Have you ever visited some place which leaves you cold, leaves you very pensive, maybe even sad?
You walk on the street, and can not stop thinking how thousands, or even millions of people walked that same path on their way to death.
You walk towards that same crematorium, where those millions of people once walked years ago. You walk in, first thing you see, is the sign which asks all guests be quiet and respect victims of that place. Like the crematorium itself alone would not leave you speechless.
You walk in, see empty room, with hole on the roof, where the killing gas was poured in.
Quietly, speechless, you continue walking and find those ovens, what you have just heard about from some documentaries.
You walk out, continue your way to bus stop, just to enter the bus and continue your way to Birkenau, the real death camp.
After a short ride you arrive to your destination, hop off the bus, and start walking.
You start to feel cold, and it is not only because of freezing weather and strong wind. It is the place, the horror and sadness.
After you have seen enough, you walk back to the bus. And be super happy, that you are able to get back from there. Not as most of the prisoners, who lived their last years in that place. Never getting back to their families.
History, but never forgotten
Auschwitz-Birkenau is not a nice place. Not at all. Also it is not maybe good for kids. You will see there horror, you will see things you could only see in your nightmares. But for those who were there, it was not just a nightmare. It was their life, they could not just close their eyes and open again, and everything would have disappeared.
That is why even if it is in history, you should never forget. You should remember, that behind every number, there is face and name. All of them were someones family. Mother, father, daughter, son brother, sister…
It is impossible to put into the words the things you can see, and the feelings you will get when visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau. You have to see it by yourself, to understand better.
You have to visit that room with all those women hair behind glass window, you need to see all those shoes taken away from the death bodies. Many of them kids shoes.
Of course you can read articles about Auschwitz, read a book(s), see documentaries. But none of those will leave you so speechless as visiting the place itself.
You can not truly understand without seeing all of it by yourself.
What you need to know before traveling there?
First of all, you have to decide if you want to have guided tour or not. I would recommend non-guided tour, especially if you are traveling during summer and high season.
Even during winter time, there were a lot of groups, and they had very fast paced tours. You can actually find from various chat sites similar experiences, but I can not say, that all guided tours would be bad. Actually I can not say, that any of those would be bad, as I have not experienced those.
Me and my friend decided to take non-guided tour.
How to get there?
Reasonable and very valid question. I can guide you only how to get from Krakow to Auschwitz, other starting point, I am sorry, I can not help.
We took train from Krakow Glowny (main railway station) to Oswiecim, approximately 2 hours.
From the Oswiecim station you just take 15-20min walk to the Auschwitz. It is not hard road, you will find it easily. But maybe find a map, or take some screenshots from Google maps before going, just in case.
You can also take a taxi from the train station, but I really do not recommend it, because the walking distance is just 1.5km. If you are traveling with kids, or someone with disabilities, then maybe taxi is better option. But it is up to you 🙂
You can also take a bus which takes you next to the museum, but I have heard that biggest safety concerns in Poland are still the roads and traffic. That is one reason, why we chose train.
It is also totally own experience, with kinda old trains with no toilet or restaurant – if you choose regular train.
Book your ticket beforehand
Even if the museum is free of charge, you still need to book your ticket beforehand. It is simple process, and does not cost you anything.
But be sure to do so, because otherwise you might not be able to get in.
No big bags
You are not allowed to take big bags with you to the museum. But you can leave your bag to the storage room next to the museum.
How long it takes to explore everything?
From the website you can find, that it takes approximately 3 hours to explore both sites. So basically 1.5 hour each. To be honest, I would prepare to spend longer time there. I think we were there total 5 hours. So it really takes all day.
How to get to Birkenau?
No, Birkenau is not just next to Auschwitz. It is approximately 4 km far away, you can either walk there, or you can take free shuttle bus. If it is summer, and warm, then why not walk. If it is rainy, cold, winter, maybe bus is better. From Auschwitz you can find warm places to go in, but in Birkenau warm places are just at the entrance. Remember to take your bags from the storage room before going, to Birkenau you can take your bags. Especially if you are going there at last hours, it might be, that the storage room is closed when you arrive back from Birkenau. And that is something you would not like to happen, right?
There is cafes, and small kiosk. But I recommend to buy something to eat with you. You can get hungry, as we did. And we did not have anything to eat.
Other thing is, that there is security check before you get in. But you still can have water bottle with you, no problem, they will not take it away as at airport.
OH! If you are traveling during winter, and you have prepared to take photos only with your phone, please bring your powerbank with you. You might need it, if the weather is cold, and your battery dies.
Well enjoy your dark tourism trip!
No, enjoy is wrong word. Have a very interesting, historic, deep trip!
“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” ~ George Santayana