Thursday, 31 August 2017

End of August, end of summer?

The end of August; with it the end of meteorological summer. Astronomical summer ends with the Autumn Equinox, which this year occurs on 22 September. Seasons come earlier to London than to Warsaw; you can feel spring in the air by February there, whereas in Warsaw you have to wait to April. And so summer lingers longer here, but even so, this year, the end of August was beautiful, with four clear days of sunshine before the clouds rolled on marking a change.

So then, a quick overview from Town and Around of the last three weeks, since my return from London. I being by taking a look at our ponds. Below: a coot. The coots are thriving this year.


Below: the swan family is down to five cygnets (from six chicks born)


Below: so good to see the great crested grebes doing well.



Below: the harvest is in, the straw cut and baled. Looking across from ul. Karczunkowska towards Mysiadło.


Below: I confess to having had a bit of fun tweaking this photo (below) of an empty coal train returning from Siekierki, to give the impression of a baking savannah


Below: part of the flypast on 15 August, a formation of MiG-29s over Warsaw, snapped from the Ballast Mountain (as was indeed the above photo).


Into town. Below - view from my office window as a storm front crosses over from north to south bringing a massive downpour. Ten minutes later, rain was lashing central Warsaw. Half an hour later, the sky had cleared. This was 23 August.


Below: one evening last week I walked from my office all the way down to Metro Racławicka (4.6km), passing the entrance to ul. Śniadeckich from Pl. Konstytucji on the way.


I wrote about the Ilyushin Il-14 that has been turned into a restaurant on the corner of ul. Marszałkowska and Świętokrzyska back in mid-July. The city authorities said it would be removed as it was installed without any planning permission. Well guess what, it's still here,


Palace of Culture's still here too!


I managed to snap the floral clock on the southern side of the palace. The photo was taken with my arms raised as high as possible, then slightly stretched on Photoshop - which suggests that either the angle at which it was set is too low for passers-by, or that it exists so to tell the time for the guests at the Marriott. Photo on Google Maps satellite view shows the floral mermaid by the clock, which was not planted this year.


This time last year:
Pavement for Karczunkowska... a bit at least

This time two years ago:
Gold Train update (the hope! the expectations!)

This time three years ago:
Changes to Poland's road traffic laws

This time four years ago:
Poland post the Rubbish Revolution

This time five years ago:
Poland's most beautiful street

This time six years ago:
Getting to grips with phrasal verbs

This time eight years ago:
What Putin wrote about Molotov-Ribbentrop

This time nine years ago:
Summer Sunday in the city

This time ten years ago:
Last bike-ride to work of the summer

Monday, 28 August 2017

Waiting for the level crossing barriers - Dawidy and Nowa Iwiczna

The new railway timetable comes into force on Sunday, with minor changes on the line from Radom to Warsaw. The fastest time between W-wa Jeziorki and W-wa Śródmieście is cut to 27 minutes (from 28), though on average times are about the same. I was expecting more of an improvement, especially once the new gated level crossings at Nowa Iwiczna (below) and at W-wa Dawidy become operational and trains don't have to slow down ahead of them as they do for ungated crossings. It seems evident (thanks Ian for the tip-off) that the one at Nowa Iwiczna (below) will not be ready by this weekend.


The gate at W-wa Dawidy look just days away from completion, this morning and this evening there were several workers on site getting on with getting the job done.


On ul. Baletowa, the road sign will have to be changed to 'gated level crossing' from 'ungated' (why a symbol of a 2-6-0 loco in full steam is used, when they disappeared decades ago is interesting - I suppose it is unambiguous). Note just beneath the white/red.white/green/white of two tourist trails (szlaki turystyczne) that both start at W-wa Dawidy station.


And between the stations, unfinished signalling. These two are turned in by 90 degrees so as not to confuse train drivers. When the work's ready, they'll be turned outward parallel to the tracks.


The view from the footpath leading towards W-wa Jeziorki. Note the new electricity pylons to the left; these are being put up to replace the old power lines which spark and cackle ominously.


