Production Placement Poland
Your second production placement to learn about welding was in Wrocław, Poland. Compared to Mátranovák in Hungary, they were known for running a tighter - and therefore more expensive - operation. Locomotive carbodies, bogies and other random parts were welded, machined and painted before being sent on their way for final assembly.
You were beginning to suspect being placed in factories was to make your face known, and not at all to actually do anything. That being said, it was quickly obvious how important networking facilitated big-company operations. The beurocratic nightmare for welder to give feedback prevented information sharing. You new role was quickly becoming the nice engineer who could bypass ECR's, NCR's, TPS reports, PowerPoint presentations, emails, drawing mark-ups and commando meetings; and just call the guy responsable. You hate commando meetings - they're such a power wank.
The word Poland when written in a German scentense literally means Bum-country or Bootyland. The correct German spelling is Polen. You only made this mistake a few times...
You didn't learn much Polish while there. After a week you knew tac and cześć, but that was about it. In the last week your mate Krzysztof tried to teach you "enjoy your meal" - smacznego - which sounds a lot like saying "so much lego". That one you'll remember.
Zee Germans consider Breslaw a better name for a city than Wrocław. You can't really get bothered by this since English bastardises most place names - Deutschland and España, for example. At least airports use three-letter codes to name airports. München (Munich) airport didn't want to follow this arrangement, leading to a confusing connecting flight. FSM bless the internet!
The first thing to note about Wroclaw is the traffic lights are too high. It impossible to see them when sitting in a car unless you lean forward and crane your neck upwards. Totally impractical. Luckily it's always raining, so you can watch the colours reflected by water drops on your windshield.
Wrocław is a bit artsy. It is home to eleven universities, and so is full of students. Consequently, the city never sleeps; it stays open partying all night through its innumerable bars, clubs, resturants and flower market. Why a populous needs 24-hour access to bouchets of flowers is a mystery, but it's there.
The vast majority of shops in Wrocław sell art made by, what seems to be, five year olds. Paper mâché sculptures and wonky clay pots sold at exorbitant prices are all the rage. You don't get this art, whatever it is.
Scattered throughout the city are numerous bronze gnomes. Each gnome is about the size of a milk bottle and is doing something relevant to where he's placed; for example, a sleepy gnome in front of a hotel, a drinky gnome by the liquor shop, or a motorbike gnome near the church (a Hell's Angel?). It's a nice and subtle - the best kinda art - which makes it fun to discover gnomes watching TV, pushing boulders, or selling newspapers.
Wrocław is safe, clean and overall not bad. The one glaring problem is this city's interpretation of a competition pool. Maybe you're being very Australian, but 25m is not a competition pool; it's a play pool. You went to six shitty, overcrowded, 29°C baths before finding a real place to splash about.
Wieliczka Salt Mine
Near the city of Krakau in the south of Poland is the Wieliczka salt mine. It's Europe's oldest and largest salt mine, having operated continuously since the 13th century to reach 327m depth and 287km length, and is now a World Herritage Site.
You paid your 75 Zloti - perhaps the most amusing currency name ever - plus 10 Zl for a photo-permit, and started descending the sixty flights of stairs into the mine. The mine shaft smelt far better than above ground with its nasty gassy odor. The mine at sixty meters was very dry and smelt of pine.
At the beginning of the tour you were invited to lick the walls, just to prove everything was made of salt. It is surprising how plasticky salt-walls seem. It wasn't chlostrophobic so much as it was monotonous. You walked through tunnel after tunnel of black, brown and while crystalline walls braced with reeeeeally old logs with little variation. There was the occational salt statute and historical diorama, but nothing blew your socks off.
After an hour you started descending another shaft, this time much more open and impressive. Your guide explained that no part of the mine's structure was natural, and was completely excavated by hand. Voulintarily, mind you, by by well paid citizens. It was a real life Minecraft!
Eventually you arrived in the world's largest underground church, complete with salty Jesus, salty chandeliers, salty floor tiles, and a massive salty statue of the pope. The miners meticulously carved his likeness to honor his expected visit to the church. He never showed up. Bastard. If someone made your life-sized statue, you'd be there!
Most beautiful was the underground brine lake. The saturated salt water filled a few meters of the room's enormous volume. The room's perimeter at water level was encrusted with chunky crystal buildup, while above an elevated walkay wound its way up the walls. It looked like a scene from a video game (Skyrim, for example). When people tossed coins into the pool the light reflected on the walls rippled. The projections were so clear that each single wavelet could be seen propagating radially outwards.
The lift back to the surface was probably the original one the miners used. It was a narrow, multi-level cage which rattled furiously up the shaft back to the surface. Somehow it'd been very peaceful being underground.