Friday, January 27, 2012

Day 10: Auschwitz

On day 10, Nathan and I woke up bright and early, actually it was still dark, somewhere around 4 am. We hopped in our little rental car, a Mercedes, but the crappiest little Mercedes you ever did see, and began making our long journey to Poland to the small city of Oswiecim to see the once Nazi concentration and extermination camps.

The day got off to a great start when we first realized that the instructions I had printed off of map quest were not actually correct. Our little rental did have a navigation system, and feeling hopeful, we turned on the system, only to find out it was all in German. By some miracle, we were able to figure out the system though, put in our destination, and make our way through Germany all the way to Poland. Once we actually got out of the inner city of Berlin, driving to Poland was a piece of cake. We hopped on the autobahn and drove east for like 7 hours. We stopped not long after reaching the border of Germany and Poland and bought some straight up Polish food at a super sketchy little outdoor booth sitting on the side of the road. I was really expecting to die from some kind of contamination, but I'm still here, so it was obviously just fine. While there, we exchanged a some euro to Zlotys and then continued on our way. Soon after crossing the border, we hit road construction and couldn't drive over 30 kph for the first 2 hours. It was the worst experience EVER! Finally though, the roads became drivable and we were able to continue at a normal pace.

Our rental ride! Don't let the big flashy Mercedes symbol fool you. This thing was a piece!

So, as a little side story, people in Europe drive like PSYCHOS! They make New Yorkers look patient and kind hearted while on the road. They fly past you at over a 100 mph and honk and wave at you if you do not get over the second you notice them trying to pass. And for your future reference, on the autobahn, it is illegal to pass on the right-hand side. Funny how no one dares to break that rule, but they hold no regard for the speed limit by going like 5 million kpm.

Anyway, so we finally passed through one of the last main cities before making our way on some back roads to Oswiecim. The trip had gone pretty darn smooth overall until now. Navigating our way through the little village was RIDICULOUS. There are like 6000 round abouts with another 50 exits in each one. There were plenty of signs pointing towards Auschwitz, but you just were never quite positive which exit it was pointing to since there were so many clustered together.

About this time, I pulled out my camera to start taking pictures and with a sickening drop in my stomach, realized I had forgotten to take my memory card out of my computer back in Berlin, 7 hours away, and put it back in my camera. I nearly started crying, Nathan wanted to throw me out of the car, but we managed to console ourselves because we both had camera phones, which both only had about half battery life left.

K, so we FINALLY made it to the actual Auschwitz. We found some parking and entered through the main office to purchase our tickets, pick up our audio devices, and join our tour, which was mandatory. Our tour guide found our little group, and we started on our way. It was hard to look past her hairy armpits at first, and I think if it would have been any other places, I would have probably died laughing, but the feeling throughout the concentration camp kept me in place.

Now for some pictures:

This is just a small section of a room filled with the shoes of the prisoners.

The feeling at Auschwitz was indescribable. It was so hard to believe that such a beautiful place could have housed such horrendous atrocities. I am so grateful that we did take the time to make the trip over to Poland and see this camp. It is an experience I will never forget.

I can't remember what time we finally left, but it was late afternoon. We easily found our way through Oswiecim this time and hopped back on the autobahn. We were pretty exhausted and were hoping for a peaceful drive home; our hopes were in vain. Not long after leaving the town, we were cruising along, listening to music, when we noticed some PSYCHOPATH trying to drive on the shoulder of the road next to us. My heart sunk a little thinking that for sure we were going to be mugged or worse. Nathan sped up to get away from the guy, but he just kept right up with us. He slowed down a little bit and then kept waving his hands out the window for us to pull over. I told Nathan to keep driving, but he said he wanted to pull over incase it was a cop of something. As soon as Nathan began to slow down and pull over to the side of the road, I felt sick to my stomach. He got out and I locked my door but cracked the window slightly to try and hear what was going on.

The crazy driver man gets out of his car and I see him hand Nathan a business card. At that moment, I wanted to kill someone. He seriously put our lives in danger driving like a psycho just to share some business information. I started listening more intently and the next thing I know is that the guy is asking Nathan for money. He's like ripping his necklace off and handing Nathan his watch in exchange for cash. Nathan just kept tell him "no." The guy wouldn't take "no" for an answer so Nathan just hopped in the car and we took off. Basically, the guy told Nathan that his credit card had broken in half and that he needed the cash. If the guy wouldn't have been so bananas, I probably would have had a little sympathy for him and gave him a few bucks, but our nerves were so high, we just wanted to get away from him asap.

So, we left the psychopath in our dust and headed back towards Germany. We made a stop at McDonald's, which was the fanciest, most beautiful McDonald's I have ever laid eyes on. We ordered some food, which was not as good you would think it would be coming out of such a beautiful building, ate our food, got some fuel, which was the most ridiculously expensive thing ever, and made it back to Germany. We got in pretty late that night and I honestly can't even remember much because I was so exhausted. I think we walked down the road and ordered some interesting pizza from some little stand, went back to the hotel, and hit the hay.