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31st January 2007 and we were off once again on our travels. This time we ( myself, Dez, Wesley, Steve and his nephew Chris) were flying over to Krakow in Poland for a few days. The flight and general arrangements, including a ride over to the Nazi Death camp at Auschwitz some 30 miles away, had been made by Dez, and Wesley had booked us into the superb Wyspianski Hotel which was just a short walk to the main square in the centre of the old town.
Plane piccie (Photo Wesley)
Looks more like a block of flats in Moss Side but the Wyspianski is a really nice hotel
Click to read Hotel Review on this page
The hotel bar, reception and lounge area. This is probably one of the cleanest hotels you'll find anywhere
The 2 hour forty minute flight took us from John Lennon Airport in Liverpool to the Pope John Paul II Airport at Ballice, which is approx 10 miles west of the city of Krakow. Having landed late-ish in the evening we took a taxi from the airport to the hotel, where we dumped our bags before going to look for somewhere to eat - as usual we were starving and craving alcohol!
Dez had spotted an authentic Polish eating house called "Chlopskie Jadloe", where in exchange for very little in the way of Zlotys we could be fed and watered with traditional peasant fare. So thinking that we really ought to try "proper" Polish cuisine we opted to head there to see what they had on offer. We'd heard that we would be lucky to get into this place, as there are usually long queues of would be diners waiting to get in but as it happened, being a Wednesday night we just walked in off the street and sat down.
It has to be said that the long queues that are reputed to form outside here are more than likely due to the size of the place rather than any other reason..... such as it's sparkling "aliments parfaits"! In total there are about 4 tables, which are squeezed into a very confined space, in fact it's something akin to sitting eating in a kitchen in someone's very small terraced house!
The Chlopskie Jadlo, Small but perfectly formed
We soon got ourselves settled in at our table and our waitress fetched
us some beers and the menus over. This was a revelation, the place
really did serve peasant food! It was only now we found out that
Chlopskie Jadlo literally means "Peasants Grub" or
"Peasants Kitchen". Items on the Menu included
such things as "Military Soup" a wonderfully thick bean puree'
thing with sausages and croutons in it, "Red Borsche
and Dumpling Soup" a thin watery beetroot soup with small
dumplings, "Catfish" which was cooked and served
in a sort of eggy pancake affair, and many other plain and simple
offerings mostly based around fish, meat and potatoes.
First thing to arrive at our table was the complimentary lard, with goats milk cheese and bread.....It's complimentary for reason....... This is the most unappetising looking thing you'll ever have the misfortune to cast your eyes on at mealtime, it would make a good challenge for the Bush Tucker Trial! It actually tasted marginally better than it looked but our cholesterol levels must have gone off the scale that night, pure fat trowelled on to big salty bread wedges - not good, thank God for Gaviscon!
The rest of the meals were of reasonable quality
but apparently the Polish here look upon this place as nothing more than
a tourist trap, cashing in on the recent influx of travellers to
Poland. Most are of the opinion that it stopped selling REAL
traditional Polish dishes a long time ago.
Steve studies the menu but still hasn't got a clue what he's ordering,
in fact none of us did so he wasn't alone!
First up was the complimentary lard. Yummy or what? I'd like to say it tasted a lot better than it looked but...........! !!
Best stick to McD's if you ever go to Poland, believe me it's safer! (photo Wesley)
"Cast Iron Belly" Dez stuffs his face with a succulent lard butty.
For Steve's gastronomic pleasure - vomit soup with a couple of spuds and a slimy sausage in a used condom
.....He's already eaten the egg that was floating on top!
Then these arrived. Dez's beetroot and dumpling soup and my military soup -
I got the best of the deal but Dez assures me his was lovely, despite
looking like a Transylvanian blood transfusion !! Dracula's lunch?
Prior to going to Poland, Dez had rung us all to ask if we wanted to to
go to the Auschwitz Museum at Oswiecim which is about 30 miles west
of Krakow. We knew it would be a harrowing visit but we all
thought that it was somewhere that we should go to despite our
reservations. We were picked up by our guide at the hotel at 9-30
in the morning and boarded the bus that would take us to the ex-Nazi
We took lots of photos while we there, with the intention of putting them on the website, but such was the effect that this terrible place had on us all that I've decided not to include most of them. Nothing can prepare anyone for the scale of what took place here between the closing years of the 1930s and 1945. The place is testament to mans cruelty to his fellow beings, and a shrine to those who suffered at the hands of the perpetrators of such awful events. The following photos are just a few exterior shots of Auschwitz 1 and Auschwitz 2 at Birkenau. for any other information about this memorial to the holocaust, a couple of websites can be found here: http://www.auschwitz.dk/Auschwitz.htm http://www.auschwitz.org.pl/
The main gate at Auschwitz 1 camp. the cynical inscription over the gate reads
"Arbeit Macht Frei" ... "Work makes you free"
One of the avenues between the blocks, note the high voltage electric barb wire fence
Gets the point across quite well!
is shown The exit gate of block 14, the "Death Block" prisoners were
tried here for their political & religious beliefs, collaboration and planning escapes.
few, if any made it out of this gate alive, they were taken straight from here
to the crematorium. At the far end of the yard can be see the killing
wall. After being found guilty of their "crimes" the prisoners were
stripped naked in a nearby washroom and then marched out to the wall and shot. They
were the lucky ones! The less fortunate were left to die a long lingering death
in the starvation cell. At the far end on the right there is a
cellar where the first trials of Zyclon B Cyanide gas was used to experiment it's effectiveness,
used on Polish & Gypsy prisoners, over 1000 of them in
Outside the original gas chamber at Auschwitz 1 camp, this was a really dire place that
had an immense feeling of sadness about it. The chamber is directly ahead just
through the door, with the furnaces for burning the bodies to the left.
Ausschwitz 2 - Birkenau
About 2 Km from Auschwitz 1 is the huge death camp of Ausschitz 2 - Birkenau. This camp is 10 times bigger than Auschwitz 1 and is as bleak as hell. Prisoners, mainly Jews were brought here from all over Europe and literally millions of them died here at the hands of the Nazis in the 5 purpose built gas chambers. Having travelled for up to 6 days from all over Europe, packed into cattle trucks and given almost nothing to eat or drink many were dead on arrival here. Those who survived the journey were unloaded, and stood in line waiting to be assessed by an SS doctor. He would either pass them as fit for work and send them to the huts on on the camp where the living conditions were atrocious, or the old or infirm were sent straight to the gas chamber, even the babies and young children!
Aushcwitz 2 Birkenau camp. A lot of the old huts have been demolished or fallen down now,
but it spreads for as far as the eye can see in this shot which shows just one quarter of the camp
Above - the wooden huts that housed some of the prisoners, these were originally stables that housed 52 horses. the Nazis put over 1000 men in each one. There was no solid flooring in them and there were big gaps at the bottom of each wall so when it rained the whole place became a quagmire of mud. The prisoners were led from here each day to carry out 12 hours or more of hard labour then led back to live in appalling conditions. The only clothing they had which was rarely - if ever - washed was a baggy striped pyjama type suit, on their feet they wore wooden clogs. The sanitary arrangements were disgusting, long trenches with concrete seats. About 140 of them served thousands of prisoners
The unloading ramps where the prisoners were taken off the train's
cattle trucks to be assessed by the SS doctors
The sight to instil terror into the heart of any prisoner brought here - Hells Gate, Birkenau.
When we were here it was National Holocaust week in Poland.
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