Monday, 16 July 2018

New bus stop for Karczunkowska

Summer is the time for minor tweaks to Warsaw's public transport system, new routes introduced, roadworks, trasy zmienione - yesterday Jeziorki got a brand new bus stop. Well, two - one in each direction. Named Pozytywki for the road that branches off ul. Karczunkowska between the two. Pozytywki 01 is for services towards ul. Puławska and Ursynów (calling at Metro Stokłosy on the way), while Pozytywki 02 is for services towards PKP Jeziorki.

Below: a westbound 209 bus pulls away from Pozytywki 02, heading for the temporary loop by Biedronka (once the viaduct over the railway line is complete, the bus loop will be moved to the other side of the tracks). As you can see, the bus stop sign is provisional, and there's no bus shelter here.


Left: Pozytywki 01. The siting of  these two stops is intended for people working at the new Totalbud  Karczunkowska business park, as well as for the state security printing works, PWPW. A good location, as up till now, people wanting to use public transport would either have to walk between 350m and half a kilometre from existing bus stops.

Too many people drive to PWPW. They leave their cars littered along the grass verges and pavements; at least they can no longer claim that they must drive to work because the bus stops are too far away.

The screenshot from Google Earth (below) shows the location of the new stops in relation to the Trombity and Karczunkowska stops. Click to enlarge - you can see just how necessary the new stops are, by two large zakłady pracy (the word 'workplace' is inadequate here!).



The ZTM website as of yesterday includes the new bus stop on the timetables (below) for route 209 (the L39 currently terminates on Puławska, by bus stop Karczunkowska 01 - hopefully just for the summer). Incidentally, the numbers by the names of the bus stops are... the numbers of the bus stops, and not the number of minutes between each stop. The bizarre one is PKP Jeziorki 53, I guess the '53' denotes a temporary/provisional stop.


The online timetable also shows bus times from the two new stops, as you can see, three buses an hour during the peaks - although bear in mind it's the summer; by autumn there will be more. And, no doubt, by the time the viaduct's ready, there will be more buses serving Karczunkowska.


Below: ZTM's public transport map of Warsaw (which now covers from Nadarzyn in the south-west to Tłuszcz in the north-east and from Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki in the north-west to Celestynów in the south-east) includes the city's latest bus stop - Pozytywki. Very impressive that it's so up to date!


So - Warsaw's public transport continues to get better and better. Now to tempt those idle fossil-fuel guzzlers out of their cars and into the buses!

This time six years ago:
Who should pay for railways?
[Interesting stuff about America's advanced electric railway line over the Rockies - built over 100 years ago!]

This time eight years ago:
Grunwald - the big picture

This time ten years ago:
"Take me right back to the track, Jack"

This time 11 years ago:
The summer sublime

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Health, physical and spiritual

Zdrowie, to najważniejsze, goes the Polish saying, often uttered while raising toasts. Health is certainly extremely important to us - but is it the most important?

Question - would you rather swap a fit and healthy body within which sits a troubled mind, for a body, that's immobile in a wheelchair but in a serene and blissful state?

I'd argue that spiritual well-being is even more vital to our lives, to our experience of living, than good health. The sense of being connected with the universe, with the infinite, of feeling at one with the unfolding, the becoming, of the journey from Zero to One. The eternal path from the brutish to the angelic, from ignorance to awareness - the purpose, the ordination of which can be represented by our human concept of God.

It is too easy to get distracted from the spiritual journey by our base human emotions, but we must not lose sight of the deeper current that links us all, our world, our universe, as it is unfolding. There are setbacks, we forget, we are distracted. And when that happens for too long, life's meaning gets muddied. At our human level, that 'unfolding' is represented by our new discoveries, by shared wisdoms that elevate our understanding.

This active search for understanding, for a higher awareness should be constant. It is repaid in that serene and blissful state of mind, which befalls us all too rarely. Two years ago, I asked 'how much spirituality do we need?' For my church-going readers, the experience of attending a religious service ought to bring about some sense of re-connection with the beautiful mystery of the infinite. Sometimes it does - sometimes just flashes - sometimes - empty ritual. And yet we owe it to ourselves, to our spiritual well-being, to actively seek moments of deep insight through which we build that serenity which should grow with age.

Yes, we age, nominally at one day per day, one year per year and yet our perception of the passage of time is that it is accelerating ever faster away from the past. At the age of ten, a year is one-tenth of our total experience, at the age of 50 it is one-fiftieth, so a 50 year-old perceives a year as galloping by at a much faster rate than a child - and at 75 it is even faster.

Even if blessed with good health, old age is marked by a deterioration in physical form, frailty, tiredness and poorer stamina. If you have built up, over the decades, a spiritual fortitude based on an awareness of one's place within the eternal unfolding of the universe, you will be in much better spiritual shape than someone who can do little more than bemoan the passing of youth.

The biggest enemy of your health is complacency; just because you're feeling well today doesn't mean you'll be feeling well tomorrow. I am convinced that praying - willing - yourself to be well does work. Plugging your biology into the current of the universe, so to speak. For a positive, spiritual reason. Healthy = happy, happy = healthy... if you will it, it is no dream. No matter how you are today, you can guard against further deterioration by engaging the soul.

Practising meditation, focus on breathing, listening to the universe - listening to God, if you will - actively seeking awareness - this all needs to be worked on over time if you are to enjoy serenity in old age, spiritual strength with which to overcome the encroaching physical frailty. As you lie in bed, before you drop off to sleep, think about the wonder of the endless and the eternal...

This time last year:
What's new on the Warsaw-Mysiadło borders...

This time two years ago:
Four stations from Jeziorki to Czachówek

This time four years ago:
High over Eastern Ukraine

This time five years ago:
From shouted slogans to practical policy

This time seven years ago:
Who should pay for railways?

This time eight years ago:
Grunwald - the big picture

This time ten years ago:
"Take me right back to the track, Jack"

This time 11 years ago:
The summer sublime

Friday, 13 July 2018

Koszyki

Pre-war Warsaw had four large indoor markets, three of which have survived. The first to have been renovated was Hala Koszyki (on ul. Koszykowa). A splendid redevelopment, turning a down-at-heel and shabby bazaar into three floors of post-industrial retail-and-restaurant space that's architecturally attractive.

Built between 1906 and 1909 in the Art Nouveau style (Secesja in Polish) when Warsaw was within the Tsarist Russian Empire, Hala Koszyki consisted of two wings and a central hall. Both wings have been retained. Below: the left (eastern) wing - the PRL-era shop signage is in place, above the ground-floor windows on either side of the entrance, but have nothing to do with current usage.


Below: the right (western) wing mirrors the left wing perfectly. Again, old-school shop signs have been preserved.


Below: between the two wings, set back from the street, a new facade for the main part of the building. Outside, the bars and cafes are thriving, even with a rainstorm imminent.


Immediately through the main doors, there's a long bar (below) serving all manner of drinks. It's Friday, at the end of the working week, and the place is beginning to fill up. Many cafes, bars and restaurants (casual dining and fine dining) to choose from. There are also much-needed services (a dry-cleaner), an upmarket food retailer (Piotr i Paweł) and a space for culinary demonstrations and workshops.


Below: the guts of Koszyki - a three-level arcade with lots of space for retail and catering, plus space in which to hang out. This is the first floor. In a few hours' time, Koszyki will be abuzz with social activity.


Left: a reminder of Tsarist times - bilingual sign for a fish shop, advertising gastronomical goods, fish conserves and marinades. Beautifully preserved from over a century ago. Today, the gastronomic tradition is maintained; there's a cheese shop in the basement, although there was no Wensleydale in today.

Below: a cool bookshop on the ground floor level - buy one, get one half price.

Re-opened in October 2016, Hala Koszyki is another great example of how heritage architecture can be given a new lease of life through smart planning and excellent execution. "Built it, and they will come."

Left: on the ground floor, looking east. A plethora of small shops, cafes, ice cream parlours and bars means that no one will leave disappointed. Though there could be more British cheeses in the cheese shop. There was Stilton.

Incidentally: according to the PWN Oxford Polish dictionary, kosz = basket. Then koszyczek (diminutive) = little basket. So what's koszyk? Basket, also. I'd have have translated koszyk as little basket and koszyczek as tiny basket.

This time last year:
It's just an Ilyushin (remember the plane-restaurant?)

This time three years ago:
Marathon stroll (31.5km) along the Vistula 

This time four years ago:
Complaining about the lack of a river crossing between Siekierki and Góra Kalwaria! 

This time five years ago:
S2 update (nearly ready)

This time six years ago:
Progress on S2 bypass - photos from the air

This time eight years ago:
Up Śnieżnica

This time 11 years ago:
July continues glum (2007 - a rainy summer)

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Rainy summer Warsaw moods

One I've done before, but it works well. Outside W-wa Śródmieście station, there's a puddle which has been there for years (see this post from 2014) into which falls a reflection of the Palace of Culture. Stand here and catch the commuters and tourists passing to and from the station, reflected upside down in the puddle. Rotate the image through 180 degrees... and something interesting appears!


The Palace of Culture has become a hotspot for nostalgic vehicle tours of Warsaw. You can choose between Maluchs (Fiat 126Ps), the larger Polski Fiat 125P, Jelcz ogórek buses (there's three now stationed here), the occasional Berliet 'pig snout' bus from the early '50s, and two Polish light commercial vehicles - the Nysa and the Żuk (left). Both were Polish designed and built, few are left, so it's good to see them well looked after and offering an interesting tourist experience of the past.

Below: on my way from work, the sky is brusing. I must go home at once or risk a soaking. The western entrance to W-wa Śródmieście is down the steps in the distance.

I catch a train heading to Skarżysko-Kamienna, but it's a przyspieczony (limited stop) service which doesn't stop at Jeziorki. It's a double-decker, I'm seated downstairs, I snap this shot of W-wa Zachodnia (below) on my way to W-wa Służewiec, where I change to await the slow train home.


As I arrive at W-wa Ślużewiec, the heavens open. Fortunately, there's ample space under a roofed area on the platform where I can keep dry. Left: an SKM train headed for town calls at the first station from the airport; W-wa Ślużewiec is now very well served by trains to town (eight an hour during the peak - four from the airport, two from Piaseczno and two that terminate here).

Below: a multiple exposure shot of a Polish Air Force Mi-8 VIP helicopter (the so-called 'salonka'), which was flying round in circles in the pouring rain, awaiting clearance to land at Okęcie. After four laps above Służewiec, it finally made its way to the airport.

Back in Jeziorki, still raining hard. I take a bus home, which means I'll not hit the 10,000 paces today! My Koleje Mazowieckie train below will call in at Chynów station in 28 minutes' time.



Weather in coming days looks set to remain wet and cool for the time of year - but then the soil and crops needs the water.

This time three years ago:
Marathon stroll along the Vistula

This time four years ago:
Complaining about the lack of a river crossing between Siekierki and Góra Kalwaria! 

This time five years ago:
S2 update (nearly ready, as it happened)

This time six years ago:
Progress on S2 bypass - photos from the air

This time eight years ago:
Up Śnieżnica

This time 11 years ago:
July continues glum (2007 - a rainy summer)


Wednesday, 11 July 2018

The weightless economy

The developed world's gross domestic product is growing below-trend; bouncing back from such a dip as the global financial crisis it should be doing better than it is. One reason is that the way GDP is measured still concentrates on physical goods and services - and the value created by the virtual world is underestimated. This article in Monday's Independent explains how difficult it is to put a figure to this move from the physical to the digital. So much of our economy today is weightless, intangible.

This struck me last Thursday in London. On my way to Ealing Broadway tube station, I paused to take a photo and realised that there was no memory card in the camera - I'd forgotten to take it out of my laptop the previous evening. So I bought a new one (Kingston 32GB) for £18. Rather expensive, but as a captive of circumstance, I had to choose between spending the money or lugging a useless camera around with me all day while missing shots.

In the old days, for £18, I'd have been able to buy a roll of 36 exposure 35mm film, develop it and get back 36 prints plus a CD with crappy low-res digital scans of the negs. Today, my Nikon D3300 can - cram 675 photos in fine .jpg and RAW format on to this £18 card (that I could probably have bought at half price online). That's 675 photos, again and again and again until the card packs up. I've only had one fail on me - a 256KB (yes! that small!) card which was over ten years old. In the days of film, I'd be shooting  and processing between two and four rolls of film a month. Then the photos would be piling up in cupboards, drawers, albums filled and filed on bookcases - today, a single hard 1TB drive with external back-up holds 11 years' worth of digital photos.

Think of the supply chain that stood behind my photography in the old days. Film manufacturers, distributors and retailers. Film-processing machine makers. Operators skilled in running the machines that could develop negs and print photos. Makers of those envelopes in which the negs and prints were presented. An entire industry - gone.

And music. In the old days, I'd be forking out loads of money on buying music. That £18 is what I spent over 21 years ago on my last CD purchased before moving to Poland - David Bowie's Low. Working across the road from the Virgin Megastore and not too far from HMV on Oxford St, I'd be shelling out fistfuls of tenners on vinyl LPs, then music cassettes, then CDs and DVDs.

Today I consume my media from YouTube; I can find the obscurest piece of music lodged in my memory there. Blast Furnace and the Heatwaves' cover of Robert Johnson's Me and the Devil off of the Blue Wave EP? Proszę bardzo. The longest of the long tail (a mere 200 views since it was uploaded last October, but I've been looking for this particular piece for 40 years). So why should I ever spend money on buying music again? I'm not listening to less music than I was Before Internet, it's just the internet delivers what I want - no matter how obscure - for free. And those fistfuls of tenners I used to spend on vinyl, cassettes and CDs no longer go towards the calculation of the nation's gross domestic product. All those vinyl pressers, album-sleeve printers, packers, distributors - jobs gone.

In the old days, I'd be forking out on newspapers. A paper on the way to work some days, but an Evening Standard on my way home every night. Before it became a free paper. Let me tell you this, Londoners - the moment Transport for London puts WiFi into your tube trains - newspapers will be dead. People will be glued to their Twitter, Facebook and breaking-news feeds. I have a full paper-and-digital subscription to the Economist - and that's all the paid-for media I consume. Newspaper owners are losing money rapidly, to the detriment of proper reporting.

Pay TV? Forget it. Any kind of TV. The idea that at a certain time, a certain programme is to be broadcast - and if I'm not on the sofa in front of the set, I miss it? How quaint. How 20th century. Not for me.

During the dot.com boom of 2000-2001, many thought that digitisation would be a little add-on to bolster an already well-functioning economy. Then the bubble burst, confirming that view. Yet the digital revolution has proved to be disruptive and transformational. We do things differently in the digital world - digital has not simply been about doing what we do better, faster and cheaper, but about a total re-shape of what and why and how we do it.

Today's economy is increasingly about intangibles. How can you measure the value you get from Google, for example? How much would you pay if you had to pay to access gmail, Blogger, Google maps, Google Earth, Google Drive, Google Calendar, Google Translate*, YouTube and the world's favourite search engine? Of course, if you did have to pay, someone would offer a free alternative very quickly. So let's put it another way - how much would you have to be paid to forego using the internet for a year...? Think about it. All those free services... How much would it take you to quit? £1,000 (5,000 złotys)... £10,000 (50,000 złotys) a year?

Now that's probably a truer figure of the value of what you're getting for free - and it's not being calculated into the world's gross domestic product.

*DeepL.com is a superior alternative to Google Translate - my entire office has switched to it now - thanks Andrew Nathan for suggesting it to me!

This time three years ago:
Seven days in Warsaw in seven photos

This four years ago:
Best Bacon From Poland: ad on London bus, 1969

This time nine years ago:
Sunset across the tracks, Nowa Iwiczna

This time ten years ago:
The storm the forecasters missed

This time 11 years ago:
Peacocks in the park

Monday, 9 July 2018

Grodzisk Mazowiecki revisited

Back after nearly five years in Grodzisk Mazowiecki, I pass through its lovely railway station on my way to a business meeting. And on my way back, I stop to take some shots to see how the place has changed. Worth noting that according to official stats, registered unemployment for the Grodzisk poviat (district) was 8.1%. Today, it's 3.2%. Local employers - big-name foreign investors, household-name brands, are resorting to advertising job offers on billboards - the labour market is running dry. Local people have more money in their pockets - and this can be seen in the shops and cafes. The local authorities have more tax revenue, which is spent on making this town of 30,000 inhabitants look much better.

Poland has some lovely examples of railway station architecture. Here is Grodzisk Mazowiecki station, along Line No. 1 (Warsaw-Katowice). Some 30km from W-wa Centralna. The current building replaces the original station (opened in 1845), which was badly damaged during WW1. Built in the early 1920s, its architectural style is Polish Dworkowy, the dworek being the manor house beloved of the landed gentry.

Below: front facade facing ul. 1 Maja, July 2018.


Below: August 2013.


Below: platform-side view, seen from footbridge, July 2018.


Below: August 2013. The new electrical gantries are prominent in the current view, as are improvements to the platform and trackbed.


Below: booking hall, July 2018. Proper electronic signage.


Below: general view of the interior, August 2013.


Below: waiting room, July 2018. Very contemporary.


Below: waiting room/booking office, August 2013. Shabby and tired.


The main railway line between W-wa Zachodnia and Grodzisk Maz is currently undergoing refurbishment - the slow line for suburban trains has been lifted and is being replaced with new track. At the moment, the suburban train from Warsaw out south-west to Żyrardów and Skierniewice bypasses all intermediate stations between W-wa Zachodnia, first stop Grodzisk Maz. The upside for passengers travelling between the two is just 19 minutes (not bad for a 26km journey!). No driver could do that in a car. The downside for Grodziskians heading to town is that this state of affairs will not last forever; once the remont is complete, the suburban trains will once again call at Milanówek, Pruszków, Ursus and Włochy.

This time last year:
S7 extension - last summer of quiet (not true, as it happened!)

This time two years ago:
Getting out of Mordor

This time eight years ago:
Ćwilin, conquered

This time nine years ago:
Sunset across the tracks, Nowa Iwiczna

This time ten years ago:
The storm the forecasters missed

This time 11 years ago:
Peacocks in the Park

Sunday, 8 July 2018

High summer, Jakubowizna

Back in Poland, I venture down by train today to spend a bit of time relaxing on my działka. Jakubowizna is looking fine in high summer; the fruit season is coming on. Below: on my road there are plenty of orchards, the apples still three months away from being ready to harvest. The orchards are well-tended, although here and there I see some that have gone to seed, their owners having abandoned them. I toy with the idea of a cider press...


Below: that old Kentucky klimat is to be found across southern Mazowsze...


On the działka, how's it going? Still a lot to do. Right now the main action is in insulating the foundations - digging a moat round the outside into which insulating granules will be poured so that heat won't escape from the floor (as I have under-floor heating, this is essential)


Two sides of the house already dug (south and east), two to go (north and west). Rain the big enemy right now. Below: the foundations along the east side, by the garage door.


Below: grapes. I have a large number of grapes - like the apples, three months away from being ready to pick. Cherries have come and largely gone (I need a much longer ladder than the one that's here). And plums will be coming along too.


It's an extremely relaxing place to be, very quiet, the occasional airliner making its turn into final descent into Okęcie, otherwise just birdsong. Time to set ofp back to Jeziorki, a 28-minute journey by train. Below: the journey to Chynów station is a ten-minute walk, I get this Eric Ravilious-style landscape along the way.


Below: orchards everywhere. This one not so well tended, not cultivated for efficient harvesting. But it will be a bumper crop this autumn!


Below: if you click to enlarge, you'll see a Warsaw-bound train at the vanishing point. It's still over seven minutes' travel from the platform at Chynów station, approaching Krężel, three kilometres south. The tracks run dead straight for 15km from south of Czachówek junction to beyond Michalczew.


Below: as my train to Jeziorki crossed the Skierniewice-Łuków line, I caught this westbound container train passing under the viaduct heading for Łódź, then onto Duisberg. This is part of the Chinese 'One Belt One Road' / New Eurasian Land Bridge programme to speed up container flows compared to the long sea journey to north-west Europe.


Bonus - Karczunkowska update. Biggest news on my return from a week in London is the appearance of what is likely to be a roundabout at the junction of ul. Nawłocka and the road to Biedronka. In the distance, the viaduct over the railway line slowly takes shape.


