January 30, 2012

Poland | Auschwitz & Birkenau.

I woke up at the sound of my alarm clock. It was only 5am but I had a 6am train to catch. I showered quickly and rushed to the Warszawa Centralina (Warsaw Central Train Station). The air was a cool 15c that day. I was excited, and a little nervous, because I was going to make a 297-km train ride to Krakόw. I didn’t have any breakfast yet, but I wasn’t a bit hungry. My Adrenalin was high. I just had a small backpack stuffed with essentials for an overnighter. In my hands, I had my trusted guide -- Lonely Planet’s book on Poland. I didn’t have any hotel reservations, and I didn't know what to expect.

The 2.5-hr train-ride to Krakόw was pleasant. I drifted off to sleep since I was tired from a 3-day business conference in Warsaw. I actually almost gave up on the idea of travelling to Krakόw due to the distance. But I knew I had to seize the opportunity since I was already in Poland.

The train arrived at exactly 8:30am at the central station of Krakόw Glόwny. Almost immediately, I spotted the terminal where the buses bound for Oświęcim (pronounced ‘osh-vyen-cheem’ in Polish while the Germans called it Auschwitz). Since the next trip was another 30 minutes away, I decided to find something to eat.

The bus left Krakόw central station at exactly 9am. On the way to the Nazi death camps, I marvelled at the very picturesque Krakόw countryside and wondered how a very quiet, peaceful, and beautiful place like this could have become the site of so much atrocity during the last world war.

Walking from the bus station to Auschwitz.

The 60-km distance from Krakόw to Oświęcim took around 30 minutes. Upon arriving, I was greeted by a beautiful garden walkway. I had to walk a distance before arriving at the entrance to Auschwitz. There is no longer any trace of the war. It was just all green and beautiful.

Entrance to Auschwitz.

Auschwitz is already developed. There are a lot of people visiting this place, most of whom are young students from all over Europe. Entrance is free, and you can easily book a tour guide for a group. Since I was travelling alone, I decided to just go throughout the camp at my own pace, occasionally chipping in at groups with English speaking guides.

Court of Death.

When I got inside, everything became so real. Even if the place is already clean and fixed-up, you can still feel the sadness, fear, and horror that once were there. Even the stench and smell of torture and death somehow still pervaded the air.

St. Maximillian Kolbe's cell.

While walking through the different bunk houses, and the only standing crematorium left, I tried to picture out the faces of the people during those days when this death camp was still in full operation. As I passed by the cell of St. Maximilian Kolbe, the Franciscan priest who volunteered to exchange his life for a total stranger, I said a prayer for world peace.

Inside Auschwitz.

As I ended my walk around Auschwitz, I thought to myself that the place wasn't really that big. But I was informed, while I was at the souvenir shop, that the real death camp was not this place, but in what is known as Auschwitz II, or Birkenau (Brzezinka in Polish) -- just 2 kms west of Auschwitz. There are buses that frequently shuttle tourists to and from Auschwitz at regular intervals.

Perimeter of Birkenau.

When I arrived in Birkenau, I immediately noticed the massive gates. That was what was featured in “Shindler’s List” (although the movie was not really shot there). I was overwhelmed at the vastness of the complex of Birkenau. It has a land area of 175 hectares.

Memorial Stone.

It was actually at Birkenau that the extermination of large numbers of Jews took place. There were four huge gas chambers -- now ruins since the Nazis destroyed them all as they were fleeing from the Russian troops -- complete with crematoria which could accommodate 2,000 people each.

Bunkbeds in Birkenau.

I tried to find my way around this camp, snapping my small and trusted digital camera at every nook and corner. Most of the time, I was alone, and although the barracks were very eerie, I wasn't really afraid. I only felt sadness and respect for everyone who lost their lives here.

Walking back to the bus station and reflecting on my whole-day tour, an elderly man walked beside me and asked, in English, “did you enjoy your tour of the death camps?” That took me by surprise as I hardly talked to anyone the whole day. We engaged in a very lively conversation. He introduced himself as Henry Rzkonars, a retired history professor at a university in Krakow. He now keeps himself busy by being a tour guide for Auschwitz-Birkenau and Krakόw. He is fluent in Polish, English, and German.

Prof. Henry (he told me to call him by his first name since it’s harder to pronounce his last) was a very good conversationalist, and was a wealth of knowledge and wisdom. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take a picture of both of us. As he was nearing his stop, he wrote down his contact details at the back of my train ticket (which I have kept until this very day). He told me he would readily accompany me around Krakow the following day, if that would please me, and also, he was looking forward to visit the Philippines if and when he would find the chance and opportunity.
For more information on Auschwitz and Birkenau, please visit: http://en.auschwitz.org/m/

My trip to Auschwitz and Birkenau was something I will always treasure and remember. (I bought a lot of literature and videos about them.) I have always wanted to visit Auschwitz and I am glad I decided to take this trip. Today, I still wonder how the holocaust has happened in the not-too-distant-past. (It’s sad that there are people who claim the holocaust was just a creation of some historians, and that, it has never happened.)

A one day trip at Auschwitz and Birkenau wasn't enough. I have missed many other details, most of which I only found out as I read literature about them.

Jan 27 was World Holocaust Day. I wish and silently pray that the holocaust, or something similar to it, will never happen again.

Someday, I still hope to return.

. . . . .

Wall of Death. A lot of Jews were shot here indiscriminately.

Signage at the crematorium.

Furnaces inside the crematorium.

Officers' kitchen.

Damaged crematoria in Birkenau.


