Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Krakow, Poland--Katowice, Poland—Day 151

Today we took the train to Katowice. We got an early start and made it to Katowice around 10:30 in the morning. We immediately went to the hotel and then onwards to the zoo, with hopes of getting the hippos wrapped up with time to make it to Auschwitz, which is located about 30kms from Katowice.

We got a taxi to the zoo and found the hippos right away. They only had an indoor enclosure and we found two hippos, one of each side. On the left side was a hippo that appeared to be smaller than the one on the right, and much more active. This hippo spent hours swimming around in its little pool, around and around in circles, much like Hipek at the zoo in Łódź. The other hippo on the right seemed to be much bigger and had significantly less space to move around in, but seemed pretty content just sitting there.

Sarah and I watched. And watched. And watched. The hippo on the right kept swimming, the one on the left kept sitting. We watched for about an hour before deciding that something had to be done to get these hippos into action. Then I noticed something. I said to Sarah, do you think that there are TWO hippos in the enclosure on the right? Noooo, she said. But I could have sworn that I heard TWO hippos breathing, not one. And so I moved a little to see if I could see anything else and sure enough, a little baby hippo’s nose pushes itself out of the water just for a brief moment and then goes back down. There were three hippos!

We went outside and found two zookeepers who were sitting and having a smoke. Seems to be the thing to do here, so I approached them with my “Hi, I don’t speak Polish…” piece of paper and he takes my pen and writes down the hippos’ names: Hamba (on the left), Hipolit (on the right) and the baby, Cza-Cza. We ask them what time the hippos are going to be fed, and they tell us 2 o’clock.

We thank them and head out to find something to eat to kill the time. We had about two hours to wait so we had lunch at the zoo’s restaurant and then walked back to the hippos about an hour later. Surprisingly the hippos were JUST being fed as we walked in (so much for 2 o’clock!) and we spent the next hour or so taking pictures of them getting out of the water, eating, and then getting back into the water.

I have to say that so far I have seen a lot of hippos. But no hippo that I have seen as of yet as been as huge, I mean as MASSIVE as Hipolit. He was so huge that he couldn’t even walk up the few steps that he had to get to his food and was soo big that instead of putting forth the effort of walking towards his food, he would reach out his huge head to hopefully move the food closer to him with his nose. When that plan was exhausted, he finally lumbered forward. Sarah and I were in shock and in awe of this huge, huge creature.

When all of the hippos were back in the water, we set off out of the zoo. We caught a tram and then a taxi to the bus station. Unfortunately a bus to Auschwitz wasn’t coming for another hour so we had to wait. It finally came and we got on and about an hour and a slow taxi ride later, we were arrived in Auschwitz

Visiting Auschwitz is like no other—and its difficult to put into words the experience of actually setting foot onto the grounds, and something I feel best left out of this blog. Sarah and I had a brief two hours to explore the museum now based—hardly enough time at all.

The museum closed at 7pm and we were close to the last people out. We had no idea when our bus or potential train times were back to Katowice, or where the train station was anyways. We got a taxi ride to the train station by an overly enthusiastic driver and he told us that there was a train at 7:45 or so, but that he could take us all the way back to Katowice at “half price” (whatever that meant!). We considered it for a second but then decided that we were fine just getting a train.

When we got into the train station we realized that there were no trains. Whoops. We then discovered that there was only one bus back to Katowice, which left at 8:15. So we had about an hour to spare (where was the taxi driver again?!?! Could he still take us back?!?!) So we went across the street and had dinner at a restaurant while we waited. We paid and walked back to the bus stop when we realized that the bus we were waiting for only came on Sundays. Oh man, we were on a roll! So we HAD to get a taxi back. Thankfully when we got into the taxi, he quoted us a price quite a bit lower than the eccentric driver’s price, so we were pleased. We made it back to Katowice a half hour later and called it a night back at the hotel.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.