This time last year:
More Sandomierz photos

This time two years ago:
All aboard the Gold Train rush

This time six years ago:
Dominicans at large, Służew 

This time seven years ago: 
Late summer moods, Jeziorki 

This time eight years ago: 
The next one hundred years 

This time nine years ago: 
"What do we want? Early retirement!
When do we want it? NOW!"
 

This time ten years ago: 
Twilight of Warsaw's greenhouse economy

Sunday, 27 August 2017

The Journey There And The Journey Home

The journey there; by road to Wrocław, thence by train to Wałbrzych for local exploration (see yesterday's post) and back by night train to Warsaw.

The DW 710 heading west out of Łódź is an interesting road, followed along its way to Konstantynów Łódzki by a semi-rural tram line (below). Łódź's exurban light-rail routes are now sadly being trimmed back; this line until recently used to run even further out of town to Lutomiersk.


There's a quaint charm about a tram line that runs through fields and villages; below: between the main road and a field of corn, the tracks visible through the grass.


Near to where the line ends now (it was truncated earlier this year) in Konstantynów Łódzki stands a vintage tram, marking the historical importance to this area of its links to Łódź.


Below: onward towards Wielkopolska; still in Łódzkie province, this is the picturesque village of Rossoszyca, built astride a long pond. The wooden church of Św. Wawrzyniec (St Lawrence) dates back to 1783.


Below: more picturesque rural Poland; this is Grabów nad Prosną in Wielkopolska (as opposed to Grabów nad Pilicą which is in Mazowsze).


Onward from Wielkopolska into Dolnośląskie (Lower Silesia). Time to change at Wrocław. I pop by the old Świebodzki station, now partially abandoned. A lovely old Ty-2 loco rusts away exposed to the open sky and vandals.


Change to rail for the journey to Wałbrzych. Though there has been much new investment in Wałbrzych, there are still many signs of post-industrial decay. It's this mix that makes the town so fascinating.


The line just outside Wałbrzych. Built in the 1870s, it was originally intended to link Berlin and Vienna; the Austro-Hungarian authorities viewed the whole project with suspicion, and it was never completed. Still, there are some magnificent views (below)


Below: arrival by train at Wałbrzych Główny (as opposed to Wałbrzych Miasto, 6.1km away). Looking up from the Line A bus that links the two stations at the railway viaduct, with its underslung arches.


... and looking down from the railway viaduct  From Wałbrzych Miasto (as opposed to Wałbrzych Główny), I'll take the night train back to Warsaw.


I bought my ticket home via W-wa Wschodnia, so I wouldn't have to be woken at 6am. Sleep on to Wschodnia, have a Scottish breakfast, and return to Jeziorki by Koleje Mazowieckie - that's the plan. I needn't have worried - my night train arrived three hours late. At some stage, a goods train on the line ahead broke down. I was vaguely aware of my train standing still for an awfully long time, but being in a sleep state this didn't bother me a jot. This view below of two communist-era murals 'advertising' (!) stuff - photographic film and wrist watches - that was unavailable anyway may soon become history as the plot in the foreground is being cleared for the construction of a new building.


Left: back in Jeziorki with two my small rucksacks, hard hat, explorer's kit and photographic gear. A thoroughly worthwhile three-day jaunt, lots of tales to tell. Once again, the klimat of the journey has been processed into my long-term memory; I already feel the need to return to Wałbrzych.

Bonus shot: an SM42 pulls an overhead power line engineering train, heading south out of Skierniewice.

This time last year:
Sandomierz - another outstanding Polish town to see

This time three years ago:
Food hygiene and lies as Russian foreign policy tools

This time four years ago:
Asphalt for ul. Poloneza (to Krasnowolska at least)

This time five years ago:
A welcome splash of colour to a drab car park 

This time six years ago:
To Hel and back in 36 hours

This time eight years ago:
Honing the Art of the Written Word

This time nine years ago:
Of castles, dams and brass bands

Friday, 25 August 2017

Tunnel

I have returned, as promised, to look further. Was there a spur built into the tunnel, running away from the main line towards the Project Riese complex? Dug out in total secrecy during the war, then bricked off as the Red Army was closing in, hiding who knows what? Only one way to find out.

