Lipowa Street – 12

Thursday was full of adventure.  Our original plan was scrapped when we realized we didn’t have a reservation for Auschwitz.  You are supposed to have them several months before you come – so a couple months ago I had our agenda all planned out.  We were going to go midday on Friday and when I checked there wasn’t a single English speaking reservation taken.  I put in our reservation but just as I was about to hit “purchase” I thought of all the reasons that our trip could be cancelled and decided to wait until later.  So — now it was later and we were in Krakow without Auschwitz reservations!  We checked the website – Friday had Russian and Polish tours with only 1 spot available!  Oh no!  There was one Polish tour with 4 spaces but it was a 6.5 hour tour for university studies.  Probably not what we were looking for!  So we checked on Thursday and there was one English tour and it had two openings!  We snagged it – but then had to change our whole itinerary.  It all worked out and here is how it went…

Poland also does not accept euros and we were trying to decide whether or not we will need any zloties.  We decided to walk to an ATM and just got 100 ($25) in case we needed them.  That becomes important later on.

For the morning we chose to visit the Oskar Schindler factory.  We’ve both read Schindler’s List a couple times and we listened to it together last month.   We weren’t sure how the factory was going to be a 2 hour tour… but it turned out to be an exhibition on the Nazi occupation of Krakow.  It was so well done!  I was particularly touched by a video of a woman who had been a child and how they were all watching the airplanes… and then she noticed they were Nazi insignia and how horrible.  A man talked about how he was excited to go shop with his mom for a new schoolbag because school was staring on Monday.  Just as they spoke I thought of how quickly life changes – it reminded me of going to the store and finding empty shelves last year.  How is this happening?  

Anyway, we had to hurry at the end because we had scheduled in some time for lunch before the 1.25 hour drive to Auschwitz. They said we had to be there 30 minutes early to get all processed.  Fortunately we had time because when we got to our car it turns out we had parked illegally and they had a boot on our wheel!  By the way we just parked where other cars were parked (parking is a huge issue!) and they all had boots also.  So I called the police station.  No one spoke English but finally managed to communicate, “Street name?”  Backstory – on the way to the factory I had been amazed at the street names and had taken some photos of our navigation for fun.  Crazy names!  But the street we were on seemed easy enough – it was Lipowa.  They had no clue what I was trying to say.  I pronounced it as many ways as I could think of.  Haha – finally someone got on the line who spoke some English.  He couldn’t understand me either so we worked on spelling it.  A couple times – finally L like Lion, I like information… we had a little trouble with the “w” but finally he understood.  Twenty minutes later the parking lady came along with our interpreter who was a very nice man and helpful.

Now we’ve been listening to “Poland” by James Michener.  It is a 31 hour book covering hundreds of years of Polish history but as we’ve been driving we have been in the WWII/Nazi occupation years.  And we’ve just come from two hours of Nazi occupation in the factory.  So having the “Policja” there was a little unnerving.  Especially when they ask things like, “Mark, what is your father’s name?”  Why would they need that information??  We also learned that since we are American we would have to pay on the spot and were telling us where to find an ATM.  Mark offered me as a hostage to give himself time to find the ATM – I pulled out our only 100 zt note and that was exactly what the fine was!  We thought they had been saying 140.  So we paid them and were soon on our way.  They were very nice but it was kind of exciting.  They were actually the nicest people that we have met in Poland. We arrived at Auschwitz exactly 30 minutes early – on time but without lunch.  

This is getting really long – I’ll have to finish the day in another post…

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