05.09.2011 - 06.09.2011
I've landed in Upper Silesia, Poland, for Week One of a three-week journey.
Yesterday as I stared out of the plane on the approach I was astounded by thick forests around the Katowice and Krakow area. Of course, these thick, green forests are interrupted by nuke plants and loads of industries belching smoke into the atmosphere. However, because of these forests the area is known as "The Lungs of Silesia". Let's hope that all of these lush, treed areas are, in fact, filtering the smog from all of the industry, diesel busses and trucks and dust from unpaved roadways!
After landing yesterday I grabbed a taxi from Katowice airport to the city of Gliwice where I will be working later this week. The trip amazed me.
Every small village we drove through had older German architecture with Communist, mid-century, dull buildings. The traffic was horrible along the two-lane, paved roads. The taxi driver remarked, "The population of Poland was 18 million back 22 years ago. And, there were probably only 250,000 vehicles. Today, the population is 37 million and there are 18 million vehicles. No infrastructure has been built to meet this increase." I'll confirm that.
After checking in I realized that I was in the most luxurious hotel in Gliwice. That is not saying much. On this trip I had pledged to myself that I would not carry or pack anything superfluous. Used large, chain hotels with supplied shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, toothbrush, etc., I packed no shampoo. Well, life is different in Upper Silesia. No shampoo, very little soap, one towel, no washcloth . . . . The room is very tiny and Spartan. I checked again. It is the top-rated hotel in the area!
I have discovered the "rynek" (market square) of Gliwice. I can walk two blocks to the rynek every evening and choose the outdoor cafe of my choice and enjoy free Wi-Fi from the village office in the center (the one with the bright, red flowers draping out of every window box). The Gliwicians stroll around the rynek with baby strollers and, if female and teen-aged, dangerously high-heeled shoes and tight jeans. Tonight a bride and groom are posing by the Neptune fountain 20 feet from my cafe table.
Next entry . . . I rented a manual transmission, Chevy Spark and found my way to Auschwitz (Oswiecim) today. I will be thinking of all that I saw and heard for the rest of my life.