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August 6th, 2022

Poland, officially the Republic of Poland has a population of over 38 million and is the fifth-most populous member of the EU.  Warsaw is the nation’s capital and largest city. The country is bordered by Lithuania and Russia (Kaliningrad) to the northeast, Belarus and Ukraine to the east, Slovakia and the Czech Republic to the south and Germany to the west. Poland also shares maritime boundaries with Sweden and Denmark.  Poland is a founding member state of the UN, as well as a member of the WTO, NATO, and the EU.

The history of human presence in Poland spans thousands of years. It was the Polans who dominated the region and gave the country its name. The establishment of Polish statehood can be traced to 966, when the pagan ruler of a realm coextensive with the territory of present-day Poland embraced Christianity and converted to Catholicism. The Kingdom of Poland was founded in 1025 and in 1569 cemented its longstanding association with Lithuania by signing the Union of Lublin. The latter led to the forming of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, one of the largest and most populous nations of 16th and 17th-century Europe, with a uniquely liberal political system that adopted Europe’s first modern constitution in 1791.

At the end of the prosperous Polish Golden Age, the country was partitioned by neighbouring states at the end of the 18th century. It regained its independence  in 1918 with the Treaty of Versailles, and the victory in the Polish-Soviet War restored its key role in European politics.

In September 1939, the German-Soviet invasion of Poland marked the beginning of WWII, which resulted in the Holocaust and millions of Polish casualties.   Of all of the countries in WWII, Poland lost the highest percentage of its citizens: around 6 million perished – more than one-sixth of Poland’s pre-war population – half of them were Polish Jews. About 90% of deaths were non-military in nature.

After WWII, Poland suffered under the Russian communist regime.  In 1989, notably through the emergence and contributions of the Solidarity movement, the communist government was dissolved and Poland re-established itself as a democratic republic. Lech Walesa, a Solidarity candidate, eventually won the presidency in 1990.  The Solidarity movement heralded the collapse of communist regimes and parties across Europe. 

Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine this past year has led to over 5 million Ukrainian refugees arriving in Poland.

The white on the flag represents purity and the red symbolizes love.  Legend has it that the first settlers of Poland saw a white eagle land on in front of a red sunset and used that as sign that they should settle in this land.

Currency: PLN known as the” zloty” – worth about 22 cents USD

Diesel – about 7 zlotys a liter which is about $6.12 USD a gallon

Europe license plate letters:  PL

Beer: Zywiec

We crossed into Poland, again with no fanfare, and this was the only evidence we’d crossed the border as we continue to be in the Schengen region.

Our clocks returned to central European time so we gained an hour today.  The nights are continuing to get longer as we move further south and sleeping is easier with more darkness.

However, right after we crossed, we saw a car parked in the bush and it looked like a police vehicle watching us (and we assume anyone crossing the border) – it was a border control vehicle but they left us alone.

We had a free small town “aire” in mind to spend the night and there was plenty of room for us to fit.  The place offered power, had bathrooms and free really good Wi-Fi!  It was on a small lake with a big water slide.  It wasn’t that big but there was a big grassy area for tents and a covered area for cooking and eating.  There were already 3 other RV’s there (one Polish, one Swiss and a French one) as well as two tents across the way.  (By morning there were 3 other RV’s.)

We got settled and had a quiet afternoon and night.  By dinner time the sun was back out and it was much cooler than the day before; it actually dropped into the single digits C over night so quite comfy for sleeping.

Sunday morning we were on the road by 8 (felt like 9 to us due to the dropping of an hour when we crossed the border) and began the drive to the first city we wanted to see: Gdansk.   Just as we were leaving we see border patrol come into the campground:

We did not go all the way to Gdanks though; we stopped for brekkie at Mickey D’s before 10am (cost us less than $10) and then made our way to a rest area on the highway that offered RV services (dumping, water and cold showers  – we passed on the latter!). Doug had a few repairs to work on (the outside cubby continues to leak in the rain; the defrost does not seem to be blowing on the windshield for some reason and we are getting water up through the floor boards right near the step – probably caused by the damage that tire blow caused on that side of the Minou) and we did our steps walking in the large truck parking area.  You make do with what you got, right?   It was actually quite surprising how quiet the lot got around 5pm and then all night – even though big trucks park here.

