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.


  1. Just to promote a recently set up website on my experience of Auschwitz

    Comment by websiteowner1 — February 4, 2013 @ 1:02 pm

  2. Well done with the photographs; I know the road well after having traveled along the same road so many times from Krakow to Auschwitz over many years.

    You discuss the old churches and the old log houses; I have about 5 35mm reels of them but you’ve done them justice and over the next few weeks I’ll get them printed off – beautiful camera takes, but 35mm, as you say, a thing of the past, I now use digital/optical.

    Interestingly, on one of my many journey’s through Europe following the trail of the forgotten camps and the many sub-camps to Auschwitz I took a day out from my research to travel down to Zakopane (South Poland) – what a beautiful part of the world! It ended up not a day off from my research, but added to my research as Zakopane was one of the escape routes for the partisans and the Jews who were fortunate to escape the clutches of the Nazis. It also transpired that Hoess traveled to Zakopane to steal timber and such materials to begin the build of Auschwitz I and II.

    On the road to Zakopane there stood the most beautiful, tiniest church, that I’d ever seen; 14th century Gothic, alas it was closed and I couldn’t wander in, but it stood on a hill overlooking the Polish forests a few miles outside of Zakopane itself.

    Some of the older Zakopane homes, on the outskirts of the town, were made of wood and many of the hundreds of years old that have withstood the test of time. Most of these homes have been handed down through generations of family.

    Comment by mogseyward — November 23, 2012 @ 3:18 am

  3. OT: PHNOM PENH — President Obama did not address events of the 1970s, when American planes bombed the country.

    Which head of state will try this trick while visiting Germany?

    Meanwhile, let’s spare a thought for the horrific sufferings our Jewish friends must endure while defending themselves against those bloodthirsty Palis.

    Comment by Eager For Answers — November 21, 2012 @ 4:58 am

    • Juli, sorry, firstly, I think this particular blog is about old churches and the beauty of them.

      Secondly, whilst the Jewish communities in Europe were victims of anti-semitism and suffered throughout the 30’s and 40’s this doesn’t apply today. In 2012 the Jewish victims of the Holocaust are not the victims of today’s bloodshed; 68 percent of both Palestinians and Jews want peace in their respective countries. What we do not hear on the news (as we in the West are subject to selective reporting) is the daily humiliation behind the Wall of the Palestinians. The occupied territories in Gaza and West Bank were not agreed land territories in the 1948 established state of Israel; the Palestinians are subject to road blocks, ID checks, brutalities and arrest on the merest of whims by Israeli soldiers who are versed in fear and paranoia of the ‘enemy’.

      There are huge calls to both Palestinian and Jewish leaders by peace movements such as ‘Women in Black’ and ‘Peace Now’ to give that peace; these movements are made up of Palestinians and Jews. The Jewish peace movements are making progress but are actually called ‘self-hating Jews’ by their own communities because they do not agree with Israeli and US policy. If you’d ever spent time in Israel and in Palestine, on both sides of the Wall, you probably wouldn’t be so judgmental in your views but you would see it from both sides of the coin. There are horrific sufferings of Palestinians too; we are just not privy to that information via the media – selective.

      Comment by mogseyward — November 23, 2012 @ 3:30 am

  4. interesting to see someone from out there getting acquainted with the central European roads and driving.. I walk along such a highway every day and this is the first time I realized how strange it is 🙂

    Comment by juli.o — November 21, 2012 @ 3:21 am

  5. Your beautiful pictures leave me speechless, although not as much as this lady.

    Comment by Eager For Answers — November 20, 2012 @ 5:38 pm

    • 😆

      Comment by The Black Rabbit of Inlé — November 20, 2012 @ 7:12 pm

    • My “beautiful pictures” are the result of my meager knowledge of PhotoShop. I took these photos on film, which is now a thing of the past. I had the film developed by my supermarket’s development company, which did not do a professional job. All photos can be improved by using PhotoShop and you don’t have to be an expert to use PhotoShop.

      Thanks for the link. I did not know that there is an Anne Frank Museum in New York. I went to the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam, where they do not allow anyone to take photos because they want to sell you postcards. The photos on the postcards are copyrighted and cannot be used on a website. More than one person has been forced to shut down a website because of using photos from postcards.

      Comment by furtherglory — November 21, 2012 @ 11:51 am

  6. The number of motorways in Poland has increased since 2004 thanks to the European Union funds. Interestingly prior to that there were of course the Autobahn constructed between 1934 and 1939 in the parts of Poland which had been ethnically cleansed of Germans post 1945 and given over to Poland. Reichautobahn 1 was to have gone from Berlin to Koenigsberg . in Polish these roads were known as the Berlinka and in 2007 looked much the same as they did when constructed in 1937.

    Comment by Pete — November 20, 2012 @ 2:04 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

%d bloggers like this: