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Cracking Krakow

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After a day off, another holiday was on the way. Crashing at Matt's house on Saturday night the following morning we collected the two girls and waited for Kristian at Stansted before boarding our plane to Krakow for my fourth holiday of the year.

I had visited Krakow three years before, spending a day there between Warsaw and Lviv in Ukraine, however I had not had the chance to visit Auschwitz or the Salt Mine, and being with four friends too, I was not so bothered as this would be an altogether different trip.

Arriving at Krakow Airport and being collected by our apartment's owners we were taken to our place in the Jewish Quarter, where we settled in before walking to the Town Square to see our first views of the city.

By sheer coincidence, my Maltese friend Daniel, who I had met with on my Erasmus experience almost three years ago just happened to be in Krakow on the exact dates that we had arrived. We therefore arranged to meet on our free days in the city, including the afternoon that we arrived.

With Daniel in Krakow

With Daniel in Krakow

Unfortunately as it was Easter Sunday, a lot of places were shut - including the 4zl bar, and the vodka bar. However we did find a bar where we decided to have a drink - that quickly became many. Whilst my friends were drinking and singing, me and Daniel had some great catch ups and reminiscing conversations about our Erasmus memories - it felt like no time had passed!

Drunk times

Drunk times

After a long stay, realising that we were incredibly loud and had cleared the bar, we decided to leave and make our way to find something to eat back in the Jewish area near our apartment. By now it was already getting on for 10pm, and my friends had been drinking all day long. We then went back to the apartment to settle in for the night, as the following morning we would need to be up to take our train towards our first excursion - Auschwitz.

Auschwitz

Auschwitz

Although Krakow is famous for Auschwitz, the town of Oświęcim is actually over an hour away. Taking the train there for around £3 each we eventually arrived to take a look around.

As I had previously visited Sachsenhausen near Berlin, I already had expectations of what we would see, and unfortunately I was a little disappointed. As Auschwitz is so busy, it was difficult to see things - despite being on a (compulsory) guided tour. The regulations at the camp was also very petty, which did dampen my visit.

Pauline

Pauline

We were guided around by a lady we named "Pauline" who at first seemed very miserable - however as we were led around the camp it was easy to see why.

Gas Chamber

Gas Chamber


Ovens

Ovens

As with all concentration camps, there are some very visual moments that show the horror of the camp. These included not only the gas chambers and crematoriums, but also collections of personal belongings and hair.

Suitcases

Suitcases


Auschwitz Model

Auschwitz Model

There was also the original model that I had seen in Yad Vashem some months before, showing a reconstruction of the process of the gas chamber system, from entry to exit. Auschwitz is actually made up of two camps - the older one where the "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign is located, and the larger newer one, where the railway line goes straight into the camp.

Arbeit Macht Frei

Arbeit Macht Frei

They are located around 15 minutes from each other, and after finishing looking around the first we boarded the shuttle bus to take us to the other camp. It was here that the industrial scale of the holocaust was clear - the camp was almost entirely made up of huts and crematorium buildings - we were told these could kill 7,000 a day, and even these were not enough that open air pits were later built.

Cart

Cart

The weather was particularly bad, on our arrival in Krakow it had begun to snow, and today there were even hail stones. As we walked into one of the huts, it had begun to hail and some of this came straight through the roof hitting us below. Despite being freezing and not really "enjoying" the visit, this was a very clear way to show just how horrendous life must have been.

Camp Beds

Camp Beds

Our visit at Auschwitz soon came to an end, with a last visit into the Observation Tower at the entrance to the camp. From here the views over the camp showed just how huge the place was. After taking the bus back to the first camp, we boarded a bus to take us back to Krakow where we decided tonight would be our party night to not only enjoy our holiday, but also cheer us up after a day of death.

70%

70%


After taking another meal and 'enjoying' 70% shots in the Jewish area, on what was turning into a very Jewish holiday, we headed to Krakow's Karaoke Bar where my friends growled through some classic songs, before getting wasted.
Karaoke

Karaoke

Lauren in particular had not only smashed her phone from the ladder to reach the DJ, but also needed to be carried home after everyone else had walked off. Despite taking over an hour and needing the help of a local Pole, we were still the first back home.

The following day was a very lazy one, with us not even leaving until 2pm, and so we decided to stay in Krakow to see the sights there.

Cloth Hall

Cloth Hall


In the Main Square

In the Main Square

Kristian and Lauren headed towards the shopping centre, whilst Matt, Jenna and I headed towards the castle, where there are views over the river, as well as John Paul II's church and the crypt containing the dead president Lech Kaczynski. We then headed towards the Krakow Ghetto walls, before waiting for the other guys at our apartment.

Wawel Castle

Wawel Castle


Ghetto Walls

Ghetto Walls

Feeling very lazy/hungover we missed the start of the pub crawl and ended up going back to the Karaoke bar for more growling, 70% and dancing with the homeless man outside.

The following day was our last in the city, and after dropping our bags at the luggage storage in the station, we headed on the train to the Wieliczka Salt Mine.

Salt Mine

Salt Mine

The Salt Mine is incredibly old and very impressive, and has now been turned into a kind of museum, with almost everything being made out of salt - the walls, the floor, the chandeliers and the statues - which we licked them to check. In the middle of the tour we found a salt lake which we were told used to be used for tourists arriving on a boat. However in the 1920s, one boat capsised, and become of the saltiness of the lake, those who were trapped beneath the boat couldn't dive below to escape and therefore drowned - just when we though stories of death on this trip were ever!

Salt Lake

Salt Lake

After making our way back to Krakow we ate our last meal together, took a look around the shopping centre, using our last "sharlotties" before heading towards the airport. As Daniel was also leaving today, an hour before us I caught him to say our last goodbyes, before we headed into the departure lounge to wait for our plane.

The other guys continued to drink their booze and when we got on the plane they were all rather tipsy. The cabin crew lady, who we quickly named "Audrey" proved to be very entertaining. At the fun end of the plane she joked along with us, and even ended up giving us a freebie for being so much fun!

A bit of light relief before landing at Stansted, saying my goodbyes to everyone and heading home for 5 hours sleep before work the next morning!

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Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Poland Tagged city friends party war mine drunk torture erasmus macabre Comments (0)

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