Saturday, 26 July 2008
At the deepest, the water was some 80cm deep, though the bottom was muddy, our boots would often get stuck. The reeds towered over our heads and their density made progress difficult. The right approach is simply to power through regardless.
It was hard physical work but worth it - this is my first crossing of the wetlands since October 2004 (a year of drought, when the reedbeds were bone dry). Left: Eddie the Explorer manfully making his way through the two-metre high reeds. Having such unclaimed, wild terrain so close to our house and within the city limits is a great privilege; I hope that development and the city hall's desire for Order and Progress does not deprive us of our suburban wilderness. Below: The epicentre of the wetlands. Still quite watery here.
Friday, 25 July 2008
This time last year:
England's rural suburbias
Best fish and chip shop around?
This time last year:
On the road to... Derbyshire
London - constant, yet constantly changing
Ealing, home from home
Wednesday, 23 July 2008
Morning update: I awoke to a dismal rainy morning. So the saying does not hold true here.
Sunday, 20 July 2008
Arising out of the wheatfields between Zgorzała and Mysiadło is the huge Little Boxes estate, on the wrong side of the tracks as far as ul. Puławska is concerned.
The wind rustles the ripening wheat, cockerels, cicadas and skylarks add to the rustic summer soundtrack - but in the distance the sound of power tools being used by new residents adapting their new homes for dwelling.
How long before this wheatfield I'm standing in becomes a housing estate, a shopping development or a tarmacked road?
Above: This aerial view, taken three weeks ago, shows in the foreground just how intensively Mysiadło has become developed in recent years - most of the housing has appeared since 2002. Note also the estate featured at the top of the post (centre), the wheatfield behind it. As the local land use plan suggests, there's nothing to stop all of the land between the tracks, Zgorzała to the west and Nowa Iwiczna to the south, from being swallowed up by intensive housing. Beyond Zgorzała is where the S7 (Puławska Bis) is projected (the long strip fields running left to right).
Above: Puzzling grafitti in Zgorzala. On the wall of the village Hall of Culture, in cyrillic, the words "Min Nyet" ('no mines', or 'clear of mines'). These words were painted by Red Army sappers after the Soviets had occupied Warsaw in January 1945. At huge cost to themselves (Stalin did not count human lives lost in pursuit of his goals of power), these brave sappers cleared Warsaw house by house of mines, booby traps, unexploded bombs and shells. Why has someone chosen to use this slogan here? What does it mean?
This time last year:
Waiting For The Summer Rain
Magnificent July sunrise
Saturday, 19 July 2008
Below: A Piaggio P180 Avanti (SP-MXI), one of two used by the Polish air ambulance service. This unconventional aircraft (props pushing rather than pulling and the nose-mounted winglets that give rise to the nickname) is quite a frequent visitor to Okęcie, identifiable from a distance by its noisy, high-pitched, whining engine sound.
This time last year:
On The Road Again
Visit to Wrocław
Some family history
Poland's best pub?
Wednesday, 16 July 2008
Below: A brand-new FLIRT set leaving W-wa Jeziorki, as mentioned in the Comments to this entry. Photo taken with Nokia N95 through windscreen and cropped heavily, hence poorish quality. FLIRT = Fast Light Innovative Regional Train.
Below: At first sight, new rolling stock for Koleje Mazowiekie, as the train passed it was clear this was a re-engineered old-style elektryczka. Indeed, this is a EW60 set that had started life in the Tri-City area before being refitted last year for use on Mazowsze's regional railways.
* From 'Choo Choo Ch'Boogie' by the inestimable Mr Louis Jordan, certainly one of the greatest musical entertainers of the 20th Century.
This time last year:
The summer sublime
Many thanks to the many readers who've sent in their suggestions for ridding our garden of this particular pest.
POSTSCRIPT (I hope) Back from holidays on 11 August to find no new molehills.
