Thursday, August 04, 2005

Krakow (part 2)

On Thursday, we visited Auschwitz.

When we got back, we enjoyed a relaxed afternoon and evening at the hotel, most of which I spent chatting to young ladies who had had slightly too much to drink (CM. and EF. in particular). I did, however, find the time to chat with some people from the Suffolk County Youth Orchestra, who happened to be staying at the same hotel and playing the same venues as us, on a tour organized by the same tour company. Incidentally, we saw a poster listing the concerts being given over the summer at the church in Zakopane; nearly all of the acts listed were British, and most were youth ensembles (orchestras, windbands etc).

Some people went in the swimming pool, but I relaxed by doing some karate practise in the hotel's tiny gym. Unfortunately, there wasn't really enough room there: I couldn't string together more than a couple of jumping kicks before meeting a wall. It did feel really good, though, to work out for a bit.

Friday, then, was our last day in Poland, and the weather was really, really hot. Once again, the venue was a church: this time, a beautiful Augustinian monastery curch within about ten minutes' walking distance from the city centre. Unfortunately, we were't able to get the coaches down to the church to unload, so we had to lug the big instruments a couple of hundred metres down little side streets to get them into the venue. There was one house on the route backwards and forwards where I heard very loud dance music playing, and a group of small Polish children watching its doors and windows as we lugged the timps across the flagstones in the baking heat.

Once we'd stored everything safely in the monastery, we walked together to the same coach park we'd stopped at on Tuesday. We had a bit of disagreement in our group about what to do next: PG., CK. and myself wanted to do a bit of shopping for clothes (for the girls) and souvenirs (for me), while most of the rest of the group wanted to lounge around and do nothing. In the end we split down the middle, and half went shopping while the rest sat around and chilled out. Soon after we split, we bumped in to Mr. S. in the street, and he nearly busted us for not sticking together. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed; in fact, we were saved by Mrs. L. Just about the last thing I expected to happen!

We wandered around for a bit. PG. was looking for some clothes for school, and CK. was, as usual, looking for shoes. I can't remember whether they bought anything or not in the end, but I found a really good t-shirt shop where I bought a t-shirt and a very nice polo shirt. I would have bought more, but they didn't have very much stuff in my size, unfortunately. I also bought a new hat, because I was getting quite worried about sunburn and heat stroke wearing just a baseball hat. The hat was only 35 zt (about £7), but it's a really nice one, and I certainly felt more comfortable with it on!

We met the others for lunch at Pizza Hut. Although we had to hurry through our food in order to be able to get back to the venue in time to set up for a 2:30 pm rehearsal, we really enjoyed our meal. We were really suprised by the price: we got food and drinks for nine people for 130 zt, which is just over £20! The slight downside was that we found that AL. had joined our party, and that he had a hangover and was throwing up everywhere. I think he had some heat exhaustion and was dehydrated, which wouldn't have been helping him much.

The interesting thing about this concert was that EH. had had to fly back to Poland at the crack of dawn on Thursday morning in order to play in the National Youth Wind Orchestra, and so it was that I came to find myself sight-reading the first horn part of the Tchaikovsky (the programme was Cockaigne, Kilar, Tchaikovsky). Fortunately, we weren't doing the Enigma Variations, and I thought it went okay: although I wasn't note perfect, I think I played well enough to deserve to feel happy about it.

Immediately after the concert, we set off for the UK. The only notable things that happened on the way back was an hour-long traffic jam at two o'clock in the morning; getting stopped at French customs because they thought they could smell marijuana in the hold of our coach; and me leaving a large bottle of whisky on the coach and only remembering early on Sunday morning (that was really annoying, let me assure you).

It's hard to believe that that was my last OCYO tour ever; I've been doing the county orchestras (the Oxfordshire Schools' Orchestra, the Oxfordshire Senior Schools' Orchestra and the Oxfordshire County Youth Orchestra) on and off for 12 years, and I've been principal horn in all of them. I really wish I'd journalled what happened on the various tours, like I've done for this one. The real highlight of OCYO was our trip to Canada, and that's rapidly blurring into the past (it was, after all, three years ago now). It's a shame that I'm just so bad at writing things down.

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