Saturday, September 22, 2012

London/Krakow: Days 5-7

On Thursday, I began the day with a run before heading downtown to tour the International Students House, a resource center for people like me studying abroad with a bar, cafeteria, and gym.  With some time between then and my flight for Poland, our group went down to the waterfront and had some lunch underneath the London Eye.  After that, I hopped on the tube to Liverpool station, from there taking a train to London Stanstead airport, where my flight to Krakow would leave from.
The airline I took, Ryanair, is a European carrier that caters to people like me: short, cheap, international flights.  Everything was similar to air travel in the US, except for two differences: you board after walking on the tarmac, and refreshments on board are not free (even water, which was somehow three pounds sterling).  Upon landing in Krakow, I took a bus to the main train station downtown and a short taxi ride to my hostel.  At the hostel, I checked in, booked my tour for Auschwitz the next day, and climbed the stairs to my bed, one of ten in a large room.
Friday dawned bright and cold, and I woke up at 9:30 local time before heading down to the reception and having some breakfast for 5 polish zloty, which is about US $1.50.  After a short wait, I took a bus out to Auschwitz with other residents of the hostel, which took about an hour.
I won't say much about my visit to Auschwitz I and the bigger, more lethal Auschwitz II other than to say that the whole complex is very simple.  Not much is trussed up, the camp is sort of just there.  You walk under the infamous Arbeit Macht Freit sign (although it is no longer the original wrought iron), you walk in to the only intact gas chamber.  You walk through the infamous brick tunnel and on to the same rail tracks that carried convoy after convoy of prisoners to the SS's "selections."  I will say, however, that I am glad I did it.
We took a bus back to Krakow, arriving at the hostel around 7.  After a short break, I walked to the city center with some young English students who I had met to have some dinner.  The city center was beautiful, with a large clock tower and several churches surrounding it.  It got cold very quickly, however, and we regretted our decision to sit outside a little bit.  Still, watching this historic and modern city center on a Friday night was something to behold.  After dinner, we returned to the hostel and went to bed.
I awoke very early on Saturday morning to catch my flight at 10 AM local time.  I over planned, like I always do, which meant that I arrived at the airport nearly two and a half hours before I needed to.  That's the other thing about these European flights: preparations for a 10 AM flight begin at about 9:35.  It's actually quite cool how it all comes together.  Anyway, my flight to London was quite uneventful, and I landed and headed back to my flat on the train.
I went for a run after returning home before doing some homework and having dinner at the pub.  We closed the evening by heading out to downtown for a bit before calling it a night.

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