Tuesday, 15 July 2008
The red-brown blocks are "predominantly for intensive housing developments" (flats). Red blocks are "predominantly for mixed services/industrial development" (shops etc). Red squares are shops/services. Light brown blocks are "predominantly extensive housing developments (houses). Because the Rampa is in Warsaw rather than Lesznowola, we cannot see what its intended new use will be. A new road, ul. Kuropatwy ("Partridge St"), will run directly along the border of Lesznowola and Warsaw. Today, Kuropatwy runs as far west as ul. Puławska, and is one of many streets named after birds that are found on the other side of the main drag. On our side of the road, we have musical-themed street names - from Poleczki ("Polka St") to the north to Katarynki ("Barrel Organ St") to the south. The planned Kuropatwy extention, lined with shops on its south side, needs a different name! (Ul. Jazzowa, anyone?)
Note - a new railway station is planned for Mysiadło (another for Stara Iwiczna just south of this excerpt). Concentric circles show us to be 10 mins walk from Jeziorki station (correct). Because this map focuses exclusively on Lesznowola, it does not show the airport limited-development zone.
Note too the heavy black line running north to south across the left side of the map. This is 'Trasa N-S', Variant II of the planned motorway south from Warsaw (below). This is Puławska bis, and as you can see, it runs west of the railway line. The map is tipped over by 90 degrees (north is to the left, east at the top).
Variant I (the cheap and easy option) is an extension of the existing al. Krakowskie beyond Magdalenka; it would not solve the problem of overcrowding on ul. Puławska, and would create extra traffic problems at Janki. Variant II would bring a major trans-European motorway to within less than a mile of our house. Full details of Trasa N-S options here. Note the major motorway interchange towards the left (north) side of the picture. This is where the proposed S7, linking the Baltic to the Balkans, crosses the A2, which, when completed, will link Germany to Russia. So we'll be less than 3km from the crossroads of Europe.
Sunday, 13 July 2008
Both good pics were taken from my bedroom window and show lightning strikes over the Las Kabacki forest across ul. Sarabandy. The storm, having calmed down, is coming back, time to upload these pics to the blog, switch off and disconnect computer from mains, and rush upstairs to get some more shots!
...And back again, the storm having passed off to the north east of Warsaw. In the meanwhile, I managed to catch this one (left) as the storm made its second pass over Jeziorki. Note the colour of the lightning has changed from violet to red.
Saturday, 12 July 2008
Meanwhile, the cycling photographer I met here a few weeks ago has had his pictures from here posted on Panoramio. It takes a long time (six plus weeks), but it's worth it. It's good to see that this site has been documented for Google Earth.
Above: The view from the end of what's left of the embankment. Behind me the ramp. Ahead, the embankment has been levelled with the ground. (Compare to this view, taken on 23 May) A large area, ripe for development, remains. What will be built here? A few weeks ago, I talked to an old guy who's allotment is visible to the left of the picture. He says there are plans to build houses, a retail centre, a hospital (!) and linking it all, the fabled Puławska Bis, the long-mooted relief road running parallel to ul Puławska, which is now so choked with traffic that reasonable progress along it is limited to 20:30 - 06:30 on weekdays.
Above: This new embankment (in Polish wał) looks like it's being built as an acoustic barrier between the railway line and a housing estate. I guess that bushes and trees will be planted along the top of this embankment. Note the second embankment to the left. Will Puławska Bis run between the two? Is it wide enough?
Above: Is this the future alignment of Puławska Bis? The rails at the far end of the marshalling yard for the old Rampa have been lifted; it looks suspiciously like preparations are in place for building a dual carriageway to link Nowa Iwiczna to ul. Wirażowa near the airport. I can foresee problems with this road (how and where will it cross ul. Baletowa, for example). My guess is this first bit will be built quickly, dumping tens of thousands of cars onto ul. Karczunkowska, from which a goodly percentage will rat-run down ul. Trombity, Kórnicka, Jeziorki, Poloneza and Poleczki (Connoisseurs of hypocrisy please note: 'my shortcut' is another man's 'rat-run'.)
