Thursday, 30 November 2017

Viaduct takes shape in the snow, W-wa Jeziorki

November 2017 is approaching an end. And how's the viaduct that one day will take ul. Karczunkowska over the railway line at W-wa Jeziorki coming on? Snow's falling hard and fast, warm enough to stick to vertical surfaces. Between the electrified lines and the non-electrified coal train line, an excavator digs out the soil between the retaining walls. Here will one day appear the central pillar supporting the new bridge.

Below: down in the pit, the work goes on. Note the people walking down the coal train tracks; there's no direct route from the west side of the line to the 'up' platform; you can choose to walk a muddy 200m detour or walk the line.

Left: I arrive at W-wa Jeziorki, delighted that the temperature here is one degree lower than in the centre of Warsaw, and that the snow here is settling on the ground. I'm greeted by a little snow station-master, who causes some amusement to the train's conductor.
Below: now the trains have passed, I check how the foundations look in the dark.

Bonus shot from yesterday; the snow was falling but not settling, as a Freightliner PL Newag Dragon locomotive passes through W-wa Jeziorki with a rake of full coal wagons. The Freightliner Dragons are dual-power electric locos with auxiliary diesel power, allowing them to work in non-electrified shunting yards.

This time three years ago:
No in-work benefits for four years?

This time four years ago:

This time five years ago:
Another November without snow

This time six years ago:
Snow-free November

This time seven years ago:
Krakowskie Przedmieście in the snow

This time eight years ago:
Ul. Poloneza closed for the building of the S2

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

50th Anniversary of the Polski Fiat 125p

On this day fifty years ago, the very first Polski Fiat 125p rolled off the production line at the Fabryka Samochodów Osobowych (FSO) in Warsaw's Żerań. The licence-built copy of the Italian saloon car was in continuous production until 1991, with more than 1.4 million made. A common (though not as common as its small brother, the Polski Fiat 126p) sight on Poland's roads right through to the late 1990s. Today considered a classic, well-preserved examples are highly sought after by collectors.

To mark the half-century that's passed since the start of production, a small exhibition has been staged in a tent outside the Palace of Culture (Plac Defilad, facing ul, Marszałkowska), which I visited today.

Poland had had a licence-building relationship with Fiat since before WW2; from 1935 to 1939, the Polski Fiat 508 III (below) was produced at the PZInż factory in Warsaw (from 1932 to 1935 the Polski Fiat 508 I and 508 II were assembled there.)

At the time, the Fiat 125 (below) represented sharp, modern European styling, a far cry from the lumpy Warszawa 223 that was produced in parallel at FSO until production of the that type ceased in 1973, by which time the Warszawa was a complete anachronism. The Polski Fiat 125p was a simplified, lower-cost version of the Italian 125, with engines from the discontinued Fiat 1300 and 1500 saloons, while the Italian cars had new 1600 and 1800cc engines and square headlamps.

Below: an estate version (kombi) was produced, and successfully exported too. This is the ambulance version. I had a ride in one of these in 1979; the ambulance driver was moonlighting as a taxi outside a railway station somewhere in western Poland, from where he drove me to a lakeside chalet resort where I was meeting my group of young Poles from London on our Montserrat holiday. The journey (around 25km) cost me $10, I remember.

This is a prototype 4x4 version of the estate; with mechanicals based on the Soviet Lada Niva, it was never put into production because of difficulties in obtaining those Soviet parts.

After Martial Law was imposed in December 1981, the FSO factory lost many of its key workers, and soldiers were drafted in to keep the machines running. Quality plummeted. Fiat was upset that its brand was attached to products of such execrable reliability that it insisted the 125p was renamed the FSO 125p. The car continued to be sold under the FSO brand until production ceased in 1991.

This exhibition runs until next Monday, 4 December, if you can't make it but like the Fiat 125p, there are usually a handful available for hire for retro-style tours of central Warsaw, based in front of the Palace of Culture.

Another view, in the sunlight, yesterday morning.

Bonus shot - a 1972 Ford Capri 1600 GT at the DESA Unicum auction house on ul. Piękna. The auction takes place this Saturday (2 December) and the car is expected to fetch up to 80,000 złotys (£17,000). My father had one like this (1600, but not GT), in bright red, with maroon upholstery. Says it was his favourite car ever, in over 60 years of driving.

