February, 2016

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Welcome to Hell

images (67)How to get to Auschwitz & Birkenau

24/03/2016 was the day myself and a few friends left England and flew to Krakow airport via Ryanair. The flight itself was just over 2 hours (Stansted – Krakow) and cost about £160 for a return trip. From Krakow airport we then booked a taxi to central Krakow where my hotel (Maksymilian Hotel) was located, the taxi took about 20 minutes and cost 89 Zl (£16). My planned travel to Auschwitz was on 25/03/2016, from my hotel I got a taxi to the bus station which took about 10 minutes and cost about 20 Zl (£4). A single bus (minivan in my case) ticket to Auschwitz cost 12 Zl (£2.20) each way (very cheap!), the journey took about 90 minutes as you are travelling to Oswiecim which is 66 Km away from Krakow. One thing to be careful of, the bus driver may ask you to book a return ticket before you leave, my advice is don’t as they leave at certain times and you can sometimes wait hours for the same driver to arrive. There are loads of different bus drivers (different companies) coming back and forth from Auschwitz and you will not struggle to find one back to Krakow, again they all charge pretty much the same price.

Our time in Poland, we never struggled to find a taxi or bus and their prices are generally very cheap. Polish taxi’s charge by distance only, not time. Taxi drivers are generally very friendly and informative assuming you get a well-spoken driver who speaks English. We always requested our hotel receptionist to book our taxi for us, as we knew they were legitimate cabs.

Arriving at Auschwitz

When our taxi driver dropped us off, we had a short walk (2-3 minutes) to the camp entrance. We arrived just after 09:00 am and the place was packed, there were queues which mainly consisted of tour groups and there is a different queue line for individual tourists. Auschwitz is visited by over 1 million tourists a year so expect it to be busy. Despite the queue lines we got in fairly quick, you will be checked by security guards and have to walk through a metal detector (do not walk your camera through the metal detector, give it to the security guard). Auschwitz is free to get in, however, I did book my tickets online and booked my entrance time, which helps speed up the process, I advise you do this before your trip and make sure you print your tickets out. Outside of Auschwitz entrance there are huts where you can buy tea, coffee and a sandwich, so don’t worry about taking lunch as you cannot eat or drink on the premises anyway.

There is also a small book store located inside the entrance, the prices are expensive and the books they sell you can pick up online a lot cheaper. There are also plenty of toilets on the premises and lockers to store your possessions if required (we didn’t use the lockers).

Auschwitz

I am not going to tell you a great deal about Auschwitz as you need to experience it yourself, but trust me the experience will stay with you for a lifetime. One thing to be aware of Auschwitz is not easy to travel around the paths are cobbled, bumpy and uneven. If your mobility is not great just take your time and use a walking stick if required, it is very easy to trip over so be observant. Auschwitz has pretty much been left as it was found, and rightfully so. One thing that entered my mind regarding the cobbled paths, was how difficult and painful it must have been for the prisoners to walk around the camp in their bare feet or rugged shoes. Auschwitz is smaller than I thought it would be and 3 hours is enough time to navigate around and visit the blocks. Despite it being smaller than I initially expected, it is as harrowing and horrific as I expected and Auschwitz does not disappoint in engaging your thoughts and emotions. I tried to place myself in the prisoner’s shoes everywhere I went, it was extremely difficult to do because it’s very hard to imagine the intense cruelty the Nazi’s bestowed upon these people. The atmosphere at Auschwitz is actually very busy and quite noisy due to the amount of people attending, however, you will walk into certain blocks and experience an eerie silence especially block 11 which is known as the block of death, which is rather ironic as every block is the block of death in some way.

One thing that will surprise you and is also very difficult to observe is the amount of photos taken and displayed in the museum, the Nazi’s were very good book keepers (when they wanted to) and documented prisoners in great detail. You will see thousands of photos of the victims who perished there, the expressions on their faces highlights the brutality they faced on a daily basis.

Birkenau

To get to Birkenau there is a free shuttle service outside the entrance of Auschwitz, the shuttle only takes about 5 minutes for which you will then see the infamous gatehouse of Birkenau. When I said Auschwitz was smaller than I thought, Birkenau was much larger than I thought, the reason for this was purely to exterminate as many people as possible. Observing the railway track and carriage was emotional, knowing this was the final journey for millions of people. Upon arriving at Birkenau you will notice how massive the camp is, the sheer size of it is daunting. It took myself and a two friends about 60-90 minutes to walk the perimeter of the camp. You will come across many barracks and most of them were closed, however, you can walk in a few of them and observe the horrific conditions people had to endure. There are a lot of buildings that were destroyed by the Nazi’s themselves and also the prisoners during uprisings. At the back of the camp you will come across the pond where human ash was dumped and fields where piles of bodies weren’t burnt. I recommend if you can, to walk the entire camp and witness as much as you can as you will read and observe many different stories and experiences these poor people went through. Birkenau is very different to Auschwitz, there is less to read and less museum like, however, the atmosphere and nature of the place tells a different story and is home to the ‘so called’ doctor Dr Mengele.

Birkenau is very vast and quiet compared to Auschwitz, it is situated in some beautiful woods, just a shame these woods are tarnished by the atrocities that happened here. You can’t help but notice that every step you take around Birkenau; you are literally standing at a place where someone potentially died. You won’t enjoy your visit unless you are a sadist, however, the visit is interesting, informative and like no other. I would always recommend people to visit if possible, if you only do it once in your life and too be honest once is enough. I also encourage you to talk about it and share your experiences with your family and friends, as this must never be forgotten. I sincerely hope humanity can learn from this and to never be repeated again, only time will tell.

