On to Poland & a visit to Auschwitz....

Friday 28 May Warsaw
Well the bad news was I forgot to set the alarm, but the good news is that I woke up at 5 a.m. anyhow. Showed, repack, downstairs by 5.30 to pay the account, pick up my boxed breakfast, remove all the items with sugar and leave them behind, courtesy bus to the airport, to the POL Airlines counter, yes I could go on the 7.30 plane, walk to the other end of the terminal, check in my bag, walk back to the starting point, and go through security, again, it was a short flight to Poland, on arrival did all the arrival things, over to the Avis counter, collected a small car for 20 days, threw the luggage in to the car, back to a money machine, thank goodness my card for my English bank works, at least that is something.

There is a bright young girl about 18 years of age helping at the Avis counter and she escorted me to the rental car, and we chatted, asked what she pleased to be in the common market, she was not quite sure what the effect would be, but the sooner she could she was off to another country where she could make a life for herself, she knew all about New Zealand, how difficult it was to get immigration to the country, so she is serious, I wonder how many other Polish teenagers are going to look for life overseas.

Onto the road, heading south, Thro very flat countryside with an incredible amount of trees, almost always running down the side of the road. It is quite like Europe with all of the European trees, extremely well-established in quite a pleasure to drive through, even if it becomes a little monotonous. The housing is basically all European, I haven't noticed anything that I could say yes that this is Polish, of course any town of any size has its proportion of what I call the Russian apartments, and the bigger the town for more of these there are. I have noticed these Russian apartments, here in Poland, are painted all of the colours of the rainbow, it certainly makes them look a lot brighter than the original dull concrete grey.

It does have one advantage, these apartments, in so much that any shopping centres, let me replace the centres by town, has such a large base of shoppers or within walking distance, and you see little shops that have gone out of style in New Zealand, Australia and the States.

One must remember that these apartments are homes for hundreds of thousands of people, these homes contain everything that is precious to these people, that had good times and bad times in these apartments, though brought new babies home to these apartments, the children have grown up, and often have moved back into the apartment when they get married. They are a very necessary part of the old Soviets, and while they may appear to be primitive by some Western standards, they are home to these people.

The roads are very good, a reasonable amount of traffic, the main highways running through the country of course are full of trucks, there are a lot of little Fiat 650, it's a car that was made in Poland so you see them everywhere, I think it's a slightly later version of the Fiat 500 that we knows so well. They puddle along the road at about 80 K. and move right over to the right when they feel they are about to be passed, which is often. The passing is not always safe and is done almost anywhere, I have noticed some very crumpled cars being transported to the crumpled cars Yard whatever that may be.

I bought several maps, each one a little bit better, in the last one of course I am using the most because it is the largest scale which almost shows all of the small towns I go through. The names of the towns are totally impossible, to me that is, I stayed the first night at Wieruszow which is near Kepno. It was a nice clean hotel that was above a restaurant which was beside a petrol service station so I guess that offer little bit of everything. The single room cost me 60zl ($NZ0.41807=1zl ) which I thought was a very good price seeing it included breakfast.

Saturday 29 May Wieruszow, Poland
What was not hard to wake up early, they had a skylight over the bed, with a light-coloured blind, which of course allowed the room to get completely light as soon as the Sun came up. Down to breakfast and was matter of lucky dip with the breakfast because of course it was written in Polish, so I chose the top one, which happened to be two boiled eggs, some ham and bread.

As I drive through the countryside is quite amazing the amount of bars and drinking establishments I see in almost every corner of the countryside. You go into a service station for petrol and you can also buy any type spirits or beer and there doesn't appear to be any limit of time of day or choice of day. There is no large signs which I recognised as indicating a minimum age!

So far I have only seen three horse and wagons trotting along the road, but that may change as I move into other parts of this country.

Stopped to buy some cherries on the side of the road today, there was about 1 kilo for 3zl, I only had a 100zl note so I had to just drive on!

On the road again heading south towards the Czech border, I was trying to keep to the secondary roads on the thought they may be more interesting, they were marginally, I was heading for Jelenia Gora, but when I got to Boleslawiec I turned right instead of left and ended up in Szprotawa, not knowing I was on the wrong place, I got out and went for good walk around the town getting some interesting photos, there were a lot of young adults about, all dressed up, men in suits, girls in very smart dresses, perhaps dance dresses, with beautiful high-heeled shoes, they are all of about high school age and I wondered if it was for the class that was graduating, some sort of function. I would have thought I would have found someone speaking English, but no one owned up to it. Looking at the same age teenagers that were not dressed up they were dressed like normal New Zealanders so it was a very special occasion.

So was back into the car and on the way, I could not find a road sign that pointed in the direction I want to go, so after much maps peering, I realised what I had done so went back on the road I have just been on, is good seeing it twice, gives you the second opportunity to look at seeing very sometimes you would not have looked at the first time.

