August, 8 2016
A large part of the day was spent in travel but I will spare you the boring details of all that. Suffice it to say that the hours on the bus were passed in a variety of manners: some chose to sleep, others engaged in controversial conversations, others lost themselves in their fascinating books, and a few wandered the aisles enjoying a variety of diversions that helped to pass the time. After two and a half hours had passed we arrived in Krakow and deposited our luggage at the hostel where we would be returning later in the evening.
With our luggage out of the way, most of the group again boarded the bus for an hour and a half drive. Destination? The Auschwitz and Birkenau Concentration Camps. Because of a mis-communication our group did not have the necessary arrangements to enter Auschwitz. This was a disappointment, but we made the most of it by trekking around the perimeter of the camp and peering over the intimidating concrete/barb-wired fence. Dervin was our capable tour guide, providing us with much information and answering our many questions.
After grabbing lunch we crammed into a very full bus that transported us to Birkenau. There we were able to enter the grounds and stroll our way through the barracks and the ruins of gas chambers.
A few facts about this camp.
- Birkenau was a sort of “over-flow” camp of Auschwitz. It is sometimes referred to as Auschwitz II.
- It became the largest death camp, holding over 90,000 prisoners
- Approximately 1.6 million people were killed here, one of whom was Anne Frank
We spent an hour in silent reflection, strolling through the camp. Some described this part of the day as being “emotionally draining”. For all of us, it brought a harsh reality to the stories we’ve read and the facts we’ve learned in our history classes.
It was 4:30 by the time we had finished at the camps and were once again en-route to Krakow. There we spent our evening touring an ancient castle, and walking the streets of Old Town.
I should mention that by this point in the tour we have come to accept assorted Polish cakes multiple times a day as an essential part of our diet. Today proved to us that we can indeed survive a twenty four hour period with no cakes. However, the streets of Krakow offered ice cream, waffles, kebabs, and chocolate; we certainly did not go hungry! By the end of our evening souvenirs had been purchased, songs had been sung in fun chambers, unique conversations had taken place, and our feet had begun to feel achy. At 9:00 we all convened at our hostel where we spent some time re-capping on our day before retiring to our rooms.
There was a breeze coming through the window….
A fan droned over the noises rising from the street below….
The thought of sleeping in the next morning was quite pleasant indeed….
A good night….