Wednesday, 31 December 2008

2008 in Jeziorki: another view

I shall let these photographs, taken by our neighbours, Grażyna and Kamila Wojciechowicz, offer another view of the changing seasons in Jeziorki, and the magic atmospheres of this unique part of suburban Warsaw. All photos taken this year on ul. Trombity.

Rampa - a year-end look

Thanks again to Jeziorki resident Marcin Daniecki for these pics, taken on the last morning of 2008. They show that, despite the imminent economic slowdown, work on the Rampa site is proceeding apace. The photo below show cranes and pipes, presumably laying drains.

The old tyres, that had been used prevent landslip from the sides of the embankment leading up to the ramp are still here, piled in heaps (below). There are signs that someone has tried to set them on fire, mercifully without any great success.

Below: Where once ran rails. This shot leads me to ponder whether this land (to the west of the scrapyard on Karczunkowska) will be part of the plot. The new road will run to the east, emerging on Karczunkowska opposite ul. Nawłocka. So what will happen here?

Below: looking like a blasted WWI battlefield on the Western Front, mud churned up by machinery, earth heaped up in great mounds, then frozen.

Below: the newly-arising road linking Mysiadło with ul. Karczunkowska. Will it be called ul. Żmijewska (Adder Street), as it once was before the Rampa site was built? (See this post.) How long before this new road starts disgorging hundreds of cars an hour onto ul. Karczunkowska?

Below: abandoned building on ul. Karczunkowska. Not sure what its purpose was, today a hang-out for the local substance-abuse community. Further investigation required!

Below: A final look at the Jeziorki Stonehenge, the last remaining pillar that once held up the ramp. The destruction of this site has been without doubt the biggest local event of 2008. I wonder what will be here in a year's time...

Monday, 29 December 2008

Parrots in Ealing

Moni, Eddie and I arrived at my parents yesterday, where the big excitement was the recent arrival of a flock of ten parrots, who seem to have domeciled themselves in the back garden. The willow tree (apparently one of the finest in southern England, and subject to a tree preservation order), which has served as a perch to wood pigeons and other local species, is now regularly visited by several parrots at a time. As I write, Eddie tells me there's five in the tree.

Can anyone say what type of parrot this is? Where are they from? How did they get to West London? Are they likely to breed in this climate? Where will they nest?

UPDATE: Thanks, KG for identification of these birds as ring-necked parakeets, and the Wikipedia quote. My good friend Andrzej Poloczek of Hither Green, London SE13, followed up with links describing the current state of feral parrots in south east England here, and here. The second link is to a BBC website which has many comments from people seeing such sights.

This time last year:
Christmas lights in Jeziorki
Okęcie and Heathrow compared

Friday, 26 December 2008

Walking in Derbyshire

Staying three days at my brother's family in Derbyshire, we were blessed with perfect weather on Boxing Day. Ideal to walk off the gastronomic excesses of Yuletide. As I've mentioned, Derbyshire has some of England's most beautiful countryside, something that's missing in Mazowsze. The rural aesthetic there is quite different, more stark.

Above: A well maintained hedgerow, undulating landscape and rationally sized fields. The low winter sun casts long shadows, even at midday.

Part of our walk took us across the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway, which leads from Duffield to Wirksworth. I hope that before too long this line will run again, both for rail freight (from the quarries at Wirskworth) and for tourism. Right: A mile marker along the single-track like, indicating that we are 133 and three-quarter miles from London St Pancras.

This time last year:
Same place, different weather

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Traffic at 38,000 ft

Flying yesterday from Warsaw to Heathrow by BA (civilised flight - from Okecie's Terminal 2 rather than that blasted cattleshed, Etiuda, and at 12:30 not 06:00), I took the 80-400mm lens in the hope of some good air-to-air shots. And I was rewarded, somewhere over Holland, when an Air France Airbus A330 that had been flying parallel and ahead of our aircraft turned towards us and flew over. A split second later and the Airbus had shot past. Photo's lack of sharpness due it being taken through two panes of less-than-optically-perfect and smudged glass.

This time last year:
Foggy Day in London Town

Monday, 22 December 2008

Last Christmas before the recession [?]

It's been a good year at work; over the course of the past 12 months, six people have joined us in our Warsaw office and two have moved on. The vector of business has been upward. How will things be next year? Photo by Natalia, gingerbread man by Tessa, Chateau Perey by Avis (the car hire firm's generosity paid off, as I hired one of its cars at Manchester airport the very next day).

