I landed in Krakow at about 10:00 a.m. local time Saturday.
My journey began at the Minneapolis / St. Paul airport about 13 hours earlier with brief stops in Chicago and Frankfurt. Overall it was uneventful, and I was able to get a few naps in on the flights. The owner of the guesthouse picked me up and we drove about an hour to Osviecim, where I will be staying for the next week. It is a town of about 50,000 and best known for being the home of the World War II concentration camps Auschwitz and Birkenau.
As we drove through the small towns and villages along the way, I could see why some of my ancestors emigrated from Poland to western Wisconsin and southeastern Minnesota. The rolling hills and vegetation are almost identical. However, the buildings, especially the houses, are different than what you typically see in the U.S. They mostly appear to be masonry for the structure, often stucco exteriors. The roofs are predominantly metal or clay tile. It is hard to tell how old the buildings are; they are built to last. The larger apartment blocks and commercial buildings built in the last 70 years have a definite communist / brutalist influence.
After getting settled into my room and grabbing a quick bite to eat it was time to head to Katowice to get my badge. I was able to find the train station and get my ticket for the hour long ride with using the Google Translate app only a few times. Side note — the app is amazing, bordering on some science fiction technology I would have seen as a kid. It will be very helpful for my time in Poland.
The train ride was pleasant, and I was able to take in the scenery and even saw a few Polish deer resting in grassy areas along the tracks. In the cities there was the seemingly universal graffiti along the train tracks. I couldn’t read it but I’m sure it was intelligent dialog on the state of global climate affairs.
I got off at the main train station. As I exited the station onto the street there was a large motorcade of police vehicles with lights and periodic sirens driving slowly through the street.
Looking back at the train station, “We are an endangered species” was being projected in several languages onto the glass wall.
I started walking towards the main venue where the negotiations are being held. The streets were shut down and there was an overwhelming police presence.
There was an organized march earlier in the day and now there were a few small groups of protestors. The police outnumbered the protestors and observers, possibly two to one. Everyone was well behaved and there were no incidents that I saw. I went through security and got my official credentials and then explored the area around the venue and ate at a charming restaurant before catching a bus and heading back to Osviecim for a much-needed night of sleep.