My main interest in visiting Poland was understanding its economic development and sentiment ~25 years after the fall of the USSR. Moreover, Poland, and Eastern Europe in general, boasts many brilliant yet affordable software engineers, many whom I hire at learningdollars.com.
The first thing that I did was visit the Wawel cathedral. There was a section for only Catholics that I did not enter. This type of division was not there in the Vatican or the other major churches I visited before.
I also visited the castle. It was pleasant.
This was the Polish Theater which was permitted by the Austro-Hungarian empire.
Poland was very clean. It was the first European country I visited with GDP per capita less than 15K (which is “developed status” for 2015 dollars). It has a GDP per capita of 12K.
Here is me at the old city walls of Krakow.
This church was next to a pub since medieval times. That was the highlight.
The Krakow free tour was started next to the St. Mary’s Basilica. I got there barely on time. Poland is a very Catholic country.
Above is me with the “Love is Blind” modern art.
This is the statue of Copernicus at his institution. Copernicus was not an enemy of the Catholic church because (1) the church hated Martin Luther who hated him (2) he published his controversial views about a solar-centric system late in life.
Pope John Paul II was very popular in Poland. I got the feeling that the people cared about him even more than Copernicus.
The tour guide was excellent. Above was an important place to Pope John Paul II.
Then I visited Auschwitz. It was a serious and educational visit.
I saw shoes of the prisoners.
And the watchtower the guards used to keep an eye on them.
There were signs in German.
There were books of victims.
And bunks where they slept. Germanic prisoners got better treatment than the Jewish ones.
Their belongings were taken away from them.
There was a certain German standard of “cleanliness” to the entire camp. It was almost like a picturesque village until one realizes what horrid events occurred there.
There were empty rooms.
And photos of prisoners.
There was the train that brought the innocent people.
And quotes. (I was doing an audio tour like everyone else.)
There was a railway track into no where.
Again, I don’t know whether the design was German or Polish but the place’s outdoor (not indoor) look really contradicted its purpose.
This was the washroom.
They were brought here in crowded, inhuman conditions.
These are the gas chambers.
Fences of Barbed wire.
bulk quantities of prisoner spectacles
There are a lot of people in poor countries who may think this site is a beautiful village. How wrong they would be.
The train didn’t need to go anywhere further. Could such camps get away with mass murder in the age of internet?
Bags en mass
What was interesting was the Polish involvement in this entire process. It was important to remind myself every now and then that this was Poland, not Germany. The Polish currently run the Auschwitz museum and they definitely distanced Poland from culpability. The quote below shows German hatred for Poles for instance.
Whether non-Jewish Poles were hired as prison guards at Auschwitz was not discussed in the audio guide to my knowledge, though I surmise not.
There was gender segregation.
Were the lawns and trees maintained so well by the museum as a sign of respect, I began to wonder?
The one German prisoner, who was imprisoned for being mentally ill I believe, was given a better room.
Fall leaves everywhere.
This was THE camp. I remembered from the Holocaust memorial in Berlin, way more Jews were murdered in Poland than in Germany.
The meaning of “Arbeit macht frei” is work sets you free.
How did a few people escape I wondered.
From Pillows Party Hostel (was ok), to the pub by the church, to the solemn Auschwitz, Poland offered me a variety of experiences. The country was dominated by Germany and Russia for many years, but it is emerging into a developed nation (3K gdp per capita away from the 15K cutoff). While I didn’t meet software engineers on my trip to Poland, I’m sure they’re bringing in significant sums of money into the country to push it towards developed status. The nation, despite turmoil in its past and exploitation, has an incredibly high human development index today. A sad and tough past, but a bright future.