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Historical Pilgrimage: Overview

June 3rd, 2007 · 2 Comments

OK, there’s a two-fold reason for the overview post: I’m still putting together my thoughts on the trip as I go through the photos and I want the miscellaneous stuff kept separate from the camps. I think the camps are going to end up with separate posts as I see them as distinct entities in my head.

My train left from Praha - Hlavni Nadrazi at about 8:30 PM. I didn’t pay attention when choosing my carriage/section and ended up in a smoking one, but I was too lazy to move. I dozed on and off and after being woken by passport control, I decided to sit up and see who my cabin mates were since I was hearing a mix of Japanese/French and Czech. The cabins are more or less bench seating with an arm rest between two sets of two seats and my ‘benchmate’ was a drunk Polish man who, according to the French woman, wasn’t making much sense in any of the languages he was ’speaking’. The French woman was a backpacker traveling through Eastern/Central Europe and her benchmate was a young Polish guy who had been studying in the Czech Republic. None of us was sure why the train was stopped so we did what was normal in that situation and shared our ‘rations’ - a mix of a candy bar, British Smarties (so so good!) and 7 Days Bake Rolls (Bacon Flavored). Despite the approximately one hour delay, which some attributed to border delays, we make it to Krakow at just shy of 6 AM only half an hour late.

I had forgotten how ‘interesting’ Czech Rail service can be. 2nd class is about 10 classes below the local trains in Japan. They also don’t announce stops, which could have proven interesting. When we left the train at Krakow, he young Polish man shook my hand and said, “Enjoy Krakow-my home.” Very nice.

The delay was fine since I knew the first bus/train to Ozwiecim didn’t leave until 7. So I found the ladies’ room, learned that you had to pay so went to the ATM to take out Zlotkys — currency overload seriously — freshened up and went in search of the bus depot. It was a local shuttle bus that look about an hour and a half and he dropped is at the gate. Wasn’t hard to guess where the three non-Polish people were going.

***

Coming back, the bus was slightly larger but took almost two hours to get back due to the weather. I’d offer some great insight about the polish scenery but it was foggy and I was wet. Not agood combination. I didn’t understand why it took two hours to go 50-60 km until I saw the roads. Poland may have upgraded itself a lot in the last 15 years, but it’s still lacking in some areas. The area around the bus and train stations I found to be very depressing, dirty… I wasn’t impressed with Krakow but I also realise I didn’t see the tourist sections. I thought about it if I’d gotten back earlier but wanted to spend the day at the camps and the weather didn’t lend itself to staying longer.

I had about 5.5 hours to kill before the train so I went to the Galeria Krakowska. Nope, not an art gallery but the ubiquitous galleria. It really was rather like any mall, anywhere. Sephora, Aldo, Zara, MaxMara, Esprit…What enticed me was the food court. I didn’t want to think to eat, I just wanted food so I went with the staple of Subway. Sat in the food court and read “Night” (review here). I’d never read it before and was just…Wowed. I think the fact that when he mentioned locations in Birkenau I could think “I was just there…”. At about 9 I headed to the Albert to get some stuff for the train and headed back to the station.

Met a couple of people also waiting for the train but they had a sleeping car reservation. I ended up with my own cabin for most of the ride and I slept a good chunk of it. Czech border guard was amused that I was never stamped out by the Polish guards. He stamped just under my first ‘inbound’ Czech stamp from 2003.What struck me was that inbound at Ruzyne they use the standard EU stamp but by rail they still use the old one. Stamp/Visa Count:45. I really need to get the expansion pages before Australia because I am going to run out of room.

Got back to Prague this morning and was at the apartment by 7:45. Shower done and I need to do laundry. Look for pics and the write ups later today.

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Tags: Europe: Summer 2007 · Auschwitz · Historical Tourism · European Train Travel

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Christine // Jun 5, 2007 at 5:02 am

    Excellent post. Looking forward to hearing more about your trip and your experiences!

  • 2 Cari // Jun 6, 2007 at 2:00 am

    I think you’ve probably seen the other two posts unless they didn’t show in your feed reader? I’m working on a 4th but it hasn’t gotten to the screen yet-still in the brain :)

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