Part 2 of Europe is concerned with:
- Poland – Auswitch, Krakow,
- Lithuania – Vilneus
- Latvia – Riga
We crossed the border into Poland on 23rd May and were immediately pulled over by the border men. I think they secretly wanted to ogle at the Landy!
We made an emotional visit to Auschwitz, which is not one site but 3 main ones – Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II-Birkenau and Auschwitz III-Monowitz and around 45 smaller ones all around the village of Oświęcim.
The site that is brought to mind at the word “Auschwitz” is Auschwitz II-Birkenau, the largest camp, it’s sole reason for existence was the extermination of Jews and the killing of other prisoners. Between spring 1942 and autumn 1944 1.1 million people died at this extermination camp alone. If they didn’t die in the gas chamber they were killed by execution, disease, starvation or at the hands of the Nazi doctors who carried out horrifying medical experiments. In the end the Nazis had so many bodies they were burning them outide and dumping the ashes in a pond. These now have monuments to the murdered next to them.
In 1945 Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet troops, and in 1947 the Polish government designated the camps as a museum so they are very well preserved. The gas chambers at Auschwitz II were blown up by the Germans when they found out the Soviets were on their way but the barracks, processing rooms, and the railway used to transport prisoners directly to the gas chambers are still there. Auschwitz I still has the gas chamber intact and is part of the tour.
Wikipedia has a lot of information, but it’s not pretty reading http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auschwitz_concentration_camp.
Here are some photos.
After our visit to Auschwitz II we took a tour of Auschwitz I, the administrative centre, a complex of 16 buildings. There were cells here too and a gas chamber. The cells included horrors such as “standing cells” and “dark cells” used as severe punishment for prisoners. Rooms are full of items taken from people who were murdered: spectacles, suitcases, shoes. These were distributed among the German civilians.
After the horrors of Auschwitz we visited a Wieliczka Salt Mine, a spectacular place with rooms, a chapel and even a restaurant carved out of the salt. It was the perfect balm to Auschwitz.
After the salt mine we moved onto Krakow, an absolutely gorgeous city that Stef and I would have loved to spend more time in. As it was there was only a few hours to take some photos before we headed off to Vilneus.
Poland was swiftly followed by the beautiful Baltic countries: Latvia and Lithuania are below, Estonia is in part 3.
We visited Vilnius which was very pretty but I don’t have any photos as we only stayed a few hours . When Stef does his post on it I’ll add a link in :o)
Then it was on to Riga. Beloved of stag and hen do’s and very picturesque and tiny, after walking around it 4 times, we decided to do what everyone does in Riga and got drunk. This is why we got drunk (I call this one the “Hangover-Maker”)…
The boys were thrilled to discover the Annual Go Blonde Festival was on. More on that here http://somuchtoseesomuchtodo.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/died-and-gone-to-heaven/
Part 3 (Estonia and Finland) to follow…