Monday morning, the plan was to try and get a few vehicle related issues dealt with here in Poland where things are supposed to be cheaper (we’ve already experienced that with petrol prices).  After dumping our cassette at the rest area and learning water cost coins but no idea how many so rather than try, Fran found a free place at a gas station down the highway and that worked.

Number one on our list today was air conditioning and number two an RV wash. The vehicle part of the rig was supposed to have it but we’ve never been able to get it to work.  We pulled into a place in Elblag and went to the first place where the mechanic spoke some English and his younger employee spoke more.  He topped up the Freon gas and lo and behold we had AC although he said if we have a leak, it may not last so he added a colour to the gas and we’ll be able to tell if it leaks.  He claimed he couldn’t help us with the other issues we wanted looked at so we moved on.

The second mechanic we found on Google didn’t exist so we tried the third but there was a gas station with a good price for diesel and LPG so we filled up the tank and the propane tanks. The last mechanic was a Bosch Service centre and this fellow looked at our daytime running lights issue.  Daytime running lights are required in the EU (we discovered in Norway!) and we didn’t seem to be able to get them to work.  This mechanic, who spoke good English, fiddled a bit and then “jerry rigged” a wire to the ignition and that will make the lights come on when the engine comes on – that works.  He said he could help with our defroster issue but that it was a big job and we’d have to come back another day.

The issue here is that no matter what setting you put the directional part of the fan unit, it will not come out the defroster part onto the windshield.  So we decided to make do; it hasn’t worked since we got the rig we think so we’ll sell it the same way down the road.

He did tell us where we could find a self-service car wash and so we went there, parked in the slot and had breakfast before tackling the washing.  So nice to have the vehicle free of dust again.

The highways here are the most sophisticated we’ve come across since returning to mainland Europe; they all feel new and there are plenty of rest areas both with and without gas stations.

So we managed to get four things done on our list and we were happy to call it a day and go visit something. We continued northwest to Malbork to visit the largest brick castle in the world. Much of it was destroyed in WWII:

Fran had found a parking lot that was cheap to not only park to visit the castle but free after 5 until 8am to spend the night.

But it’s been restored.  You pay an entry fee that includes an audio guide with GPS in it that walks you through the grounds (though not without issues!) and we enjoyed our tour.  You are given a free audio guide in the language of your choice and it’s GPS operated so it knows where you are and what to tell you.  It got a little confused a couple of times but we got the gist.  It’s quite a large castle obviously and the tour does not take you inside all the rooms (which we were quite happy with) but a lot of architecture is pointed out and the stories behind certain facets of the castle.

The Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork is a 13th-century Teutonic castle and fortress located near the town of Malbork, Poland. It is the largest castle in the world measured by land area and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It was originally constructed by the Teutonic Knights, a German Catholic religious order of crusaders, in a form of an Ordensburg fortress. The Order named it Marienburg in honour of Mary, mother of Jesus. In 1457, during the Thirteen Years’ War, it was sold by Bohemian mercenaries to King Casimir IV of Poland in lieu of indemnities and it then served as one of several Polish royal residences and the seat of Polish offices and institutions, interrupted by several years of Swedish occupation, fulfilling this function until the First Partition of Poland in 1772. From then on the castle was under German rule for over 170 years until 1945, albeit largely falling into disrepair as military technological advances rendered the castle a mere historical point of interest. The construction period is a point of debate, however, most historians generally accept the 132 years between 1274-1406 as the construction time.

The castle is a classic example of a medieval fortress and, on its completion in 1406, was the world’s largest brick castle. UNESCO designated the “Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork” and the Malbork Castle Museum a World Heritage Site in December 1997. It is one of two World Heritage Sites in the region (north-central Poland), together with the “Medieval Town of Toruń”, which was founded in 1231.

Malbork Castle is also one of Poland’s official national Historic Monumens as designated on 16 September 1994. Its listing is maintained by the National Heritage Board of Poland.