When I got back to Boleslawiec I realised how I had made the mistake, because it was quite difficult finding the correct road and I had a couple of false starts before I took the right path. This started moving into more interesting country, it was moving away from the flat to the hills, and the houses seem to be more interesting as well. Eventually I got to Jelenia Gora at about 4.15 found a hotel for 160zl then went for walk through the shopping precinct, being Saturday evening most of it was closed except for the restaurants and drinking establishments. You'll be pleased to know they have a McDonald's and Pizza Hut in this town.

Sunday 30 May starting from Jelenia Gora
Well again the window of the hotel was covered by a light white curtain, so at 5.30 a.m. the room was as light as day, so I went down the breakfast at 7 a.m. and was on the road by eight.

I thought I would try to see some of the many ancient buildings in this area but I did not have a clue as to where to start looking, what is needed in places like this is a map showing how to get to these places, I'm sure it would be a interesting sort of business once the tourist industry gets into gear in this country.

So I was driving down the road looking for signs, and a German tour bus went past me, and I thought they may be going to where I want to go. So I followed them for about three quarters of an hour, and in the end I just gave up, I turned to left when they turned right and tried to go into a town on called Klodzko, they were having a flea market right throughout the whole town so I wandered through this for a little while and then decided to get underway again I wanted to take Highway 46 out of town and went out on a likely exit with the thought if it does not take me to this Highway I can take the first turned to the right and that should put me right on it.

Well it didn't take me to Highway 46, and the first exit was really leading on to some second-class roads but I recognised one of the signs so I persevered, but the road changed from two lanes to one lane to one lane with many potholes, leading through a deep Forest, I think the last person to pass through here was Napoleon's army, but eventually that let me right back to my starting point, I passed through some real interesting country which I would have missed otherwise and I wasn't lost I was just going on a scenic route.

Well I only kept on following the road that let more or less parallel with the Czech border, and these were all secondary roads at the best. There's one thing that is very obvious in Poland, that the majority of the people use a bicycle as their first option of transport, and walking as their second. You see a tremendous amount of bicycles everywhere and many people walking along the side of the road. I must classify this comment with the note that this is the country areas of Poland and not the cities.

Because of all this exercise that is part of everyday living I have noticed very few fat people in the countryside.

This turned out to be a long day of driving, about eight hours, however last hour and half was taken up a was looking for a hotel near the city of Katowice. I finally found one, checked in, and thought this is easy, there is a tram right outside the door, all I have to do is followed a tram wires into the city, and it will be piece of cake coming back. Well you guessed it, once you get into the city you get on a one-way route, and sure you find an another tram wire, but of course it is not the right one. At least had the key in my pocket even if I had no idea whether hotel was, so I stopped at taxi rank, paid taxi driver to lead me to the hotel, where I parked the car, and walked down to the restaurant I saw in the distance.

It was sort of Hobson's choice, a Turkish restaurant selling kebabs, and other bits and pieces. Whilst waiting for mine to be cooked, I watched the two couples that had ordered just before me, as far as I can gather that was the same dish times four, and the first one was really, and number-one Male took the first one that was ready and started eating. When the second one was ready, the lady he was with, had to get up and get her own meat sandwich, he didn't pause for one bite. Sandwich number three was for Male number two, of course, and female number two of course had to get her own Sandwich because the male was too busy eating his.

I will say this for the boys, they did take the girls plates back to the counter when they girls had finished their meals. The men of course were not rocket scientists, nor the girls fashion models, they were just ordinary working folks.

You can't help but notice the young couples that are a walking about these towns that I assume are married, often under 20 with one or two children, a little bit like New Zealand in the sixties.

As I was driving through the countryside I saw about three lots of young children who are just been confirmed (I think that is the term) and different towns as I passed through. It's also very easy to note that this confirmation of the children play is quite day important part in the average little photographic studio that is still in existence in most town's. It's also interesting to note that the minilab in the town is in the photo studio, they of course produce their own work through the machine has well is doing the rest of the town's work.

I think it is fair to say that the studios are still in existence because the community has not reached a level of prosperity that allows the people to have their own cameras beyond simple basic cameras, so therefore important occasions still require a professional photographer to get good results so Poland is one country where there is still work for a professional, but I wonder how long it will last.

Wednesday 31st March Auschwitz
This morning I visited Auschwitz arriving there about 10 AM. I paid for an English guide and discovered I had to wait over an hour before one was available so cancelled that and put the money into a donation to keep the museum running, not that my donation would do much.

Knowing the history of Auschwitz, and having read many stories written by Jewish survivors I was interested to view these buildings that represented death for so many people with eyes from the 21st century. Whether we like it or not it is now well over 60 years since this travesty took place and I believe it is time to look at these buildings and see how the current visitors appear to be viewing this tragedy of history.

First of all as I walked around I observe the buildings, and I noted that they were totally sanitised and devoid of any residual of what took place, which of course is perfectly natural considering the circumstances. This how ever removes the full implication of the use that these buildings were put to, and this was obvious by looking at the people that were doing the tour, observing expression on their faces, there was no sign of emotions or of appreciation of the tragedy that took place.