[Health & Safety note: I know what I'm doing. This is a live line, with one train train running in each direction every two hours. The twin-bore tunnel is 1,170 metres long - a 12 minute walk in usual circumstances, no more than half an hour taking it slowly. I check the train app (Bilkom) for train times and delays. The next one is due on time. So I have to keep a close eye on my watch. I'm wearing a high-visibility coat, trousers with knee-pads, stout boots and a hard-hat with miner's-style lamp on the forehead.]

Below: I approach the tunnel (this bore built between 1909 and 1911, the other one between 1876 and 1879) from the north-west portal. If the Nazis had built a spur running off from this tunnel, the line towards Riese would have swung off to the left. Click to enlarge - you can see the light at the other end - the tunnel's dead straight. Right - so where would the signal box have been? Here - a concrete bunker behind and to the left of me.


Below: I go in, turning back towards the north-west portal. Look at the brickwork along the right of the photo...


I am looking for anomalous bricks, mortar, joints, gaps - anything that might suggest that a stretch of brickwork was removed, an underground junction created, and then sealed off again. Tapping the bricks with a small hammer to check whether there was the dull thud of sound brick against solid earth - or the resonant echo of a hollow space... Why does one brick make a certain sound when struck, while the next brick quite a different sound?


Close-up on the bricks, the mortar, the layers of soot (this line was steam-powered until the 1970s), the lichen; some bricks are damaged by age, their facing has dropped off, others are as sound as they day they were laid.



Every 25m there is a refuge - a shallow indentation built into the brickwork - allowing workers to shelter as trains pass. These are outlined in white and are easy to see, even in the dark. But there are also two short transverse tunnels, linking both bores. These are low, less than a metre and half high, and about 12m long. One is 550m from the south-east portal, about halfway through the tunnel, the other is 275m from the north-west portal, about a quarter of the way in. There's apparently a third such link, but I saw only two...


I had gone this far when I took note of the time; there will be a north-westbound train in around eight minutes. This will be a good place to watch it pass in safety. I watched the minutes pass on my phone. Then - right on time, I heard the train's horn at the south-east portal. I switched off all my lights and sat, several hundred metres below the surface of the earth and over half a kilometre from either portal.


As the train approached, it acted as a piston - this is a phenomenon well-known to Tube passengers. A mighty rush of wind blew through the narrow transverse tunnel in which I was sheltering. The short train passed quickly. But as it did, there was a tremendous suction of air rushing back the other way, Quite an experience!

Once it had gone, there would be two hours until the next train. I walked on to the south-east portal. Below: looking into the tunnel from the portal, The first two refuges are visible, as is the north-west end of the tunnel in the distance.

Left: just outside the south-east portal, there's a drainage culvert taking water from the hillside and under the track. The quality of the engineering shines through.

Below: looking at the south-east portal. Note the bridge in the foreground. The north-westbound track goes under the left-hand span; the central span did not have a track under it.

I'm not giving the game away to those not in the know as to the tunnel's location! Those who are in the know, who've followed the story here will be well aware of where these pics are from.

This time last year:
Planes and trains on pedestals around Poland

This time five years ago:
Twilight, ul. Karczunkowska

This time eight years ago:
First hints of autumn in the air

This time nine years ago:
Slovakia - we were not impressed

This time ten years ago:
Jeziorki - late August cultivation


Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Dreamscapy

Am I walking home or am I dreaming?


One of those familiar dreams where it's the dead of night but it's just like day?


I am almost there, but the paces feel lazy, I want to rest and walk at the same time


Lie down and dream about walking... walking...walking...


Relief and rest, familiarity and consciousness spreading out across the night air.

This time two years ago:
Whatever happened to Poland's Amish?

