A sudden summons to Lviv, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of railways in the Ukraine, caused a fluster in the BTWT tower. It’s only a short hop by bus, suggested one wag. It may be a only be a short hop, but it’s a bus too far, I replied. My bad back does not permit me to undertake long journeys sitting in a bus.
I suffered a back injury in the Gare du Nord in Paris on 12 December 1981 after carrying some very heavy luggage for a very pretty Polish girl hurrying to catch her train to return home to Poland after the expiry of her visitors’ visa. She caught her train, but only just, and I damaged a disk, which was to rupture a few weeks later and leave me bed-ridden for 6 months and in pain for many months thereafter. If only I had not been so keen to help, she would have missed her train, but I would not have smashed up my back. The following day, General Jaruzelski declared martial law in Poland and the French authorities immediately granted visa extensions to all Poles who were in the country when Martial law was declared. Had the girl missed her train, she could have stayed and worked in France for as long as she would have liked.
There is an excellent night train sleeper service from Krakow to Lviv, and Krakow is only a short hop by train from Lodz, so I treated the bus suggestion with the scorn it deserved and proceeded to surf the Internet to find my trains to and from Lviv.
The PKP InterCity website is a total waste of time. The e-ticket booking facility does not work for international trains and the website has no information for travellers to the Ukraine which is of any value whatsoever. I moved on to the regular PKP electronic train-finder and timetable at rozklad-pkp.pl. Confusingly this does not allow one to enter “Lviv” as a valid destination, but does allow the Polish and Russian equivalents – “Lwow” and “Lvov”. Finding the night sleeper from Krakow to Lviv was easy; finding the return train was more difficult; according to the time table the night sleeper from Lviv to Krakow did not appear to exist.
A personal visit to the PKP IC advance ticket counter at Lodz Kaliska was called for. And what trains would you like to travel on my dear? I’m awfully sorry the train I want to travel on does not appear to exist! The lady booking clerk was a model of efficiency. Don’t worry I’ll ring a colleague in Warsaw. I started to thank her profusely. Don’t thank me just yet, she laughingly replied. Her Warsaw colleague came up with a secret code; my model booking clerk entered it into her terminal and lo and behold the 00:59 from Lviv to Krakow magically appeared, my ticket and sleeping berth reservation followed shortly after. I flirted wildly with the booking clerk, If only the rest of PKP InterCity was as efficient as you are madam everybody would want to travel by train. Unfortunately the bosses of InterCity prefer travel by car and plane and have no idea what is happening on the railway.