This time last year:
Fidel Castro's death divides the world

This time two years ago:
London to Edinburgh by night bus

This time four year ago:
The Regent's Canal, London

This time six years ago:
An end to the entitlement way of thinking

This time seven year:
West Ealing - drab and sad suburb

This time eight years ago:
To Poznań by train

This time ten years ago:
Late autumn drive-time 

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Roadblock and railfreight pics

What could such a sign... mean? It's Friday morning, and I'm walking to W-wa Dawidy station, when I see a no-through road sign on the corner of ul. Trombity and ul. Dumki (below). Now, these temporary signs usually mean a road closure, but as I've written in the past, drivers can never be sure whether the sign is to be taken seriously or not.

Rather than walk to the station alongside the ponds, I continue along Trombity to find out. The road is totally closed, with fencing from one side to the other. Pipes are being dug up in the road, again. Pedestrians can squeeze through, risking muddy feet. But drivers (this shot is taken from the north end) are forced to turn around and do a 3km diversion via ul. Sarabandy.

However... how is it looking on Saturday morning? I go. No sign of the digger and its crew, and the road is now only partially closed. Cars can squeeze through the gap, below. Shot taken from the south. But the road signs are still in place, no different from the previous day, when it would have been impossible to squeeze through. Upshot - drivers don't take the signs seriously when they do appear. Better communication between builders and drivers is needed (such as 'road closed Mon-Fri 6am-6pm' or the like).

So - drivers, if you use Trombity as your regular short-cut to and from work - forget it. The road will be closed for some time to come.

There's works going on along ul. Kórnicka and Dumki too. All along the northern and western sides of the ponds, new trees are being planted. Here's a crew of landscape gardeners working (on a Saturday) to install a line of birches. On Kórnicka, a volleyball court is being built, replacing the long-defunct football pitch, and more trees are going up there too. Good to see the local authorities continuing to invest in beautifying the area.

Now for rail fans - two pics of locomotives running light through Jeziorki. Below: a DB-liveried ET21 (3E/1) 'Sputnik' hustles up the electrified line towards Okęcie showing a surprising turn of speed, possible after the recent track modernisation. Not having had to slow down for an island platform or for ungated level crossings, the engine was blasting along.

Below: a PKP Cargo ST44 Gagarin proceeds across the temporary level crossing by ul. Gogolinska at a far more leisurely pace, also en route for the Okęcie sidings along the non-electrified line.

Below: bonus pic from last Tuesday - a pair of Skoda-build 57E (181) locos owned by Lotos pull a rake of oil cisterns southbound through W-wa Choszczówka station.

The electric engines are from the 1960s and still working usefully, the Skodas being from 1961 and the Sputnik from 1968. The diesel-engined Gagar is somewhat newer, built in 1980.

This time last year:
Sunny morning, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens

This time two years ago:
Brentham Garden Suburb

This time three years ago:
Ahead of the opening of the second line of the Warsaw Metro 

This time four years ago:
Keep an eye on Ukraine...

This time five years ago:
Płock by day, Płock by night 

This time six years ago:
Warning ahead of railway timetable change

This time ten years ago:
Some thoughts on recycling

Friday, 24 November 2017

Edinburgh from Warsaw made easier

For the first time in my eight trips to Edinburgh, I managed to fly direct from Warsaw (if one can consider a flight from Modlin 'direct'). To get to Modlin, I took the Metro from the office to Dworzec Gdański, from there a Koleje Mazowieckie train to Modlin station, and from there a bus to the airport. Now that I'm over 60, I can get a 35% discount on the KM tickets, and with my Zone 1 quarterly pass, my travel to W-wa Choszczówka is free. And so I end up paying 12.82zł (£2.70) for the journey.

From Modlin to Edinburgh, and that's Edinburgh Airport, in the city of Edinburgh and not 50km away as some low-cost airports can be. The flight is entirely in hours of darkness, so I have an aisle seat for a quick getaway. Tickets from Warsaw to Edinburgh can be bought for peanuts if booked well in advance and outside of school holidays. Below: boarding the flight.

Arriving in Edinburgh, I take the opportunity to take the tram into town. Opened three years ago, it is now fully operational and has become an integral part of Edinburgh's public transport. Now, the fare structure of the tram system (just one line - airport to York Place in the centre) is controversial. You can travel nearly the entire route, from York Place to Ingliston Park+Ride (one stop short of the airport), for just £1.60. But go that one stop further, and you pay £5.50. Clearly a mechanism to get the tourists to pay more than their fair share towards the upkeep of the tramway. If you want to save £3.90, you can walk from the airport terminal to Ingliston P+R, it's around 1.5km (1 mile or around 1,800 paces).

