Into Poland & Auschwitz-Birkenau II 11.12.17
Early start and crossed the border into Poland after a drive on the A1 in Czech Republic. We felt as though we should visit Auschwitz; despite it not being an enjoyable day out but an awful and sad tragedy, to learn more about the history of the war and pay our respects to those lost there.
We arrived in Oświęcim at the second and larger of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps. The vastness of the place surrounded in barbed wire was horrifying and made you realise that this actually happened – it’s not a film set or made up, real people really suffered here. The ruins of the chambers at the back of the camp still lay where they’d been destroyed to try and cover up the awful truth.
We spent the night in a free public car park by the river with plans to go the first camp tomorrow.
Auschwitz-Birkenau I 12.12.17
Woke up to the morning work traffic so quickly moved to free up our space for someone!
Parked up outside Auschwitz I; the smaller and first death camp where all the original buildings (used to be polish army barracks)still exist. After passing security and information desks (you can have a guided tour however we decided to walk round by ourselves) we walked under the “Arbeit macht frei” gate before being immersed amongst the sinister camp. Cold, brick buildings surrounded by barbed wire made up the camp- each of them now a museum focusing on each group of people it affected as well as different uses for each building.
One exhibit; which will stick with us for a long time, held shoes, suitcases, combs and other personal belongings piled high in different rooms. This only began to explain the extortionate amount of people killed.
Despite it being a sad and harrowing experience, we left having learnt a lot.
After leaving the car park the noise that had been coming from the front right wheel was only getting worse so set out to find a mechanic. Found a small, local guy just outside the town and didnt take long for him to point out our wheel bearing had gone… And we mean really gone…!
Luckily a new bearing could be ordered for the following day. After asking where we were staying and our heads turning towards the van (he laughed!) he carefully lured the bearing back together and gave us the advice of “don’t drive FAR!”
Went back to the same car park and spent the evening in the town, bought some chips, eggs and ham and cooked up a pretty awesome dinner(if we don’t say so ourselves!).
New wheel bearing and en route to Kraków 13.12.17
The bearing wasn’t due to be delivered until after 1pm so spent the morning having coffee and pastries, washing the van and having a look round. Got to Bartosz the mechanic and within an hour Charlie was fitted with a new wheel bearing- no more squeaking! Got chatting about our travels and found out we had the first T3 he’s worked on!
Drove to just outside Kraków for the rest of the day and thought we’d found a pretty nice spot to stay at just next to a river with an abbey overlooking us. Ended up leaving as the police helicopter searchlights, torchlight from across the river and cars quickly driving in and out of the carpark freaked us out a bit!! Found a carpark in Skawina instead, just southwest of the city!
Kraków visit 14.12.17
Frosty start with ice lining our windows! Headed into Kraków and found a pretty central parking spot which was reasonable (Parking Kazimierz guarded 24h, Dajwór 17, 31-000 Kraków, Poland).
Had a 15 minute walk into the old town centre, admiring the buildings on the way, including Wawel Royal Palace, Church of St.Peter and Paul and St.Andrews Church.
Rynek Główny(the old town square) came into view and was overshadowed by impressive buildings- St.Mary’s Basílica and Church of St. Wojciech. The cloth hall (large indoor market hall) stood proudly in the middle of the square and amongst it all a large Christmas market!
Walked further into the town to find the old city wall and fortress…
Went back to the market to try some traditional beetroot soup(Borscht/Barszcz), a sauerkraut/sausage stew, a taster of their fried cheese and a typical bagel-type bread.
Headed back to the van after a few hours exploring Kraków and made our way on the E77 and 958 to a spot we found in Mszana Dolna.
Zakopane and into Slovakia 15.12.17
Quick coffee before a drive to Zakopane (thanks Stef for suggesting it!) on the 47. The sight of snow greeted us and stunning mountains overlooked the town.
Wooden, old buildings looked almost Scandinavian and the pedestrianised town centre was lovely too.
Spent a couple of hours taking a look round before setting off towards Slovakia. Beautiful scenery in the 958 – snow covered mountains, ski slopes and forests. Stopped in Chocolow for a few pastries to use up our Zloty change before crossing the border. Found a spot to park up Orvasky Podzamok with a view of the illuminated castle.