Visiting Auschwitz

Old Jan 26th, 2004, 10:55 AM
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Visiting Auschwitz

A group of friends and I are traveling to Krakow this spring and are trying to decide on transportation from Vienna to Krakow. We would like to visit Auschwitz while in Krakow, and are trying to determine if there is a way to get there (regular bus, tours, etc) or should we rent a car so as to be able to drive there ourselves. Does anyone have any idea about this? Thanks in advance.
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Old Jan 26th, 2004, 11:06 AM
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I am not a fan of organized tours and normally avoid them at all costs. When in Krakow we were exploring the options as you are. We talked with a woman who got stuck at Auschwitz over night because the last train of the day was cancelled or some such thing.
The hotel highly recommended a "tour" by bus. It was wonderful. There were none of the usual "gift shopping" stops. On the bus a guide gave us a lot of historical background. Once at Auschwitz our arrival was timed for seeing a film, then we were taken by a local guide through the place. Our bus also took us to nearby Birkenau.
Our tour allowed us plenty of free time to go off on our own or just be alone to reflect.

It was a very powerful day, and this tour was done with the greatest skill and dignity. The bus was incredibly quiet going back to Krakow. I wouldn't have wanted to be driving or making my own way back. This is one case where I highly recommend you do an organized "package".
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Old Jan 26th, 2004, 12:10 PM
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Patrick, that's very good advise. Was the tour by bus offered by the hotel, or how did you arrange it?
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Old Jan 26th, 2004, 02:04 PM
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There are buses and trains that go from Krakow to Auschwitz, so you can do it on your own that way.

We were in Krakow in November a few years ago, so the trains/buses were running much less frequently than they do at other times. We were able to arrange for a driver through our hotel. He drove us to Auschwitz and Birkenau and waited while we visited. I wasn't sure I wanted to be part of a tour because I wasn't sure how I'd react emotionally. We bought a book at the Visitors' Center and did the self-guided tour, but I suspect that Patrick may have learned more than I did.

Do be sure to include Birkenau in your visit. It's just a mile or so from Auschwitz. It's a difficult and emotional visit.
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Old Jan 26th, 2004, 04:59 PM
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We visited Auschwitz in January a few years ago from Krakow. We went from the local bus station and it was something like 1-2 GBP return! The journey there was fine and we also got shown in to watch the film and then had a guided tour by a local guide with maybe ten other people. I don't remember getting a choice of doing it by ourselves, but there is no doubt you learn much more from having a guide.
When we had finished, our guide joined us all in getting one of the several taxis waiting outside to go on to Birkenau.

However, we did have a problem getting back to Krakow as several of us waited for a long time at the bus stop, and eventually got worried about whether a bus would turn up at all.
A large taxi (people carrier sort of vehicle) pulled up and offered to take us back. We agreed a price, but by the time we got to Krakow the driver had decided he hadn't charged enough and put the price way up.
It was still reasonable I suppose for the other two single people with us, but as there was me,my husband and daughter, we ended up paying the most. I think we ended up paying about 20-25 GBP. Not a lot of money I know, but we did feel ripped off!

Think I would go with a tour next time.
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Old Jan 26th, 2004, 05:06 PM
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Sorry, I wish I knew the name of the tour company that did that tour. Our hotel, Francuski, booked it for us. But I saw other tour companies and they seemed to be similar. I suspect that most of the tours are done with a great deal of sensitivity and respect. I must say, just typing that first response today left me in tears. It is hard to think of any other place in the world that left me so emotionally drained -- although the US cemetery in Normandy was not far behind, yet in a totally different way.
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Old Jan 26th, 2004, 05:57 PM
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2nd attempt to reply.

I'm sure I still have some leaflets on trips from the tourist office, will have a look tomorrow.

Patrick, I know what you mean. I was thinking about our visit to Auschwitz last night. We were watching a programme about the Warsaw Ghetto and the Uprising. Seeing all the places we had visited brought it all back to me, and I couldn't stop crying.
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Old Jan 26th, 2004, 06:44 PM
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We went in April 2002. We tried to catch the bus at the main terminal but were too late. The woman employee pointed out to where another bus would be leaving (on the other side of the main train terminal).

I don't recall ther cost but it was great to ride with the locals. It dropped us off in front of the Camp. We joined a tour given in English. ($5US) Overwhelming as others have mentioned.

We had no problem returning. The bus came across the street from where we were left off. Possibly our luck is we are early risers and weren't left stranded by a potential last bus.

Another location -especially if over Easter - is to go to Kalmeria Debrezdobria (sp). It's about 30 km sw of Krakow and it's know for it's old monastery and Passion PLay. It took 45 minutes to arrive and what seemed like another 45 to climb the hill. Awesome experience during this time.
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Old Jan 26th, 2004, 06:46 PM
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The experience of visiting never leaves you. For a good two years after my visit, I would think of Birkenau every night as I was falling asleep. That's faded a bit with time, but there's no doubt that being there has a profound and long-lasting effect.
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Old Jan 26th, 2004, 08:20 PM
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I booked the Krakow City Tour to Auschwitz/Birkenau at my hotel. I caught the bus at one of the pick-up points. The guide was a law student and talked a little on the bus and gave the Birkenau tour. At Auschwitz we had a regular guide there. It was handled very well and I would recommend it. It is very powerful.
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Old Jan 27th, 2004, 12:19 PM
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Thank you all very much. I have found a recommended person who says he will provide a bus for our group for the day, for $190 USD, and give a tour for $95 USD, for 12 people. After reading these replies, I think we'd be better off waiting until we get there and find an alternate way.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2004, 01:19 PM
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You definitly better off getting a transportation once in Krakow, even renting a van in Krakow would be much cheaper then $190! As for guides ... Ask for one in Auschwitz. With group rate of a ticket you will get a local guide that speaks many of the languages... and again for less then $90...
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Old Feb 22nd, 2004, 08:14 PM
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Auschwitz and Birkanau are not to be missed. It is an incredible emotional experience and as one of the above posters mentioned, will stay with you for a long time. Also wander around the old city where Schindlers list was filmed. There is a bookstore at the square that can sell you a map of Plazow, the Nazi Kommandant's house and Schindlers Factory Building (a little hard to find).
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