- Jamie Shannon
Nights out in Kraków but remembering to visit Auschwitz. Onto Slovakia!
Well you can’t really argue with the fact that Kraków is probably one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. It's absolutely stunning . The very first time you enter its magnificent central square, you'll most certainly be blown away – even when including the thousands upon thousands of tourists that come with the view.
Indeed, this is probably the least enjoyable aspect when visiting any famous city or town for the first time; the sheer abundance of tourist orientated crap that’s present. From ice cream parlours, amber shops and overpriced restaurants selling average food chosen from picture menus to the noisy and obnoxious stag parties that litter the streets and bars. It’s a shame really. But I won’t let that spoil my view of an awesome city.
I stayed only one night in the hostel I had booked into online. It was a dump, and an 'expensive' dump too. After checking online, I found another hostel – cleaner, more spacious and with much better facilities – just down the road and so the next day, myself and a Russian guy headed on down there.
What a breath of fresh air it is. Now I wouldn’t say that a hostel or hotel makes your trip but it does certainly help towards having an enjoyable time. It was a bit of a party hostel but then this is good for meeting other people which, to be fair, is half the reason I choose to use hostels anyway.
I met an English guy called Joe from Liverpool and a guy called Tyron from Belgium in the kitchen and we hung round together for the next couple of days, taking in a pub crawl that night. Not something I usually do but it was fun and very cheap too. I think I did literally crawl to the last couple of places though.
I had intended to leave the next day and cycle west to Auschwitz but my heart and brain were saying that this just wasn’t a good plan and so I opted to stay another night and take a bus to Auschwitz with the two guys that day. I did ask how much it would be at the reception for that night to which they replied, 37 PZl and so I went back upstairs and booked online for 20 instead. Easy.
With that done, some coffee and food in my stomach, the three of us headed across town to the train station to catch the bus. This was the plan as I had told them it was faster and cheaper than taking a train which wasn’t entirely correct as we would later find out.
Anyway we spent the day walking around both camps and I must say that it was one of the most poignant and most harrowing experiences I have ever had. It was surreal, disgusting and eye opening all at once. I won’t say too much but I think it really is something everyone should see at least once in their lives.
Probably the most moving part of the entire day was walking into the only crematorium/gas chamber still standing in the smaller camp and seeing the thousands upon thousands of scratch marks on the walls. Looking up at the ceiling, you could see the unmistakable shaft where the gas pellets would be thrown in. I don’t even thing my brain could fathom what went on in there and it’s certainly difficult if not impossible to try to express it in words.
We took a different bus back to Krakow – a proper air conditioned coach which was cheaper and in fact faster than the shitty minibus we had taken there. We bought some pretty disgusting Chinese food from a restaurant in the city and I got an early night as I really had to leave the following day. I had to cycle to Budapest, 400 km’s away and a whole bunch of mountains lay in between myself and my target. It was going to be very difficult and I was just a little apprehensive about setting off. The road had been just way too easy up to this point and this was the first real test of the journey so far. Lets just get on with it and see how I fare.