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My Europe waka – Krakow.

On to the last leg of my European jaunt. To Krakow, Poland.

If this is the first post you are reading about my European jaunt, it might be worthwhile to read why I embarked on this 9-day, 5-city tour. You’ll find that here. You may then follow up with accounts of my trips to Amsterdam, Berlin, Munich and Budapest. 

Done with Budapest, I chose to take a bus to Vienna, spend a couple of hours in the city, and then take a sleeper train to Krakow. By the way, if you want to do extended rail travel in Europe, or just rail travel within Europe, you’ve got to hook up with ‘The Man in Seat 61’ at https://www.seat61.com. Invaluable rail travel resource.

So, why did I choose to detour via Vienna? 

Because I can! Stop asking silly questions!

But really, Budapest to Vienna by bus is just three hours. I thought I might hop over to have a look at the city. After all, this was the city of Mozart, Beethoven and Freud.

And the Kasekrainer. 

That is a Kasekrainer.

A large sausage filled with cheese. When grilled, the cheese melts deliciously and with it my resolve to shun cholesterol. It is usually served with bread, mustard and/or ketchup.  

Count your blessings, people. Only the living eat. 

Shonbrunn Palace, Vienna.

Right. Krakow.

I took the Euronight sleeper train called the Chopin from Vienna Hbf to Krakow Glowny station. The train left Vienna at about 22:10pm and we arrived Krakow at about 6:20am. Fall fast asleep and you will find yourself in Warsaw three hours later. 

I’d book a two-bed deluxe cabin but this time I was lucky to have the whole cabin to myself. The cabin had its own wash basin, wardrobe, TV and complementary snacks and juices. My one-bunk Hilton. 

Also this time, there was no border patrol knocking on my door. However, the train conductor also advised me to bolt the door while I was in. 

Sigh. 

Why am I heading to Krakow anyway? 

Auschwitz-Birkenau.

 

Gate into camp. The Nazi motto “Arbeit Macht Frei” means “work sets you free.”

The largest extermination camp the Nazis built.

1 million Jews were gassed to death there in 3 years. 

Mothers.

Children.

The elderly.

The weak.

Check out the BBC drone shot of Auschwitz-Birkenau to grasp the monstrosity of the death camp:

Auschwitz was also where Josef Mengele, the “Angel of Death,” conducted genetic experiments on inmates. Without regard for their safety, health, physical or emotional suffering.

Mengele was particularly fond of identical twins. Between 1943 and 1944, he performed experiments on nearly 1,500 sets of imprisoned twins at Auschwitz. Only 200 of those twins survived the experiments. Sometimes he would sew two twins together to see if he could create conjoined twins. Or he would inject different dyes into their eyes to see if the eyes would change colour.

That Josef Mengele was never caught and never faced trial is a travesty of justice. Bugger died in 1979 from a stroke while swimming in Brazil.

Shame on you, Mossad!

If there was one Nazi you needed to catch, it was Josef Mengele!

I didn’t hear that? You tried? Almost bagged him?

“Almost” was the nickname of a guy in Apocalypto!

Whatever.

What were my impressions of Krakow? 

Well, call it the Jide Tingle (‘Peter Tingle’, anyone?), but I didn’t get the feeling I was welcomed here. I’ll share three encounters.

I disembarked from the train. I hailed a Taxify. Driver would meet me at Car Park 5. I went to the elevator. There was a white older man also waiting for the lift to come up. I reckon he would be in his late 50s to early 60s. 

I greeted him “good morning” with a big smile. The man looked me over and ignored me. Trust me, I didn’t look like a bum. I had a very chic camera backpack and a cool National Geographic carry-on. Every inch the tourist. I greeted him again, this time louder and with an even bigger smile. The man looked at me and ignored me still. 

What, he didn’t speak English?

Everyone understands “good morning”! 

And the look. Looks don’t lie. You know when someone detests you.  

On the second incidence, a few hours later, I approached a policeman for directions. I approached him with a big toothy smile and lifted my phone up to point at the address.

The guy shooed me away angrily without even listening to what I had to say. He looked at me once and wouldn’t look at me again. He returned to fiddling with his phone. I told him I needed help with directions. He gestured to me to get lost.

