Saturday, 3 December 2016

Early winter travels - Warsaw-Kraków-Poznań-Warsaw

Friday morning, after a night of wet snow. On my way to town, trying to keep my shoes and trousers clean in these conditions (below) is not easy. Fortunately, a kindly neighbour offers me a lift towards the Metro.

Train to town, and before long I'm in the city centre. Below: the Palace of Culture rises above the snow-covered trees along ul. Świętokrzyska.

After a few hours in the office, I have to catch a train to Kraków for our Annual Dinner there. The train is a TLK service, which means no buffet car. There's a dense crowd on the platform a W-wa Centralna station. The train pulls in - notice the snow on the roof. Many of the passengers are holidaymakers, judging by their bulging rucksacks, hiking boots and trekking poles.

The train journey itself was jolly. The next compartment was occupied by students with guitars, who sang all the way to Kraków. The lady wheeling the snacks trolley was particularly friendly, and I managed to keep hunger at bay given that I hadn't had time for any lunch. I shared the compartment with two American tourists, a bit older than me, who must have got a good impression of Poland - the young man who helped them lift their baggage onto the racks, the fluently bilingual conductor, and the singing from next door. People were sitting in the corridors, but this was a good-natured train.

After the dinner at the Kraków Technology Park, it was time to catch the night train - to Poznań. Why Poznań? There was no direct train back from Kraków to Warsaw; hotels in Kraków are expensive. A night train to Poznań and an InterCity train from Poznań to Warsaw works out much cheaper than a hotel in Kraków and train to Warsaw.

I was impressed by the night train - new rolling stock. The toilet was wheelchair-friendly and included a shower cubicle; the compartments were more ergonomic, with a slide-out ladder to the upper bunks. However, the bed was harder than in the older night trains. As with my train to Koszalin last week, there was bottled water, a chocolate muffin and a flannel-and-soap set for each traveller.

The train I boarded is called the Orion - Poland's longest night train service, covering 884 km from Przemyśl in south-eastern Poland, near the Ukrainian border, to Szczecin in north-west Poland. The Orion leaves Przemyśl at 18:17 and arrives in Szczecin at 09:26 the next day - a journey of 15 hours and nine minutes. It calls at Rzeszów, Kraków, Katowice, Opole, Wrocław and Poznań among the 34 stations along the way. This train thus links seven Polish provincial capitals.

My journey was less than half of the whole route - just 429 km, Kraków to Poznań. I slept well after five glasses of wine with the dinner, and was awakened by the conductor half an hour before the train arrived in Poznań.

After a petit déjeuner à l'Ecosse, there was a few minutes to grab some shots of dawn over Poznań. Below: looking east - the PKS bus station under the Avenida shopping mall (left), and the Novotel Poznań Centrum mid-frame.

Below: looking west the view along the Most Dworcowy bridge towards the Poznań international trade fair building. The socialist-realist spire dates from the mid-1950s and gives this vista a old-school communist air.

Below: looking north - the original Art Deco tower at the north-east corner of the Poznań trade fair building, which dates back to 1929. During WW2, the premises became a Nazi aircraft factory, and thus subject to allied bombing. But this tower survived. To the left, the Sheraton hotel, with neon signs for Centra batteries behind it.

The sun shone all the way to Warsaw, a chance to get some good snaps from the train. The Nikon Coolpix P900 is not a quick-draw camera, it takes a while to switch on and get the thing to zoom and focus - traditional DSLRs are much faster. I missed a couple of shots - wild deer in fields by the tracks in particular. But this, below, is the P900 in its element; sunshine, stability plus a subject where the foreshortening effect of the massive zoom plays to good effect. My train to Warsaw pulls into Poznań Główny station.

Agriculture, electricity and the church (below). Just about visible are three wild deer sitting at the far end of the field in the middle distance (click to enlarge).

Passing Konin, which I'd visited in September, the chimneys of its power station belching steam into the atmosphere (below).

Below: Dobrzelin, just before Żychlin, near Kutno - the Polski Cukier factory.

My journey to Warsaw took longer than expected. 28.8km from W-wa Wschodnia, at Błonie station, the train stopped, and did not move for another 20 minutes. There were two failed attempts to start in, on the third it finally moved. So I missed my connecting train at W-wa Zachodnia to Jeziorki, but took a SKM train to the airport, walked from there to W-wa Okęcie station in good time for the next homeward train. Below: view from the end of platform 6 at W-wa Zachodnia, looking east towards town. The SKM train is heaving into view.

I enjoy train travel and prefer it to going by car. A long train trip like this is a pleasure.

This time last year:
Patriotism and nationalism: what's the difference?

This time two years ago:
Poland's progress in the international rankings

This time three years ago:
The Transparency International Corruption Perception Index for 2013

Also this time three years ago:
Poland's rapid advance up the education league table: PISA 2013

This time four years ago:
Life expectancy across the EU: more comparisons


dr Marcin said...

... the fluently bilingual conductor... - you said, Mike. So, why, while I was on my itinerary Luton - St. Pancras back and forth, there was no fluently bilingual conductor on a board of the Thameslink, being either English and Polish? :) Can you explain that?

All the very best.

Darren Clarke said...

Great post - two of your best topics rolled into one, namely trains and photography. A nice story that puts Poland and Polish rail in a good light to the adventurous visitor who might be thinking about a train journey or two while here.