Thursday, 7 July 2011

Down the line from Mszana Dolna

Greetings, dear readers, from Dobra (my tenth visit here in three years). Weather has finally improved after six days of heavy rain - the sunshine is very, very welcome. So today, leaving Eddie with Sabina back at base, I set off by bus to Kasina Wielka, and from there I walked the six kilometres to Mszana Dolna along the Transwersalka, the railway built by the Austro-Hungarian empire (of which this part of Poland was once a part) for strategic reasons.

As I posted here, the Transwersalka was the so-called transversal route built by the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the 1880s to defend it (then) northern borders against Russia. Walking these tracks made me ponder Poland's history, especially in the light of the recent death of Otto von Habsburg at the splendid age of 98, the last successor to the throne of Austro-Hungary.

Austro-Hungary! What a strange entity! How difficult for the anglophone world to grasp the concept! A royal family that once ruled Spain managed to make their way across Europe to rule in effect peoples of a dozen or so different nations, glue the whole thing together and keep it going for half a century!

The entire idea is just so bizarre... In England, there was Alfred the Great burning the cakes, 1066 and all that, the Tudors and Stuarts, a great global empire on which the sun has only just set. However, here, in Central Europe, the territory belonged to a divinely-appointed gang of Spaniards-cum-Austrians, who managed to fight or negotiate their way to a huge multicultural empire stretching from the borders of Switzerland to the Balkans and across to Ukraine, taking in Kraków and the southern fifth ofPoland (the Austrian partition).

Now, much as I can appreciate the merits of the Transwersalka as a cycle path (easy gradients, stunning scenery, great tourist attraction), I know full well that once the tracks have been ripped up, they'll never return. Steam-hauled rail excursions are very popular and are a great stimulus to local tourism.

It's good to see that the line is still intact, but on the other hand, not enough is being done with it, especially in light of its history. I'd love to see this line brought back to full use - even if it meant I couldn't walk it any longer.

Above: the line crosses the Droga Krajowa 28, which rises towards the Głuszowiec pass, to the south of Śnieżnica, the peak visible to the left.

Above: the river Słomka running behind the main road in Dobra, before it joins the Mszanka. In the distance, Luboń Wielki rises above Rabka.

Above: Mszana Dolna station. The same architectural style as the station buildings at Dobra and at Kasina Wielka.

Right: Mszana Dolna, the church viewed from the main road. I waited for a bus back to Dobra - the local mini-buses are regular and cheap. Unbridled competition between bus companies mean that the timetables are ripped down or sprayed over by rivals. Sad - it helps none of the companies competing on the route.

It feels good to be back in Dobra, a place that's become so familiar to me, part of my DNA almost.

I can really recommend a stay here: Gospodarstwo Agroturystyczna Zofia Nowak 'Dobra Chata' (tel: +48 18 333 0117); you'll find it on Facebook.

This time last year:
Gone is the threat of Państwo Smoleńskie

This time two years ago:
Get on your bike and RIDE!

This time three years ago:
Moles in my own garden

This time four years ago:
Lublin and the Road


Anonymous said...

Otto did even better, he died at 98.
Andrew in Calif.

Michael Dembinski said...

Thanks Andrew, duly noted and corrected :-)

And thanks to Sabina for pointing out it's 'Habsburg', not 'Hapsburg'

This holiday is loosening my historical faculties! :-)