At the conclusion of the war, the city of Malbork and the castle became again part of Poland. The castle has been mostly reconstructed, with restoration ongoing since 1962 following a fire in 1959 which caused further damage. A significant recent restorative effort was of the main church in the castle (i.e., The Blessed Virgin Mary Church). After being restored just before World War II and then destroyed in battle, it was in a state of disrepair until a new restoration was completed in April 2016. In 1961 the Castle Museum was founded and in 1965 an amber exhibition was opened. Malbork Castle remains the largest brick complex in Poland.

You can see a photo of a fresco from the castle above.

Upon exiting the grounds we found an outdoor beer garden/restaurant and had an early happy hour enjoying a local draft beer before returning to Minou and having a quiet night.

As we had to leave the lot by 8 in order to avoid paying again and as we exited the city, we got river views of the castle:

We made our way the 40km / 25 mi to the city of Gdansk near but not quite on the Baltic Sea.  We thought we’d hit some rush hour traffic but did not and upon finding the spot where we would park outside the old part of the city, actually found a spot.  Doug researched online for some places where we might get some things done: dentist for a cleaning, cobbler to repair our backpacks, optician for Fran to try and get new glasses and auto part stores.

We got lucky with the first dentist we checked out and got appointments for cleanings tomorrow.  The cobbler was a bust (no such business where Google said) and the optician did not open until 11!  So we wandered towards our first sight to see and enroute found a mall with both a cobbler and an optician.  The cobbler said he couldn’t repair our bags and the tailor across the way also said no.  The optical place could make Fran’s glasses but we’d have to wait two weeks for them.  So she’ll probably wait until Croatia or maybe Mexico to get that done.

So chores done as much as we could and we made our way to the Solidarity Museum.  Enroute we passed the Gdansk train station and Central Hotel – beautiful brick buildings:

Out front of the museum there is a large monument to those who died during the strikes.

Unfortunately all the signboards outside were only in Polish.  After some confusion we found the entrance to the museum and after a long wait, got tickets and audio guides.  The audio guide tour takes about 90 minutes and then we went into the museum shop to get our Poland souvenir – something that represented the solidarity movement would work and we did find something.

Eastern Europe after the war:

By the 1990’s:

Now it was after 11 and we were getting hungry.  As we made our way to the river we looked for places to eat but did not find anything until after we began walking along the river canal.  Our first sight was the Zuraw crane which is a medieval port crane and the oldest surviving crane in Europe.

And then as we walked along with all the other tourists (which we hate) we saw the other side of the canal was quieter and less busy but still had restaurants, had a view of this side of the canal with all the old buildings and was in the shade!

It was not hot out but the sun was getting warmer as the day progressed.  We found a restaurant in front of the Radisson hotel that had outside tables and bonus, one out front was open.  We enjoyed a nice filling lunch (that neither of us could finish) while enjoying the passer bys, the buildings and the large “Black Pearl” ship passing by.

After lunch we crossed the “floating/revolving bridge”; when we first walked by this we couldn’t figure ot what it was; a weir or mooring?  While eating lunch we saw people crossing a bridge we didn’t remember seeing before realizing it was that “unknown thing” in the water; it had turned 90º and you could walk across!

We made our way to the “Green Gate”

and then wandered very slowly up Long Street admiring the architecture.  The street only about four blocks long but it took us about a half hour.

We saw the Neptune Fountain:

The Artus Court building

The old town hall:

And so much more:

Before arriving at the Golden Gate at the other end:

Even outside the area there were interesting buildings as we returned to the parking lot:

Then we began to see more modern buildings:

It was on the warmer side today and quite sunny but cooled off reasonably overnight.

So Wednesday morning we both had our teeth cleaned and Fran got a haircut.  Teeth cleaning cost us $110 for us both and it was a really good job.  Fran’s hair including wash and blow dry was about $20.   We had some brunch and then drove to the nearby seaside resort town of Sopot – what a mistake!  This place is very touristy and it was way overcrowded.  We checked out the beach (again on the Baltic) and it was lovely sand once again but a strong breeze although it was super sunny.

It was warmer here than our last time on the sea but still not hot enough to consider going into the sea!   We considered sitting on the beach for awhile but with no shade it wasn’t an appealing thought and it was less appealing by the numbers of people – now where could you get a spot away from anyone.  So we opted to walk into the town and at least see it.  It wasn’t much to write home about; lots of hotels, kiosks and restaurants.

The one “attraction” there is to see is the “Crooked House” but it was so old looking and blocked by two large trees.

