On the Road with Gary in … Austria and Poland

Travel = trains + cars + flowers + stars

Had back-to-back week-long tours in Austria and Poland earlier this

Gary with young learners in Lodz, Poland, March 2011

month and thought I would write in this post a little bit about my life on the road. Let’s see: in Austria (where I was talking about teaching and learning grammar as in previous trip there last November (cf. On the Road with Gary in Austria) we were getting up between 5 or 6 each morning to take a train for three, four or five hours to the next city for that day’s event. (Austrian trains are nice, clean, efficient and on time, but – how should I put this – well, not as fast as French TGVs.) Then we would do the event, check into the hotel, have dinner and … get up early the next morning for the train journey to another city. Innsbruck (great audience there!), Dornbirn, Klagenfurt, Graz and finally, the big event in the capital Vienna where I didn’t even get to have the (apparently) best and biggest schnitzel in Austria at the Figlmeueller restaurant behind St Stephen’s cathedral. Instead, I had to fly back to Paris in the evening to get ready for my next tour the following week.

Anyway, so one day back home to see my family and then off to Poland where the travel was just the opposite: drive for three or four hours in the evening to a new city, check into a hotel, have dinner and then in the morning get ready for and do that day’s event before driving to the next city: Wroclaw, Lodz, Warsaw, Kielce, lovely Lublin and finally Rzeszow for the weekend PELT (Polish English Language Teachers) conference where I had presented last year and was invited back.In Lodz (NB pronounced ‘Woodge’) the event happened to take place on 8th March which was International Women’s Day. Since about 90% of the audience were female state school teachers, I went out and bought six tulips, only 2zl each (in other cities I gave out chocolates). The flowers were for the six winners of my quiz on teaching teenagers while preparing Polish lower secondary students for the new gimnazjum exam with the Polish edition of English in Mind. We also talked about two forthcoming publications for Poland: Repetytorium Gimnazjalne, and the bilingual English-Polish Cambridge Learner’s Dictionary.

The event that day was held in the Grand Hotel on the main street which is lined with large, embedded golden stars as Lodz is the centre of the Polish film industry. The city is sometimes called, wait for it, ‘Holly-Woodge‘. There were stars in front of the hotel with names of the famous Polish film directors, actors and cinematographers: Wajda, Kieslowski (his The Three Colours trilogy is one of my favourite series of films), Polanski etc. But at the event we given a special performance by some younger stars: a class of local primary students using the Polish Primary Kid’s Box who sang and danced to two songs from the coursebook. The kids were treated afterwards to cakes and (unlimited!) hot chocolate and I went down to talk with them. You can see their picture taken with their teacher and me; I’m grimacing because I was trying to teach them to say ‘cheese’ as the photo was being taken.

Off to Russia this week and trust I won’t get stuck in Moscow again like last year because of another Icelandic volcanic ash cloud (cf. On the Road with Gary in Bosnia Herzegovina, Croatia and Russia).

Gary Anderson, Cambridge ELT International Teacher Trainer

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