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Rampa activity

The story so far (thanks to Neighbour and KG for the info!): A notable Jeziorki landmark disappeared this year, to make way for a large housing development on the site. The Spanish developer, Sando Inmobiliaria, will be putting up several hundred houses and flats here. And of course, each one means an extra 1.5 cars competing for already jam-packed road space.

Work has been proceeding on clearing the ground on the Rampa site. Mounds of gravel and earth have appeared; I scrambled up the highest one to take the photo below.

The photo is a two-shot stitched-up panorama (click to enlarge), which clearly shows the extent of development to the south of Jeziorki (observe the horizon). Now this 14 hectare site is being made ready for even more.

Below: the clearest indication that a new road's coming. Running parallel to the east of the old rampa, this road looks like it will be an extention of ul. Borówki. In the distance, left of centre, is the last remaining stump of the former przesypownia. Photo taken looking north towards ul. Karczunkowska.

I spoke to the security guard at the site entrance, who told me that from his information, the first phase of the rampa development would be 50 houses plus a health centre. He couldn't say whether the new road would connect to ul. Borówki or whether it would run down further towards Nowa Iwiczna. Either way, if this road were to be made public, it would bring immediate relief to the residents of Mysiadło and/or Nowa Iwiczna, and hundreds more cars to clog up Karczunkowska each morning.
The question is, given the current economic climate, how soon will work start here. Banks seem loathe to lend money to either developers or to homebuyers.
But then in the long term it must happen. Warsaw is the capital city of a country of 38 million people. It has (officially) 1.8 million registered inhabitants, plus a further 900,000 niezameldowani, living and working here daily. So 2.7 million. Tiny. A capital of a country this size should be 4-5 million people - and so it will be. Maybe not next year, but certainly by the mid-2020s. Warsaw can either grow into a beautiful skyscraper city, or else sprawl outward to engulf Grodzisk Maz, Minsk Maz, Nowy Dwór Maz and Sochaczew. I'd like to see the former.

The shortest day of the year

At four minutes past midday GMT (London time/four past 1pm Warsaw), the sun reached the southernmost extreme of its journey relative to the earth's surface, caused by the earth's tilt. The South Pole is enjoying 24 hours of daylight, the North Pole is in 24 hours of darkness. Here at 51 degrees north, the day is at its shortest, at 7 hours and 42 minutes. The resultant gloom is literally depressing. The weather is not helping; no snow, +5C, drizzle, dark grey sky even at midday.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Out and about with two foot of glass

For the first time this month, I managed to get out and about with the 80-400mm Nikkor zoom. What a lens! You can get pics like this one below of a marsh harrier taking off from a telegraph pole.

The biggest downside for me with this monster lens is changing it in the field. Juggling a large bit of glass (my standard 18-200mm zoom) and this huge one, four lens caps, two lens hoods, the body and the lens case with cold fingers is risky. The solution is a second body. But then the prime lens in a two-lens outfit should be wider than 18mm; ideally a 12-80mm zoom - from ultrawide through to portrait. Toting two bodies with two lenses overlapping between 80mm and 200mm makes little sense when weight is key.

Two foot of glass? The extreme end of this zoom lens is 400mm, on a DX sensor camera this is the equivalent of a 600mm lens on a 35mm film camera. Which, if it were a long tube without any fancy optics foreshortening the focal length, would be two foot long!

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Alignment and synchronicity

Monday morning, Jeziorki. The sun rises over the roof of the new house on ul. Trombity. Alignment. Coincidence or synchronicity? Photo taken from our drive.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

This is not Mazowsze. No?

This photo, taken in the early 1980s, is the nearest you'll get to the flatness of Mazowsze in the UK. This is Cambridgeshire, near Ramsey. Like Mazowsze, I get an instant sense of recognition here. Indeed this is the one and only part of the UK where I'd catch that atmosphere or klimat. This is not the American Midwest, nor the Texas Panhandle, but feels like it; eerie horizon-to-horizon flatness, straight roads, telegraph poles converging into infinity, a vast sky. Like America, but unlike Mazowsze, the fields are big. Time to don my field jacket, shoulder my army-surplus M1 carbine, and go hunting jackrabbit in the scrub.

On the left is my first car, EYE522J, a Morris Minor van. Photo taken with a Leica M2, 35mm f2 Summicron lens.

The similarity with Mazowsze is evident in the photo below. This ul. Raszyńska looking from Zgorzała towards Nowy Podolszyn.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

All in the Best Possible Taste

Above: Nowy Świat, Warsaw's poshest retail thoroughfare. Christmas lights? Very tasteful. Pre-Christmas sales? Come off it. Consumer confidence is still high. Unemployment is still falling. New car sales are up 9% in the year to November compared to the same period in 2007. The banking sector and property developers may be wreathed in gloom, but elsewhere, the Polish economy looks to have enough impetus to leap the yawning chasm of global financial crisis and make it to the other side - just - without falling in. EU-funded infrastructure projects will help.

