Kiri and


A trying few days

May 31st, 2014 (by Steve)

First impressions matter… or so they say. But maybe not in Poland. As we crossed over the border from Germany, the smooth tarmac motorway gave way to an “interesting” road surface, accompanied by a sign warning us that this would continue for 13.5km. 13.5km later there was a sign warning that this would continue for a further 17km. 17km later… you get the picture. The carriageway going in the opposite direction? As smooth as a lake on a still day. Add in a few other road-surface-related signs and we wondered whether all roads were like this in Poland.


It wasn’t to last though, and soon we were driving on wide, smooth roads. Bertha was just breathing a sigh of relief, when a storm of biblical proportions threw all sorts of things at us. With torrential rain, huge claps of thunder and stunning fork lightning, I’d picked a good time to swap out of the driving, so it was Kiri who had to cope with driving through flash-floods. An hour later, all was calm and the sun was shining once more as we stopped for the night at the home of a lovely German ex-pat couple who open their garden for use by motorhomes. Along with a Dutch motorhome, we were the only guests and we received a very warm and enthusiastic welcome… totally in German!


This is where the tone of the blog post changes I’m afraid, for our next stop on the route was the town of Oświęcim, better known by its German name of “Auschwitz”. Why were we going there? Well, there was no simple answer really. A few years ago I went to Dachau, near Munich and I found it an extremely grim experience, seemingly devoid of hope. Why would I put myself through something like that again? Was it some kind of masochistic tourism? I battled with these questions and the best conclusion I came to was that without being in that place and seeing the scale of it, genocide would just remain a concept in my mind. I had a need to see it first hand in order to connect with the concept. I can’t put it better than Jay did – to not go would be cowardice.

If you want to know the history of Auschwitz, or what there is to see at the two remaining sites I would recommend that you steel yourself and go there. Nothing that I write about my experience will be eloquent enough to communicate the feelings you get as you walk the paths that so many people have walked before. The 3 words that kept going around in my head throughout the visit were “people are people”. You may have a different job to me. You may have a different faith. You may be a different age, have a different culture, come from a different country. But you, like me, are a person. Somewhere, someone didn’t recognise this. Labels were applied. The rest is gruesome history. After a harrowing day, we had the privilege of being able to walk out of the gates.

Yet Auschwitz isn’t a place devoid of hope. Yes, there’s a “feeling” about the place, but birds do sing. Flowers are laid. And millions of people go there every year; there’s hope in that. I only took one photo at Auschwitz (not the best photo I’ve ever taken); my aim being to capture a moment of hope – here a group of Jews having an impromptu service in the courtyard of the notorious block 11 where so many had been shot.


And Kiri found hope in one of the printed information boards.


For once I’m at a loss to know how to end a blog post. Sorry.

All posts about Poland

The salt’s all mine!

A trying few days

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