This was a cop. C-O-P. Olopa. Askari. Ojoo.  

The police is your friend, right?

Wrong! The police is your fiend!

After the experience with the policeman, I told myself I was not going to explore the town after 7pm.

Which was a shame because Krakow looked like a beautiful place.

But I was spooked. Better be safe than sorry.

The third incidence was on the second day, my eagerly anticipated day of departure from Krakow. My flight from the Krakow-Balice International Airport to Amsterdam Schiphol was 7:30am. By 5:20 I was outside my hostel having hailed a Taxify. 

Along came this white dude. He was drunk somewhat. He walked past me and then walked back. He raised his hand and asked me to hi-five him. He was speaking Polish – well, what I assume was Polish. May have been drunkenese.

I told him I wasn’t hi-fiving in him. I mean, I don’t know this dude.

But he insisted and wouldn’t leave.

Where was this bloody Taxify!

As he stood there harassing me, a police patrol drove by. They parked on the other side of the road observing the exchange. Perplexed, I gestured to them that this guy was bothering me. Then two officers got down from the car and came to us. 

They asked what the matter was. I explained to them I was standing here jejely when this fella came to bother me. They spoke to him in Polish and an argument ensued. They asked him to apologise to me but he refused. They then told him to leave but he also refused. They tried to shove him off but the fella was adamant, talking back at me.

One of the officers brought out a hand-cuff and was going to cuff him. Only then did he become sober and walked off. The police got into their van and drove off. 

Phew. 

Was the guy simply a drunk and under the influence?

Maybe. 

Should I have hi-fived him?

Definitely not.

From what I saw in my less than 48-hour stay, black people are as plenteous in Krakow  as virgins in a brothel. I was obviously an interesting sight to the guy. Not because he was drunk but because I was black. 

But I forgive those lot.

Because of the Zupa Dnia and Pierogi.

“Zupa Dnia – Soup of the Day.” Warmed my spirit greatly. 
Pierogi z miesem – a sort of meat dumpling. Heavenly!

The food accepted me for what I was was – a hopeless and hungry food lover. No discrimination. 

While I’m reluctant to invalidly generalise that Poles are racist, it was precisely because of discrimination and racism that places like Auschwitz happened. Hatred, spreading one person at a time. 

I did go to Auschwitz -Birkenau. It rends your heart.

How did man descend to such ignominy? How did our soul become this seared?

I’ll tell you how. 

It happens the moment we remove God from the affairs of man. The moment we think we are masters of our fate and the fate of others. 

Gate into Birkenau – where the gas chambers were

Jews, Slavs, Romas and Russian prisoners of war were brought in from all over Europe in coaches like this. Like farm animals. The track leads straight to the gas chamber.
Auschwitz I – the barracks where inmates were housed.
The Nazis stripped inmates of their valuables on arrival at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Boxes, prosthetics, brushes etc. Shoes were especially valuable during WWII
Seized cases with names of victims on them.
Prosthetics confiscated from inmates
Personal items taken from the inmates
Shaved hairs from inmates. 5,400-Kg-worth. Hairs were shaved to prevent the Nazi guards from getting lice and typhus. Industrial use was also found for them: to line boots of soldiers or spun into yarn to make socks for crews of U-boats (submarines).

 

Bunks where the prisoners slept. As many as 7 people could be on one bunk.
Empty canisters of Zyklon B gas – a pesticide – used to gas the inmates.
In late 1944 when the Nazis realised they would lose the the war, they began to erase traces of their atrocity. They burnt records and blew up the gas chambers at Birkenau.

Yet some people had the nerve to doubt if the Holocaust really happened. That how could the world have stood by and let 6 million people perish. That it was all made up.

Awon oponu radarada.

Right.

This ends the account of my European jaunt. Thanks for journeying with me!

Off to the other side of the Atlantic. To Shake Shack burgers in NY and gumbo in The Big Easy!

New York, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas and New Orleans here I come! 

See ya!  

One Comment

  1. Bayo Solagbade Bayo Solagbade

    Wait!! You forgive racism for a bowl of soupy soup with an half cut boiled egg…….. Seriously 😲

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