Krakow (Crow - kov) is how it would be said if you were in Poland or from Poland but we call it as we see it written and that is the German way of saying this city. We went for a long weekend and had a few big day trips planned. One was to the salt mines just a bit out of town and the other to the famous concentration camp about an hour away. Both were incredible in their own way and I'm really glad we did both. The town itself was also so wonderful and filled with great history!
Our first day there we just walked around old town and ate and enjoyed the evening. After driving it was good to walk around for a bit. The next morning we got up and headed to the Salt Mines that are about half an hour away from Krakow. This was one thing Phill really wanted too and we heard great things about visiting the still working salt mines.
The Mines were something to really marvel at. They still work the mines but have a section open to the public. They even have a section that you can go and work the mines like they do, we did not do that. The part that is open is the most popular section. It was the original part of the mine and it was just amazing to see how it got started and how much they did without the tools that they have today.
The history of the mine. Here is what I remember but look it up and see for yourself or better yet go visit because it is amazing! There are several cathedrals in the mines but the most famous one is the biggest one. It is all carved out of salt or wood brought it. Preserved by time and people have gotten marred there. There are also several other carvings in the mines all down out of salt and the ones down out of wood still like they were carved recently. The white walls you will see are because they had no electricity so they painted the walls white so they could see better by torches. It is of course light by electricity now but it is something to marvel at knowing they did all of this by torch light.
We got back to town midday and was going to do the Hop-On Hop-Off tour and little more exploring. We just rode the bus and didn't get off. After walking all through the mines we were a little tired. We did go through the castle that sits on a very high hill over looking the city. I wish we got to explore it more because it was beautiful. But the bus took us to a hill outside of town that has an old Austrian fortress, there are several of these hills through out Poland but near Krakow used for different reasons. The bus is short but it helps get you from one place to another without a lot of walking or driving.
Our next adventure was a little bit more somber but it still was a site to see and a must if you like learning about history. The Auschwitz Concentration Camp was a surreal place to be. We had heard the stories and learned about it in history class but actually being there and seeing and reading more about it just made it more real and truly unbelievable that it actually happened.
Jews were brought to this camp from all over Europe, to "work" the camp. It was sad to hear that they got tricked into getting on the trains, bringing all they could carry just to be lead to a place they would never be able to leave. Many of the women and children did not live to see the next day. The others that were more fit were sectioned off into barracks or as they called them blocks. One of the many things that stuck out to me was that the women were experimented on to see how they could stop them from having children. There was a block (10) set aside for just them. It was horrifying to hear that. Seeing how they were punished for doing even a small act was the worst. Block 11 was where we saw the cells they would be kept in for their crimes.
We saw the items that many of them brought and if the German soldiers did not take them or disperse them to other Germans for any reason they were just thrown into a storage shed. There were brushes, shoe shine, pots, prosthetics, and many other items including shoes and hair; which they would cut after gassing them and use their hair to make clothes or other items with. This was all in one part of the camp, the smaller one. The other part is where many of them would start off at and then either get moved or never leave.
The bigger section was a short drive away and called Auschwitz II - Birkenau. It is larger and more Blocks and it is also where most of the infirmaries are. It looks barren now because when they heard they were loosing the war they tried to get ride of any evidence of what they were doing and had been doing there. But there is a memorial you can see there, part of it represents the triangle that was marked on their uniform.
You cannot prepare yourself to go to Auschwitz. No matter how much you read about it, there is nothing that can prepare your heart or mind to what you will see there. I am thankful we got to go and learn but also horrified to know it actually happened.
Either way Krakow is lovely and beautiful and you can eat all the pierogies you possibly can and they will be filled with so many yummy fillies and either be sweet or savory! Lets just say that this should be the only food you eat while in Poland, JK! But for real eat them if you have not tried them, you will thank me later! ;)
I hope we get to go back to Poland because it really is a lovely country!