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Monday, 1 October 2018

How to get to Auschwitz


I ended up in Krakow last week by accident. I was supposed to be visiting my friend in Poland and a few days before she said something about Warsaw being a cheap place to go sightseeing. 'Warsaw?' I thought...'$h!t'. I was going to Krakow.

I couldn't change my ticket because EasyJet only fly to Krakow and I couldn't get a train to Warsaw without making my journey stupidly long, so I didn't really know what to do. In the end my lovely friend came up to see me at the weekend with her husband, which was so nice of them, and then I had a couple of days on my own when they went back to Warsaw for work.

On one of the days I decided to visit Auschwitz. I've been wanting to visit for years, which sounds very morbid but I think it's a really important place to see. In the end I went on my second last day because I didn't want to finish on such a sad note.


TICKETS

You buy tickets on the official website here. It cost 50 zloty for a guided tour which I thought was very cheap given that you are led round by an expert for hours. If you are going on the day to buy tickets you have to get there first thing in case there are spares, but you might not be able to enter for a few hours, if at all.
You can also enter without a guide, which is free, but I wouldn't recommend it as other than the exhibitions, nothing else is labelled much so I think it would be hard to understand the magnitude of suffering there.


TRANSPORT

The camp is about an hours drive from Krakow but the issue is that most of the tours offered also include entry...so if you're just after transport there's no tour company to get you there and back without paying for entry twice.

So what are the options?

1) Uber. Which would be expensive.
2) Train. The nearest train station is Osweicim and from there you need to catch a bus and walk to reach Auschwitz. When I was looking, the route wasn't straightforward for the time I needed to arrive but it might be for your trip so it's worth checking.
3) Bus. I found a shuttle bus that goes direct from the bus station in Krakow to the Auschwitz camp gates. It cost 12 zloty which is basically £3 ish and you can pay on the bus or in advance (through the link). I found it really easy to get there considering I don't understand more than 'Hello' and 'Thank you' in Polish. The bus takes just under 2 hours but I think it's the simplest option for getting you direct to the camp.


ARRIVING AT THE CAMP

I would advise that you give yourself extra time to enter because the security lines were long. You can't eat or drink in the camp and you can only take in a small bag (less than 30cm by 20cm by 10cm) so there is a luggage store if you need it. There are two camps, Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II- Birkenau. Auschwitz I is where the bus stops and this is the entry point where you have to show your ticket and meet your guide, There is a free shuttle bus that comes every 10 minutes to take you between the two camps.

CAMP

I found it really upsetting at points and had to hold back tears so I would recommend taking tissues. I also thought I might be sick at some points so if you are like me, I'd recommend only eating afterwards. There are some books that you might want to read before or after your visit that I would recommend so you can better understand what the victims went through.

One is 'Night' by Elie Wiesel who was in the camp and the other is 'The Commandant' by Rudolf Hoess, the camp commander.

I would advise not visiting the camp at the very end of your trip because it is extremely distressing but I do think it was really interesting to see and I'd recommend that you sandwich it somewhere in the middle.


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