My visit to the concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau was one of the most influential experiences and one of those that made me think about the cruelty of men. Although it's visited daily by tourists, it's a curious place that continues to give a lot of respect. This concentration camp was used by the Nazis during WWII, and the entrance still reads "Arbeit Macht Frei" (work will set you free) and is still one of the most popular. There are the grounds, patios, houses and corridors, as well as the gas chamber and cremation room. It's a good place to visit because of its historical importance, and is a story that should not be repeated. Http://www.Auschwitz.Org.Pl/
Wawel is the name of a hill on the left side of the Vistula River in Krakow, Poland. According to Wikipedia, it has an altitude of 228 meters above sea level and has great symbolic meaning for Poles. Indeed, Lech Kaczynski, the late president of Poland, rests in Wawel Castle, surrounded by kings, heroes and prominent personalities. Within its walls, has been written the history of Poland, from the coronation of kings to important decisions that have determined the successive stages of development. The original castle dates from the fifteenth century but has suffered various vicissitudes, fire and several reconstructions. Today, you can see mainly a renaissance style and detail that are Gothic and Romanesque. Personally, what I liked best, were their orange tiles. Singular. You can also see a fabulous collection of Arras tapestries, portraits and other precious objects. It is free to enter the castle, but if you want to see the tapestries and walk around inside the building itself. Next to the castle is the Wawel Cathedral, a splendid monument along with a church open for worship. Sigismund Chapel deserves special attention for its Renaissance style. On the outside lies the cave of the dragon, interesting for children- for children, there is a reproduction of a dragon breathing fire. Here's the story: The evil dragon was terrorizing the people living there and eating everything that was passing by. Compungido, the King offered the hand of his daughter to whoever that managed to rid the town of the fierce dragon. Many tried, but none succeeded until he came across Dratewka, a shoemaker by trade. He took a sheep, killed it, filled it with spicy food and left in the cave entrance. The dragon, of course, does not take long to devour but after doing so, he began to feel an itch and had to be fed drinking water in the river. He drank so much water - and finished by exploding! Thus, the good Dratewka married the daughter of the king and saved the Polish people. I said, a story.
Rynek Główny is undoubtedly one of the major centres of the Polish city, and the second largest square in Europe. Along the perimeter, there are many places to snack, have a coffee or a drink. Also, there is the imposing Basilica of Santa Maria and the Central Market, where you can buy amber, so typical of this area.
Step by step you travel deeper into the bowels of the earth. Down below there is another city, a labyrinth of miles of tunnels, you move to the fantastic mines dug by the dwarves in Lord of the Rings. The crypts amaze you with the sizes of virgins and people blossom with splendor and large wooden structures impress you with their size. Everything is soaked in a salty solution with rocks and streams with the same taste as the sea.
The old town of Krakow was inside the castle. Inside you can enjoy a lively city, not crowded, with many flowers and lovely sights. To be honest we couldn't see the cathedral inside, but if we had we wouldn't have any place left to explore. The cathedral itself is gorgeous and the environment on which it stands is a marvel.
Built in the fourteenth century on one side of the Market Square, St. Mary's Basilica is an imposing Gothic church that is one of the most important and famous monuments in the city. The facade of the basilica is flanked by two towers of different heights. The higher, decorated with a golden crown, is known as Hejnalica and in the past was used as a lookout for fires and enemy attacks. Currently the trumpet sounds every hour, but the melody is suddenly interrupted in memory of the trumpeter who was killed while trying to alert citizens about an invasion. Inside the basilica, you can see a fifteenth century wooden altarpiece with more than 200 carved figures which, at 12 meters high, is the largest in Europe. During the summer months, it is possible to climb the Hejnalica tower to see the city from above and access the mythical trumpeter's room. It is one of the best views in Krakow.
This museum offers a thorough overview of the history of the city of Krakow. It's not difficult to find, next to the Moka Contemporary Art museum. Entry costs 19 zloty, but it's free on Mondays. Inside you'll find rooms full of history and emotions, with photographs, videos (you can view them in English), and documents. The tour shows exhibitions, reenactments, and photos (some really hard to look at) which will show you all about the hard times that the Jews in this city had to live through.
In the first part of the visit you can learn about the First World War, and then onto the Second, with the sounds of bombs and sirens. There are videos with testimonials from those who lived through these times. You will see all about the Nazi occupation, and you will see the reality of thousands of people suffering. You will see how the Nazis took away the city's identity, replacing Polish street names with German, and you will feel what it is to be behind the door of a concentration camp. After this is a tour of the Soviet era, and it ends with a tribute to all the victims and sufferers. An amazing, emotional experience, completely recommended.
It's as though you already know the Jewish quarter thanks to movies like "The Pianist" and "Schindler's List", there will be familiar sites even if you have never been there, in fact if you go with a guide, they will lead to some houses where they filmed some of the scenes from "Schindler's List"
The Krakow Ghetto was one of the great ghettos of Poland, some 80,000 Jews lived here before the war. Crammed into 30 streets, 320 residential buildings and 3,167 rooms, 4 families per apartment and some living out in the open. They were surrounded by walls that isolated them. All doors and windows facing the "Aryan" side were boarded up, while allowing traffic but followed by four monitored inputs. By grim coincidence, the walls contained panels in the shape of tombstones. Part of the wall has been conserved (and restored) , there are commemorative plaques and pilgrimages of Jews lay flowers there. Behind you can even see buildings and although it is difficult to imagine overcrowding, but it helps us get an idea, and reminds us of what man is capable. Roman Polanski lived there as a child.
