Balkan with my mother

Slovakia

As the caves were at the border to Slovakia, we entered after just a few kilometers. Slovakia is a great country with very scenic roads. We were heading for the Tatra Mountains, which are part of the Carpathian Mountain range.

We went to a city called Zakopane, on the Polish side. It is crowded, but it is nice.

As both Poland and Slovakia is Schengen countries, there is no border control. Only a sign at the roadside tell that you have crossed the border.

Just before the Tatra Montains we god some rain again. It wasn’t too bad, but it was a bit cold. The sun came out once we arrived at Zakopane.

We found a nice hotel at the very center of Zakopane with private parking. It is funny how, the more exclusive the hotel is, the less facilities are included in the room rate. So we had to pay extra for the motorcycles.

Auschwitz

The next morning we headed towards Auschwitz. The fastest route turned out to be very busy with lots of slow moving traffic. Single lanes, with curves and hills made it difficult to pass. So we ended up just riding off the route taking a longer, but nicer and less stressful route.

I have been to Auschwitz – or Oswiecim as they call it in Polish – before, but never as part of the tours which are mandatory, if you want to see the exhibitions. You can walk by yourself, but only when the exhibitions are closed.

Auschwitz is an eerie place. But it has become a tourist trap. If you are in the area, go visit. It has turned in to a place where tourists appear to annoy the staff. Where this could be a place to contemplate and better understanding the suffering, it has become much more about not holding up the group following. Asking the staff for help is the best way to annoy them. And with no restrooms in the gated waiting area, make sure you don’t have to go within the next 40-45 minutes.

There is absolutely nothing to learn that you don’t already know, if you have done some holocaust research.

I had hoped that the museum would provide an opportunity to remind the visitors of how it came to this. How racist, fascism, hate speaking, that we tend to see these days, can turn people into doing atrocities like this.

I can understand and appreciate not taking photos of personal items out of respect of the victims and the relatives. But the lack of respect to them, by not being allowed to taking time to try to absorb and relate to the hardship they endured. Isn’t it ironic, as a Canadian born singer once put it.

The pushing around like cattle made us just get on the motorcycles and away as quickly as we could once the tour was done. No need to see Auschwitz II.

So unless you’re in the area or don’t otherwise have any association with the place, I’d skip it and spend the time in the wonderful Polish town centers.

We went on to the highway. I think for the first time on the entire trip, we rode on highway. But we were on the home bound leg and filled up with impressions and adventures.

We stayed for the night at wonderfull Hotel Zamek Topacz. A bit pricey, but not more than any place in Berlin. They had a wedding the coming Saturday, so wedding guests had already started to check in. Good atmosphere. Recommended if you need a place along the E40 near Wroclaw.

Hotel Zamek Topacz, a nice place not too far away from the highway. Nice hotel, in nice surroundings.
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