Scrapbookpages Blog

November 20, 2012

on the road from Krakow to Auschwitz

Filed under: Uncategorized — furtherglory @ 12:56 pm

Most blog posts about a trip to Auschwitz-Birkeau mention a guided tour, which starts with a one-and-a-half-hour bus ride from Krakow to the main camp in the town formerly known as Auschwitz.  On the bus, the tour guide gives a monologue, using a microphone and a loud speaker, to acquaint the tourists with the history of the Auschwitz camps.

This blog has a description of a trip to Auschwitz which is particularly well written.  According to this blogger: “Yet everything on the road to Auschwitz is suddenly deeply banal.”  For me, it was just the opposite.  I enjoyed the trip from Krakow to Auschwitz immensely.

In 1998, I was fortunate enough to take a one-person tour with a private tour guide and a driver who drove us there in a car.  Along the way, the driver stopped every time I spotted something that I wanted to photograph.

Shown below are some of the photographs that I took in 1998.

Log house on the road from Krakow to Auschwitz

Before my trip to Poland in 1998, I had read about the old log houses and wooden churches, and I was eager to see them. Thinking that log houses would be rare, I told the driver to alert me if we passed a log house, as we drove west from Krakow to Auschwitz along Road 780, because I didn’t want to miss seeing it. Jokingly, he said “Don’t worry. If we don’t see a log house, we’ll build one for you.”

I needn’t have worried about missing the log houses on the road, as there are hundreds of them, especially just outside of Krakow, a beautiful old city which dates back to the 10th century. There are no real highways in Poland, no freeways as in America. All the roads go through the little villages and the houses are set very near the road.

House on the road from Krakow to Auschwitz

The log houses in Poland are painted or stained to preserve the wood, since some of them were built in the 18th century, and maybe even in the 17th century. The caulking between the logs is frequently painted blue, as shown in the photo above. Some of the houses have had extra rooms, made of brick or stucco, added onto an original log house. I was told that many of the cottages that are white stucco are really log houses that have been covered over.

House on the road to Auschwitz has a cottage garden in front

House that resembles a barn on the road to Auschwitz

Notice how close the houses are to the road.  A bit of the road is shown in the lower right hand corner of the photo above.

Driving through the Polish countryside, one cannot fail to notice the numerous statues of the Virgin Mary or Catholic saints placed close to the road. Many of them are decorated with streamers of ribbons and usually there are fresh flowers left there. I learned from my tour guide, on my trip to Poland in October 1998, that they are called “little chapels” and the custom of putting statues for protection along the road dates back to the pagan days before Poland was converted to Catholicism about 1,000 years ago.

My photos of three “little chapels” are shown below.

A “little chapel” on the road to Auschwitz

The “little chapels” are located at a crossroads or any place on the road that might be dangerous. In Poland, that means almost anywhere, since the roads in this area are all two lanes with opposing traffic. When one driver from each opposing lane of traffic decides to attempt to pass, both cars are driving down the center of the road, ready for a head-on collision. Adding to the danger on Polish roads are the many horse-drawn wagons carrying loads of coal, traveling in the same lanes as the cars and trucks. Then there are the pedestrians, all dressed up, who seem to be walking to work along the highway. It was only by the grace of God, and the protection of the Virgin Mary along way, that I made it safely from Krakow to Auschwitz and back.

A “little chapel” guards an intersection on the road from Krakow to Auschwitz

A very old “little chapel” on the road to Auschwitz

Baroque church on the road from Krakow to Auschwitz

Just outside the town of Auschwitz, there is a beautiful Baroque Catholic Church which I stopped to photograph on the way back to Krakow when I visited Auschwitz in 1998. This church dates back to the 17th century and is perfectly preserved. The Baroque style of architecture was introduced by the Italians living in Poland and is very prevalent. Most of the Polish churches and monuments seem to be the work of Italian architects and artists.