The trams were built in Spain specially for the Edinburgh contract to meet the city's specific requirements. They are bi-directional, with a driver cab at either end and doors on both sides.

Below: Gogarburn tram stop, for the huge Royal Bank of Scotland campus. At the edge of town. Trams during the rush hours are frequent, one every seven minutes, and heavily used.

Left: West End Princes Street tram stop, with the Charlotte Chapel in the background.

Another point to note with the tram fares; you need to buy your ticket before boarding; there are two ticket machines at each stop. Banknotes aren't accepted and change is not given; minimum credit card transaction is £3.00. So if you want to buy a £1.60 ticket, best have that exact amount in cash. I didn't so I ended up paying for an unnecessary £3.20 return ticket just that the transaction would come to over the £3.00 minimum.

Coming back to Warsaw, my flight at 19:25 from Edinburgh left and arrived on time, I was at Modlin groundside at 23:20, the Modlin Bus (33zł) left at 23:40 and arrived outside the Palace of Culture at 00:20; I caught the last Metro from Centrum towards Kabaty at 00:27 and a taxi from Wilanowska home (35zł), where I arrived just before 01:00.

All of which goes to show that Edinburgh and Warsaw now have excellent connections, all the more reason for Varsovians to visit Edinburgh and Edinburgers to visit Warsaw!

This time two years ago:
Stuffocation: the rich-world problem of dealing with too many things

This time five years ago:
Heroes on the wall

This time seven years ago:
Tax dodge or public service? 

This time eight years ago:
Warsaw's woodlands in autumn

This time nine years ago:
Still here, the early snow

This time ten years ago:
Another point of view

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Edinburgh - walking the Water of Leith

My eternal guide to Edinburgh is Miroslav Sasek, the Czech illustrator whose This is... series of travel books for children gave me a grounding in the great cities of the world as a small boy. This is Edinburgh (1961) ranked Scotland's capital alongside London, Paris, Rome, Hong Kong, Venice or New York when it comes to visual amazingness. My father would borrow the large-format picture books from Ealing public library and I would love to read them.

I have been to Edinburgh eight times over the past ten (blogged) years; the city never fails to appeal to my aesthetic sensibilities; it's certainly a place everyone with an interest in history, culture and architecture should see at least once.

Squeezing in some sightseeing around business trips as I do, however, Edinburgh requires repeat visits to get in all of its main attractions. I've already been to the castle, seen Holyrood Palace and the Scottish Parliament, walked down the Royal Mile, climbed Arthur's Seat and Calton Hill, and explored the New Town. But I haven't yet done the Water of Leith walk, which my childhood memories of Sasek focus on a picture of a spectacularly high, arched brick bridge with double-decker buses on it. This is the Dean Bridge, carrying the Queensferry Road over the Water of Leith.

So with two afternoon meetings ahead of me, I set off on a rainy morning to take in that corner of Edinburgh that I've never yet been to. And seeing it in late November, there were few tourist and only a handful of hardy local dog-walkers and strollers out and about in this weather.

The Water of Leith is the river that rushes tumultously through Edinburgh, with many weirs and waterfalls along the way, skirting north of the New Town on its way to the Firth of Forth at Leith. Passing through the Dean Village, the river is at its most picturesque, adding yet another must-see area to the agenda of anyone visiting Scotland's capital.

The Water of Leith disappears over a waterfall. One thing I'm not too keen on is the mustard-and-custard colour schemes of non stone-faced houses.

Classic MGB GT, echoing this picture from another capital city's riverside...

Dean Bridge; not as spectacularly tall as Sasek had led us to imagine, but with a bus on top.

Dean Bridge, seen from Miller Row. According to Sasek, the bridge is 106ft over the river.

Here's Sasek's take on the views above - a slight exaggeration of vertical scale, though I guess he'd have set up his easel higher up than my camera's eyepoint.

And his view (turned some 30 degrees to the left of my photo below).

Stone tenements, church tower, bridge and rushing waters.

And maybe sweep to the left to bring in that courtyard...

Below: on through the next section of the Water of Leith, where I espy St Bernard's Well. Risking a slip. I edge out over exposed rocks to get this shot from (almost) midstream.

Below: St Bernard's Well, this time from the footpath.

Below: the bridge linking India Place and Dean Terrace; note the solid and ornate construction of the steps from the riverside up to the bridge.

Below: looking west along the Water of Leith from the bridge above. Rain on the cobblestones adds the appeal.

Below: a curious clock tower perched on a building on the north side of the bridge taking Kerr St over the Water of Leith.

