Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Two weeks, seven cities

My itinerary since Wednesday 13 September:

Warsaw-Katowice-Warsaw-Wroclaw-Warsaw-Opole-Warsaw-Łódź-Gdańsk-London-Gdańsk. Eight if you count Sopot. Photos to follow on my return to Warsaw!

This is the busy season - those 14 weeks between the middle of September and the run-up to Christmas when 40% of all the work in the Northern Hemisphere gets done. Event after event, new faces, business cards, topics, all fascinating. And between them, travel. Travel that deepens my knowledge of Poland and Britain Still to come - Rzeszów and Edinburgh, no doubt a few more destinations before things wind down in mid-December.

I'm back in my hotel room in Gdańsk, which I left early yesterday morning to catch a plane to London. Ryan Air sent me an email suggesting that because of strict border controls, I should turn up at the airport three hours before departure. I turn up two hours before departure. I'm looking around - where are the crowds? No one else is around. I go to passport control and present my ID to the uniformed lady at the desk. "Why did they tell me to turn up three hours early?" I ask. " Today there's only one flight. Yesterday at this time, there were four flights."

Did Ryan Air not know this? Intelligence, artificial or human, should be able to improve the passenger experience by working out the likelihood of long queues at passport control.

Other than this, I must say, flying with Ryan Air was not the horror story I was expecting. Both flights - from Gdańsk to Stansted, and from Stansted to Gdańsk this morning - departed and landed on time. And the stewardess this morning recognised me from yesterday and bid me a special hello.

Stansted Express worked well in both directions - the fact the train station is directly beneath the airport rather than being a ten-minute, £2.10 bus ride away as is the case at Luton is a huge plus in Stansted's favour. As is the fact that you're not flying from a dysfunctional building site. However, the Stansted Express takes a bit longer to get to London (50 minutes one way rather than half-hour to Luton) although both are now the same price (£28 return).

Łódź to Gdańsk was by night train, although this was a couchette rather than proper sleeper, so although I could lie down, I slept clothed. It was a good night's sleep although I felt smelly and rough the next day. Word of warning to pedestrian users of Google Maps and Łódź Widzew station - there is no entrance to the station from the north side. Google Maps showed me a more-or-less straight-line walk from Moni's flat via ul. Narutowicza, Konstytucyjna, Małachowskiego, Czechosłowacka and Wagonowa. However, when I got to the level crossing on Wagonowa - it was closed. Cut off by a new railway depot with high fencing. No way across. I had to walk along a muddy path parallel to the tracks, past the new depot, past the station, until the fencing ceased. Finally, I had to cross the tracks and walk back to the station along the line and scramble up to the platform. All this at half-past one in the morning. 16,000 paces though!

Gdańsk continues to work its charms on me, remaining my favourite Polish city. One could never get bored of living here; the Tri-City has so many attractions from its sandy beaches, its history Old Town, the historic shipyards, the national park in the hills above the city, so much fine architecture. Photos later!

This rushing around hits my sleep and diet. Difficult to find time to eat lots of fresh fruit and veg, though at receptions and hotel breakfasts I cram in as much as I can.

Poland's rapid infrastructure improvements mean that cities that were once five or seven hours apart are now reachable in three; it's easy and quick to buy tickets online, to check train timetables and real-time delays online. This all makes places more accessible and easier, less stressful, to visit.

And in the meantime, I'm reading Miedzianka by Filip Springer - a great piece of reportage full of the atmosphere of Lower Silesia in the post-war years. A full review later too. So much to do, and the day continues to have but 24 hours!

This time last year:
A guide to naming streets in Poland and the UK
(one of my very best posts)

This time six years ago:
A glorious month

This time sevenyears ago:
My grandfather

This time eight years ago:
My home-made fixie bike

This time nine years ago:
Well-shot pheasants

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