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Zakopane, Poland

A week in Krakow is more than enough, particularly if you’re staying in a hostel that seems to have been set up to cater for the stag party crowd: groups of between 5 and 20 British and Irish men. The hostel laid on a booze cruise 3 nights a week (90 zlotys to eat and drink as much as you like) and a notice in the bar challenged people to drink as many different vodkas (they appeared to have more than 20 types) in an evening. Away from the hostel, the main square of Krakow is entirely circled by outdoor bars, and is said to have a higher density of bars than any other city in Europe (but I’ve also heard that said about Salamanca in Spain, so it probably depends how you measure it). I also heard people a few years ago saying Krakow was the new Prague, and Prague was the new Paris, or something like that, but I think now Krakow is more like the old Basingstoke on a Friday night. There are clubs and there is live music and restaurants and a number of things going on but it seems the only thing worth doing is to drink. Beer is about 7 zlotys a pint, which is about £1.20. It’s cheaper if you get it from an off-licence. Someone said it was these high earning Londoners who could afford to come over to places like this and drink so much, but if you come over on a budget airline and stay in a hostel a weekend in Krakow is probably cheaper than a weekend out in London or Dublin, so I don’t think these stag party types are necessarily that rich, though they can’t be that poor either.

The centre of Krakow is dominated by tourists. Everything is set up for tourists. If people approach you in the street, trying to sell you something, they will most likely speak to you in English, particularly if you look and sound English/Irish/Aussie/American etc.. With a couple of other English the other day two women got us to test aftershave, saying they were doing market research. They got us each to put a bit on our wrists and smell it, asking first if we thought it smelt nice then if we thought 79 zlotys was a reasonable price for a bottle. The other two were polite and said yes, it smelt good and 79 zlotys was quite reasonable, but I said I wouldn’t buy it whatever the price. From then on they ignored me and started handing the other two free gifts, various boxes, suggesting that for helping out with the market research they were being rewarded, though it turned out the gifts were only free if you paid for something else, the original aftershave I think. First 60 zlotys, and then 40 zlotys – they said because they were the last two bottles and they were finishing up for the day so they could virtually give them away.

The two English I was with that day had both travelled overland from Japan (where they had been teaching English) to here. They hadn’t known one another in Japan but had met in China and then had taken quite different routes, one going up through Mongolia to Irkutsk in Russia and taking the trans-Siberian, stopping off in several places in Siberia, before heading down through the Baltic states. The other took a southerly route, through Kirgistan, Kazakhstan, Ukraine. On BBC World just now (I have a TV in my room) there was an advert for Kazakhstan, directing you to the website, though on going there it says
…has recently expired!
and then has a page of links, including: Flower to Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan Girl, Kazakhstan Flag, Kazakhstan Hotel, Kazakhstan Woman, International Adoption Kazakhstan. Each link leads to a page of advertizer links. Whenever someone clicks on one of those links the site owners will earn a small payment.

Apparently Kazakhstan is quite expensive. About €40 a night for a hotel room.

Some people were watching Borat (Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan) in the video room in the hostel the other day. They watched the whole film in about 20 minutes, fast forwarding through most of it.

Meanwhile, in the virtual world, since I have wifi in my room I’ve been watching some things on the internet. The Great Global Warming Swindle was shown on Channel 4 a few months ago. It challenges the idea that global warming is caused by humans. It was very professionally made and for a while quite convincing, until you start looking up its claims on the internet and find each of them rebutted. But perhaps a film like this is enough to make a number of people think, oh well, since there’s doubt about global warming I can take that flight to Krakow this weekend and getted pissed out of my head without feeling guilty about it. I watched a Canadian film, made by the CBC, called The Denial Machine, about how this denial business has been funded by the oil and coal industries, backed by the White House, and how it operates in a very similar way to the tobacco lobby when they were claiming (not so long ago) that the link between cigarettes and cancer has yet to be proven.

If you watch any one of these videos on YouTube, or anything related to global warming, you can see part of the denial industry in action in the comments section. At first sight it looks like there are loads of deniers, but then you see that the same names keep appearing, and then if you read their posts you see that often they have been copied and pasted from their posts under other videos. Usually these people appear to be American, because they say things like Global warming is a conspiracy by Al Gore to take over our government / raise Americans’ taxes / make America weak… Everything revolves around America on YouTube. Google video seems a bit better, and the comments on there aren’t quite so inane – or there aren’t quite so many inane comments, but perhaps that’s just because there aren’t so many comments.

Some good websites on this subject are:
Climate Denial – a blog looking at why
Real Climate – climate science from climate scientists
How to talk to a climate skeptic

And also see the LegJoints page: Climate Change Denial

Climate change deniers don’t like being called climate change deniers because it sounds too much like holocaust deniers. (Max Keiser of KarmaBanque actually calls them holocaust deniers, because they’re denying the coming environmental holocaust.) Last week I visited Auschwitz and Birkenau, the Nazi concentration and extermination camps that are not far from Krakow. There’s a 3 hour tour, that starts with a short film and then you’re guided around the Auschwitz museum, through room fulls of the hair the Nazis collected from people, and their possessions, how gold teeth were extracted from the bodies by dentists etc., it’s hard to take it all in and I found myself wondering whether holocaust deniers, on seeing all this, would finally accept that the holocaust really did happen or whether it would just make them more adamant that it was all a big conspiracy and that all the evidence was manufactured.

It’s very hard to prove anything. If you were to travel back in time, to the middle ages say, or further, could you convince them that the earth was round? Or that the earth goes around the sun?