Sunday, 15 September 2013

North-east of Warsaw West

Cross the tracks from the passenger platforms at Warszawa Zachodnia (the Clapham Junction of the East, no longer Poland's Worst Railway Station since proper signage was installed last year), and enter another world. Away from the hurly-burly, the mad rush to catch the 17:08 to Łódź Kaliska, you can step into an abandoned space that resonates with the atmosphere of the Zone in Tarkovsky's magical film StalkerBelow: if you've seen the film, all that's needed is a loudspeaker blaring out Beethoven or the Marseillaise.

Below: further on down the track, a rake of wooden-bodied wagons for railway workers to sleep in, complete with chimneys and TV aerials.

Moving forward, towards the city centre. Beyond the trees to the left, the main railway lines between W-wa Zachodnia station and Dworzec Centralny (or 'Shentroo Wailway Shtation' as its called in English on Warsaw's buses and trams). But here, around where I'm standing, empty tracks unused real estate all the way to ul. Towarowa.

As Eddie points out, looking at the 1935 map of Warsaw on Google Earth, based on aerial photos taken by the Polish military, this area is all blacked out for security reasons. This is proof that there's no 'previous title' to this land as there is in much of the capital. Bierut's Decree (dekret Bieruta, the appropriation of private land in Warsaw by the communist state in 1946) ensures that to this day developers can never be sure that there may be a claim against their ownership of the land. According to Wikipedia, Warsaw paid out over 415 million złotys in 2011 and 2012 to recompense the heirs of the former owners who had their property seized, and 8,000 court cases are currently underway in this regard.

So PKP PLK S.A., the administrator of this land, is sitting on one huge parcel of real estate just to the west of the very centre of Warsaw, land that if sold, could make a colossal difference to the financial standing of Poland's railways as they try to shape up for privatisation. But then again, there's so much EU money sloshing around, which PKP is also failing to use, that even if this land were to be sold and put to better use, the money wouldn't be utilised effectively.

Left: on the horizon, the Palace of Culture, flanked by Daniel Liebeskind's Złota 44 to its left, and further off to the right, the Marriott Hotel. This wasteland would once have been the sidings that led up to Warszawa Głowna Towarowa, the goods station. All that's left of it today is the Post Office's siding, accessible from the main line via another track. Warszawa Główna Osobowa, closed as a station in 1997, now serves as Poland's rather forlorn national railway museum. Even if this is left in situ, there is still land a-plenty that can be redeveloped.

I'm sure there are readers who can give some more details as to the current status of the railway museum and this whole area. It is very unusual to see so much neglected land in a capital city lying idle for so long; the atmosphere is unique - an part of Warsaw worth visiting if you're into this klimat of abandonment.

Below: clubhouse of Steel Roses MC, Bar Motocyklowy on ul. Kolejowa. On a quiet Sunday evening, only one bike (a lovely '60s retro-styled cafe racer) parked outside.

This time last year:
Draining Jeziorki - the beginning of major local works

This time two years ago:
Late summer/early autumn moods

This time three years ago:
Battle of Britain, 70 years on

This time four years ago:
Why I don't watch Polish television

This time five years ago:
Warsaw - a city of car crashes
[five years on - little's changed]

This time six years ago:
My favourite tree


Neighbour said...


Best regards,

Michael Dembinski said...

@ Neighbour

Many thanks - 23 years late, but hey, what's the rush, PKP! In the meanwhile, it behoves us to get out there and document this strange zone with photographs before it becomes a normal part of Our City!