We got sick and tired of the all the people quickly and decided to make some miles inland.  Fran found a rest area about 80 km / 50 mi away and we returned to our vehicle and left Sopot.  That was excruciatingly slow due to the single lane road and a traffic light right before the freeway!  About 10km down the highway we hit a toll booth (turns out we have a toll road all the way to Torun so we’ll be paying that tomorrow).  But we made it and got parked in a corner of the rest area and there was bathrooms, a water tap and free (but sometimes frustrating) Wi-Fi.

Come morning the sun was still shining and Doug got us moved into a better spot so that he could get underneath Minou to do some caulking (still trying to stop water from getting into the outside storage bin).  This got done faster than expected and the Wi-Fi was no longer working so we hit the road.  Just before reaching the city of Torun, we exited the toll highway (paying about $6 for about 150 km / xx miles! Not bad for great roads.

We stopped for diesel and then made our way to a sailing/rowing club that allows RV’s to park in their fenced bricked lot.  No one was around to “check” us in but a man told us in broken English that the reception opened at 2 – it’s now barely 11 so we hooked up to power, locked up and walked into the old town of the city.  They have bathrooms for our use and there are supposed to be showers  you can pay for.

Toruń is one of the few towns in Poland that was not destroyed at all in WWII.

Toruń is a historical city on the Vistula River in north-central Poland and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It is one of the oldest cities in Poland; it was first settled in the 8th century and in 1233 was expanded by the Teutonic Knights.  In the Early Modern period, Toruń was a royal city of Poland and one of Poland’s four largest cities. With the partitions of Poland in the late 18th century, it became part of Prussia, then of the short-lived Duchy of Warsaw, serving as the temporary Polish capital in 1809, then again of Prussia, of the German Empire and, after World War I, of the reborn Polish Republic. During the Second World War, Toruń was spared bombing and destruction; its Old Town and iconic central marketplace have been entirely preserved.

Toruń is renowned for its Museum of Gingerbread – the gingerbread-baking tradition dates back nearly a millennium – as well as for its large Cathedral.

We walked the 800m / 2624’ towards the city gates and were pleased to see how many streets there were to walk around and enjoy the architecture.

We saw the outside of the home where it is believed Nicholas Copernicus was born and grew up in.

We walked through another gate to see the Leaning tower:

We also saw the Rafter’s Clock which is said to have been made in 1433.  Its hour hand is called “the Finger of God” by the locals.  It bears a mark where it was hit by a cannon ball in 1703 by the Swedes when they invaded.

And then along the river a bit but there was a lot of construction so we took no photos.  It was warm maybe 24C / 76F but not unbearable although as usual we stuck to the shady side of the streets!

Fran wanted to visit the museum about the thing this town is famous for: gingerbread!  They have been making this tasty treat since the middle and this town is known for its gingerbread – dates back to the middle ages. The cookies were originally baked in intricately carved wooden molds but today are more often city into rounds or various shapes which can be seasonal.  The bakers belong to a guild and no others could bake this treat.

All her life, Fran thought gingerbread was made with molasses, but nope, not here in Poland – they use honey and beetroot syrup!  They gave us a free sample at the end of our tour and it was soft and yummy, not crispy at all.

And then of course we had to buy some and there are lots of “pierniki” shops to choose from.

These are the “goodies” we bought:

Here’s a recipe straight from the Museum: 

For the Cookies:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda, dissolved in 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup honey
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour

For the Chocolate Glaze (Optional):

  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon water


  1. Gather the ingredients.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with sugar until light and lemon-colored.
  3. Add the spices, baking soda-water mixture, and honey. Mix well.
  4. Add flour gradually and mix until a stiff dough forms. Shape into a ball, wrap in plastic, and let it rest for 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 400 F. On parchment paper cut to fit your baking pans, roll the dough to 1/4-inch thickness.
  6. Cut into your desired shape. Lift the parchment paper by opposite corners and place on the baking pans.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly brown around the edges. Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container. It’s best to ice or glazes these cookies right before serving.
  8. Gather the ingredients for the glaze, if making.
  9. Combine all the ingredients in a microwaveable bowl and nuke for 20 seconds at a time until almost completely melted. Stir until smooth. Use immediately to decorate the cookies.
  10. Serve and enjoy!