I also observed many groups of young teenagers that were getting the tour of the two extermination camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau, and it was as if they were on an outing to the local shopping centre for all the effect these extermination camps were having on them.

The problem as I see it is that it is now history, something like the black plague, that happen to beyond most people's memory, and the buildings are so sanitised, that they are unable to create in their imagination the circumstances and the treatment that the millions of Jews were subject to in the forties.

Yes the half room each of hair, shoes, suitcases all create an impact but it does not show how the people were treated. You see the barracks that they were housed in, but you do not see, or smell, or hear what was like to be in one of these barracks, you have to look at these shelves and try and imagine four people sleeping on this space, and today's people cannot stretch their imagination so far to imagine this type of scenario.

The young teenagers I saw, were smiling, flirting with each other, doing things that teenagers should be doing, but not on this location, I believe they should have been vomiting after what they had seen. If this had happened they would have remembered it for all of their lives. It would have made an impact that it should have made, but because of the sanitised scenario that is there, and it will be just another outing which they will soon forget.

This also applies to the adults, I saw no signs of concern or appreciation of the tragedy on any of the faces that I observed.

It is my belief that it is now time to change the exhibit, the museum, to show what happened, technology is such that we can produce life like models of people, we can produce smells of any variety, sound of any sort is no longer a problem, and I can see no reason why they cannot produce one of the barracks full of models in the conditions that they lived, looking like they looked, wearing the clothes that they wore, the total barracks smelling like it must have smelt, with the sound of what must have been taking place on a typical day, this is not to entertain, but to show what actually was taking place.

This could also be amplified throughout the whole museum, as it is now called, with illustrations of the brutality and the suffering so that no one has to use their imagination, and no one can leave the museum, as it is now called, with a dry eye, and many will have been physically sick with what they have seen. If this could happen then I believe this museum, as it is now called, will be serving its purpose for future generations more so that it is doing now.

My reaction to the two camps, Auschwitz, was extremely solid and well built, it had obviously been well-planned and every situation appeared to have been covered from the security point of view and containment of the prisoners. The designers of the death camp were incredibly efficient in their design and appeared to be, from the information shown, incredibly efficient in the murdering and liquidation and realisation of the assets of their victim's.

My impressions of Birkenau, was of the physical size of the area that the camp occupied and again walking through the camp one realised just how impossible it was to be out of sight of one of the watchtowers that were strategically placed throughout the camp. The design of the electric fences, at both camps were incredibly efficient and I would visualise being totally impossible to escape through.

It took me three hours to walk through both camps, I was told that a guided tour of Auschwitz would take four hours, and observing the size of each tour, I'm pleased I did not wait for the guide, but each groups seem to be about 30 and size and the movement of the group of course was a slow as the slowest person.

These two Death Camps occupied my thoughts for the rest of the day, as I was trying to work out why the people I was observing were not as upset as I thought they should have been with their visit, and I think I've outlined above what I see to be the ongoing problem that the current and future generations will have with this event of history.

Now I decided to carry on seen a little bit more of Poland and I decided to follow the Eagles nest Trail, which occupies a portion of my book on Poland. To get there I had to move from where I was location on the map to a spot that was about 12 millimetres from where I currently was. I tried during the next two hours without a great deal of success. There appeared to be no way that I could get these few millimetres on the map. I headed out towards a location that was beyond where I want to go, then I came to a sign which said Sogorzyce, I thought that moves off to the right, which is where I want to be, so I followed the road using my sense of direction and logic, which I started to doubt once the Tarseal ended, and I ended up on a rough shingle road, but even then I did not give up until I reached a quarry which was the endpoint of the road. So I backtracked, then saw a sign pointing towards a direction which was opposite of what I want to go, so I thought if I do the opposite direction that should take me somewhere, well it did, the road slowly got narrower until I ended up in somebody's backyard, which told me why there was no sign pointing in the direction I had went. So again I backtracked, the full distance, and returned to my starting point, which is reassuring, because I knew all of the place names as I passed them.

So if you ever see a sign towards Sogorzyce do not follow it, because it leads you nowhere that you want to be.

I then carried on out towards a direction which should have placed me well into the route that I was hoping to get to, but again I ended up somewhere else and again had the pleasure of seeing place names that I recognised.

At this point I decided, I would not try to get to a given location as shown in my guidebook, but would wait until I have satellite navigation built into a map of Poland which should guide me to location I want to go.

So I got onto the freeway heading towards a major city, which I made in good time and went off the freeway when I saw a sign for a hotel, which happen to be a town I passed about 9 a.m. this morning.

From today, I will be driving onwards, and if I happen to pass a historic site and will be more by good luck than good management.

This evening I spent a lot of time at a Tesco's store, it is interesting how it is changed the shopping habits of a nation, the simple fact that they supply plastic carry bags, as part of the price of doing business, his vastly different to when I was here 12 months ago. At that point you to take your own plastic bag, or buy one at the checkout, when you did you shopping. Also the size of the shopping trolleys were about half that of those in the West, now they have the full size trolley even if they do not fill them like the people do in the West.