Krakow and Auschwitz, 14th-17th October 2006

We went to Krakow to celebrate my 30th birthday

It was foggy, moist and cool most of the time, but only actually rained one night. This is the central square


The street near our hotel


This raised a smile


Near the citadel


A fire-breathing dragon. The locals seem to have a bit of a thing for dragons, due to a myth associated with their cathedral


Inside the citadel


In the cathedral


The bell tower


Looking out from the tower over Krakow town


More inside the cathedral


These bones are hung outside the cathedral, and are supposed to be those of a dragon. Legend has it that the cathedral will be safe from further dragon attack as long as they hang there, and they seem to have done the trick so far


A covered market in the central square.

We ate out in town each night, and were pleasantly surprised to discover that not only was the food cheap but it was very easy to get vegetarian food, and it was very good food too!


Descending into Wieliczka salt mines


There are many sculptures carved of rock salt within the mines


In places the walls and ceilings are encrusted with salt crystals and stalactites


An underground chapel within the mines - almost everything in it is carved from rock salt, including the chandeliers


Support structures


My first pint as a 30 year old!


Back in Krakow


Inside a synagogue.

The buildings of Krakow's Jewish quarter were mostly preserved by the Nazis, as they intended the area to become a museum of 'vanished' races


Fragments of tombstones destroyed by the Nazis were incorporated into this cemetary wall


We felt that we had to visit Auschwitz whilst we were near


The streets and buildings have been preserved, but have been converted into museums, dedicated to illustrating and describing the atrocities that were committed. Auschwitz was a work camp, and the neighbouring Birkenau camp was for extermination. The Nazis gathered personal items, clothes, gold fillings from teeth, and even human hair from their victims to sell on for making textiles


Prisoners were shot against this wall when they were caught breaking camp rules


A watchtower


Birkenau - the extermination camp. People arrived here on trains after being told that they were being relocated to start new lives. Those fit to be worked to death were separated out and put into sheds; those less fit were mostly sent straight to the gas chambers for 'showers'. To avoid panic, they were told to remember where they had left their belongings so they could find them quickly after their showers, and to hurry as coffee was waiting for them for when they had finished. Mothers were not seperated from their babies for the same reason. Once they were inside the gas was released; twenty minutes later they were all dead and other prisoners had to clear the air and incinerate the bodies - after any valuables had been removed.

The camp has been preserved as it was, but much of the wood had to be used by the Russians to help the few survivors they managed to liberate, so just the chimneys remain of many of the sheds prisoners were kept in. No fuel was provided when the camp was in operation, so the hearths and chimneys were not used and many prisoners simply froze to death


A Jewish group


The remains of a gas chamber and crematorium where hundreds of thousands of people were murdered by the Nazis. This, and some other buildings, were blown up before the camp was liberated - to try to hide the evidence of what had gone on inside


At the memorial.

Well over a million people are believed to have been murdered here, mostly Jews but also many other Poles, Russians, Gypsies and others. The scale and industrial nature of what went on at these camps is hard to comprehend. I am very glad that we visited, although it was far from being a pleasant day