I had to be in Kąty Wrocławskie for a meeting that started at 09:30; the outbound flight from Warsaw to Wrocław (the airport is 27km from my destination) arrives at 09:15. Too late. Instead of the cheap flight, I take the tried and tested night train, which arrives at Wrocław Główny station at 06:18. Plenty of time for a Scottish breakfast and for the 30km journey by car to Kąty Wrocławskie.
Night train masterclass: it's great to have a compartment to oneself. Buying a one-person compartment is awfully expensive; an advance booking (week+ ahead) costs 368.00zł. A bed in a three-berth compartment costs 139.40 zł. Now, a bed in the two-berth compartment costs just sixty zloty more - 199.90zł, which is a whole 168.10zł cheaper than the single berth compartment. Now, here's the trick - few people go for the two-berth option. If you book late (no later than two hours before the train begins its journey), and you see the lower berth is free - the chances are you've got it to yourself.
As regular readers know, I'm a great fan of the night train, it combines travel and accommodation in one ticket. This trip was a dream - compartment to myself and slept soundly from Warsaw to just outside Wrocław, woken with a coffee and croissant from the attendant.
But I flew back. My last return from Wrocław was by evening train, which took over four hours. By air, the journey is far swifter. I arrive at the airport with ample time, so I go through security, have some pierogi at the Flying Bistro bar (19.90zł - less than four quid for a plateful), catch up with emails and wait for the gate to open.
16:05 Gate opens
16:15 I leave the terminal building, having shown my boarding pass and ID card.
16:19 I'm in my seat (3E).
16:34 Plane pushes back from its stand
16:47 Take off
17:10 Captain switches off 'fasten seatbelt' sign
17:15 Captain announces "Cabin crew, prepare for landing"
17:28 Touchdown, 12 mins ahead of schedule
17:37 Buses take passengers to terminal
17:45 Leave airport on foot [18min walk]
18:03 Koleje Mazowieckie train departs W-wa Okęcie station
18:08 Train arrives W-wa Dawidy station
18:40 Arrive home, having walked across the frozen lake [32min walk]I could have saved half an hour by taking a taxi home from the airport, but that 10.5km journey would have cost four times more than the 360km Ryanair flight between Wrocław and Warsaw.
Above: Wrocław airport. Below: arrival at Warsaw, just 9.93zł away.
I'm amazed at how efficient the service was.
When PolskiBus.com began selling tickets online, it instantly created a competitive headache for existing bus operators, as well as the railways. Why pay 50zł for a five-hour train journey when you can book a five-hour bus journey for 15zł?
Now Ryanair is pushing things further. Why pay 15zł for a five-hour bus journey when for even less you can fly the same distance in less than an hour?
Unlike the ill-fated OLT Express, Ryanair is a company run by people that know what they're doing. All those extras - suitcase fees, choosing your seat, paying through the nose if you want to fly last minute - that's what's keeping the firm profitable. Those low, low fares are there if you book ahead in low season. But while those seats are there at this price - go for it!
This time last year:
Mind, matter and life
This time two years ago:
Compositions in blue and white
This time five years ago:
Waiting for the change to come
This time six years ago
A wetter Poland?
This time eight years ago:
Heavy overnight snow
This time nine years ago:
Changing Jeziorki skyline