Left: flights of steps, a stone-clad retaining wall, a pillar-box, and umbrellas in the rain. North West Circus Place at the junction of India St.

It rained solidly all day; after walking for the best part of two hours, I was drenched and had to return to my hotel (the eminently reasonable Frederick House Hotel) to dry my outerwear with a hair dryer! I cannot remember having been so wet in many decades!

This time last year:
Poland's north-west frontier

This time two years ago:
Cars must fade from our cities

This time four years ago:
Unnecessary street lighting wastes money

This time five years ago:
Warsaw's heros on the walls 

This time six years ago:
Tax dodge or public service? 

This time eight years ago:
Warsaw's woodlands in autumn

This time nine years ago:
Still here, the early snow

This time ten years ago:
Another point of view

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

First snow, first frost of winter 2017/18

Just for the record, nothing really to get excited about. Yesterday, Monday 20 November, it snowed briefly in the morning in Warsaw. I wasn't expecting this, but here was the view outside my bedroom window...

Childhood memories of Warsaw
But the temperature never fell below zero (it dropped to +1C for about two hours around dawn). By the time I got to the bus stop just after 8am, the snow had turned to rain, the slush on the road surface was dreadful. As was the traffic. My bus journey to Metro Stokłosy which, according to the timetable, should take 21 minutes, actually took 45 minutes - it arrived at my destination 24 minutes late. In town, there was no sign of any snow.

Just for the record, I'd like to point out that the first snow in 2009 was as early as 14 October, while in 2012 on 29 October it snowed copiously and stayed put for a while.

This morning, Tuesday 21 November, the temperature fell below zero for about two hours before dawn, and then promptly shot up to +3C. The short subzero spell was enough to put the thinnest skim of ice onto puddles and to lay down the lightest touch of frost onto the vegetation.

Looking ahead, the temperature is expected (by to reach 9C on Thursday and on Friday, so this cold snap is passing very quickly. Long term, it does seem that Warsaw's winters are starting later and are generally milder - although these trends need to be averaged out over the long term.

I'm in Edinburgh for the next few days, here it's mild with a warm westerly wind and the smell of sea air in the city's streets.

This time seven years ago
Childhood memories of Warsaw

Monday, 20 November 2017

Shock, horror, outrage

In the old days in Britain, there were newspapers of the left, newspapers of the right, serious newspapers and downmarket tabloids. Tabloids of the left and right were there to entertain the masses, the broadsheets to inform the educated classes. Back in the 1970s with rampant inflation, non-stop strikes, the Three-Day Week, we were all affected by blackouts, rubbish piling up in the streets. There was much to be outraged about; a letter to the editor should do the trick. Letters to the editor of right-thinking broadsheets - typically came from crusty colonels in the Shires, such as the stereotyped 'Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells' Now, DoTW was outraged but literate, with a point to make and usually a witty barb somewhere along the way.

Middle-market tabloids Daily Mail and Daily Express would run letters with a moany tone starting "Why oh why do we always..." while the downmarket tabloids letters columns would typically be pithy observations or tips delivered in short, punchy paragraphs that probably came from no further away than the subs' desk. Letters that were violently abusive, boring, over-long or plain mad would end up on the spike at every newspaper's office - there's no space for bad letters.

But the internet changed all that. Everyone's voice can be heard. Anyone with an opinion can shout. And be heard - not by millions, but by dozens, hundreds, thousands. And because many authors seek to be popular with a given audience of like-minded people, they aim to give that audience what it wants. And outrage - along with humour - are what grabs people's attention. [Read this excellent Economist briefing about how the attention economy driven by the social media has distorted democracy.] Outrage is being used to manipulate voters; set up story that people are likely to feel outraged about and link it to a forthcoming election. Or referendum. Fake news of the outrage-generating type has been deployed in the UK, US, France and Germany.

Humour is tricky to get right; good comedians are always in short supply. Outrage is easier to manufacture. Take the photo, below. A sign outside a retro PRL-themed bar in Poznań, styled after a Czarny Punkt (Accident Black Spot) sign, commonly seen on Poland's roads.

On the real thing, the number on the left is the number killed, the number on the right, the number injured. Here, it gives the number satisfied/happy, and the number sober. At first sight, a rather amusing take on an (all-too) familiar road sign... but could it cause outrage? Outrage to those who've lost loved ones to drunk drivers? I'm minded here of this weekend's horrific accident in which a drunken driver in a BMW, driving his pals home after a boozy night, lost control of the car; it smashed into a barrier and burst into flames. Everyone got out and fled the scene, except the eighth passenger - locked in the boot - who burnt to death.

