There are a number of day tours which you can do from Krakow. The two most popular are the Auschwitz Concentration/Extermination camps from WWII and some impressive Salt Mines. We did both on consecutive days.
I wasn’t sure about going to Auschwitz as I’m fairly sensitive. I certainly didn’t want to do a guided tour and hear all the horrendous details – I can feel deeply without knowing absolutely everything. Most of the bus trips from Krakow included guided tours, but we did find one called a ‘contemplative tour’ which gave us a documentary in the bus and then around 2 hours of free time at the two camps, Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II – Birkenau. This worked well for us as it gave us sketching time which would have been impossible on the guided tours.
I found it a very hard place to sketch as sketching creates such a strong connection to place, but at the same time it was a good way to process the emotions. And it is all coming back as I type this blogpost! So I’m just going to share a few photos and my sketches as they are, without commentary.
Auschwitz II – Birkenau
It was a hard experience but I’m glad that I made the decision to go.
Wieliczka Salt Mines
The next day we did a half day trip to a very impressive salt mine which was opened in 13th Century. We walked for 2 hours, down 800 steps to 130m below ground and then caught the lift back up. We only saw 1% of the whole mine.
We had to have a guided tour and she only stopped at each spot for a few minutes (at best case – sometimes we only stopped for seconds). I sketched non-stop, very quickly and often in the dark. I added a little colour at the end in the ‘commerical district’ (the area full of shops) before we returned to above ground.
As for my sketches… here they are!
This type of sketching is not super easy for me – I see it as a good ‘push’ exercise. It was a case of having the confidence to just go for it and then rely heavily on my eye-hand coordination. As soon as I we stopped at a place I would make a split second decision about where to stand, then work out what were the significant edges that would define the space, and then go for it! So much fun!
But although I had fun sketching in the mine, I was very happy to get above ground and get some fresh air!