Krakow


Saturday

We got up early, as we had to change hostels and wanted to go on the free walking tour of Krakow. We checked into the new place but just put our bags in the luggage storage – then off we went into the city centre. We had a bit of time to kill so we walked around and looked at some information for tours that went to the Salt Mine and Auschwitz (we realised that they were quite pricey)… Krakow has so many info points it’s scary… but when you ask them how to get to these places by yourself… they tell you lies about prices and tell you about the tours. So we just kept it to ourselves and went to the starting point of the tour.

This free tour is run by a different company to the ones we have done everywhere else… The tour guide was Polish and seemed pretty good. He waffled on during the tour… The tour was good though we saw the the main market square, the cloth hall, a church,  the town hall tower,  the florianska gate (which is this cool medieval wall and tower that has survived around the centre of krakow. When we were here we saw a parade of Krakow’s army, police and veterans march past us for the 65th anniversary of the end of WW2.

We then walked through a nice park and saw the old pope’s living quarters… where we saw a large angry Catholic protest…we continued to the Wawel Castle which is not really a castle but is on top of a hill surrounded by a wall and towers and stuff… we walked up the hill and saw the church where all the dead kings/presidents are laid to rest.  We saw the old residence and heard stories about the people who used to live here.  We then saw a carnival and the dragon (which is a metal giant statue of a dragon that breaths fire every couple of minutes).

At the end of the tour we were very hungry and walked back into the centre of town and had a late lunch at an Irish Pub. The meals were massive and cheap.

After lunch it was about 4pm so we walked back to the hostel, and checked into our rooms and hung out – resting our leggies.

Sunday

The next day we decided to go be salt miners!! We had asked the tour guide the day before about how to get to the mines. He told us which bus to get and everything. When we got there we bought our student tickets to the tour and waited to go down the mine.

We walked 380 stairs down to be 64m below ground level into level 1 of the mine. Our guide informed us that the mine had 9 levels and 264km of mine and we were only going to cover 2.5km. We walked through various mine shafts and saw and felt the sides of the mines. It was pretty amazing to see some of the equipment they used… They used to keep horses down there to work and only bring them back to the surface after a number of years. The last horse to leave was only 8 years ago…

We made our way deeper and deeper into the mine, and saw many cool chambers and some pretty impressive salt sculptures. They have lots of churches down there and one was massive!! It was pretty cool for a church and they actually have weddings and things down there now.

We saw brine lakes where the salt content is so high… I don’t think anyone could sink or drown in it.  They did a cheesy sound and light show in one section…  We saw the difference of the tunnels dug by hand and by explosive… Miners these days have it much easier… I’d hate to dig those sized tunnels with only hand tools.

We ended up at level 3 which is 135m deep and caught the scary mine elevator up to the surface. This lift is what the miners used everyday. Quite scary.

The tour was great – we had an amazing time. We’re glad we didn’t pay for the tour company though as we paid 114 polish for transport and tour to paying 110 polish each for the tour company to take us. I started to feel sick again… which sucks.

Monday

Today we got up early (and I was sick) and went to the bus station to catch a bus to Auschwitz. On the way we popped into the info point to ask which bus – she didn’t help but wanted to sell us a tour, we politely said no and found the bus ourselves. It took 2 hours to get there… we arrived just after 10.   Apparently Auschwitz is so busy that they actually make you buy a tour guide to take you around… but it was quite cheap and we got in as students so I wasn’t too miffed. The tour guide was very good, we started in the Auschwitz camp – which was a museum – that showed the lives of the prisoners, their personal effects, and the history… the personal effects was quite tough to see… they had a room full of all the shoes, the glasses, the pots and pans, and what was horrifying to see was the human hair and the quantity… it was really disgusting – as you could make out whole pony tails, or plaits.

We saw a room with photos of children – who were brought to Auschwitz and Birkenau. Birkenau is where the mass genocide was done and was one of the largest camps. We went there after the tour and it was MASSIVE. It was so big  and down the middle of the camp were train tracks that stopped at the platform – where the Nazis would pull everyone off and split the men from the women with children. The Nazi doctors would then decide who would live and who would die. Most women and all children were nearly always sent to the gas chambers.

The living conditions here were much worse than the camps in Germany that we saw as they lived in horse stables without floors, or insulation, or anything.

The gas chambers were blown up by the retreating SS just hours before soviets liberated the camp. You could still see parts of the chambers as it built underground. One chamber could fit 1500 people and kill them in less than 30 minutes. They had 2 of these chambers in this camp. They had massive industrial burners to cremate thousands of bodies a day. It was horrendous. Auschwitz -Birkenau killed over 1.3 million people (1.1 were jews).

After we had finished, we caught the bus back to Auschwitz, then waited under a tree in the pouring rain to get the bus back to Krakow.

We ended up saving money again by not doing one of those tours. In your face Information points! haha

We got back to the hostel at 6 and found we had been moved back to primary school as most of the rooms on this floor have been filled with school kids. So that night we spent listening to kids run everywhere slamming doors, yelling, playing with balls and throwing it agaisnt walls… needless to say we complained – the guy said he’d talk to the teachers… but hasn’t improved much… They’re here for 5 nights… thankfully we are only here for 1 more night.

Today we are off to the aquarium (biggest in Poland) and off to the pub… We take a 22 hour bus to Brussels tomorrow… not looking forward to it. We have plenty of new movies to watch… so that should be okay… shame the computer can’t recharge itself…

Well that’s the update for now.

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