An Englishman in Poland


(Click image to go to Chris Thornborrow’s blog home page)

There’s a lovely sketch about travelling long distance by rail in Poland on Chris Thornborrow’s blog in an article entitled, An Englishman in Poland: The first 6 months. Chris writes with evident relish about the joys of travelling by train across Poland in 2003.

Each weekend I would take a train for 5.5 hours to Warsaw. Polish trains in those days were an adventure. Still this train was largely empty and so sleeping in an empty carriage was possible. Half way through the journey the train would split into two halves. I only found this out by sleeping in the wrong half once. Trains in Poland were not as bad as people said though. They were always on time or within a few minutes, nothing like English trains whose arrival times are best described using a gaussian distribution curve with a long tail. Nontheless, you needed to be on your toes.

The beer sellers would come on at each station and offer cans of beer at much cheaper prices than the railway bar. Once a man came in my carriage as I was dozing and announced “lodowka” – fridge. It was snowing and I assumed he was cold, so I tried to explain he was welcome and we could turn the heating up (it worked in about 50% of trains). “Lodowka” he shouted. After one more attempt, angry as hell at my lack of response, he left calling me some colourful things. Apparently, he had said “zlotowka” – meaning in effect, “Spare some change?”, and the ignorant foreigner had turned the heating up instead.

So, 6 years later and many 100s of millions of euro EU grants later, how long does it now take to travel from Zielona Gora to Warsaw? The only reasonable through train (reasonable price, reasonable time of departure) takes 5 hours 45 minutes. However, if you prepared to catch a train at 04:23 in the morning and pay triple the price, the journey can be done in 4 hours 45 minutes. Some things don’t get better, they just get more expensive.

One Response to “An Englishman in Poland”

  1. John Ball Says:

    Ah, the benefits of privatisation! But, it’s been deemed to be good for us.

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