Hey there! I’m posting very quickly this morning from Slodi Leoni Café, where my cappuccino has been decorated with a very sweet love heart in the foam. This is our last stop in Krakow before catching a flight to Budapest.
Our last full day in Poland was an exhausting and harrowing one. It was certainly a day I’ll remember for the rest of my life. We left pretty early in the morning from the center of town and caught a bus out of Krakow. There were quite a lot of other Americans on the bus, so we chatted with them about our trip and heard some of their stories and travel tips.
The mood immediately shifted when we arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau; you can feel the melancholy atmosphere as soon as you step off the bus. We joined a guided tour and were shown around the different areas of the camp. It’s divided into the first camp, Auschwitz 1, which has been set up more like a museum with various exhibits in the different barrack buildings, and Auschwitz-Birkenau, where the railway tracks and gas chambers still stand.
For me, the most horrifying moment of the day was seeing the displays of all of the personal items taken from people as they arrived in the camp. There is a case full of glasses and one with endless bags of human hair that was shaved off of the prisoners. The whole thing felt quite surreal, but it also brought the reality of the tragedies of the Holocaust to life. It was indescribably chilling, and Megan and I both found ourselves crying at several different moments throughout the day.
The bus trip back into Krakow was far quieter than it had been in the morning; I think everyone was reflecting on what they’d seen. I know Megan and I both felt a newfound gratitude for our lives and our freedom.