Let us know if you try this as we have no oven so we can’t!

It was a pleasant stroll and we returned to Minou after buying a pretzel each for a snack.  Around 3:30 someone was finally at reception and we learned showers cost about $4 each extra and as did power (although we’d already used some!) so we just paid to park and unplugged.   We will shower and fill our tank before leaving.

We had already decided that for dinner we should enjoy some Polish cuisine: pierogis and around 5:30 made our way back into town for dinner.   Doug googled “the best pierogis in town” and came up with a restaurant that we were very happy with.  They offered a mixed platter of mini pierogis so we were able to try 3 baked ones and 4 boiled/fried ones and we got an order of potato pancakes.

We were glad we didn’t order dessert ones as well as it was quite a filling meal (yes there are dessert perogies too).

We returned to Minou and decided we’d watch “Schindler’s List” as we are headed toward Krakow in the next couple of days and want to visit the factory that is still there as a museum.  Well around 9pm we began to hear thumping music nearby; it turns out there is a bar/disco about 500m away and it went on and on and on till nearly 3am!  If there music paused, we could hear people yelling and screaming and there was more of the latter after the bar shut down.  It was not a good night for sleeping; this places loses 2 stars in our review for that reason; maybe earlier in the week it might be quieter but that didn’t help us.

After hot showers in the morning and filling our tank, we set out towards Wroclaw – we have decided to skip Warsaw as it’s a huge city with not a great deal that we were interested in – debating whether to drive the 360 km / 232 mi in one day or two as we drove.  After deciding to visit Auschwitz on Sunday instead on Monday (it’s Doug’s birthday so he’d rather not do such a somber thing that day) we figured Saturday afternoon could work IF we went all the way to Wroclaw today.

But since it’s such a long way, Fran looked at our route to see if there was anything interesting we could visit to break up the drive.  In Poznan, they have a croissant museum and a billy goat clock on their town hall.  This looked interesting.

So we agreed it was a worthy detour as we’d never seen a clock that had Billy goats butting heads and maybe a trip to the croissant museum might be interesting (and yummy!).  Upon arriving in town, we started to look for parking and found some less than one kilometre from the main square .  It was only 10:30ish so we parked and had breakfast before walking over to explore a bit.  Seems a good chunk of the old town has its streets ripped up for construction and this included all around the main square.  We found the town hall and then we wanted to find the croissant museum to check it out.  Turns out you can only visit with a “live” tour (as they bake the croissants right then and there) and there is only one English tour a day at two o’clock.  They said we couldn’t visit the place without a live tour so we’re passing.

We wandered some of the side streets enjoying the architecture and taking photos; Doug suggested we get back to the town hall about 30 minutes before noon (the only time the goats come out to play) so that we could get a good spot.  Due to the construction, space was limited and although we didn’t see a lot of people milling around (unlike Gdansk and Torun) we suspected they might come out of the woodwork for noon.  Turns out we were right so we were lucky to get a spot directly in front.  The clocks and the doors are up high anyway but a front view is best.


The town hall building dates back to the 13th century when its construction began after the founding of the city of Poznan in 1253. This building has undergone a number of reconstructions over the centuries, but today the building stands beautifully in the center of the city.

In the mid-16th century, after a huge fire which ended up destroying the Town Hall building, the mayor ordered the Town Hall to be rebuilt with a special clock added to the front. The town council held a large party to celebrate the opening of the new building. They invited many guests from the region and planned an elaborate dinner.

There was a young cook named Pietrek who was placed in charge of the main dish – venison leg. While the meat was cooking, Pietrek took a break to step out and have a look at the new clock on the Town Hall building. When he returned to his roast, he discovered that the meat had fallen into the fire, burned, and was completely inedible!

The young cook was desperate. There was no more venison to be found in the kitchen, so he took off in search of something to use as a replacement. He ran to a nearby field where many people kept their animals. Here, Pietrek stole two billy goats and brought them to the Town Hall kitchen.

Once they arrived in the kitchen, the goats escaped from Pietrek and took off in the direction of the stairs and reappeared from the Town Hall turret. On the market square below, many important guests were gathered to celebrate the festivities. All of a sudden, they looked up at the top of the Town Hall to witness the two billy goats fighting and butting heads. Everyone in attendance, including the mayor, found this event hilarious!

