Friday, 27 November 2009

To Poznań, by train

ARRRGH! I get annoyed by PKP for many reasons, but most of all for inconsistency. Take the sale of alcohol, for example. You can't buy beer at the Wars restaurant car any more (unless it's the alcohol-free variety) on Intercity or express trains. No booze at all, of any description. But board a EuroCity train on an international route (Warsaw-Berlin, Warsaw-Budapest, Warsaw-Vienna), and in the restaurant car, also operated by Wars, you will have a choice of Russian bubbly, strong spirits, wines and a range of beers. Why? Are Poles saying to their neighbours 'we are a liberal, non-proscriptive society' while keeping their shameful secret to themselves?

Somewhere between Poznań and Warsaw

Then there's access to plugs to power your laptop. Some carriages have them in second class, between every seat. Others have none - not even in first class. And you're not allowed to use your laptop in a restaurant car. Being able to use a laptop is one of the main advantages that rail offers over road when it comes to business travel. But I can never tell whether I'll be able to plug in on a given journey. Or not.

Taking a train to Poznan means risking a bus-style open carriage. I don't like these at all, preferring traditional compartments. Some of the carriages are still like that, others are open. You can't select which one when reserving a place on the Poznan train. I like the ritual of muttering dzień dobry and do widzenia to your fellow passengers, and the odd chance of an interesting conversation (rare but they do happen).

A flat, wet, uneventful field.

On the train to Poznan yesterday, I was assigned to carriage 267, seat 42 (window). Except that a) there was no window, just a metal wall next to seat 42. And the occupant of seat 43 (aisle) had, quite properly, used the coat hook over seat 42 to hang his enormous down-filled winter coat. Plus the leg-room between seat 42 and the back of seat 38 was about eight inches. Now, I don't mind travelling like this in a low-cost airliner at 850 km/h (two hours to cross Europe), but in a train (three hours to cover 200 miles), with no window next to me, this is utterly unacceptable. So I marched off down to First Class, payed an extra 41 zlotys, and enjoyed the train journey as it should be enjoyed.

On the train back to Warsaw this morning, I was again assigned to a similarly rubbish seat in an open coach. But this time, I spent the entire 2hr 45 mins journey in the Wars buffet car. The Full English Breakfast (18 zlotys) was an utter delight. Bacon, fried eggs, sausages, grilled tomatoes - cooked for you on the train and garnished with watercress, served with eight slices of fresh Polish bread, wonderful. Wars coffee (5 zlotys) - not so good (too much robusta, not enough arabica). Lemon tea the better choice here. Overall, the buffet car on the Intercity to Warsaw is a comfortable alternative to First Class. Cheaper; fills you up too.

Block of flats in the middle of a field.

Poznań to Warsaw trains pass through a lot of places beginning with 'K'. Konin, Koło and Kutno, the main towns along the way. Kosztrzyn, Kawnice, Kramsk, Kłodawa, Krzewie and Kęczyce are also interspersed between the two cities. (Kramsk. It sounds like it's 1,000 miles west of where it should be!) The landscape is flat all the way.


Anonymous said...

I'm completely with you in everything except the bus-style carriages! They're so much better than the compartment type where you inevitably end up playing footsie with some 6'4" strapping army recruit who is plugged in to techno, or the Babcia who manages to bring 3 large garlic sausage sandwiches (1 for every hour of the journey between Krak and Wa-wa) and a thermos and some fresh fruit that needs peeling and a weird medical complaint she discusses with her travelling companion, loudly.

On everything else, you're spot on. Especially the food which I consider a sign of advanced civilisation!

oppollo said...

Great observations again. Now, PKP train from Wawa to Poznan reminds me of my studies where I was taking this train every month.
I didn't know that there are now bus-style carries. Call me old-fashioned but I prefer the more traditional as well.
Now, consistency and client orientation these are the terms simply not present in a PKP handbook!