Friday, May 31, 2013

Poland


May 31, 2013 7:45 PM—Krakow

Yesterday we traveled from Prague to Krakow. It took us all day but we finally made it here by around 6 PM. So by the time we got settled we weren't up for doing much. However, we did go out to get a little something to eat (an ice cream and a pretzel) and we looked for a newspaper. Unfortunately I don't think the people of Poland read newspapers, because since we arrived yesterday we haven't been able to find any.

Today we went on a tour to Auschwitz and Birkenau. These are the two remaining camps out of the three camps that were in the Auschwitz complex of concentration camps. Our tour started off with the bus ride out there. It takes about 1 and a half hours to get there and on the way our tour showed a documentary about the liberation of these camps by the soviets in 1945. Then we arrived at Auschwitz. The next part of the tour was a tour of the Auschwitz camp, which lasted almost 2 hours. During this tour we saw many of the different blocks where the prisoners lived, washed and were tortured. It was interesting and a bit eerie, but you just couldn't grasp the full magnitude of it because everything has been cleaned and organized and nothing smelled at all. I don't think that's how it was in the early 40's.

People from all over Europe were brought to Auschwitz




After seeing Auschwitz we made our way across town to Birkenau, which was often referred to as Auschwitz II. Birkenau is a much larger camp. It is about 15 times the size of Auschwitz and there isn't as much left of Birkenau as there is of Auschwitz. We had a one hour tour there where we got to see some of the remaining blocks, the selection platform where the prisoners came in on the train, and even the remains of the crematorium. After seeing Birkenau, our tour was over and we took the bus back to Krakow.



I'm really glad we took this tour, but sometimes I feel like they are trying to rattle you with statistics. We were told today that there was one 8 week period that is considered the most deadly, where about 400,000 people were killed. Now, don't get me wrong, this is tragic and shocking. However, I can't help to think about the Rwandan genocide in more recent history where a million people were killed in about a month. This is over twice as many people in about half as much time. One thing I think is ironic about this comparison is that it is not that people don't care about Rwanda, but they may just not know about the genocide that happened there in 1994. In fact, I personally think Rwanda is more tragic, because it is much more recent. It occurred in an era where most people didn't think things like that happened anymore. And they shouldn't happen, but it is partly due to this lack of caring that they do happen. I guess the bottom line is that people treat the Holocaust like the end all be all and that this has never happened before or since. And the point I want to get across is that is has. (Now I'll get off my soap box).

After getting back into town and taking a short nap, we went out and got dinner...a real dinner. We haven't been doing that much lately. Both of us seem to prefer street food or something you can eat on the go. But tonight we went to a restaurant in the main square, which is a short walk from our hostel. And it was worth it! We both totally cleaned our plates because it was so good.

Once we finished eating we took a short walk. The huge main square is totally happening at this time of day. So there were people all over the place eating, drinking, biking, and just generally wandering. So we again looked briefly for a newspaper to no avail. Now we are back at the hostel and thinking about getting ice cream in a little bit. Otherwise, we are done for the night. Tomorrow we plan to stay in town and see Krakow. And from what I've seen so far, I don't expect it to be much short of amazing.

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