Krakow and Oswiecem

After visiting our friends in the country we headed to Krakow for a few days.  We (correctly) predicted that the heat wave would not let up any time soon and booked an Airbnb with air conditioning, which seems to be a really rare amenity in Europe.  This turned out to be a great decision.  I think Ian’s favorite part about our apartment, though, was that it came fully equipped:

cocktail set

Bison grass vodka not included.

Krakow is a very charming city that has been widely discovered, and we found it to be really crowded during high summer.  Our favorite spots were a little outside the normal tourist route, such as this Jewish cemetery which seemed to go on forever and was really lush and serene:

jewish cemetery krakow


We also visited the Schindler Museum, which was right around the corner from our apartment so we could get there when it opened.  This museum is located in Schindler’s enamel factory, and is much more about the story of Krakow during the Holocaust than about Schindler himself.  The exhibits use lots of multimedia to try to set the scene and create a more interactive experience.  I think they did a good job, and it is really interesting to focus on the impact of the war in just one city.

schindler museum

Polish military propaganda. It’s unsettling how great graphic design and war often go together.

The Jewish side of my family is not from Poland and we don’t know enough to know for sure which concentration camps they were sent to, but being in Krakow felt like an opportunity to explore how their lives might have been.  It felt important to me to go to Auschwitz, and Ian was really kind to go with me even though he had already been before.  I don’t have a lot to say about our visit to Auschwitz, and I really didn’t feel a need to take pictures while there.  It was very strange to see what a tourist attraction it has become and to watch people pose for photos, smiling, on the train tracks in Birkenau.  I think it’s so good for people to visit and know the history and the tourism seems weird at the same time.  I’m not sure what the solution is.  I did take just one photo, in Birkenau.  There is no way to capture how vast it is.  They estimate that 1.5 million people were killed here.

Coming home and reading Maus helped personalize the visit for me.  I think the combination of seeing the scale of the camps and then learning individual stories really brings it home and I won’t forget what it felt like to stand in that field.