I have been to Krakow before. I don’t remember much I admit, it was a long time ago. Monday we arrived in Krakow after night train from Venice to Vienna and then train to Ostrava and bus to Krakow. Arriving in Krakow we had half a day and headed for the jewish quarters and old town.
The jewish quarters of Krakow are well preserved and is an entire part of the city. It holds several synagogues and jewish cemeteries, an old well known pharmacy called Apteka Pod Orlem, monuments of the war as the chairs and the emalj factory of Oscar Schindler. When you arrive in Krakow you just go for whatever map and it is all marked out on it.
The synagogs are in use so it is possible to visit them but during jewish holidays they might only be open for those who celebrate the holiday. The Apteka Pod Orlem was held open by a German guy who sold medicines within the Krakow Ghetto and was aloud to be held open only due to the fact the the Nazis was afraid of outbreak of some diseases due to the fact of the poor living conditions. The pharmacy was the window to the rest of the world for the jews living in the ghetto, here they heard news from what was going on outside. The chairs are on the same square as the pharmacy and it is this square the people living in the ghetto was dropped of on when taken here.The Oscar Schindler factory is close to the Apteka Pod Orlem and here you have a museum that is open during daytime. It closes at 20 when we ware there but it said on the sign that new visitors need to be there 90 minutes before closing. We missed it.
The WW2 history is central in both Krakow and Warsaw tourism but is close to Krakow where the Nazis decided to build the death camp Auschwitz and Auschwitz – Birkenau. One of the darkest moments in man history.
Martin and I took the tour to Auschwitz with Discover Krakow. We booked it through our hotel. I have been to Auschwitz before with school and remember it very clearly even though it was at least 13 years ago. On the way to the concentration camp we saw the film about the liberation of Auschwitz, we then arrived at Auschwitz 1, being guided among the buildings, having a break and then went to Auschwitz Birkenau.
When queuing into Auschwitz a woman in line laugh. She is quickly silenced by guards with the words ”this is not a happy place”. Getting inside the guide starts to guide you, pointing out certain things always being clear about that Auschwitz is the ”proof” for what was done against jews and also ”it is important to remember history so it won’t happen again”. Frases like this is said several times, reminding you. It is also as if the guides are there to tell you to remember, they are not there to take care of you as a tourist making you want to come back rather insuring that so many as possible hear the story so that it wont happen again. In this way, Auschwitz is no ordinary tourist attraction.
Will get back to you with a photo story about Auschwitz and Auschwitz Birkenau. Since it is a very strong emotional experience I feel that the pictures tell a better story about Auschwitz then I can ever tell you in words. But as the guides say, it is important to remember.
To experience the most of Krakow and what it has to offer it is recommended to take the guided tours. The tours are not expensive and you get much value for your money.
Guided tour to Auschwitz and Auschwitz- Birkenau: tickets can be bought at the hotel or in town. The guide will pic you up with bus at the hotel and the ride takes an hour to and an hour from the site. It is half a day long, we left at 7.10 am and were back around 3 pm. The tour costed 115 zloty for student and 145 zloty for adult when we booked it at the hotel. In town it was much cheaper. The tour includes both Auschwitz 1 and Auschwitz – Birkenau. It is 3 km inbetween camps. Even if it is an emotional difficult experience it is still part of mans history and therefor important to visit.