Thankfully, mayor ended up pardoning Pietrek. He found the whole ordeal so humorous, that he asked that a pair of goats be added to the clock (similar to a cuckoo clock). The mechanism on the clock was designed to activate everyday so at noon, the two goats appear and butt heads 12 times to mark the mid-day hour. At noon, trumpeter appears at the top of the Town Hall and plays a bugle call, which is when the two goats appear!

In 1675, the tower was badly damaged and the goats had a long break until 1913, when they were restored to the clock.

Just as it was finishing we began to find our way out of the main area (sidewalks were tiny due to entire streets being torn up) and we returned to Minou to continue our drive to Wroclaw.

We arrived in the city about 3pm and after a bit of a struggle, find parking about 700 m / 2300‘ away from the main square.  The two things we wanted to visit were the town square (supposed to be one of the biggest in all of Europe) and to see the dwarf statues scattered around the city.

Enroute to the square we found our first dwarf.

They are about 30cm / one foot tall and made of bronze.  Each one is entirely different and we saw about a dozen of the 400+ there are throughout Wroclaw (remember don’t say it how it spelled!).  The first dwarf appeared on the streets of the city in 2001.  Why dwarves you ask?  Dwarves are the legacy of the Orange Alternative, an underground movement that was fighting with the system in the 1980’s using methods which many considered funny.

Well the square did not disappoint!  IT was ginormous!  It’s got a block of buildings in the middle with a pathway through them which makes it even bigger and impossible to get a photo of the entire thing.  And to top that off, on one corner there is an adjoining plaza about the size of most cities’ regular town squares!

We strolled this for about 45 minutes taking all the buildings, many colourfully painted and beautifully designed with balconies, sculpture, windows and various rooflines all attached together without being chaotic.

Sidebar:  at this point we’d like to discuss the Polish language.  Since we are only here about a week, we didn’t take any time to learn any of the language except “thank you” which is spelled like this: “dziekuje” but pronounced like this: “jengkuya”.  So can you guess how to pronounce Wroclaw?  Not “row claw” at all but “Vrots wav”!  What!?!?!  We see the names of places on signs with accents all over just vowels but on or under “z’s” and “c’s” and “n’s”.  Very mind boggling as our brains just cannot process how to pronounce these words.  Can’t imagine learning how to spell!

About 4:30 we walked back to our home as Fran had found a free park parking area just outside the city limits that looked far enough from the highway and any possible discotheque to be quiet.  There were two lots here and we parked in the further second one that was almost empty and backed onto the woods and some homes.

It was quite warm today: upper 20’s / low 80’s but didn’t reach the 34C / 93F that Poznan was expected to get and we felt being outside the city, would be a tad cooler.

We had a nice quiet, dark night and awoke to discover it must have rained overnight as the windows and the ground were wet.  Well it was forecasted so not a surprise.

Today will be a somber day; we are driving to Oswiecim to visit Auschwitz.  Yesterday Fran made an online reservation for tickets for a tour with an “educator”.   Over the past two nights we finished watching the very sad “Schindler’s List” and are as prepared as we can be to see what remains of these horrific parts of history.

There was a supermarket near our camp spot so we stocked up on produce and bread before leaving Wroclaw.  Today Minou hit the 100,000 km mark.

It rained on and off the entire drive and as our tour is not until 3pm we made a stop at a local hardware store for a few items before finding parking.  The large free lot has construction going on so there are several pay lots near the site.  Fran however had found a spot with free parking where it seems we can spend the night a little further away but still walking distance so we headed there and had brunch.

You are supposed to arrive 30 minutes before your time and the ticket includes both the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps.  Your ticket includes an “educator guide” and is about 3.5 hours.  We arrived at the museum, got checked in, went through security and received a headset and controller before entering a “cinema” to watch a short film (you hear the soundtrack through your headset which you plug into the armrest of your seat so you can choose your own language.  Upon exiting the building after the film, we met up with 3pm group.

The groups are a maximum size of 25 and it’s offered in over a dozen languages.  You wear your headset the entire tour and the guide speaks into a microphone so you can hear wherever you are.  This is a great idea and really limits the amount of talking amoung the guests (which is a place like this, you want things to remain somber and quiet).