This time three years ago:
PKP publishes plans for upgrade of Warsaw-Radom line

This time four years ago:
World's largest ship calls in at Gdańsk

This time six years ago:
Raymond's Treasure - a short story

This time seven years ago: 
Now an urban legend: Kebab factory under W-wa Centralna 

This time eight years ago: 
It was twenty years ago today 

This time ten years ago: 
By bike to Czachówek again

Sunday, 20 August 2017

365 days since the closure of the level crossing...

Time to issue a commemorative stamp; it is exactly one year since the level crossing on ul. Karczunkowska was closed.

In its place would be a viaduct carrying traffic over the railway line by W-wa Jeziorki station. There's been some grzebbing in the overhead power supply and in the water and sewerage, the asphalt's been ripped up, but just as a year ago there was no sign of a viaduct, there is no sign of one today.

As of 9 April this year, an alternative crossing was opened linking ul. Gogolińska across the track to the Biedronka access road. This is meant to be a temporary solution while the viaduct gets built; the very fact that there's now an alternative means that there's no real rush the viaduct.

Below: looking west along Karczunkowska, as closed as closed as it could possibly be. Fences on both sides of the track. Pedestrians and cyclists can cross, but motorised traffic has to do a 750m detour via Goglińska.


Below: a frustrated scribble on the sign board announcing last year's closure of the road (bottom right, click to enlarge).


Below: looking east with the tracks in the foreground.


Apparently, the reason the viaduct is not being built is to do with the papers not being in order. Below: I climbed up onto a heap of earth on the western side of the tracks to get this snap. So much time, so little progress.


Once again I wonder out loud whether the viaduct will be finished before the S7 joins Węzeł  Lotnisko and Grójec; as of now, the tender bid appeals are being considered, but work on the S7 is expected to begin in March 2019 and completed in March 2022. As readers of this blog will know, such expectations are rarely met.

This time last year:
That's it! the level crossing's closed.

This time two years ago:
What happened to Poland's Amish?

This time three years ago:
PKP publishes plans for upgrade of Warsaw-Radom line

This time four years ago:
World's largest ship calls in at Gdańsk

This time six years ago:
Raymond's Treasure - a short story

This time seven years ago: 
Now an urban legend: Kebab factory under W-wa Centralna 

This time eight years ago: 
It was twenty years ago today 

This time ten years ago: 
By bike to Czachówek again

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Summer's wasting away...

Moving into the latter part of August and I've accomplished little since my return from London last week. A few days in the office, one blog post, no trips other than the one to Stromiec, see previous piece.

Over the years, I've noticed that I've become rather weather-dependent. For me, nothing compares to the existentialist joy of a blue sky on a hot summer's day. And as such a day passes into night, the iridescent horizon's glow. The sensual smell of the night air as the vegetation in full leaf exhales. These experiences connect me with the Eternal and Infinite. Grey skies and rain don't.

So then. Blue sky.

Should I rest or should I venture forth?

Depends how long the weather will remain fine for. Two years ago, my long trip across Poland to buy some fine Polish wine was predicated by an unbroken spell of hot weather that assured four rain-free days. This summer, such long fine spells have been few (there was one during the week I was in London).

Rest and write, take photos, walk a lot, take it easy. This is what the summer's for.

But to rest, to relax, to take it easy properly, (rather than aimlessly lounging about) requires planning. There's stuff that doesn't rest, that still needs doing. A przegląd techniczny here, a car alarm to fix there, rubbish to take out - when's the glass collected? And what's the date for the dry recycled bags? Bills to pay, groceries to buy - and in the background, a dearth of inspiration.

Since May I'd been planning a return trip down Wałbrzych way to seek out the Gold Train - I still have a theory about it's possible whereabouts that needs to be either proved or disproved. I need four clear days to do this - no point of doing this adventure in the pouring rain. But it's raining now, it'll rain tomorrow, and on Monday and on Tuesday.

Planning is difficult if you need a good weather window to coincide with work and other commitments; there's 11 days of August left, when to fit in that trip?