Above: The levelling of the rampa embankment (12.5m at its highest) means new vistas of the Las Kabacki forest and Ursynów beyond are opened up. I can see the estate agents' blurb now: "Overlooking the green expanses of the Las Kabacki, the Flowers of the Field estate offers luxurious country living within a stone's throw of Central Warsaw..."
Right: The Rampa as seen from the junction of ul. Nawlocka and ul. Achillesa. One last pile of aggregate awaits its final customers at the near end of the ramp; the Soviet-era KAMAZ and Czech Avia trucks will have to look for new loads to transport once this lot's gone.
Friday, 11 July 2008
But how did the weather forecasters see the evening of Friday, 11 July? By 'weather forecasters' I'm not talking about what we get in the media, with all the generic accuracy of a tabloid horoscope, but from academic institutes which use sophisticated computer models to plot weather systems crossing our continent. I've tended to use www.new.meteo.pl to tell me what the cycling weather would be. But to get it this wrong? Below: the COAMPS model predicting rainfall for Poland for yesterday evening. Western Poland would have been expecting rain, central Poland, including Warsaw, would have been dry. Not a bit of it!
Following last night's attempted to flood the moles out, I woke up to find a further four new moleholes have appeared overnight (two of them pictured right). I responded with a further concerted attack on the moles with high-pressure water. Eddie extended the hose to stretch right across to the far end of the garden, and we poured several cubic metres of water into the other end of the tunnel system.
Our gardener told me this morning that the mild winter has led to a massive explosion in the mole population and the problem is evident in many of his clients' gardens. Nicole B from Hungary has helpfully suggested I use "holunder", which I discovered in Wikipedia is the German for elderberry. I read: "The crushed foliage and immature fruit have a strong fetid smell" There are elder trees on ul. Kórnicka, along the path leading to the railway track. I shall collect some fetid vegetation and pump it into the tunnel system. Our gardener has suggested keeping 'molewatch' at dusk; half an hour after sunset, lie still on the lawn, wait, watch, listen. And be ready to move fast with the spade.
Thursday, 10 July 2008
Below: The curious stump of ul. Achillesa, which bisects ul. Nawłocka. One leg of Nawłocka stretches between this junction and ul. Karczunkowska, while the other starts at the far end of ul ul. Achillesa (90 metres away from this point) and connects with ul. Trombity. Street-naming confusion is relatively common in Warsaw, as the city hall tries to put some semblance of order of what grew up almost spontaneously in the less well organised past. Even Google Earth is confused (showing a non-existing spur from ul. Achillesa to Karczunkowska at 52° 6'36.39"N, 20°59'51.41"E ).
A day earlier, the morning was wet and gloomy at the outset, so I decided to drive to work. Come the evening, the sky was cloudless and I found myself stuck in the car in a jam (above) rather than shooting past all the stationary traffic along the cyclepath at 20kmph. I'd have to crawl another six kilometres before finally turning off ul. Puławska.
The best weather forecast in Poland (click here) shows, for example, that tomorrow, Friday 11 July will be dry, while Saturday 12 July will be wet. WE SHALL SEE.
Once upon a time, Warsaw had a president who opined that the bicycle is a rural form of transport, not befitting a metropolis like Warsaw. Fortunately, Lech Kaczyński has moved onwards and upwards, leaving more enlightened transport planners in charge of Poland's capital. Left: the new cyclepath linking ul. Agricola and the Park Łazienkowski with ul. Myśliwiecka and Powiśle. Click to enlarge, you'll see seven cyclists using this facility - and I'm number eight.
If Warsaw can grow more cyclepaths like this, I'm sure the inconvenience of a summer rain storm will prove less of a disincentive to two-wheeled human-powered commuting.
