An Emotional Walk
Day 24th (September 28th): We arrived at our bus stop which was at the Auschwitz Museum, only a 10 minute walk from our apartment. We settled into our place, unpacking our bags and putting any food that we were carrying out in the kitchen.
We went to the grocery store to buy food for the next few days instead of spending money out at establishments. We ate lunch late so we grabbed some snacks to pick at for the night while we played cards. It was a relaxing night before our goal of going to Auschwitz I tomorrow.
Total Distance: 5.6 miles
Day 25th (September 29th): We slept in with no real knowledge of when would be the best time to visit Auschwitz. I woke up a bit earlier to read On The Road by Jack Kerouac and drink some tea. We cooked up some eggs, peppers, onions and toast to get some food in us before an emotional next few hours.
We headed on a 10 minute walk towards Auschwitz Museum, only to find out that it's free between the hours 730-1000 and 1600-1800. We did not schedule a guide and did not have any desire to experience this place with others. I felt that the personal experience and knowledge would suffice in such a monumental place. There were a few exhibits outside that we were able to read about; one being from Auschwitz survivors and the other about the Sinti/Roma holocaust.
We went back to the apartment to plan our next few days, eat lunch and I read a bit more. After getting ourselves ready, we made our way to the Museum to arrive around 1600 in order to get the most time available. We show our tickets and go through security before entering the Museum (Auschwitz Camp I).
We walk the first few steps up to the gateway into Camp I, with the sign seen throughout most documentaries, movies, pictures, etc. As we looked onto the grounds, I felt uneasy with where we were stepping some 70 years later.
Camp I had many intriguing exhibits within some of the barracks that spoke about the history of WWII, those imprisoned, executed, living conditions and so on. If you didn't already know about the severity of the holocaust, this was the place to learn every little bit of detail.
With so many people entering due to it being the free time, I walked on the outskirts of the grounds to get some personal time. I walked some of the walkways that were monitored by Nazi's in order to protect the grounds from anyone trying to escape. Camp I only housed a small percentage of people during the holocaust in the early years before moving to Camp II (Birkenau).
Walking alone through Camp I offered a moment of reflection and contemplation on the tragedy that happened here. I tried to put myself in the shoes of all parties to get a feeling of what would drive someone through such horror. As some of you know, on my mother's side there is a bit of Polish descent. I was extremely curious as to if any of my own descendants experienced some of this.
This wall was famously known for where many of the Jews were shot by the Nazi's in Camp I. They hold a memorial here with some of the wall remains that were left behind. It's extremely eye opening when you stand in a place where thousands of innocent people were murdered.
Before I knew it, the two hours was all up for our time at Camp I. We had a quick ten minute walk back to our AirBnB for the night. My friend Gabby and I took our own time to reflect, talk with family before sharing our own interpretations of how we felt and our experience at Camp I. To end the night, we each cooked our own dinner and played cards to end the evening.
Total Distance: 4.9 miles
Day 26th (September 30th): We woke up with the intention to go to Camp II, Birkenau for some time in the morning before heading to Wroclaw. We came to find out that we didn't need tickets and the bus didn't run until 10:00am. We were at Camp I going to get tickets at about 7:30am. After much confusion, we made it to Birkenau by walking at about 9/9:30am.
Birkenau is the camp where millions were brought in order to be executed by guns, nooses, starvation, injections and gas chambers. We were some of the only people walking the grounds early in the morning because tours didn't come until after 10 by bus. We were extremely fortunate to have time by ourselves to walk the grounds with little to no one.
I preferred less people because it offered a personal, eerie approach to where we were. We walked to see the barracks, kitchen, bathrooms, and remains of the gas chambers. When the world found out about the holocaust, the Nazi's tried to shred/burn all information along with blowing up all evidence of the camps. Needless to say that they didn't accomplish everything that they had hoped in this regard.
We sat along the steps in the back of the camp where the gas chambers were located. With silence in some regards to questioning everything we know, it was a great time to reflect together. It's incomprehensible what went on here, even if it was 70 years ago.
I'm extremely impressed with how well they maintain the remaining grounds of the camps. I'm forever grateful for being able to experience this place; ironically due to it's purpose. I'm going to write more on my experience here more in depth in another blog post. After we finished Birkenau, we set off to our AirBnB to check out.
The AirBnB had a numbered coding system and we arrived at 11:00am, when our check out time was. Sure enough the code was changed from what we were given by the host. Yet thankfully, the house cleaning women arrived right on time and were extremely nice to us. We grabbed our belongings and headed our way onto Wroclaw.