The tour took us through about four of the buildings at Auschwitz where we saw many photographs, rooms and learned the history of this terrible time in WWII.

There were rooms full of human hair, shoes, eye glasses and suitcases left by the victims most of whom were unaware they were coming here to die.  It was quite emotional and heart wrenching.  We were shown where prisoners were held in awful conditions with little air and where others were executed.  Near the end of this part of the tour the skies opened and it rained for a bit (we had rain jackets) but after five minutes we were going into another building and by the time we came out, it had stopped.

After about 90 minutes we got a 25 minute break before boarding a shuttle bus over to Birkenau which is 3.5 km away.  This camp is so much larger and not all of it remains as many of the barracks were wooden and were burned to the ground just before the war ended.

After seeing the first part of Birkenau, we felt we’d taken in enough and left our group who were headed to the crematoriums and caught the shuttle back so we could then return to Minou.  We naturally did not take a great deal of photos but here are a few from Birkenau as we were only outside there.

It is nice to see how many people still come here to see his place and honour the memory of those who died here.  We must never let this piece of history be repeated.

It rained quite hard early in the evening and that cooled things off a bit as it was still rather warm.  Overnight we had a few sprinkles and it continued to sprinkle on and off on our drive to Krakow during which we had to pay some tolls.

We are now at the 49th parallel!  Long way from 71 up at Nordkapp!

This will be our last large Polish city.  As there didn’t seem to be any suitable parking places where we might spend a quiet night, we opted to park south of the city at a lake and we took an Uber into the city.  We met a German family at the parking area whom had stayed the night before and said it was quite safe and quiet.  They were going out for the day but returning this evening.

The sky was still overcast but it had stopped raining and the forecast looked like it would improve as the day progressed.  Our first spot to see was the Krakow square which was rather large but not as beautiful as the one we’d just seen a couple of days ago in Wroclaw.  There is a large building in the centre called the Cloth Hall which houses kiosks on the ground floor and an art museum upstairs.  On one side of the building there are more kiosks outside and the bell tower from the former town hall that was located here and on the other is a large statue and a double steepled church.

We strolled around the square and then had some breakfast before heading south towards Minou to see the former Schindler’s factory which it turns out is now a museum (which we only discovered cone we were inside and nearly through the entire place.  It has 3 floors of exhibitions around the Krakow Ghetto and the Jews and Poles of the times.  It was WAY too much for us after what we’d seen yesterday so we after the first floor, skimmed through a great deal of it.

There was a film where they some of the employees who were still alive talking about the time they spent working in the factory:

There was a room with Oskar Schindler’s desk and a huge glass case full of pots etc. that would have been made in the factory and inside were the names of the people he saved that were on the “list”.

Next we wanted to see a few spots in the former Ghetto area and contemplated taking one of the many electric golf cart tours but we saved $60 by spending $4 on a brochure about the Ghetto with a map and information in it.

We saw:

Main square with the memorial chairs on it:

The former police station:

The Eagle Pharmacy Building:

The owner of this pharmacy was the only gentile who lived in the Ghetto as a permanent resident and the pharmacy was ordered to be opened day and night.  The pharmacy had two entrances and was often a place of refuge during raids.  In a special cabinet, ten Torahs were hidden and saved from destruction.

The buildings that housed hospitals:

The building that housed a daycare centre:

And two remaining sections of the ghetto walls:

We then completed getting our steps by walking back to Minou.  It was quite humid this afternoon and we were thankful for the breeze off the lake.  We spent some time route planning as it appears we will be leaving Poland in the next day or so.

Later that afternoon, we had our monthly Kitojo Zoom meeting and then a Skype video call with the kids as tomorrow is Doug’s birthday!

We awoke Monday morning to a damp morning and after Doug went for a run we packed up and drove towards the Slovakian border.  We have noticed that many of the bridges over the highways, and some are just pedestrian bridges, are quite unique looking:

Here are two examples:

The countryside has become more hilly and we drove through an area that is a ski resort in winter and full of tourists in summer! This was the last town before the border so we spent out last zlotys on gas.

We could see the mountains of Slovakia up ahead.