Day one - Travelling to Poland

Our adventure started at before eight in the morning, Guillem and Salomé met up in Ferreries and then drove up to my house to pick me up, a little late but no problems.

We set off in the middle of a howling gale, really strong winds and at that moment they seemed to be a foretaste of what we thought awaited us in Poland.

We got to Reus without any mishap but when we got our stuff out of the back of the car I asked if they had weighed their cases. For Salomé this wasn't a problem as her case was relatively small and weighed like mine (I had weighed mine and it was 14.6 kg) but Guillem had the case he takes skiing and it is large. Hefting it it didn't seem to weigh like mine either.

Sure enough at the weigh in it came in at two kilos overweight, "what do you want to do?" The girl asked, "pay for the extra weight or take something out?" We all agreed to take things out.










He put his boots on and took out some other stuff and we rechecked the case, 14 kilos this time. Great... but hang on... as the case disappeared we realised what we had take out was his toilletries bag!! With all the liquids, how was he going to get past the security check?

In the queue for the security check I can honestly say it was one of the only times I have seen Guillem worried on a trip. In the end we just thought of saying nothing. He asked about liquids and the man said, "what is it?" Guillem answered cologne and he was told to put it in a plastic bag. This done he sailed through the control and it was me that was searched had to take my belt off etc!!


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The flight to Stansted was quite pleasant but it was nice to get off the plane once there. We found the check in for Ryan air and then resorted Guillem's suitcase to hide the offending bottles inside his case. This time it was a kilo over but the girl said nothing.











Here you can see Guillem repacking his suitcase with Salomé's help












This time we got through security with no problems though I even had to take my shoes off!!

Our flight from Stansted to Katowice was fairly uneventful, we even had a chance to learn some Polish with the people on the plane.










Here you have the report on our second flight, made during the take off preparations on the flight.

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We were met at the airport by a taxi driver, we later discovered his name was Artur, he packed us into his Mercedes and we set of for the hotel. It took us well over an hour and we were glad to get there by the end of the trip. Lots of back roads and bad surfaces, the only decent road had road works where we were stopped for ages. Plus perhaps the thing that freaked us out most was that as the flight was landing we had realised that it was getting dark... at four in the afternoon!!

Finally we made it. The Hotel Villa Eureka.



Mostra un mapa més gran


At the hotel we checked in with no problems and decided not to explore any further for our evening meal. So we ordered in the hotel and had the first really pleasant surprise of many here, we discovered that the food really in excellent.












We all meet up in the bar

While we were finishing our meal Ewa and Dominika arrived to meet us. We were soon joined by the teachers from Bulgaria and the other Polish teacher Zbigniew.










Guillem with Ewa Zbigniew

Soon the group increased with the arrival of the Germans and the Bulgarians and then finally the Greeks appeared.








Nikos with Manolis, Tanya and Svetla









Tanya and Svetla from Bulgaria








Nikos and Manolis from Greece

Day two, Bielsko Biala

Our second day started with a trip to the biggest local town, Bielsko Biala.


Mostra un mapa més gran

This is not too far from Czechowice, which you can see in the top left corner. In the morning we went on a walking tour of the city which was especially nice as it was a beautiful day and we all got the chance to renew friendships or get to know the group members we hadn't met before.











































Lunch was in a restuarant at the top of a building right in the centre of the city. From the balcony outside we could see right out across all the city to the mountains in the distance. The city has been known as the Vienna of Poland (I think) and you can see signs of its splendour in most of the buildings. Now it is very dirty, grey from the contamination and unkempt. From our rooftop restaurant we could see numerous cranes working in the city. All of them were invovled in the restoration of buildings and it was obvious that in only a few years this city will be resurrected from its sovietic grime and will shine once again.







Dominika and Ewa, our Polish hosts










Katrin and Katrin from Germany








Guillem next to Ewa










Nikos from Greece


One of the things that almost caught us by suprise in the preparations for Poland was that it still does not use the Euro. Accordingly we had to order a quantity of Zwotys, monopoly money as always. Whenever you get foreign currency it always seems to be a sort of monopoly money.











Lunch was really excellent and Salomé, Guillem and I were already starting to wonder at the amount of food we were eating... and this was only our second meal in Poland. The company also proved to be really good and everyone got on extremely well.








































After we finished lunch we went to a shopping centre not far from the restaurant and walked around it for a while, giving some of us the chance to do some shopping for families and kids. The centre was essentially exactly the same as any you would find in Spain or for that matter the rest of Europe I suppose.

That done and with night coming on we walked back to the centre and... our evening meal. At half past six!! We were only just beginning to cope with lunch and now we had to eat again!















Ewa and me going down the stairs at the entrance to the restaurant

Cracow

On the Sunday we all got on a minibus that Dominika and Ewa had organised and set off for Cracow. Cracow at one time was the capital of Poland and as such still retains much of the glory of those times.











Our first stop was outside the Hilton Hotel where we met up with Susanne and Nina from Sweden who had arrived in Cracow the night before and decided to spend the night there in anticipation of our visit the next day.











They assured us that they had not spent the night at the Hilton... and we believed them. on the picture on the right you can also see the charming guide that we had who took us all tound the city and proved to be remarkable in the amount of information she was able to tell us. I can only remember a fraction of everything she said and that is really a lot as it is.

Our first real stop was the castle of Wawel.













This is the ramp up to the main entrance.













The castle is really very impressive and, for me, there is something essentially Polish in its construction. It has a long history but the main thing I remember is that during the war it was the official residence of the German governor of Poland and that now it is missing all the artwork from inside. In fact we didn't go inside as Ewa advised us that there is really nothing to see.

Apart from the castle itself the other important element of Wawel is the cathedral.













It looked spectacular but we didn't get to see the inside as they were in the middle of mass and tourists weren't wanted, understandably.

In fact on the door there were a couple of charming "guards" posted to keep us out and to welcome all the real devote.














Opposite the entrance to the cathedral there is a statue of Pope John Paul, who of course lived for quite a long time in the city and is beloved of them. In fact a short time after this we were able to see the house where he grew up in the city.













We moved further into the castle and into this central courtyard which I found really spectacular.



















We left the castle through another gateway and were greeted by this scene of the river below us.









Out of the castle we headed into the city itself, still following out guide, and passed John Paul's house when he lived in Cracow. This is now a museum but unfortunately we really didn't have time to visit it.










Finally our guided tour ended in the central square of Cracow. It was bitterly cold and bits of Guillem had started to turn blue so when the choice was offered of going to look at some churches, a shopping centre or to the restaurant where we were to have lunch for something hot to drink... we really had to think hard.







After lunch we did indeed go back to visit the very original market that is in the middle of the square and bought some things too, one of them was the very original post card that we sent to the school.









We walked around the square some more seeing the sights and admiring the centre of Cracow.













Then once we were all together again we set off towards the point where we were to meet the bus once again. This was in a street near the walls of the city next to what appeared to be the eternal flame to the fallen in some war or other. By the way, it was out.