UPDATE: 18 December - gloomy industrial production figures for November 2008, much worse than analysts expected - an 8.9% year-on-year fall. Oh dear.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Better news on the commuting front

The new PKP Koleje Mazowieckie (KM) timetable sees an increase in the number of morning rush hour services from Piaseczno and beyond into central Warsaw from five to seven. From the new year, Warsaw public transport tickets will be valid on KM trains all the way out to Zalesie Górne. These improvements should, I hope, lead to an increase in people commuting into town by train, and a decrease in the number of cars on ul. Puławska. Which is good, because in early 2009, the authorities plan to paint a bus lane down Puławska from ul. Karczunkowska all the way up to ul. Poloneza. Hell for drivers! (Can it get worse? YES.) Above: Corner of ul. Farbiarska and ul. Ludwinowska on Tuesday morning.

Click here for the PKP timetable website

At the same time, today's drive from home to Platan Park (up the notorious ul. Poloneza, a street named after the rickety and unreliable car of the same name), was a doddle. Traffic was quite heavy, but it was civilised. No nutters emulating the Paris-Dakar Rally today. Just a steady stream of cars heading up ul. Trombity, ul. Kórnicka, ul. Jeziorki and ul. Poloneza at a sedate 30km/h, as the Good Lord had intended.

I'd like to single out for special praise the driver of a silver BMW X5 on WI plates, who drove in front of me all the way to ul. Poleczki. Steadily, safely, considerately. Were there more like him.

This time last year:
Complexities of time and place in the pre-postmodernist millieu

Friday, 12 December 2008

Full moon, closest to the earth

I read in Gazeta Wyborcza today that the full moon is at its nearest point to earth (perigee), nearer than at its farthest point (apogee)by a full 40,000 km (25,000 miles). A good once-in-3,233-days opportunity to wield the 80-400mm Nikkor, erect it on a massive tripod, and snap you this glorious full-color (!) snap.

"The average centre-to-centre distance from the Earth to the Moon is 384,403 km", says Wikipedia. Today, it is only 364,397 km away. Today it looks at its largest for nearly nine years.

I remember the first time I looked at the moon through some powerful binoculars. What an emotional effect that had on me. No more just a silvery disc in the night sky, but a huge hunk of rock sailing around our planet, changing its aspect with the month, sculpted by asteroid collisions, volcanic action and massive lava flows. Look at it hovering over us! Wow! That's quite something, isn't it? Click on the pic to enlarge to full size and look at the impact craters, the straight lines created by ejecta from asteroid impacts, mountains (look at the mountains on the horizon on the bottom right of the picture). Quite something.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Jeziorki on even older maps

Over the summer, my mother-in-law gave me a history of Warsaw published in 1974 (Historia Warszawy, M.M. Dozdowski, A Zahorski), which contained this fascinating map of Warsaw and surrounding areas as it would have looked in the 16th Century. Below is a section of the map, focused on Jeziorki. Click to enlarge either map.

This suggests that Jeziorki has been around since the 15th Century, the property of a nobleman (rather than of the church or of royalty). Looking around; Dąbrówka dates back to the 15th Century, Podolszyn was called Podolszynie-Dukaty, Łady (pron. 'Wuddy') was Łady-Gramnice, Gramnice itself would have been where that chicken farm is on the road between Łady and Dawidy; Dawidy would have been within the Las Kabacki forest, Grabów would have been called Jemielinek and Jaworowa - Jaworowo; Falenty was once Falęta. The whole area was ill-served with inns (karczmy) or mills (młyny). The fishponds around Raszyn and Rybie were once extensive marshes. The nearest churches were at Służewo (the predecessor of the Dominican Abbey, Służew, where Moni sings) and Raszyniec (today's Raszyn).

This time last year:
Rotten weather
Rorate in caeli de super nubes pluant justum...

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Jeziorki on old maps

Many thanks to KG for sending me links to Warsaw's map archives (click here for whole lot). I have been poring over these in great detail. Many thanks also to the guys at Trasbus for scanning and uploading this phenomenal wealth of Varsoviana. From all the maps archived, I've selected a some showing how Jeziorki has developed and changed over the years. Above: The first map of Warsaw to extend as far south as Jeziorki. Note - this map, like the map below, is oriented with north the left. Ul. Sarabandy was called ul. Ogrodowa back then. A narrow gauge railway line runs the length of ul. Puławska (more on this in a future post).