Summer's slipping away. Those glorious sunsets around nine pm are but a memory; today the sun will set at ten to eight; an hour and ten minutes less daylight in the evening. But it's still warm. The freedom to walk around in a shirt, rather than shirt + jumper + jacket, is so precious given how the rest of the year looks.

Summer is so wonderful compared to those dreary short dark cold days, I want to make the very most of it. And there is only a finite number of summers ahead. They are precious and should not be wasted. I still hope that one day I'll be able to spend some Southern Hemisphere summers when winter draws in upon Poland.

Mindful of the fact that that the rain will come today, I went for my walk this morning (a mere 6,000 paces), but a trip to town with Eddie for a curry pushed up the total. [NOTE: The Ganesh on the corner of Herbsta and KEN in Ursrynów is closed - not something we could learn from the internet. So we took the Metro to Politechnika and dined at the Tandoor Palace.]

And this week I've had conjunctivitis in my right eye - it's not the bacterial sort (no cross-infection or pus) so either viral or allergic (the latter is possible as I've just sneezed again). No big deal, except my right (good) eye hurts when I look towards a bright sky, and when the wind blows at it. No treatment - it should be back to normal in a few days.

But I should be doing more. More writing, more travelling, more thinking, more discussing more photography. I feel guilty for not being more active.

It's raining again.

UPDATE: Sunday 20 August. Raining. All. Day.

This time last year:
Warsaw remembers the PASTa building capture

This time two years ago:
Drought. It was a dry summer.

This time four years ago:
Warsaw's ski slope at Szczęśliwice

This time five year:
On the road from Dobra, again

This time six years ago:
August storm, ul. Targowa

This time seven years ago:
Warsaw Central's secret underground kebab factory

This time eight years ago:
Cheap holidays in other people's misery

This time nine years ago:
Steam welcomes us to Dobra

This time ten years ago:
New houses appear in the fields by Zgorzała


Monday, 14 August 2017

In search of more Mazovian roots

After our successful visit to Mogielnica to seek out my father's ancestors, I received three comments from readers with more clues as to the were to seek family history. I was led to my father's maternal grandparents' wedding deeds by Janusz. This document mentioned that Teodora Sepczyńska's mother (so my father's great-grandmother) was born Franciszka Świderska, and her parents were Andrzej Świderski and Franciszka Sawicka (not Dawicka as I'd incorrectly made out from the handwritten script). The document refers to the Świderscy as coming from Budy Biernickie, which looks odd. According to the extremely useful Urzędowy Wykaz Nazw Miejscowości Polskich, there's a Budy Biejkowskie (part of the village of Budy Brankowskie), by the Pilica river, in the parish of Stromiec.

A nice ride on a beautiful day, so off I go. Below: the neo-Gothic church of St John the Baptist in Stromiec, built in 1905.


In the nearby cemetery, in search of Sawicki graves. I found none; however, there were six Witkowski family graves (my father's mother's maiden name). It was really interesting looking at the graves in this small town. So many infants, dead before their second birthday. Really noticeable. "Żyć dłużej chciałem/Bozia mi nie pozwoliła/Umrzec musiałem", it says on the grave of Rysio, aged six months. So many dead teenagers, young people in their 20s and 30s, who would probably had survived had they had the medical attention that their peers would have had in a larger town or city.


Looking carefully at the graves, I noticed many unusual surnames that kept on appearing frequently in this cemetery. Duranc, Moskwa and Kornet, to name three. Of the more usual Polish surnames, the most often encountered were Matysiak. Every cemetery has a great many stories to tell.

Below: the village of Stromiecka Wola, on a day like today, a beauteous sight, the quintessence of rural Mazovia.



There's a village called Biernik in the Puszcza Mariańska, near Żyrardów, also in Mazowieckie province, which is where 'Budy Biernickie' should have been adjacent to. Puszcza Mariańska is just a bit further from Mogielnica (the other way) than is Stromiec.

Fascinating stuff - more to look into!

This time last year:
Popping out for a drink

This time seven years ago:
In search of happiness

This time eight years ago:
Mercenaries and missionaries

This time nine years ago:
Spectacular sunrise, Jeziorki