Thursday, 26 July 2007

Back to the Wenzlick’s homeland

The Czech Republic has to be amongst our favourite haunts so far. We stayed at a delightful campsite by a lake, in Bohemia. We spent the evening swimming and drinking beer. We also visited a really cool castle, in the village where the composer Janacek was born and then and got a bit lost on a walk. Cycling seems to be taking off in The Czech Republic. On Saturday almost every other car had bikes on the roof. There are also loads of cycle routes marked on the roads. As our first foray out of Western Europe during this trip, the sudden drop in prices for everything came as a very welcome surprise.

Lakeside campsite in Bohemia

Gavin and I decided a while ago that we wanted to visit Auschwitz in Poland, so hence a bit of a detour from our “east bound and down” direction of travel. We spent ages looking for a campsite, driving all around the area. Then just opposite Auschwitz we saw a sign “Auto camp” so we approached to investigate. Immediately a young chap jumped into the middle of the road motioning us towards the gate of what looked to be a car park- not an “Autocamp”. Given that it was almost 7pm it was quite clear that we were looking for somewhere to camp. He said “yes, yes camping” and I made the sign of a tent, again “yes, yes”, also there was a sign saying showers. So we drove in and he gave us a ticket. We then found out that the toilets and showers were locked anyway. So off we went to explore on foot and found the “Centre of Dialogue and Prayer”. They had a lovely campsite. Back we went to our car park and after some discussion with the cashier, who I suspect now regrets admitting to speaking English, we left.

The next day dawned clear and bright and into Auschwitz we went. Despite the glorious weather and the hoards of people it is still quite a remarkable place. Quite bizarre trying to imagine that it was a death factory and the immense pain, desolation and suffering that must have been experienced by millions. Parts of the camp have been reconstructed from original materials, such as the gas chamber. This was the prototype gas chamber and once the system and technique for mass murder had been “perfected” it appears that this gas chamber was destroyed and larger and more numerous chambers were built at the huge camp, Auschwitz –Birkanau 3 kilometres away. The immense displays of personal possessions stolen from the victims were also very sobering. There was also a very good exhibition on Poland during the war. I certainly had no idea of the extremes the Nazis had gone to, to dehumanise the Polish people as well as so many other groups of populations. The exhibition was almost quite brutal to the visitor in being quite unrestrainedly frank.



Heading south into Slovakia we realised that it is exactly a year since we were in Slovakia for the Mongol Rally, and yesterday we even saw one of the teams driving in the other direction. We did stop for a bit, when we turned off that road, hoping to see a few more go past, but we were disappointed. Now in Vienna, having travelled via Bratislava.