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There and Back again

a travel blog by beccastravels

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3 days in krakow

Krakow, Poland

So we finally arrived in krakow on tues 5/12 after a very early start! not missing the fact that being on a ryanair flight feels as though the plane is about to fall apart at any given moment!

After getting to the hostel we went for a wander about town. krakow is so beautiful. in the main square ( Rynek Glowny) at Christmas time. The lights are up and the christmas market in full swing, with everyone wearing santa hats and eating smoked sausage and kebabs from the grills in the stalls.From the main square in all directions are a mass of bars and clubs, especially underground cellar bars. We went to a hindu themed cellar bar named sacred cow(in polish). totally insane......

yesterday we went to the salt mines just outside of Krakow ( and got majorly ripped off by the taxi driver taking us there) We had missed the train at 10am and the next one wasnt until much later and we wouldnt have been able to get into the museum. So we got taken down through about 2km of tunnels and steps until we were evenutally 135m underground. the mines were fascinating- something straight from lord of the rings! theres intricate carvings and statues everywhere and lots of chapels, where they still hold mass on a sunday. there were so many chapels because the mining used to be such a dangerous job that they would all pray before they started work.
We then got led to the banquet hall which is breathtaking. it was carved by three men over a period of 70 years. even the chandaliers are made out of salt! the salt here is grey because of the impurities in it, but along the ceilings etc there are white 'cauliflowers' and 'macaroni' of salt hanging down. there are underground lakes etc and just looking at the walls you see carvings that the miners did. there used to be about 50 horses that lived and worked underground, and never went to the surface. sounds strange but they were actually healthier tha the horses above ground!
its really hard to describe the mines but they were so cool, and so impressive. really enjoyed the day!
am absolutely knakkered though! yesterday had a major power nap before going for a wander in the evening, and ended up in a small smoky jazz bar listening to these amazingly talented guys playing the blues. it was fantastic!

today we went to auchwitz ( just). in the guidebook we have it says there are 12 daily trains there but when we turned up at the train station at 9:20 we had just missed one at 9:05 and there wasnt another one until 12:27! considering it an hour and a half journey from krakow and the camp closes at 3 in the winter because of the darkness we thought we werent going to get to see it. but we made a bus at 9:30 which cost us about 1.50GBP so were very lucky!

auschwitz itself is horrifying. the place just seeps evil and its weird to think you are standing on ground where thousands of people died. the bit i found most horrible was in the displays where they have 7 tonnes of womens hair still there that the troops found when they liberated the people in the camp. and the fact that so many children were led straight to the gas chambers because they were seen as unfit to work. those that werent had to work the same as adults in horrifying conditions. most died after a few months. they have babies clothes and shoes in piles at the camp. many of the children that werent led to the gas chambers were twins or triplets, who were instead led to have medical experiments done on them. a fate maybe worse than dying straight away....
sterilisation experiments were also conducted on women and men here, and many were injected with poison and then killed in order to do autopsies on them...yuk.

we didnt make it to the Birkeneu death camp as it also shuts at 3 and by the time we were out of the first camp we didnt have time to go another 3km and see it which was a shame. it was here that most people actually died,where they were taken for the sole reason to die. its hard to imagine what kind of evil could do that to people,and would want to exterimate a whole race of people....

so am sitting in the internet bit in our hostel, just about to head out.

bye for now

permalink written by  beccastravels on December 14, 2006 from Krakow, Poland
from the travel blog: There and Back again
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Warsaw, Poland

so we got the train on friday 8/12to Warsaw from krakow.
Its a very diffferent city and interesting.
The old town and the palace is only 50 years old has it all had to be rebuilt after the war where it was completely destroyed. They have done it really well and looks old as they have done it from drawings from the 18th century. I really liked it and you could feel the history in it.
We stayed at the OKI DOKI hostel in Warsaw which was a good location, friendly staff and altogether a fun place. and considering the beer in the bar there was 1GPB a pint then we were very happy! had a good weekend there!!
We went to the zoo on saturday and got to behave like little kids-so much fun! watched elephants running around and saw the penguins being fed- they're so cute! on sunday we visted the palace, wandered about and ate fantastic pierogi ( dumplings).

Many people feel that Warsaw does not compare to krakow but its different and grand and we felt there was alot to do. there was even fireworks behind the palaceof culture on friday and sunday!

Very early on monday morning we left for Vilnius in lithuania- figuring out the right train was a bit of an adventure!

hope everyones doing well!!

permalink written by  beccastravels on December 14, 2006 from Warsaw, Poland
from the travel blog: There and Back again
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Vilnius, Lithuania

ah. Vilnius, Vilnius, Vilnius!
We arrived in Vilnius yesterday after a long day on the train- and what a city. It has the biggest old town in europe and its so much fun,cheap and beautiful! really like it here and there is so much history.i never realised how much the lithuanians have suffered in the hands of the soviets and the nazis.1in 4 lithuanians have suffered directly due to stalinism or fascism.its very scary and makes the city even more impressive and how far it has come and rebuilt itself in the past 10 years.
A trip to the museum of genocide in something you will never forget. it is in the old KJB prison ( an when i mean old i mean that the prison was still in use by the KJB in 1991....) its chilling. you go down to the cells, the execution room and the excercise court and i thought i might be sick. the exhibition upstairs is really good and leads you through the history of the lithuanian oppression since before the 2nd world war, but its very weird to think that communisim was still killing people here in our lifetime.

now Vilnius is booming. they are rebuilding the old palace on its foundations in prepartion for2009 which is the 1000thanniversary of Vilnius.they are re-doing the centre and it looks amazing. there are designer shops everywhere and the people are smiling ( unlike alot of the baltic countries), the food is good and cheap and its a very happening place. Glad we came now before it is overun with tourists and becomes expensive! and its great to see it in december- the lights are up, the christmas trees are looking great and the buildings look stunning at night.

well thats today. have tonight and tomorow here then on thursday we go to st petersburg! (about 20 GPB a ticket)

permalink written by  beccastravels on December 14, 2006 from Vilnius, Lithuania
from the travel blog: There and Back again
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