Above: The rendition of Jeziorki on the map from 1962 is identical to the 1961 edition (not shown). Ul. Ogrodowa has been renamed Sarabandy (General Ogrodov having fallen out of favour with the Politburo). Ul. Trombity and ul. Baletowa have both been given a name, but note no station at Dawidy yet on the railway line to Radom. Also note name St. (stacja/station) Jeziorki Warszawskie.

Above: 1970 and the narrow gauge railway terminates at W-wa Dąbrówka (wąsk), no longer running up Puławska as far as the Dworzec Południowy (where the Wilanowska bus terminus is). Meanwhile, Dawidy's acquired a station, and Dawidy Poduchowne has been moved across the track. Note too ul. Żmijewska, branching off ul. Karczunkowska, rather than running east-west from ul. Pozytywki (as it does today). All railway stations within Warsaw's boundaries are now prefixed "W-wa", so St. Jeziorki Warszawskie becomes W-wa Jeziorki.

Above: 1978 and Dawidy Poduchowne has moved right into Jeziorki. Dąbrówka has been shunted across to the other side of ul. Puławska. Indeed, there's no such place as Jeziorki on this map. The narrow gauge railway has gone, being replaced by the no. 51 trolleybus (Wilanowska to Piaseczno). Note the new development between Dawidowska and Karczunkowska - streets branching off ul. Nawłocka. Not particularly well mapped, but then Warsaw's cartographers did not have access to NASA satellite imaging.

Above: The last map from the communist era - 1989. Only eight years before the Dembinski family would turn up in this part of Warsaw. Again, no sign of Jeziorki - the area is clearly marked Dawidy Poduchowne. Notice also in all five maps the size of the lake at Jeziorki - I don't know when drainage of this area was effected, but it's never been that size in the 11 years we've lived in the area.

On all these maps, the Rampa is noticeable by its absence. This is easily explained. Communist-era maps left out industrial and military objects for security reasons - no Huta Warszawa steelworks, no Okęcie airport (!), even though NATO knew damn well where these objects were located.

Map makers since the dawn of civilisation have been applying fanciful artifice to cover up for lack of knowledge. "Here be dragons". "The edge of the world". "Terra Incognita" (well, some honesty for a change). "Dawidy Poduchowne". Now what was this about? An attempt by Gmina Mokotów (as it then was) to liquidate Jeziorki? Or just a cartographer's mistake, amplified?

Since the late 1990s, the city hall has tried to make sense of local names. We are now Jeziorki Połudnowe, up to ul. Baletowa.

This time last year:
Spirit of place, Jeziorki
Unseasonable warmth, beastly mud
Zamienie as it was, with barracks and labs

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Not a good sign

Across the tracks in Zgorzała, just off ul. Dawidowska (which I reported a few weeks ago as being widened and re-tarmacked), I spot a road sign. There has never been an ul. Sikorki here; this is something entirely new. This dirt track has always been the extension of ul. Kórnicka, across a level crossing. This has been long closed to vehicles, but is there's still an informal footpath crossing here(appropriately signed as such for train drivers). This section of Kórnicka across the tracks formed the border between Warsaw (to the right) and Lesznowola municipality (to the left).

I fear that this new ul. Sikorki may get tarmacked right up to the tracks, and a new level crossing built. If so, the hideous traffic jams up ul. Kórnicka in the mornings will get even worse.

According to this map (found on, the road is still called ul. Kórnicka. Click on map to see full size. I've marked this part of Kórnicka in yellow. (Note the rampa is still there, with all its tracks, bottom centre). And according to the minutes of the Lesznowola council (rada gminy), on 25 April 2007, the council passed a motion to approve new street names, one of which was ul. Sikorki. I can't find any other mention of what's intended to happen here. Anyone know? Developments around ul. Dawidowska suggest that the Puławska Bis S7 highway is indeed still a long time coming, as was mentioned on the Polish pages of, we can wait until 2013-2015 for a meaningful alternative to the awfully congested Puławska.

This time last year:
To Poznań, by rail

The demographics of Jazz

I was in for an unpleasant surprise yesterday when I set off to do the weekly shop. Switching on the car radio, instead of jazz, 106.8FM was playing some bland, repetitive, background twaddle. When a human voice mercifully intervened, I was informed that I was no longer listening to Radio Jazz on this frequency, but to "Radio Chili Zed" (Chill-E-Zet, Chilly-Z or any permutation of the above).

