Auschwitz is one of those places I knew I needed to see to understand. So in spite of the tragic historical events that went on here, I was compelled to visit on my backpacking trip last Spring.
I stayed in nearby Krakow and took the train in. It is a VERY powerful place. So although I do recommend visiting here, there are a few things you should recognize before going:
Be prepared to lose a whole day. Auschwitz is a much bigger place than I could have ever imagined, so you will need to take a day out of your itinerary in order to see everything. That, and you most likely won’t feel like doing much else after this. It is emotionally exhausting.
Bring a lunch. Since you are going to be there for a while, remember to pack a lunch or at least some snacks and some water, as there is no cafe. However, they do have strict rules on the size of your bags; everything larger than a purse or small backpack will have to be stored in lockers outside the museum. You will also have to go through an airport-style security gate, but my water and snacks got through just fine.
There are gas chambers. Many concentration camps did not use gas chambers and of the ones that did, most were destroyed after the war ended. But Auschwitz does have them. This portion of the museum is the most emotional, powerful and (sadly) most popular.
I’m literally getting chills writing this!
Bring a friend. If you can, try not to go alone. Visiting the camp was an emotional roller coaster, and most of the day I was in a very solemn, sad mood. But having my best friend there going through the same emotions helped because we got to talk it out afterward and process everything we had just seen. Visiting Auschwitz was not easy, but having Tori there made it a little easier.
You will NOT have a good time, but it is DEFINITELY worth it. For me personally, traveling is not just seeing the fun things. A day trip to Auschwitz was the absolute worst day of my three month trip, but I don’t regret going. I learned a lot and grew even more. If you take anything out of this post it’s that you should go, pay your respects, and know that you just witnessed an infamous part of history.
So now that we’re all totally depressed (but informed!), I’d love to hear what you have to say! Have you been? Does this change your mind about visiting? Please comment below!