Tuesday, 22 September 2015


My brother is a kindly soul who recently arranged a surprise for his wife. He booked a holiday for them both to fly to Poland, specifically Krakow and visit Auschwitz.
Unfortunately she developed Emphysema and was unable to travel. So, rather than let the trip go to waste he invited me to go along.
The flight was due to leave Standsted Airport at 1255 on Monday and I was due to leave Aberdeen at 1915.
I had to travel down from Scotland to London that was a trip and a half. I asked the lady of my life to drive me to Aberdeen from Boddam where we lived so I could catch the bus from Aberdeen to London. I had been quite clever, I had built many hours of delay into my trip.
My bus was due to depart Aberdeen at 1255 and arrive in London at 0645. I would then have to get from St. Pancreas to Victoria to catch a train at 0800 to Standsted which would arrive by about 1000.
Well, I got to Aberdeen by 1845, kissed girly good bye and headed to the bus station. As I was so early I grabbed a bite to eat, bought some bottles of water and diet coke, a couple of sandwiches and headed for my bus.
The carrier I was using was Megabus and I joined the queue for my bus at 1905 and boarded the bus at 1910. All was looking good. What I did not know was that there was an asian gentleman in a heated argument with the supervisor for the bus. He had been drinking and had a quantity of alcohol with him and wanted to board the bus. The supervisor was prepared to let him board, provided he put the alcohol in the storage compartment of the bus. The asian gentleman was having none of it.
As a result of this the bus was delayed.
What should have happened was the supervisor should have dealt with the guy and the bus should have left on time. What happened was the supervisor walked off and left the bus driver to deal with it. This resulted in the police being called and the bus being delayed by 25 minutes. So, the first 25 minute delay was built in. Was I worried?
I still had a lot of time built in to my travel plans.
We travelled down the road to Perth, where we picked up some more passengers, then we stopped in Glasgow, where we had to change bus. This added about another 10 minutes delay to the trip, but I was still not worried.
We set off for England, while driving along the M6 we ran into a problem. A lorry load of concrete blocks had been shed and the M6 was closed. It was closed for over an hour and we sat and waited. Now I was getting concerned. If everything worked out, we would arrive in London just in time to miss my first bus connection to Standsted. However, I still had a couple of hours built in so I could still make it.
However, as we travelled south so we picked up additional delays on the motorway.
As we approached london, this just got worse and worse. We actually arrived in London at 0900 ish. I checked the bus times from Victoria to Standsted. Assuming I made the bus and there was no delay on the roads, then I would make the airport with 25 minutes to spare. This would of course include getting through security etc etc etc.
I got on to the train line and and found that I could shave an additional 30 minutes off by taking the train. So, I ran to the train, bought a ticket and jumped on the first train to Standsted.
I arrived at around 10 past twelve and called my brother.
We meet at the front of the airport and made a dash for the security queue.
Fortuntely, we made a dash, if we had decided to grab some breakfast first we would have been in the poo poo.
It took us 20 minutes to get through security.
By the time we got past the duty free picket line we had 10 minutes before the gate opened at 1225.
We grabbed some soft drinks and a couple snacks, wolfed both down and headed to our gate.
My brother had booked with Ryan Air so we were envisaging problems, however, the seats were comfortable, the leg room was adaquate and the flight passed in no time.
We arrived at Kracow slightly early, got off the plane and wandered through the airport. We came out in the arrivals area and the taxi that had been booked to pick us up was waiting with my brothers name on a large sign.
We walked out to the taxi and headed for the hotel.
The guy who was driving spoke really good english and told us some history of the city as he took us to the hotel.
We arrived at the hotel Symposzjum and checked in.
The hotel was nice and well maintained and we where checked into a double room with single beds, which was a bit of a relief.
We went down to the bar and had a few drinks, and then had dinner in the hotel restraunt. It was nice. We retired to the room and watched some TV. After an hour or so we decided to go for a walk and we wandered into town and visited the Tesco in town.
The following morning we walked about 100m to the local tram stop and headed into town. The tram system was really good and the regularity of the trams just made it better.
We wandered through the town taking photos and had lunch in the main square. We took a horse drawn carriage around the city and had a really nice day.
Towards evening we took a tour of the Ghetto district, saw where the Jews took the train from Ghetto to Auschwitz. We saw the Square of the Heros, with its chairs, each representing 1000 Jews murdered.
We also saw the factory of Schindler and the Pharmacy and the remaining part of the Ghetto wall.
It was a sobering day.
The following day we visited Auschwitz one and two and it was a really big shock. Auschwitz one, where the famous sign is, was bad enough. With cells where people were suffocated, hanging posts made of railway track, purpose built walls where people where shot and the first industrial gas chamber. The big shock came with the gas chamber and crematoria at the back of the site close to the soldiers bar. The gas chamber was bad, but the crematoria smelt of soot, even after 70 years. It was awful.
Auschwitz two was a shock. The size was mind numbing. To hear that there were three main sites, plus 40 other sites in the area was a real and total stunning shock.
A piece of information was was both horrifying and repulsive was that the paths we were walking on were partially made from human ash.
We walked the length of the rail tracks that lead from the main gate down to the gas chambers and crematoria. We looked at the memorial and we then walked through the accomodation blocks. The moment of greatest horror was to enter block 28, the death house. This was the place the murdered people would spend their last night. They slept on wooden shelves, 7 per shelf, stacked three high, with a total of 1008 people in that one shed.
It was horrible.
The following day we wandered around the town of Kracow and tried not to think of what happened 70 years ago.
The city was great, the people where really friendly and I would go again.
What I would like to say is, everyone needs to go to Auschwitz.

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