27 January marked 65 years of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp, museum of horror and destruction, not only Jews, but also Gypsies, homosexuals, communists and thinkers among other groups. I visited twice and it has had a big impact on me. There's always something to make you stop and think. For me it is a symbol, an icon of what happened there, and that is their fences. Electrified in his day, it separated hell and death from life. The thicker the walls, the harder it must be to be inside. A thin wire like those means to me the greatest of the horrors committed by man.
Known as the winter capital of Poland, this town of 28,000 inhabitants is located at the foot of the Tatras. The Tatra Mountains are the largest mountain range of the Carpathians with an average height of 2,655 meters. Protected species such as the brown bear, wolf, lynx, and moose live here in the many forests and glacial valleys. I did not see any when I visited but that´s better because I´d be scared to walk down the mountain and find a bear in my face! The lovely town of Zakopane has many places to stay that range between 5-star hotels to private homes with single rooms available. The view of the mountains from any of these is really beautiful! I get excited just remembering. We bought a mountain route map when we arrived and each day we did a different route. The views are spectacular and each path contains a completely different landscape. It´s a real wonder for nature lovers. I went at Easter and there was snow and I needed hiking boots. It´s more crowded during the summer because many people from all parts of Poland go there but it´s much quieter during Easter It's about 3-4 hours by train from Krakow and is definitely worth a visit. For those who love winter sports, this is simply a paradise! There are jumping championships every year. It is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in all of Poland!
Dolny Kazimierz is a lovely village, near Lublin. Splendid in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, its wealth enabled its fairy tale like architectural style. (Fortunately, neither the War destroyed it or the communist dictatorship which tended to build cement blocks, it was used as a summer resort) City artists (galleries abound) yet before World War II more than half of its population was Jewish who suffered there and lost much of their culture. There is now a synagogue and several Jewish restaurants with charm. The market square is its nerve center, beside it a fourteenth century church, which stands on a hill with the remains of the castle, from which the river views are unbeatable, even living in the monastery the monks, thanks to which it is in such good condition. Situated along the Vistula river, the other side of it is a natural park only accessible by boat. The best way to reach this place, if you do not have car there is a bus from Lublin, which takes about 2 hrs, the road is dire and full of curves and old buses ... If you wish I recommend Dramamine! It is often visited by tourists including Poles abroad and little is known of this beautiful place.
One of the major attractions of the Tatras in Zakopane, Morskie Oko is the largest and deepest lake found in these mountains. You have to walk several kilometers to get there but it´s definitely worth it! You´ll go up at different heights and there will be signs that indicate where you can find different kinds of animals like foxes or bears along the way (although, i did not see any!). There are also large and small waterfalls. The whole hike is really beautiful. Once you get there, the view is wonderful. The huge lake is surrounded by mountains and it´s absolutely gorgeous. Right in front of the lake there is a restaurant where you can eat something warm. There´s also a mailbox and stamps for sale. These mountains have snow well into May so the most recommended shoes are good hiking boots.
Most of these photos belong to the Nazi army, after all, who else would be able to take these photos and pose in them so they came out better? From the first to the last each Nazi was proud to be the murderer of the Jews, these photos clearly show how pleased and happy they were when they murdered some. So too, did the photographer feel good doing their job because if you look at your own photos, you're always looking for the perfect framing, a key snapshot or faces that say absolutely everything from despair to Nazi pride. Thankfully the photographer's name has not been put at the bottom right of the photo, ... Only his name is missing to be remembered, the images however...
In the thirteenth century it was decided to build a wall around the medieval city of Krakow to defend it from encroachment, Krakow wall was finished in the fifteenth century and is 3 km long, with 47 towers and 8 main gates. The access gates are made by a circular walls based on Arab fortifications, the Barbican. Florian Gate was historically the traditional entrance to the medieval city of Krakow and today is a great tourist spot.
The Krakow Barbican is what remains of Krakow's medieval fortifications and is one of the few buildings of its kind which is still standing in Europe. Built in 1499 in response to the Ottoman invasion, the Barbican has a circular diameter of 25 meters surrounded by a stone and brick wall several meters thick and a moat. At the Barbican itself, there isn't much to do besides climbing the stairs, but you can make a combined visit too the Barbican and the city walls which makes for a pretty fun time. It's like traveling back in time. The views from the watchtowers are excellent.
The stalls in this old market are a great place to buy some souvenirs. They have everything from shirts and keychains, to flutes, scarves, vases, ... However, take care before buying anything as it's better to take a walk and compare prices elsewhere because they vary greatly between stalls.
This is a must to visit if you are traveling to Krakow. You will travel along tunnels and large chambers in which you will see numerous statues carved by miners throughout history, most are religious. The most spectacular ones you'll find in the great hall called St Kinga's Chapel, which is even used for music concerts. I recommend a visit to this place.