(if you’re reading this, i’m sure you understand the gravity of the horrors that happened at this location. definitely worth a visit, even if you have been to other concentration camps. the sheer scale of echoes of the atrocities are soul-shattering.)
before i get to the pictures, some quickie pointers that may help someone out:
- besides driving yourself or being part of a tour group, your choices for getting to Auschwitz from Krakow are bus, minibus, and train. i got down to the bus terminal early this morning and saw there was a 7:50 minibus that left from bay D8 (downstairs, was told to buy ticket from driver), but it never showed. luckily the regular bus [link to schedules] was leaving at 8:25. you can buy a ticket from the ticket counter or from the driver (currently 14 zł, 28 round-trip). GET THERE EARLY AND WAIT IN LINE. our bus reached standing room only status.
- it took 90 minutes to get there, although i spoke with some people who took another bus and they said it only took an hour. the windows were foggy and it was hella cold (yes, i know it’s winter), so be prepared to sleep or distract yourself some other way.
- for the return, there wasn’t a bus leaving for another hour and a half so i decided to take the train. thank goodness i was able to check the train schedules on my phone. the train is much slower (2 hours), but it’s much more comfortable (i had the entire row to myself, there’s a bathroom, it’s well-heated) and cheaper (9.50 zł each way). the major drawback is that it’s a 15 minute brisk walk to the station from Auschwitz I. if you’re ok with the schedule and longer transit time, i’d recommend the train over the bus any day. (i have heard though, that the train system is highly unreliable, but we were punctual.)
- between the two sites (Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II [Birkenau]), there’s a free shuttle bus that runs every hour (on the half hour from Auschwitz, to the right [if you’re facing it] of the main entrance; on the hour from Birkenau). GET THERE EARLY AND WAIT IN
LINETHE MOB. this is no time to be polite. make your way onto the bus and be prepared to be squished à la Tokyo public transit. luckily it’s only a couple minutes’ ride. i have a hunch the bus keeps making runs until everyone has been taken, but i’m not 100% sure, so get on the first (only) run if you can. if all else fails, cabs are waiting to take you for 15 zł.
- during the off-season (and before 10 during high season) you can get in without going a tour. people have said the tours can be rushed, but i’m sure you learn a lot. i felt like i was ok with just the 5 zł guidebook (available in many languages from the little book kiosk inside the main entrance) and having watched the Oprah and Elie Wiesel episode on YouTube (serious).
- there’s a turnstile to actually enter the main grounds of Auschwitz I, but if you’re going on our own (when you can go on your own) just walk up to it and a guard will let you in.
- there’s a little snack shop at Auschwitz I and some vending machines, as well as a full-on cafeteria-style restaurant to the right of the main entrance. i went to the latter for lunch. mediocre food. i had a breaded chicken breast + salad + mashed potatoes (17 zł) and a bottle of diet coke (5 zł).
- bathrooms are 1 zł; they can make change so no need to carry coins.
- be sure you walk all the way to the far end at Birkenau so you can see the ruins of the gas chamber and incinerators, and to the rebuilt gas chamber and incinerator at Auschwitz (all the way straight on the path once you enter) — it’s not immediately clear that they’re there if you don’t know they exist.
and now, the pictures: