Saturday, 28 April 2007
"Are you in Poland for good?"
Answers to these frequently asked questions are, respectively, "No" and "Yes".
Poland might be a long way from being the perfect place to live, but its moving in the right direction. It's getting better, year by year. The country and its people are becoming more self-confident.
Britain, on the other hand, is in decline. Every trip I make to London confirms this view.
UPDATE APRIL 2011. Four years on, and one global recession later, I'm even more convinced that what I wrote here is absolutely correct
UPDATE APRIL 2016. Eight years on, Poland has an unelected autocratic ruler hell-bent on demolishing the nation's advances of the past quarter century. He will fail. Poland abides. I might be spending more time in London with my 93 year-old father, but my long-term future remains in Poland.
Saturday, 21 April 2007
Above: the same five towers photographed at 5:20 am from the 26th floor of the Novotel Centrum. From right to left: Palace of Culture, Intercontinental Hotel, Warsaw Financial Center; First left: Elektrim Tower, second left: Marriott Hotel
I could not resist this tight crop on the Palace of Culture and the Interconti and WFC behind. Just like out of Koyaanisqatsi!
For the last few weeks, a Volga-Dniepr Antonov An-124 (above) has been visiting Okecie on a daily basis. Here's RA 82074 coming in to land. Note the undercarriage - no less than 28 wheels! This is one of the world's largest aircraft. Only the six-engined Antonov An-225 and the Airbus A380 (yet to enter service) are larger.
A less regular, though not infrequent guest, is the C-17 Globemaster III (top). This one belongs to the 437th Airlift Wing, based at Charleston, South Carolina. USAF aircraft visiting Okecie tend to be transport types.
Walking around Jeziorki, one can sometimes startle pheasants in the long grass, which then fly up with a great bustle of flapping wings and with much squawking. They do not fly far - just far enough to get out of your way.
Foxes can be seen stalking pheasants in the scrub and long grass, otherwise the birds have no predators and lived undisturbed.
This magnificent male pheasant was photographed from my bedroom window.
Thursday, 19 April 2007
Wednesday, 18 April 2007
Never in all my life have I seen a sky like this. I dashed outside to catch as many shots as possible before sunset. What caused these strange cloud formations? What do they... mean?
[update 19 April: Thanks to http://www.cloudappreciationsociety.org, I discover that these are mammatus clouds. Click here for pics of some excellent ones.)
It is announced today that Poland and Ukraine will jointly host the EUFA 2012 football finals. This should mean a speeding-up of infrastructure work to get connecting roads, railways, hotels and of course stadiums ready on time.
Down the right hand side runs ul. Pulawska, three lanes in each direction, linking Warsaw and nearby Piaseczno.
Compare to the Google Earth image (3 April entry).
Monday, 16 April 2007
Here's the ramp looking north towards ul. Trombity. The main railway line is to the left of this picture. There's empty space beween the sleepers, allowing aggregate to tumble out of the hopper wagons and into heaps on the ground below, from which it's loaded onto trucks.
Sunday, 15 April 2007
Below is a CASA C-295, of which the eight are currently in service in the light transport role, with two more on order. They will eventually replace the Antonovs.
Weather stability makes for mood stability. There's nothing more uplifting than a sunny day, sunny from dawn till dusk. In winter, crisp cold days with blue skies over white fields and trees covered in frost, are just as beautiful as gloriously sunny days in May or June.
Thursday, 12 April 2007
While getting dressed this morning at 06:40 I heard the roar of jet engines that were much louder than the loudest usual visitor to Okecie. With zoom set to 200mm I looked out to see El-Al Boeing 747-400 (4X ELC for you EPWA spottaz). The plane, I learned, was carrying young Jewish participants in this year's March of the Living (Marsz Żywych) which takes place in Auschwitz starting on 16 April.
Monday, 9 April 2007
The second aerial pic clearly shows the row of 16 poplars and the railway line, on which a six-car EN57 set in the old orange-and-red livery is heading towards Warsaw. Beyond the track and the fields is the Action warehouse; behind it stands the village of Zamienie (and in the trees at the top of the pic the old vaccine factory); in the top right can be seen houses from the village of Dawidy Bankowe
Sunday, 8 April 2007
Encouragingly, graffiti has been removed from nearly all trains, many have been refitted (they used to be in a ghastly state). Once they would trundle about with the doors stuck in the open position, with one out of six neon lights working to dimly illuminate the compartments, drunks lolling about and seat upholstery ripped or reeking of urine.
Things are generally better today. In their new green, white and yellow Regional Railways livery (Koleje Mazowieckie, below), the EN57s look much more inviting for tourists wishing to travel around Mazowsze by train.
Saturday, 7 April 2007
UPDATE: 7 April 2007 - that charming trailer to the right of the pic has been moved. It had stood there for some while and gave the place a certain delipadated rustic air... Here's a final shot of it - it will be missed.
Friday, 6 April 2007
Tuesday, 3 April 2007
Immediately visible from the picture is the agricultural nature of Jeriorki, with a patchwork of narrow arable fields interspersed with clusters of new housing development.
The Google Earth image was taken in early spring 2002; our house is shown but the garden is bare soil (it was planted in the summer).
The Warsaw-Radom railway line runs close to ul. Trombity; at the north end of the street, the line is less than 100 yards away. An electrified dual-track line takes passenger and goods traffic south out of Warsaw, and running parallel to it is a single, unelectrified freight line that serves Warsaw's power station in Siekierki. Coal from the Silesian fields is delivered in 40-wagon trains to the sidings at Okecie, just north of Jeziorki. These trains are hauled by state-owned PKP electric engines; from Okecie to Siekierki, via an intermediary goods yard at Konstancin-Jeziorna, private-sector diesel power takes over.
Soviet-built 'Gagarins' (ST44s) or 'Tamaras' (TEM2s) take the long coal trains down the line, past W-wa Dawidy, W-wa Jeziorki (my particular stretch of rail), on past Nowa Iwiczna, where the single line curves away from the electrified main line. Through the industrial northern edges of Piaseczno passes the line, before reaching Konstancin-Jeziorna. There's a change of motive power, and the final 14 kilometers takes the trains to the power station. In summer the trains are shorter and run less often, in winter, sometimes a second engine is needed to haul the load.
Above is a shot taken from the southern end of the Okecie marshalling yard. You can see the front of a 'Tamara' (blue and yellow loco), to its left is a full coal train, to its right is an empty rake of wagons. On the far right is a Rumanian-built ST43 'Rumun' loco. Okecie airport is to the left of the frame.
Monday, 2 April 2007
We're less than three miles from the threshold of Warsaw Okecie Airport's Runway 33. With prevailing winds from the north west, planes coming into land at Okecie frequently fly over Jeziorki, coming in over ul. Sarabandy, crossing ul. Baletowa, then over ul. Jeziorki, before finally crossing ul. Karnawal and going 'over the fence' to touch down on the runway.
As the planes' engines are on low thrust for landing, they're not too noisy. They're noisier when taking off to the south and flying over Jeziorki. But this happens less often than the landings.
Above: Tupolev Tu-154M of the Polish Air Force, VIP transport for Poland's president and premier. One of the many interesting aircraft we often see above Jeziorki
The presence of the airport is a factor slowing down urban development in this part of Warsaw. The local authorities and the airport have drawn up zoning plans preventing the construction of high-rise buildings, although these plans are nebulous and legally disputed.
Talk of building a second runway parallel to the current main runway (15-33) to replace the shorter north west-south east runway (11-29) adds to the uncertainty. If built, the flightpath for new runway 33L will run directly over ul. Trombity. Still, it's a trade-off. Personally, I'd rather have more aircraft overhead than a rapid urbanisation of our street. I don't know if the farmers owning land round here would agree; their land prices would tumble if a blanket ban on new building were to be imposed.
Of course we'd rather have more planes flying overhead - we are EPWA spottaz! Incidentally, no one calls it 'Frederic Chopin Airport' - always 'Okęcie' (pron. ohKENCHyeah).
Across Jeziorki runs a network of drainage ditches which take water off the fields and channels it down towards the marshes. This is the lowest-lying land in the neighbourhood. The wetlands are all less than 99m above sea level; the southern end of ul. Trombity, where we live, is at least four metres higher.
Today, Monday 2 April 2007. Another cloudless day. Since the beginning of spring, Warsaw's had 118 hours of sunshine (broken only by two overcast hours on Saturday 31 March). Are we in for another long, dry summer?
This farm land is worth, literally, millions. If the local farmers sold up to developers, the interest they would receive on the capital would be far greater than the revenue gained from selling a few fields' worth of crop. Yet they hang on; watching the property prices, watching land prices, watching the local authority's zoning plans. Today, their land is worth €20 a metre, more than four times that with building permission. In ten years time, who knows what it'll be worth? So they hang on, farming their oats, cabbage, carrots, potatoes as they have done for generations.
Sunday, 1 April 2007
Superimposed on the Google Earth map below is an outline of Jeziorki's marshy area. The wetlands' extent is largest in early spring. Within a few weeks of the onset of warm weather, the water level visibly falls.