. . . . .

This entry was written by CBB. He took this trip in May 2003.
CBB is guest-posting in my blog upon my invitation to share his travels.
More stories from him in the coming weeks!

Related Post:
One Day in Krakow

Bookmark and Share


  1. Wow, this was intense. I don't think I could ever visit this camp. I visited the killing fields and genocide museum in Cambodia, I don't think I have fully recovered from those visits.

    1. Intense, indeed. Incredibly heartbreaking.

  2. Ate, CBB is not only a good photographer, he´s also a very good writer. I felt the sadness in his story and photos ate. Thanks for sharing this trip with us. I hope to visit the place one day.

    1. Thanks, Juls. CBB will be thrilled to read your comment. Anyway, this is a sad part of history. This is also a constant reminder that this shouldn't happen again. Do visit Poland while you are still in Europe. :)

  3. Auschwitz. sad. (e)




Kolkata, India | Part Two.

“ The traveler has to knock at every alien door to come to his own, and he has to wander through all the outer worlds to reach the innermo...

Follow by Email

be nice!

Photos and texts are all mine unless otherwise stated. If you want to borrow anything from this site, please email me at absiroy@gmail.com.

I'm nice and I will certainly reply to your emails. :D

You can also follow me over at twitter or instagram (@travelfoodfinds). Do visit my personal blog, too! : ) Thank you!

Search This Blog

On Travel

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”
{ Mark Twain }

. . .

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.”
{ Anaïs Nin }


10 Dove Street 798 Art District Abstract Art Agra Aguirre Avenue Air Passenger Bill of Rights in the Philippines All About Chocolates AlwaysOpen Anthony Bourdain Antique Market Aquari Travellers Suites Aracama Filipino Cuisine Ardent Hot Springs Art Exhibit Auschwitz Awesome Desserts Backpackers Hostel Bags Bantayan Island Bataan Beabi Bed Linens Beijing Beijing Acrobatic Show Beijing Itinerary Best of the West BF Homes BGC Bicol Region Birkenau Blog Give Away Bonifacio Global City Restaurants Breakfast Bronuts Burgers Butterfly Dreams Caffe Puccini Cagayan De Oro Cakes Calcutta Camera Bags Camiguin Camiña Balay Nga Bato Cebu Affordable Hotel Cebu City Hotel Cebu Delicacies Cebu Party Venue Celebrations Charger Organizers Charming Cafes China Chinese Dimsum Chinese Food Chinese Visa Christmas2012 CNN Coffee Cronuts Cupcakes Dakak Park and Beach Resort Danao Bohol Dapitan Davao City Denny's DennysPH Diamond Suites and Residences Dinner with Strangers Dublin Eat With Locals Edinburgh Events Fab Finds Fab Pinoys Family Fashion Photographer Filipino Food Food Free Falling Fried Chicken Garment Organizers Getting Published Gloria de Dapitan Gloria's Fantasyland Glorietta Good Food Grafea Gratitude Journal Guest-Post Guiob Church Heritage House Holi Festival 2014 Hot Chocolate How to Apply for Tourist Visa to India How to go to Camiguin Hutong Tour Iloilo City India Inspiration Ireland Italian Food Italian Restaurant Jaisalmer Japanese Food Japanese Restaurant Jollibee Kagay Kate Spade Katibawasan Falls Kolkata Krakow Larcy's Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar Le Terrasse Leather Bags Life List of countries that need visa to the Philippines London Luxurious Bed Linens Magnum Opus Coffee Makati Cafes Makati Restaurants Make Your Own Pizza Mother Teresa's Tomb Mt. Pinatubo Mutianyu Great Wall My Cebu Nikon Noodle Soups Olympic Venue Otap Palawan Pancit Molo Panini Paranaque City Restaurants Parks and Gardens Parts Unknown Party Venues Passenger Rights Passion Night 4 Pasta Personal Philippine Art Gallery Philippine Beach Resorts Philippine Churches Philippine Dive Spots Philippine Festivals Philippine Restaurants Pinoy Artists Pinto Art Gallery Pizza Places to Stay Poland Pork Ribs Portrait Photographer Portraits Project Pie Puerto Princesa Quezon City Restaurants Quick Update Rajasthan Random Thoughts Robertos Rosquillos Samal Island Shi Lin Shopping in China Siopao Soft Bed Linens Sonyas Garden Southeast Asia Sponsored Post St. Paul's Cathedral Stops Hostel Stories on the Road Street Food Summer Summer in the Philippines Sunken Cemetery Swatch Watch Taal Volcano Tagaytay Tagore House Tagore House and Museum Taiwanese Food Taj Mahal Temples Ten Must-Do Thai Food Thai Restaurant The Fort The Girl + The Bull The Great Wall of China The Marble Palace The People You Meet Along the Way The Plunge The Queen Siopao Theme Park Titays Toboggan at the Great Wall Tour With Locals Tourist Visa to India Travel Travel Packing Travel Photography Travel Stories Travel Website Travel: Asia Travel: Europe Travel: Philippines Travelfoodfinds Trekking United Kingdom Uptown Mall Vanilla Cupcake Bakery and Cafe Varanasi Varanasi Hostel Victoria Memorial Hall Video Vietnamese Food Visa Exemptions for Filipinos. List of countries Filipinos could visit without a visa Visa information for tourists entering the Philippines Visa to China Warsaw What to do in Cagayan De Oro Where to Stay in Camiguin Where to Stay in Varanasi White Island White Sand Beach Whitewater Rafting Withlocals York Ziplining
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...