Wednesday, 9 July 2008
Czachówek, as I've mentioned before, is a small village in Mazowsze and a railway junction where the Warsaw to Radom line crosses the Skierniewice to Łuków line. Trains can switch from one line to the other via four connecting links. (Google Earth users - 51°58'9.94"N, 21° 4'36.79"E) Until a few years ago, when passenger traffic (sadly) ceased on the Skierniewice to Łuków line, Czachówek was served by five stations. Today, only two still serve passengers, Czachówek Górny and Czachówek Południowy. Click on photo above to enlarge.
Above: Crossing the rail bridge north of Czachówek Górny station, looking down on the old station building at Czachówek Środkowy. Recently a ticket office opened up here, so if you wish to travel from Górny station, 100m away, you can do so with a valid ticket in your hand. As you can see from the picture, the left hand track seems less used. In the distance, though not visible, is (or rather was) Czachówek Wschodni station. Beyond that is the traction depot, which maintains the high-tension power lines. Behind me was Czachówek Zachodni station.
Some 30km to the east, across the Vistula, is another, similar junction at Augustówka/Pilawa. Here the Skierniewice to Łuków line meets the Warsaw to Lublin and the Tłuszcz to Lublin lines. Some rails have been lifted here, but the embankment remains. I must go to Augustówka again. ((51°58'38.82"N, 21°31'8.05"E)
Mazowsze, being so flat, lacks the natural landmarks and waypoints that Alfred Watkin noticed in England in early 20th Century, and how footpaths linked pagan sites (later Christian churches) in straight lines. These 'Ley Lines' now have ascribed to them supernatural qualities. You can believe this - fine, you can reject this notion, fine. My point is that man seeks alignments, coincidences, patterns; it helps make sense of our environment and our lives. Quite how that fits in with looking at the maps of the places we inhabit is a deeper question. Like the small magnetic bone in the skulls of migrating birds, have we something that helps us find our way across the earth?
Human beings are always looking for patterns, alignments, coincidences and meaning. Above: West Hampstead Thameslink station, last week. The sky is criss-crossed by a web of wire and vapour, drawn by compasses and setsquare.
UPDATE: 30 October 2008 - Koleje Mazowieckie run a trial FLIRT from Warsaw to Góra Kalwaria via Czachówek. With a bit of investment, it may be that a regular service will run this route.
UPDATE: 1 June 2009 - Koleje Mazowiecki has inaugurated a Warsaw to Góra Kalwaria service, with one of the five return trains a day running on to Pilawa
This time last year:
Sunshine and rain, like joy and pain
Monday, 7 July 2008
Sunday, 6 July 2008
Two hours and eight minutes later we arrive at Skarzysko-Kamienna, a small town with a big railway junction at the northern end of Świętokrzyskie province. My front wheel is still the same shape. Last week's unemployment statistics show that the Skarzysko-Kamienna district has the highest unemployment in the province (23.2%). Neighbouring Szydłowiec (the previous stop on this line, still in Mazowsze) has Poland's highest, 30.2%.
Above: Eddie crossing the Kamienna river. Note the narrow-gauge rail sections from which this rather ramshackle bridge is built. What would Britain's Health and Safety commissars say!
After a while we come across the marked cycle track that would take us down to the Góry Świętokrzyskie (Holy Cross Mountains). This is the yellow path, with the logo of a mountain topped with a cross above the bike. We would follow this path for quite a while. As we labour over the soft sandy tracks south-east of Skarzysko-Kamienna headed towards Wąchock, a huge dark cloud passes overhead, depositing a short sharp shower on us. No lightning, thankfully.
We press on, arriving in Wąchock as yet another, even more massive clouds blow over. Below: Wąchock's Cistercian Abbey dates back to the 12th Century. The one restaurant in town is closed for a wedding, so we press on and shelter from the storm by some trees overhanding a roadside embankment. Still no thunder (trees being the worst place to shelter under when the lightning starts to flash).
