We arrived in Poland on Monday 1st September.
We stayed in a lovely little hostel called "mamma's" in Krakow, which was full of really nice people. Sounds strange, but along the way there are a lot of idiots travelling around too, so it was good to catch up with like-minded people!!
We spent a couple of days just milling around the town and taking it easy, as we were both pretty tired. On the first night, I ventured out on my own to find some dinner, and came across a market stall with big vats filled with the most hearty, delicious-looking dishes I'd ever deen. Stews and dumplings and meat and vegetables....drooling I perused the menu and decided to go for the dumplings, assuming I was going to get the sauce-covered meaty ones I could see in in one of the pans. Imagine my disappointment when my paper plate was filled with 6 of the most anaemic looking, greasy-fried lumps (which, typically I didn't even see on the stall until she forced the plate into my hands!). AWESOME. I walked away, plate in hand, and a saddened heart! Tio top it all off, as I sat on the picnic bench nearby to eat the rotten things, a homeless man decided he'd come over and start abusing me (probably for having the cheek to be eating in his presence?? If I wasn't so scared of him, he could have had the bloody things - they were rubbish!)
Luckily some Poles scared him off for me, so I could continue to chew (and chew and chew and chew....) in peace!
The next day we spent approximately 3 hours trying to get to an "amazing" waterpark just ouside the city. We boarded a couple of buses (one of which in the wrong direction - oops!), but progress was slowed by Luke and some Dutch boys we had befriended's weakness for Vodka! We must have stopped at every second bar on the way for a drink, but finally arrived at the waterpark at around 5.30 pm to find it was closed for the week for maintenance!! I was not impressed at all, as had really been looking forward to getting there!
That evening we met up with Max, one of Luke's Polish workmates from Silos. For the first time we were lucky enough to have a whole menu translated for us.....no dumplings for me!! I got to try the Goulash I'd been waiting patiently to find and it was delicious!! After Max left we went to a nightclub with some others from the hostel, and then on to a bar with a Frenchman called Kiki, who Luke had befriended. It was only a small bar, but the barman was a whizz with a cocktail shaker and made loads of really tasty shots. In our drunken generosity, Luke and I ended buying more than a few rounds for the whole bar (there were only about 12 people in there). When the end of the night was closing in though, and nothing had been reciprocated, I got a bit lary and made Luke ask them to buy us a drink in return!! Apparently they had thought that the barman had been serving all the shots all night on the house?!?! Weirdos! Anyway, we put them straight, adn one of the guys - an Irishman - bought a rounds of Jameson's for everyone to make up for it! We stumbled home shortly afterwards....!
On the Thursday, we made the trip to Aushwitz / Birkenau. It took about 1 1/2 hrs to get there by coach, during which they played a video about the Holocaust. On arrival we were assigned a guide, who took us first around Auschwitz 1 (the original camp), and then to Birkenau - the enormous purpose-built camp which housed thousands of Jewish prisoners, and 6 huge gas chambers. We saw a room full of hair that was shaved from the jews. At the time, even the hair was used in the textile industry to make blankets! Rooms full of their shoes, glasses, and even suitcases have been kept. It was horrible. They were all told to bring their most valuable belongings with them when they were taken to Aushwitz, under the pretence that they would need them to start their news lives later on. But everything was taken from them - even gold teeth after they were killed. We saw the first gas chamber that was set up and went inside, which was awful. We saw the incinerators, and heard how "worker" Jews (those initially spared from death to work for the Nazis) had to crush the bones of those burnt as there wasn't enough time to leave the bodies in until they were totally cremated. Really heartbreaking stuff. We saw the death wall that I've seen before in so many pictures, and the sorting platform too - where familes were separated and sentenced to deatch. We left with really heavy hearts. I'm glad we went, I now know a lot more about what happended during the Holocaust, but it was a painful experience.
That evening we got on the 7.45pm train to Berlin!