Good to be back in Poland!

This time two years ago:
Aerial cavalcade ahead of NATO meeting

This time four years ago:
Ukraine: still an important foreign policy problem for the West 

This time six years ago:
More about Modlin airport

This time nine years ago:
Get on your bike and RIDE!

Thursday, 5 July 2018

West Ealing to Castlebar Park - waiting for Crossrail

All change at West Ealing! Work on getting the new Elizabeth Line ready (as London's Crossrail will be called) is reaching the end, and for West Ealing - the nearest mainline station to my father's house - a new importance. No longer a sleepy stop where infrequent commuter trains call, along with those less-frequented stations along the Great West Railway's line to Paddington - now, West Ealing will be on the Underground, a junction station serving GWR and the Lizzie Line (as it's informally called).

Since May, the new Crossrail stock is being live-trialled on the line between Paddington and Hayes & Harlington, stopping at Southall, Hanwell, West Ealing, Ealing Broadway and Acton Main Line along the way. Below: a westbound service for Hayes & Harlington calls in at West Ealing. Full-size trains will be making their way under London (hopefully from December), linking Paddington and Liverpool St stations.


Below: take a good look; get used to it; this rolling stock will no doubt still be in service in 50 years' time. (Today, I travelled on the Bakerloo line, on a train built in 1972).


Andy P. has travelled on the new trains from Ealing Broadway - here's how they look inside. The Tube-train like interior is the result of the Tube being more popular than Network Rail, on account of its greater reliability, he says. [Photo: Andy Picheta]


West Ealing - an important part of my childhood. For whether over Drayton Bridge, by the station entrance, or over Jacob's Ladder, a footbridge to the west of the platforms, I'd go this way with my mother to my nursery school on The Avenue. I still remember steam trains submerging the bridges with damp grey fog as they chuffed beneath. And below was the siding the served the Co-operative's milk service; this abandoned platform would be full of milk tanks.


And finally it arrives, perhaps one of the shortest (2.5 miles/4km) lines on British network rail - the shuttle from Greenford to West Ealing. Well do I remember this from my childhood and youth - slam-door diesel units (single-car or two-car sets) running backwards and forwards providing an alternative to buses and tube services between London's western suburbs and the city centre. Looking at the traffic on this line, I doubt if there's enough revenue coming in to cover its cost. Probably around 16-20 people used it today, peak time (17:36 departure); because it no longer starts at Paddington, and there's a long walk to cross the platforms, I guess many regulars will give up on it and will change at Ealing Broadway and catch a bus.


Below: looking down the line towards South Greenford (well, Perivale actually) and Greenford.


Well do I remember my very first visit here. The late winter or early spring of 1970; my father was just about to put down an offer on the property we moved into in May of that year. One foggy night, we walked from our house in Hanwell to look around Cleveland Road and surrounding area. We did so, and then walked on to Castlebar Park Halt, as it was then, to await a train to West Ealing. Back then, there were no trees, just a platform among the meadows than stretched across from the posher parts east of the line, and the council estate beyond the fields to the west of the line.

Below: imagine no trees, no fencing, no electronic information boards, no CCTV cameras, just a concrete platform. Here we stood, gazing down the line towards Greenford, until we could make out the lights of a single, green diesel railcar heading towards us. In the fog, we were an island, the train a ship to take us back to civilisation.


Below: I remember when this was all fields - then the fields were built over - and now those buildings have been demolished. In the distance, the well-built 1950s council estate; in the foreground an estate that didn't stand the test of time. Out of shot to the right, the Old Bill - a flat-roofed pub known for fisticuffs and drugs raids, closed in 2006. This was not a good area.


The Lizzy Line is holding property prices in its catchment area relatively stable; once full operational, West Ealing will be half an hour away from the City of London, shaving 40 minutes of the day's commute. I dare say that was once an area known for scuzzy accommodation for ne'er-do-wells (brick courtyards full of broken plastic toys) might become a sought-after location for future financial elites - but then there's Brexit.

This time last year:
Trump flies into Warsaw

This time four years ago:
Making Poland's railways safer