitant of the Krakow Ghetto was Tadeusz Pankiewicz. During the existence of the ghetto he and his personnel provided all kinds of help and aid for the Jews imprisoned there.
This too is a wonderful museum, full of wonderful interactive displays.
After spending three hours in both museums, it was back to the centre of town. Craig headed back to our AirBnb apartment and I continued to wander around, stopping to look in shops and contemplate what it must have been like to live under first German occupation and then Russian.
On a happier note, we caught up with Helen and Joe’s son Adam for dinner. (Helen unfortunately had to cancel the walk in Japan due to health reasons). It was funny that our paths crossed as Adam has been travelling since September, but it was great to see him and forward a photo to home.
An early night for me as I have a very early start in the morning. I will be heading to Auschwitz-Birkenau on my own and sure that I might just have to try the flavoured vodka on my return.