 

The Most Amazing Attractions of Thailand

downloadBeing one of the most popular touristic destinations of South Eastern Asia, tourists who travel to Thailand enjoy the wonderful beaches, the rich forests, and some of the most luxurious hotels in the world.

One of the most remarkable monuments of Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, is the Grand Palace. Established in 1782, the palace used to be the residence of the royal family of Thailand until the death of Rama VIII in the year 1962. Today it became one of the major highlights included in many travel packages to Thailand.

The complex of the Grand Palace in Bangkok has a distinctive blend of the traditional Thailand style of art and architecture with some western outlines. The palace also hosts one of the most ancient and popular statues of Buddha in the whole world. The palace welcomes hundreds of travelers who spend their holidays in Thailand.

For those who are fond of nature and beauty, Thailand offers you the Similan Islands. Located in the Western part of the Andaman Sea, this archipelago consists of 9 tropical islands featured with their marvelous white sandy beaches. This is in addition to many various diving spots that attract a large number of divers to spend vacations in Thailand.

Shoppers would also be delighted to visit Thailand. The country has some of the most remarkable markets and bazaars. There is for example the Chiang Mai Night bazaar that is one of the major attractions of Northern Island. It consists of many corridors, small shops, and booths that sell handcrafts, various types of arts, clothes and outfits, and many other goods and products.

Since Thailand is featured with its marvelous beaches, the country has quite a notable number of beaches that can accommodate a huge number of tourists who travel to Thailand. There is the famous Railay Beach, this popular peninsula that is not accessible except by boats due to the limestone rocks that surround from every direction. This is among the most recommended beaches that travelers who spend their holidays in Thailand enjoy.

There is also the magnificent Phang Nga Bay. Situated about 90 kilometers away from the Phuket island, this bay is famous for having some of the most breathtaking scenes in the world with many wonderfully looking caves, sea caves, limestone islands, and much more. Travelers who tour Thailand usually visit the Phang Nga Bay using traditional rowing boats as it is the only way to go inside the different caves and explore other attractions as well.

A famous attraction of Thailand is also the Koh Tao Island, or the Island of the Tortoise. This small island located near the Eastern beaches of the Thailand bay is one of the most popular spots in the entire globe to learn diving and enjoy snorkeling as well. This is because swimming around the colorful amazing coral reefs, sea turtles, and many small magnificent fish is quite easy and enjoyable. Many travellers who visit Thailand include a visit to the Koh Tao Island in their travel packages.

There are so much more attractions and activities to practice in the country that attract a huge number of travelers to tour Thailand. We are only shedding light on some of the most popular attractions. Thailand always makes a wonderful vacation for travelers of all ages.

 

Why Should Travelers Visit Alexandria During Their Tour to Egypt?

downloadThe first direction is towards the South to visit Luxor and Aswan, or take a Nile Cruise ship that sails between the two cities to enjoy the remarkable Pharaonic monuments. The other direction is towards the East to explore the wonders of the Red Sea and enjoy a few days in the resorts of Sharm El Sheikh, Hurghada, or any other city that hosts marvelous beaches.

Many travelers who spend their vacations in Egypt usually miss going towards the North Coast. However, this region of Egypt has some of the most notable attractions to visit, especially in Alexandria, the Jewel of the Mediterranean Sea, the city that served as the capital of Egypt for more than 500 years.

Some travelers enjoying their holidays in Egypt would spend a one-day trip to Alexandria to explore the most popular highlights of the city. Others prefer to spend a few nights to really enjoy Alexandria to the max. Today, we will be touring the most important places that tourists should never miss in their visit to Alexandria.

The first monument usually included in travel package to Egypt that include a visit to Alexandria is surly the Qaitbey Fort. Sultan Qaitbey, one of the most famous Mamluks that ruled over Egypt, constructed this huge structure that is now one of the famous landmarks of the city in 1477.

This marvelous building is the best example of the Mamluks military construction in Egypt. It consists of a huge main building the hosts the most ancient surviving mosque in the city. Due to the fine state of preservation of the fort, travelers who tour Egypt truly enjoy their visit to the fort. The fort also offers wonderful views of the sea and the city of Alexandria.

Another popular monument of Alexandria and one of the landmarks of the city as well is Pomp’s Pillar. This tall impressive granite column is more than 20 meters in height. Together with the two statues of the sphinxes, the pillar is the only remaining items of a huge temple that dates back to the 3rd century AD. A visit to Pomp’s Pillar is often included to many travel packages to Egypt.

Tourists who travel to Egypt and visit Alexandria would also explore the secrets of the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa, the largest and most mysterious ancient tombs of Alexandria. The catacombs consist of two underground floors that host hundreds of tombs.

The most wonderful feature of this ancient necropolis is the remarkable mixture between the Roman and the Pharaonic art and architecture that is quit evident in many sections of the necropolis.

Tourists who explore Alexandria would often as well visit the Library of Alexandria. The ancient library was established in the 3rd century BC and it was one of the largest libraries and learning centers in the old world. However, the library was burned in the beginning of the 1st century AD.

The new Library of Alexandria was officially opened in 2002 after construction works that remained for more than 15 years. The oval shape of the building of the library is a quite famous landmark of Alexandria today. Away from hosting hundreds thousands of books and manuscripts, the library has some remarkable museums as well. This is why many tourists who spend their vacations in Egypt would pay a library a visit.

Alexandria offers much more to the tourists who travel to Egypt. Away from the magnificent ambience of the sea in the city, there are so many monuments that should never be missed by travelers whotour Egypt.