It’s been a while since I was so cold. Here it was -20c overnight and an early evening wander around without a coat was not a good idea either. This city is 1,000 years old and has everything you would expect from an ancient Central European city – romantic old buildings, squares, cobbled streets, cafes and restaurants. Until 1945 it was one of Germany’s foremost industrial cities and still today Lufthansa confusingly refers to it by its German name, Breslau, like Gdansk the formerly named Danzig. However, it has one of the worst airports in Europe. Copernicus airport, named after Nicolaus Copernicus the Renaissance astronomer and mathematician, is without a doubt the most unworthy tribute imaginable to the man who probably had the single most profound impact on the understanding of scientific teaching over religious belief of the Renaissance. The airport itself is small, lacking in services and there is nowhere to sit. Plus it is extremely dirty.
The other extraordinary thing about Polish airports are the security guards. They dress like a paramilitary force, black tee shirts with Straz Graniczna emblazoned in white on the back. This means Border Guard in Polish. The ensemble is finished off with combat trousers and military boots … oh and a pistol casually strapped cowboy-style to the thigh. It’s quite some get-up for the girls if you like that sort of thing. But the whole image is one of heavy-handed oppression. I made the grave error the other day of smiling at a very attractive ‘Straz Graniczna’ of the female variety while waiting to be scanned at Warsaw airport. That’s Lotnisko Chopina for anyone who hasn’t been there, named after Chopin. What is it with these romantically styled Polish airports? Must be something to do with the perceived glamour of travel. Anyway, she fixed me with a stony glare and pointed to my laptop bag.
Now, I don’t know how it is with others, but my laptop bag, a Tumi one in fact, is a small portable part of my private world when I am travelling. It has many interesting things in it. Along side the work items like the laptop, mobile phone and papers there is a bag with all sorts of gadgets and adaptors required to connect to the outside world from alien hotel rooms, a plastic knife, fork and spoon set because sometimes you can’t get hold of these things easily on the road, Macbook Air or iPad for personal use depending on length of trip, my personal iPhone, pens, tie-pin, access cards to multiple offices, quite a lot of spare currency from various frequently-travelled countries, a couple of passports to avoid any unnecessary embarrassment in certain unfriendly countries, photographs to remind me at times why I get up and go to work at all and most importantly my glass evil eye to ward off bad things when I am airborne. A few years ago some unmentionable stole the trusty forerunner of my current bag while I was under the influence in a London restaurant and I had to travel all the way to Istanbul to replace that evil eye. It was a nerve-wracking flight without it.
But back to the bag. She took it off the belt and removed every last item from it and after examination spread them out over several trays as she put them back through the scanner. I stood there in absolute disbelief and after a few well-chosen words, which I don’t think she could have understood or otherwise I would probably not have got off lightly, I realised that I had no option but to just stand there and endure the smirks of other passengers as she made her point and no doubt her day. Beauty in an iron fist. I hope she stops terrorists.
By the way, I can highly recommend the Radisson Blu hotel in Wroclaw. It is clean and the staff are excellent. It also has a good bar that you can sit at and observe the comings and goings in the lobby. This is always a very entertaining activity to pass the time in Polish hotels. All round a very worthwhile place to spend the night and to base yourself if visiting.