More rain: Just south of Rataje, another heavy rainstorm hits us. Again, we sit it out under a tree by the side of the road (below). Progress is slow; we've not gone far and the afternoon's getting on.
Left: We sit out yet another heavy shower in a bus shelter in the village of Rataje. As we did so, we observed this old woman walking through the pouring rain; her baggage (patched rucksack, plastic bags) indicating that she's a vagrant. I wondered what personal tragedies beset her life and caused her to wander the village roads of the Świętokrzyskie hills. Once, she must have had a sweetheart...
After Rataje, we entered the Sieradowicki Landscape Park. The road through the park - over 8.5km) was mainly straight, cobbled (hard work, even for front suspension mountainbikes) and undulating. We watched a rather ludicrous cavalcade of 4x4 drivers wasting petrol and a Saturday afternoon driving up and down this road. (Like, guys, don't you have enough of driving during the week?)
Out of the forest and into a gorgeous late afternoon. The scene above set something off in me emotionally. That old feeling that I've been here before, except not here, but somewhere identical in 1930s USA. The play of the light on the trees, the clarity of the sky, the greenery, the wooden fence - this is not something from my UK childhood memories.
With light fading fast, we make it through Bodzentyn, Św. Katarzyna, Krążno and Porądbki. En route for Bielany Kapitulne, we pass this house fire, lit by a fading sun. Round the corner we see the fire engine racing to the scene.
At Św. Katarzyna, my determination to get to our hotel - the Jodłowy Dwór situated at the foot of Święty Krzyż before nightfall - was challenged by the presence of a large number of agroturystiki (rural B&Bs) in the town. All now have mobile phone numbers advertised, so you can check vacancies from outside. But Eddie's no quitter - he insists on going the distance. So we press on. At Huta Nowa we turn uphill and start winching our way towards Huta Szklana, where our hotel is located. We walk the last kilometer, it's just too steep for Eddie's tired legs (he's done well - we covered 67 km today!) and arrive at the hotel at 21:25. Too late for hot food, but some sandwiches get rustled up in the kitchen. Bikes stowed, we clean up and get some well-earned sleep.
After Sunday breakfast, we set off up Święty Krzyż on foot. The mountain (or rather hill, a mere 594m above sea level) was a place of pagan cult. Note the rock rubble (gołoborze) in the foreground. A little further on, we pass a TV transmission tower (which reminds me that we're at the highest point of Poland north of the Tatras).
As it is with these things, along came the Benedictine Monks and turned a place of pagan cult into a place of Christian cult. This monastery reputedly houses a fragment of the cross of Jesus (hence the name of the mountain range). Brought to Poland by Emeric, son of the king of Hungary, the fragment soon had an entire 12th Century monastic infrastructure built up around it.
Sadly, the crypt (with non-decomposed bodies of 18th Century monks and local aristocrats) does not open until 12:15 on Sundays (rest of the week 9am), so Eddie missed out on this.
I've been here three times - the first two times popping up during breaks from training seminars held at the Jodłowy Dwór hotel at the foot of the hill. Tourism has come along nicely since my first visit, in 1998, helped by EU pre-accession funds with more on tap. As long a places like this don't turn out as crowded as Zakopane and Kazimierz Dolny.
The road home was less eventful. The road to Kielce has been improved with EU funds; there are proper cycle paths along the edges and smooth tarmac, so we made good time. Eddie proved to be an excellent cyclist with huge stamina, he kept up a cracking pace, to the extent that we arrived at Kielce station over an hour before our train back to Piaseczno!
Eddie took a photo of me at Kielce station, triumphant at our combined feat.
Total distance cycled this weekend - 119km, plus another 5km walking to the top of Święty Krzyż and back. What makes Eddie's acheivement all the more impressive is a) his bike weighs a whole lot more than mine and b) he doesn't have pedal clips as I do, which make a huge difference to pedalling efficiency.
This time last year:
Memorable day out in Lublin