Instead of classics from Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Sarah Vaughan, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald or Count Basie, I am subjected to sounds made by people unheard of at their own breakfast table who are recording 'music' for spaced-out clubbers too fragile to face the day. The aural equivalent of ten mils of Diazapam, this elevator music de nos jours lacks any redeeming features that will enable it to withstand the test of time. Will any of this stuff be listened to and revered half a century from now? I sincerely doubt it.

I wish this awful radio station a speedy journey to the footnotes of Polish broadcasting history. I want my jazz back.

But I won't get it back. The largest number of Poles today by age are 25 years old. It is their tastes that determine the Polish media market. It is for them that Radio Jazz has been taken off the air and replaced by this formless guff. Chilloutowo-undergroundowe brzmenia are no substitute for be-bop, funk or big band swing.

I shall continue listening to Radio PiN (though it plays interesting music, announcers never say what they've played - which I find annoying) and of course to TokFM where half of Jeziorki can be heard commenting on economic issues. But my favourite music station has gone.

Friday, 5 December 2008

How many names has Jeziorki?

Last night I was returning home from the airport. "Jeziorki" I informed the taxi driver. "That's off Puławska, turn right into Karczunkowska?" he asked. It's rare for a Warsaw taxi driver to have heard of us here in Jeziorki - but this one did (he was from Pruszków, by the way). But usually they shrug, ask for directions or tap the street name into the GPS.

Jeziorki, until quite recently, when the new-style blue-and-red street signs went up (here and here, replacing the old white-on-blue ones, was a rather indistinct area that blended indistinctly with Pyry, Dąbrówka, Dawidy and Grabów. And within this indistinct, inchoate, area, lots of different place names. Dawidy Poduchowne. Karczunek. Jeziorki Polskie. Jeziorki Niemieckie (!). Nowe Jeziorki. Zgorzała Nad Jeziorem (!!!). This last one, incidentally, is where, according to a recent atlas (Warszawa Plan Miasta Skala 1:20 000, Wydawnictwo Kartograficzne), we live. Almost as if every farmstead was its own, separate hamlet with its own separate name - and its own separate history. Every local map I'd look at would have different place names scattered across this small locality.

Ul. Trombity: That would be Zgorzała nad Jeziorem?

But now the City Hall is imposing order on place names. Streets that were once in Pyry (posh before the war, says my mother-in-law) are now in Dąbrówka (not so posh). Jeziorki Polskie is now Jeziorki Północne (that's everything between ul. Baletowa and the Metro's umbilical cord), while Nowe Jeziorki is now Jeziorki Południowe (that's us, south of Baletowa, down to Warsaw's city limits). Old place names are disappearing, remembered only by the original locals, a dwindling minority around here, and historians of local topography.

But the upside is, surely, that in a few years time, when I get into a taxi the chap will know what I'm referring to when I say: "Jadziem Panie Jeziorki!" .

This time last year:
On the Road to Białystok
Eddie and famous Polish 3rd December birthdays
Where the place, upon the heath...
Before the double deckers and the FLIRTS - the Radom line
The most widely Googled page of my blog, ever.

Friday, 28 November 2008

From the archives

Rooting around the hard disk of my laptop, I found something I'd suspected had been deleted long ago - photos of the rampa in action, taken on 9 September 2006 on my old Nokia 6300 with its rather poor 1.3 megapixel camera. Above: An SM48 diesel loco first pulls the train from the sidings in the direction of Mysiadło, then reverses up the ramp, pushing a rake of 12 aggregate wagons ahead of it.

Above: The train standing on the ramp. Here, the wagons are emptied, the aggregate falls in heaps on the ground some 12 metres below. Below: The loco on the ramp - picture taken by holding the mobile phone camera onto 20x magnification binoculars with elastic bands for some extreme telephoto effects (extremely bad optics too!). Still, the ironwork is clearly visible.

Below: We were lucky to catch the train, having disgorged its load, making its way back down the ramp. It heads the empty rake of wagons towards the buffers by Mysiadło, stops, then reverses to the sidings near W-wa Jeziorki station. Here, it runs around the train to take it back onto the main line.

Below: The last photo I'd ever get to take of the rampa na kruszywa in action. It would be used (rarely) into the spring of 2007, then traffic would cease for ever. Now the rampa and the sidings are gone.

Right: The points leading from the sidings where wagons would wait to be taken up the ramp. All gone. There'll be a road here soon.

Note the purple hue present in the central area of the photos taken with this first-generation mobile phone camera, replaced last October with a 5 mp Nokia N95 (much, much better).

This time last year:
Red sky at night - what does it mean in Poland?