Unfortunately, we didn’t make it into Kraków itself because there were so many people there for World Youth Day, but we did manage to visit Auschwitz Birkenau and the Wieliczka Salt Mine, on the outskirts of the city.
Auschwitz was harrowing and disturbing enough, but when we got to Auschwitz-Birkenau II, which was the second (and incredibly vast) camp built after they had added second and third floors to all the buildings already in the first camp, and still there was not enough room to house everyone, it gave an idea of the numbers of people that were imprisoned there. And then to think that they had to build a third camp, which we didn’t visit… Roger and I just passed through both sites pretty silently, as I don’t think we really had the words.
After we visited Auschwitz, we found a little campsite where we met a couple from Kent; Elle and Mark, and we spent a nice evening with them over a couple of beers (which are now cheap btw!). I hope you guys are enjoying your travels too, and good luck on your return to the UK😉
The Wieliczka Salt Mines were great to visit, not just because they made a refreshing change to the 30+ degrees on the surface, but because all the walls, carvings and sculptures inside were made entirely from salt (it was 95% NaCl and 5% impurities, to my sciencey friends); even the chandliers were made of salt crystals.
After this we decided to leave Poland, as everywhere was so busy, and we thought perhaps we would return at a later date. We headed into Slovakia, where immediately there were less advertising signs everywhere (people who have been to Poland will know what I’m talking about) and more open space, with less people. We headed in to Bratislava, and found a large and somewhat untidy-but-functional campsite there, where we met a lovely family from Scotland; Allie and the two Andys, plus we had Horace the Hedgehog come and visit us in the night, trying to steal our food (no pics as I was half asleep and didn’t think about it!). Bratislava is a nice place to visit, with not many people for a capital city, and enough things there to see. We spent the time walking around, and visited the castle and (my personal fave), the Cat Café!
After this we headed to Vienna, on the hottest day yet, so we were glad it was only a 1hr ride away from Bratislava. Vienna has been the most interesting city yet in terms of museums; it has the Stephensdom Crypt (where some royal remains are interred and thousands of skeletons from when there was an outbreak of Bubonic Plague in the 1700s), Josephinum Medical Museum (collection of wax anatomical models and body parts), Kriminalmuseum (museum about crime and murder), and the museum of contraception and abortion. For me personally, life is too short to visit art or architecture museums, so I was quite excited about seeing museums that were interesting to me. Obviously I wanted to visit all of the above, but had to settle for the Stephensdom Crypt and the museum of contraception and abortion, as it was Sunday and all the others were closed. The museum of contraception and abortion took you through both topics from past to present day, and made me really quite grateful that we don’t have to resort to some of those methods now!
From here, we headed through Czech Republic, back into Poland, to visit a church called Kaplica Czaszek, where there is a chapel entirely filled with bones and skulls of the people who died in the late 1700s from the vast amount of wars and infections at the time. Most of these places wouldn’t let anyone take pictures but you can find more info, plus pics, at http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/kaplica-czazek-chapel-skulls.
We are now in the Czech Republic, in Prague more specifically, and we are awaiting Mum and Dad’s arrival on Monday, and also the MotoGP in Brno, for which we have tickets!!