Making any kind of link between alcohol and driving is... outrageous? Or, in this case - humorous?

It took me a while, for my first reaction was to laugh. It did strike me as funny.

I consider myself eminently fortunate in that I never lived under communism. That would have caused me to have felt genuinely outraged on a daily basis, seeing my petty freedoms taken away, seeing my human potential wasted by a stupid, brutal system - outrageous. People living under Robert Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe would be right to feel outraged. Or citizens of Maduro's Venezuela. But we, in our safe European homes, with only limited emotional energy, comfortable and relatively (in historic and global terms) prosperous, have little to be outraged about in our day-to-day lives. In mine? Neighbours heating their houses by burning crap that poisons our air, drivers tearing down local roads far too quickly, aggressive dogs and people dumping household rubbish by the wayside.

These things affect me directly, on a personal, emotional level. But if someone were to say: "vote to leave the EU and these four things would be put right," I'd laugh at them. Some things are more fundamental than others. The most fundamental is the road from the bestial towards the angelic, from barbarism towards ever-higher civilisation, from aggression to kindness. We would all do well to address our feelings of outrage we come to feel when engaging with the social media.

This time two years ago:
My mother's funeral

This time three years ago:
Poland Works! revisited

This time five years ago:
Kraków-Warsaw by train

This time seven years ago:
Warsaw Blogmeet

This time eight years ago:
My fixie reconfigured

This time ten years ago:
Not In My Back Yard

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Kolej grójecka by Bogdan Pokropiński

I could not believe my eyes when I was perusing the  used magazine stall on W-wa Śródmieście the other day - a mint copy of Bogdan Pokropiński's reference work, Kolej grójecka ('Grójec railway', WKŁ, 2002). This is the definitive book about the narrow-gauge railway line that once linked Warsaw to Nowe Miasto nad Pilicą via Mogielnica, Grójec, Tarczyn and Piaseczno, (which I've written about here).

For 30zł (there was receipt in the back of the book indicating an original purchase price of 63zł), I picked up a fascinating work full of photos (all b&w with just two colour plates), maps, diagrams, timetables and masses of history.

The book is a treasure trove of minutiae that will delight any Polish-reading anorak. I've learned many new facts about the line:
  • Warszawa Południowy, the narrow-gauge terminal which stood on the site of the present-day Metro Wilanowska transport hub, used to be called (W-wa) Szopy, until 1943. Now, Szopy (which means 'stables' or 'sheds') is the name of parts of Ksawery and Stegny north of al. Wilanowska between Puławska to the west and al. Sikorskiego to the east. Until very recently, still an area where people lived in shacks rather than proper houses.
  • The line originally ran from Pl. Unii Lubelskiej (then Pl. Keksholmski) to Piaseczno, opening in 1898. This being the Russian Empire at the time, Puławska, along which the railway ran, was called ul. Nowoaleksandryjska, as the Russians had renamed Puławy Nowa Aleksandria.Under German occupation in WW1, Puławska was renamed again Feldherrallee.
  • Jasieniec used to be the southern terminal of the line between 1914 and 1915, when the line was extended by the Russian military from Grójec to Mogielnica. Under German occupation, passenger traffic was introduced onto the entire line (Warsaw-Mogielnica) after the Germans rebuilt it (the Russians destroyed everything as they fled in 1915).
  • The line was further extended to Nowe Miasto nad Pilicą in 1924. This was the 'golden age' of the Grójec railway. In 1937, you could board the train at Warszawa Szopy at 07:34 and be at Nowe Miasto at 10:30, calling at Grójec (08:56) and Mogielnica (09:51) along the way. (You can still trace the line on Google Earth if you check Layers->More->Transportation->Rail in the sidebar.)
  • As well as narrow-gauge steam engines, the line was served by diesel railcars before WW2, after initial proposals to electrify (!) the line were rejected. Several different types were in use to 1986, all but the very first (which served between 1924 and 1934) were Polish designed. After 1986, the 1,000mm-gauge line was equipped with Romanian built diesel locos, coaches and railcars.
  • There used to be a 4.5km branch line off the main Nowe Miasto-Piaseczno section that ran from Grójec to Jasieniec. It was closed to traffic in 1966 and the tracks were lifted in February 1970. The trained eye can easily spot stretches of the track bed in the fields between the south-eastern corner of Grójec, Krobów and Jasieniec.
  • The line probably would have been closed much earlier than was the case had it not been for the intervention of the Polish military. With the opening of a jet-fighter training base at Nowe Miasto nad Pilicą in 1954, a spur was built from the line to the airfield, and a Ministry of Defence siding built at Piaseczno for transferring aviation fuel into cisterns to be taken down to Nowe Miasto.
As my father told me over the summer, this railway line played an important in his family's survival through the German occupation of Warsaw after his father died. His mother, who hailed from Mogielnica originally, would travel out by train to buy meat from local farmers; she'd sell half and feed herself and her three boys with the other half.

