When I first arrived in Krakow, I knew only one thing that I HAD to see: Auschwitz Concentration Camp. It sounds a bit deranged, to go to such a place of evil, but I soon realized I was one of many who wanted to see this historical site. In fact, over a million people visit Auschwitz each year! Who would have thought something so uncomfortable to face, would be so popular? Whatever the reason, history may not be pretty, but as George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.
Auschwitz is about 1-1/12 hours drive from Krakow. I booked a tour through my hostel and was very excited to get on the bus and start learning more about the history of this place. Unfortunately, my tour bus forgot to pick me up. I arrived 15 minutes early to the pickup spot, waited and waited, and finally after 10 minutes of being late, I went inside to the office to see if it was running late. “Excuse me, is the bus running late? It’s not here.” I said politely. “This bus leaves at 11:15 miss, it’s 11:25 now.” “Yes, I am aware of that. But the bus hasn’t come.” “It left at 11:15.” “I’ve been here since 11, there has been no bus.” Finally, the woman seemed to understand that no bus had come to pick me up. It only took 20 minutes of her being on the phone, them paying for a taxi to take me to where the bus was, the taxi getting slightly lost and the taxi driver and bus driver yelling at each other, for me to finally get on and meetup with everyone else. Whew!
Now, I was very dissapointed to get on and hear the very last word from the tape they play to tell you all about Auschwitz. I guess I’ll never know that part of the story….
But alas, Auschwitz is incredibly spooky. I kept looking on in disbelief at the place because it looks so… well, beautiful. Lush green grass, flowers growing, beautiful blue skies. How could such a beautiful place be the home of something so evil? Just going into the many buildings, there’s something there that makes your chest feel pressure. It’s hard to even grasp what happened here and how much suffering was involved.
You are taken through the places where they slept, where they were imprisoned, where they were killed… It is unreal. You get to see piles and piles of clothing, luggage, glasses, shoes, and even hair, that once belonged to the victims. The amounts they have are not even close to how many people actually died there and it is overwhelming all the same.
You are then taken to a seperate camp, Birkenau, just down the road where again you see where they slept and where they are taken. You get to see the gas chambers the Nazi’s destroyed and can only imagine how horrible it was here at some point.
It truly shows you, peace is not found in beautiful places. Bad things aren’t always found in ugly areas. Perfectly ugly things can be in disguise and can trick you into thinking different.