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17/10/10 – Chetim Slasko – Oscwiecim (Auschwitz)

November 9, 2010
  • 19 km Travelled
  • 17 km/h Average
  • 31km/h Max
  • 1hr 5 minutes spent in the saddle
  • 1628km Travelled so far

We’re awoken in the morning by some reparations taking place to the railway line next to our camp site.  Explorations of the area the night before had revealed large indentations in the railway track so seeing them get fixed was welcome sight.  The machine crawled slowly along the track punching it regularly with a giant flat fist.

Tripod + Remote shutter release = hours of fun

Leave the landscape park at 11am and head on the road to Auschwitz feeling better and more ready for the experience than yesterday but still a sense of unease inside.  The road into Auschwitz is very eery and combined with the drab weather i start to wonder what people that live there feel about their home.

The car park is full of coaches and groups of people, some happily chatting others reflecting and teary.  We lock our bikes to the railing, pass the fast food stand and head in.  In order to visit Auschwitz without a paid tour guide you have to arrive after 3, so we managed to sneak in with a larger group.

I have the slightly thankless task of trying to describe this sombre experience, it’s hard to put into words.  I spent alot of time walking around and trying to imagine what it would have been like, seeing the infrastructure right down to mock ups of the sleeping areas, the standing cells used to exhaust inmates and most prominently the fence that surrounded the camp.  It is difficult to imagine humans inflicting such levels of cruelty on others.  In one room, however, the walls were adorned with pictures of inmates that had performed acts of resistance, drawings done whilst in the camp (Absolutely forbidden by the Nazis) and a map of the routes taken by the few that successfully managed to escape (There were 700 attempts, 400 of which were recaptured).

Hitler was vandalised in almost every picture

To see evidence that people helped each other and tried to keep morale high in what small ways they could, even in times of such hardship, helped to give a small amount of balance to Auschwitz.  We decided not to visit Birkenau camp, with it’s iconographic single-tracked train line.

Pick up a late lunch in Carrefour and consume the usual sandwich lunch this time replete with a baguette each, merci beaucoup.  Seeking refuge away from the cold we sit inside the shopping centre and get some strange looks from avid consumers busying themselves in shoe shops which only seem to sell black leather boots.  The image of two grubby young men eagerly chopping and preparing their lunch in such a pristine yet lifeless location is an odd sight.  So much so we attract the attention of the local security guard who isn’t impressed with our crumb output, “don’t worry love we’ll sort it” accompanied by a smile seems to work and we ensure the place is spotless before heading back out into the cold.

We keep our word

It’s now 4pm and making it to Krakow today looks increasingly unlikely.  So we find a campsite in between a dried up swamp/ lake and someones garden – not one of the best so far.  Head to bed at 6pm feeling full from a late lunch and eager to get up early tomorrow and polish off the last 60km.

I get up at 8pm and make some pasta.

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