Attending a conference abroad (3/7): Finally There!

This is the continuation of my story about my time getting and being at the 23rd Conference on Applied Crystallography in Krynica, Poland. Make sure, you read the beginning of my story (as well as the disclaimer in case you get a wrong impression of the scientific value of this conference)

For immersive reading, I recommend 500 Miles from The Proclaimers and Chariots of Fire from Vangelis as background music.

And this is how the story continues:

Still day 1 (Yes, I really was lost):

So, here I was, on the hilltop next to the ski-lift, looking into the valley and at the small village of Krynica. A more adventurous voice in my head told me to go down and to find some real people. The thought of going all the way back wore me out, so I decided to take the direct route: The ski slope. For those who are unfamiliar with ski slopes without snow, they are usually just plain soil because the weight of skiers destroys all the grass. However, since it was heavily raining beforehand, the soil turned into slippery mud. Fully embracing my geological heritage, I merrily walked down, slightly humming. When I found myself at the valley station, I was rather pleased with myself for still having the hard tested feet of a geologist, meaning that I didn’t slip in the mud.

I entered the restaurant next to the ski-lift and asked the waitresses, if they knew the hotel. Some people say history tends to repeat itself and it came as no surprise to me that they couldn’t speak English, but they pointed to the bus station and mumbled something that sounded like “people” and “help”. I arrived at the same place where I first set foot into the village about an hour ago, but this time there were four people waiting. Feeling that statistics would be on my side now, I asked to the group at large if one of them knows English. Some people say history tends to repeat itself, but this time I broke the vicious circle! I have to admit, I was surprised that the oldest looking man answered with “yes, a little”. I asked him for the hotel, and after he had discussed the matter with the other waiting people in Polish, he told me, that it was further out the village and that his English wasn’t good enough to describe the way, but he would call me a taxi, which could take me there. I said yes because the sun was going to set very soon and I would have had no chance in the dark.

After a few minutes, the taxi came and I told the of-course-not-English-speaking driver the name of the hotel, he smiled and nodded and we were off. Some people say history tends to repeat itself and it came as no surprise to me that we followed the same street I had already walked up and down three times by now but at my favorite fork, he didn’t turn right as I used to. We drove for another few minutes and then we turned right. After a few more minutes, we passed the village boundary and for the first time during this whole trip, I felt something like despair. “Great, now you have managed to get yourself kidnapped” I was about to think, but before I could finish this thought, the car entered the gates of the hotel. I stepped outside and my eyes popped; never before had I been to such a luxurious hotel. I grabbed my stuff and went in.

The registration desk was “manned” by three young Polish women who fortunately all spoke English. While I waited in the light of the reception, this was the first time I looked down on me. Here I was standing, slightly wet from the rain and the effort it took to walk up and down the hills with my luggage, my brown shoes and the lower parts of my blue jeans had both a healthy cover of mud. I was mildly surprised that I didn’t leave any footprints on the carpet. A guy at the reception handed me the key to my room followed by a wild and elaborate description of how to get there. Very soon, I gave the hotel the affectionate nickname “rat maze”.

I entered my room, thinking about the joy of my adventurous journey (no sarcasm here!). It was a magnificent room; everything in the bathroom sparkled. I thought it was a pity that I had to tarnish the beauty of a bathtub with my soiled shoes, but I had no choice since it was the only pair I had brought. I put them in the bathtub and as I tried to flip the switch for the shower, it wasn’t all that keen to stay in that position. After I MacGyver-ed something out of a five cent coin from Switzerland, I soon turned the water brown. I felt somehow guilty to besmirch the beauty of the shiny bathtub with my dirt. I took a refreshing shower and I noticed that it was time for the conference dinner. I slipped into my still wet (inside and outside) shoes and went back through the rat maze. After some asking around and several turns through the corridors, I found the dining room.

I shared a table with the quasi-crystal physicists from Krakow. We had a nice meal and afterwards they set out to find the ping-pong tables and engaged in a friendly match. I watched them for a while and heard some stories about how they are unable to put up a ping-pong table at their university. Far too soon, tiredness caught up with me and I returned to my room, still not believing how hard the life of a crystallographer on tour could be…

To be continued…