The 3rd year BA Sports Management group flew to Katowice before taking a coach to Kraków and settling into our hotel. We then had the evening free so some friends and I took a walk around the old part of the city before meeting up with the others and heading out as a group. There are some beautiful buildings in that area of the city so we stopped to pick up a map from Tourist Information so we had some idea of what the buildings were and where to find things of interest.
We spent the morning at the Institute of Physical Education where we had a tour around the facilities by some of the students at the institute. We had a lecture about sport and development in Poland and then stopped in to see some of the different classes they had, including dance, gymnastics, tennis, swimming and volleyball. The current world number 6 female tennis player, Agnieszka Radwanska (who is a student at the institute) was finishing a training session so we watched the end of that and she then came over for a photo with our group.
In the afternoon, we visited an Olympic kayak centre which has been built next to the Vistula river. The facilities there are amazing and they have a great set-up for kayak and canoe training – even though the winter can be pretty harsh in Poland, they can use the facilities all year round and many other competitors from Europe make use of the centre, too.
We had an amazing guided visit of Auschwitz – Birkenau, the World War Two concentration camp which now makes up the largest Holocaust museum in the world. So many of the buildings, infrastructure and material possessions have been retained as part of the museum and although the history is so utterly devastating, it really was an incredible place to visit and our guide, who comes from the town, spoke with such emotion and humility that I am grateful to have had the opportunity to visit.
We then took a two-hour coach journey South towards the Tatra Mountains, stopping at a lovely thermal spa. The spa has both indoor and outdoor pools, which are heated naturally to a temperature similar to being in a warm bath. It was around zero degrees outside so the pools were very relaxing.
We were now in Zakopane, a town of about 30,000 inhabitants in the south of Poland. We took a guided walking tour around the town, stopping to look at various sports facilities. Tourism brings around 250,000 people to the town of Zakopane each year, mainly for skiing and various winter sports competitions, such as the Ski Jump World Cup in January. There were people training on the main ski jump and our guide said they were part of the Polish national team, who had a competition this weekend.
In the afternoon, we had a few hours to wander round the town and get some lunch before heading back to Kraków for our flight home.
Having never visited Poland before, I am happy to have ticked off a new country for 2014. I really enjoyed the trip and love spending time with my coursemates. Our annual course trips have been a big highlight of my time at UCB, as not only are they useful for our course and related assignments, but its so nice to get away from regular uni life and still be with our coursemates and lecturers.