Poland 2019 — Day 08

This was a day filled with high highs, and low lows. 

We started the day with breakfast at our hotel in Katowice—and a very nice breakfast at that. But then we got on the road early to our first destination.

This was a place I was not sure I wanted to visit—no, in reality I WAS SURE that I did NOT want to visit it—but I also knew that I needed to visit it. Auschwitz. Yes, the infamous Nazi concentration camp. Originally set up by the Nazis to hold Polish political prisoners after Germany invaded Poland and started World War II, eventually it was expanded to include Birkenau and was responsible for the cruel and tragic deaths of oh, so many people, including oh, so many Jews, but also so many others as well. What I saw today defies comprehension. I saw a wall at which condemned prisoners were routinely shot. I saw the so-called “hospital” which was the site of unbearable Nazi experiments on living beings, many of them children, and many of which resulted In their deaths, often intentionally. I saw the room where Zyklon B (cyanide gas) was first tested, and the crematorium where the bodies were burned. I walked on ground soaked with the blood of so many. I’ve read many of the stories about the dead, but they were mostly written by the very few survivors. It’s so hard to grasp the cruelty that went on there, and the vast numbers of those killed directly, or worked or starved to death, or who died of diseases or mistreatment. Unfathomable. I had one small bit of satisfaction—I saw the spot where former camp commandant Rudolph Hess was executed for his crime—but he got off way too easy for what he did, and I admit I wish he’d died a long, slow and tortuous death….. 

After the low of Auschwitz, it was time for a high. So now we travelled mostly cross-country, but this time entering the Podhale, the mountain region of southern Poland. We journeyed through some absolutely spectacular scenic areas, the foothills of the Carpathian Tatra Mountains. We went up and down and saw some spectacular views until we eventually arrived at the little hamlet of Chochołów. We walked around Chochołów a bit to see its famous Górale architecture, spectacular buildings made with only wood, no nails, even. It is quite picturesque. Eventually we made our way to our apartment in Zakopane.

Once settled in, we made our way to the train station, got our tickets, and took the funicular (incline railway) to the top of Gubałówka, 1,126 meters above sea level. From the top, you have a great view of the Tatras, part of the Carpathian Mountains with several peaks over 2,400 meters, and a great view of Zakopane in the valley below, as well as Slovakia in the distance. After the day’s earlier lows lows at Auschwitz, this was the perfect high high for the day. We enjoyed a drink and the scenery on Gubałówka, then descended to enjoy the tourist pace of Krupówki street, ending our day with yet another great dinner in Poland.

A day of highs. A day of lows. And another day in my beloved Poland!

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