Bogdan Pokropiński's book is essential reference for anyone interested in Warsaw's railway history. It's available online from the WKŁ website for 45zł. And if you're interested in the line, it's worth popping down next summer for a weekend trip from Piaseczno to Tarczyn and back - or to cycle alongside the track on a bike, when you're sure there's no train due.

This time two years ago:
PIS, thinking wishfully about the village

This time four years ago:
An unseasonably warm autumn in Warsaw

This time five years ago:
Shedding light on an unused road

This time six years ago:
S2-S79 Elka from the air 

This time seven years ago:
Fish and chips in Warsaw

This time eight years ago:
Spirit of place - anomalous familiarity moments 

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Poznań's Stary Rynek

Many's the time I've been to Poznań on business, but I've not been to the Stary Rynek (Old Market) for many years - last time was about ten years ago or more, and at night. Given Poznań's status as one of Poland's great cities, it's high time to pay some attention to its historic centre.

Below: magnificent centrepiece of the Rynek is the Renaissance town hall, designed by Giovanni Battista di Quadra (who also worked on the cathedral in Płock). Built between 1550 and 1560, it was restored after WW2 having sustained serious damage.

Below: taking in the town hall looking east along the northern side of the square. Wrocław's old market square is similar in layout, but bigger.

Below: unfortunate... the Old Arsenal, destroyed during WW2, was replaced by a modernist building in the 1950s (outlined in yellow). It does not fit its surroundings at all and should be torn down. Better to have empty space that this ugliness, unlike many of Warsaw's post-war modernist buildings, it lacks any redeeming features. It screams 'provincial drabness'. Note also the three fountains that line the western edge of the square.

Left: on the corner of ul. Paderewskiego and ul. Sieroca. Lime green and white, this building has been tastefully restored, colours contrasting yet fitting in with surrounding architecture. Poznań seems to be a few years behind Wrocław, Gdańsk or Kraków when it comes to remonting its kamienice; quite a few are still behind scaffolding and nets.

Below: looking along ul. Świętosławska towards the Basilica (former parish church) on ul. Gołębia.

Below: the Royal Castle rises above ul. Zamkowa, linking it to the old market. The castle has been subject to a lengthy restoration, partially opened in April this year.

I must say that Poznań's historic centre feels slightly scruffier than Wrocław, Gdańsk, Warsaw or Kraków. Grafitti, peeling stucco, damp patches suggest that the city should do a bit more to clean up its act. The recently re-cobbled thoroughfares are particularly nice.

Economically, Poznań is a boom town, with local unemployment standing at 1.6% (end September); many shops and cafes have job ads in the doors; many businesses are seeking staff.

Below: although the heritage tram line has ceased working scheduled journeys for the winter, this one has been hired for a organised tour group. This is the Konstal N tram, manufactured between 1948 and 1956, once a common sight in many Polish cities.

Below: heritage loco, sadly stationary... an H. Cegielski Poznań-built Ty51 2-10-0 steam engine stands outside the Inea stadium, on ul. Bułgarska (not far from the GlaxoSmithKline factory and IT centre). The Inea stadium was one of four Polish hosts of the Polish-Ukrainian EUFA2012 championships (along with Gdańsk, Wrocław and Warsaw). The EUFA championships brought huge civilisational and infrastructural benefits to the cities.

Poznań certainly deserves a place on the tourist map of Poland, a great city of interest. For shopping, the award-winning Stary Browar mall is one of the finest in the country, built on a huge scale and architecturally stunning. Below: picture from a previous trip to Poznań. Using the original shell of the late 19th century Hugger brewery, the mall is now home to 210 stores and restaurants.

This time last year:
Brexit, Trump and negative emotions

This time six years ago:
Premier Tusk's second exposé

This time seven years ago:
Into Poland's former Heart of Darkness

This time eight years ago:
Powiśle - synchronicity of shape

This time nine years ago:
The last of the rampa na kruszywo

This time ten years ago:
Airport zoning to halt development in Jeziorki?