Sunday, May 26, 2013

Bruxelles, Easter Break: Part 3

 The second day of Krakow, I signed up for a tour of Auschwitz and Birkenau, as well as the Wieliczka Salt Mines.

What can I say about Auschwitz?  What can I add to years of humility, of sadness, of regret, of shame? Nothing, except my agreement that Primo Levi was absolutely right with the quote "I am constantly amazed by man's inhumanity to man."

The gate at Auschwitz needs no translation.

At Birkenau, the vast emptiness and the endless snow made the day even more solemn.
One figure is a woman, one figure is a man, and one figure is a child.  

After the sadness of Auschwitz, the beauty and silliness of the salt mines are a welcome relief.  Our tour guide is a happy blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl, with an easy smile and impeccable English. She tells us jokes about other tour groups (One bachelor party brought a bottle of tequila and a bag of cut-up limes, and would periodically do shots on the tour, using the salt on the walls. They were drunk at the end.), asks us our opinion about the mine ("What is the best mine in the world? And please remember, I am the only one who knows the way out of here!") and tells us that breathing in deeply or singing inside of the mine is meant to improve your physical health (I end up singing a refrain of the Seven Dwarfs).

The salt has warped in places, where your hand can fit perfectly!

I try the salt, but am without tequila or limes.

That night, I debate going out again. I feel exhausted, both mentally and physically, while my stomach growls in hunger and my wallet winces from paying the 70 euros for the tour.  In the end, I am won over by my persistent dorm-mates: two college students attending university in Krakow.  They take me to several bars, including on where you have to climb through a wardrobe to get to the other, much quieter side (it is essentially The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe).  

Afterwards, I head back to the hostel and am exhausted.  There is a large group of Irish students who are celebrating their last night in Poland, before they return to Ireland.  Between drinking, singing and being told that the hostel's neighbors have called the police, we end up at a Krakow club.  There are three floors of music, of reggae and hip-hop, of electronic, of pop.  

The night ends at 3am, with some of us girls eating in the kitchen, laughing at the night.

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