I always have a hard time spelling the name of this town and I even had a worse time trying to pronounce the name, Oswiecim. In German, the name is pronounced Auschwitz and during WWII, since this town was then in the Third Reich, it was known as Auschwitz until the Red Army arrived in 1945 and the town was then back to its original Polish name.
Since we were in Krakow, I wanted to make a trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau. I didn’t want to take a day tour from Krakow because I thought it would be too rushed and I don’t like the idea of going with a large group to a place like this. I always like to arrive at special tourist sites at opening time because there are less people and tour group usually don’t arrive until late morning.
I decided to book a hotel in Oswiecim. I went with Hotel Galicja Wellness and Spa. It looked like the nicest hotel in town and it wasn’t too expensive. I also liked that they have the option to rent a bike because the hotel is a 2 miles from the center of town, and 5 miles from Auschwitz Camp. But then, taxis weren’t too expensive anyway. It was only about $5 from the hotel to Auschwitz Camp. The hotel was very clean and nice. The breakfast was fantastic, and we even had dinner in their restaurant and it was amazing!! We chose some traditional Polish dishes and they were incredible, and I loved how it was not very expensive; about $10-15 per entree. The hotel is very proud of the many celebrities that have stayed at this hotel. They list all of the important people who have stayed there on their website; it made me laugh!
Another reason why I chose this hotel was because I knew we were going to take a night train to Vienna so I wanted to stay in a hotel where we would be comfortable staying at while we waited for the train that left at 23:40. The hotel had a comfortable lobby, but there was also an area upstairs that had three comfortable chairs, that we occupied most of the evening. We liked that these were out of the way so we wouldn’t be a bother to the staff. The staff were very helpful. They would answer all of our questions and even stored our luggage for us all day.
After we went to Auschwitz-Birkenau, we had a taxi drop us off at the Rynek Glowny. This was a beautiful square. We looked in some shops, stopped at a grocery store, and indulged ourselves at a Polish Bakery. We had a really hard time finding a taxi to take us back to our hotel, then ultimately decided to walk to the hotel. It was a pleasant 2 mile walk, though it was along a busy road.
Overnight Train Tickets from Oswiecim Train Station
Since Oswiecim is a smaller train station, I knew that it would be best to get train tickets from Oswiecim to Wien in advance, plus the overnight train left so late, I didn’t think anyone would be at the ticket counter. I ordered the tickets through Polrail Service. It was very easy to do. I also had the tickets dropped off at my hotel in Krakow so they would be at the hotel when I arrived. I made my reservation a few months in advance, so I was a little worried that they may forget to get the tickets to my hotel, but sure enough the tickets were at my hotel when I arrived. Polrail did send me an email about a week before saying that the tickets were being dropped off at the hotel so I wasn’t completely in the dark. I would definitely use the company again. They were very reliable.
We stayed at our hotel until 22:30, and got a taxi to take us to the train station. The train station was across town, just North of the Auschwitz Camp. The train station looked locked up when we arrived. All the lights were off. Thankfully there was a security guard who was monitoring the outside and he showed us to a small waiting room on the West side of the building where there were five other people waiting for the same train as us. I was thankful that the security guard was there. He seemed like a really friendly guy, though he only spoke Polish. I felt like we could have arrived later for the train. It was quite boring waiting in this small waiting room. About 15 minutes before the train arrived, the guard pointed us in the direction of the platforms (in back of the building) so we all went out to wait for the train. To be honest, it was a little creepy to be standing on these train platforms so close to Aushwitz and Berkinau at night. I couldn’t help imagining all the people who were sent to those horrible places on these same train lines.