Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Source of Warsaw Central's stench revealed

What a lovely story. Anyone who has ever passed through Warsaw's Dworzec Centralny (central station) will have noticed its unique aroma, combination of body odour, urine, excrement, fried food and cheap disinfectant. Until now, I had attributed the stench the fact that most Polish passenger carriages have toilets that flush directly down onto the tracks below, and that these toilets are used while trains stand at the station (despite notices prohibiting this).

But no - there's an even more profound cause. While carrying out a 47m złoty (₤10m) refurbishment of the station in advance of the Euro2012 football championships, the railway authorities discovered one level beneath the underground platforms, an illegal meat processing factory that was preparing kebabs for use all over Warsaw.

The railway tunnel under Warsaw has long played host to the city's homeless. The disused storeroom under the platforms (level -2) was taken over by the homeless, who lived there some while, before being evicted from there by a 'Turkish investor' who also had no right to be there. The storeroom, said to be half a kilometre long, was used to 'store and process meat 'of dubious provenance' on a large scale - and, according to PKP's spokeman was supplied to kebab outlets across the capital. There were no health and safety or hygiene measures in place here at all.

The worst part of this story that the fat rendered from the meat was simply poured down the drains - blocking them as it solidified. So the urine and disinfectant and other fluids would accumulate and the smell would get worse and worse.

I hope we can expect the odour to disappear. It was however very characteristic of the station (immediately associates itself with the three rising chimes heralding announcements such as 'pociąg pospieszny z Warszawy Wschodniej do Krakowa Głównego przez Włoszczową Północną wjedzie na torze ósmym przy peronie czwartym. Pociąg jest objęty całkowitą rezerwacją miejsc. Wagony numer osiem, siedem i sześć zatrzymują się w sektorze pierwszym...' The very words conjure up the memory of that smell in my nostrils.

There are many questions surrounding this story - which I'm sure will run and run. How is it that a large-scale meat processing operation could take place unnoticed by the station authorities? Was there a pay-off to security staff and managers to allow the business to continue operations unmolested by officialdom?

The discussion continues on pl.misc.kolej, where many commentators have pointed out that there are CCTV cameras around the station, which should have recorded trolley-loads of meat being moved around the subterranean passages. And the role of SOK (Straż Ochrony Koleji or railway police) in turning a blind eye to what was going on.

More revelations about Kebabgate here.

My photos of the lower depths of Warszawa Centralna here.


Unknown said...

You would be forgiven for thinking it's 1st of April Today - but sadly - it isn't.

Suzy said...

Oh dear, I feel distinctly ill. Am trying not to remember the kebabs we ate in Warsaw. Ick.

Jeannie said...

Michael, this is a story that will, I'm sure, play out, especially regarding pay offs, etc.

The first two paragraphs left me giddy with a weak hopelessness--not that it was funny, but that it was once again a sad statement for Poland. I hope things look up and this situation resolves.

Nick m said...

My first thought is....incredible
My second thought is...who has the movie rights and is Joe Pesci available to play the Turkish guy?

Dave said...

Oh dear this is amazing. When I first visited Warsaw I was very scared by the train station underground. Then, I got to like it. Now, fear is back.

I imagine a really great student film could be shot about this... all grainy black and white film...

Island1 said...

"Was there a pay-off to security staff and managers to allow the business to continue" Surely not, you stretch the bounds of credibility too far sir!

Anonymous said...

This may well account for the continual appearance of a "river of shit" in Zlote Tarasy level -4 parking areas.

So far the answer is to wash away with a "river of disinfectant" but there is clearly a root cause somewhere and fat blocking the nearby main drains may well be it.

Having spent some time working for fast-food enterprises (real ones, not dodgy kebabs!) I know how nasty fat in drains can be.