The approach to the gauge changing facility at Mostiska-2. Photo PKP IC.
The Inkwizytor remains as elusive as Vault 713 underneath Gringotts Bank in Diagon Alley. Some years ago I was here with some sailing friends, when in swept Ian Woods, complete with a group of attractive female minders from Krakow’s Academy of Fine Arts. The evening ended in an alcoholic haze, but not before many sea shanties had been sung in English and Polish.
Poland has moved on and so has the Inkwizytor. These days, disguised as the Autorska Kawiarnia, it has moved up market. A middle aged lecturer was explaining the difference between the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters to one of his female students. You can’t rely on what was written in the papers, he began. I listened spellbound. Was he going to propound the theory that Fukushima had been a victim of the Stuxnet virus? But no, he had nothing new to say. It seems that Polish female students still have to put up with being taken out by boring male teachers in order to get higher marks.
The waitress came round and I asked her if she was aware that this had once been the centre of Krakow’s sailing community. Surely not here, she replied. I asked for some placki ziemiaczane (potato cakes) without the goulash stew that is their usual accompaniment and a glass of Zywiec. This time, unlike previously at Dynia, there was no problem in serving exactly what I had asked for. The beer and the potato cakes were both delicious.
The wheelset 1435/1520mm gauge changing facility.
Photo PKP IC.
Soon it was time to return to Krakow Glowny. On the train from Lodz, I had proofed a translation of an article about gasworks in Wielkopolska and the proofed copy needed to be e-mailed to the translator. If my back had not been playing up, I would have taken the laptop with me to Dynia which has a free WiFi link, but – not wanting to carry any weight around – I had left it in my suitcase. It was a pleasant walk back to the station, via the market square, passing Adam Mickiewicz’s statue and St. Mary’s Basilica, then clipping the corner of the Juliusz Slowacki theatre.
There was no problem in collecting my luggage and my laptop was still inside my suitcase. The ramp down to the former north subway was closed, but at least the stairs leading down to and up from the south subway were not too much of an obstacle. With just under an hour before my train was due to depart, I brought out my computer kit. Consternation, not only did PKP not provide a WiFi link, but my mobile telephone company’s carrier signal was also severely degraded.
More walking, however, here the escalators from my departure platform down to the new deep level subway were working. The underground passage leading to the Galeria shopping has been tidied up. But it remains architecturally bleak and soulless. It is clear that – rather than conceive of the Galeria and new station as a single unified functional space – the architects of each have chosen to distance their creations from each other. A tremendous missed opportunity – just as in Warsaw’s Zlote Tarasy.
McDonald’s provided me with a fast Internet connection and a welcome coffee. In 5 minutes I was done and back in the interconnecting passage which was physically, as well as architecturally cold. Another 2 minutes and I was back on the platform where my night sleeper train, with an attendant by each coach, was already waiting for me.
Seamless gauge changing. Video by KT4Dani.
PKP IC’s sleeper trains are a welcome left-over of the ‘good old days’ days when Poland’s managers actually travelled by train. I never fail to be impressed by the comfort of the sleeping berths, the cleanliness of the toilets and the helpfulness of the attendant. The Krakow – Lviv sleeper is no exception. It is curious that PKP IC makes so little of the train. Like the Inkwisytor, it is very difficult to find. It is even more difficult to buy a ticket!
Some pleasant surprises were in store. The state of the track on both sides of the Polish – Ukrainian border was remarkably good. I managed to sleep quite soundly. Although the journey only takes 6 hours 48 minutes, not quite enough time for a good night’s rest when getting ready for bed + border crossing controls + getting up times are taken into account.
The border formalities were quick and efficient and the border officials polite and helpful. If anything, the Ukrainian officials were a tad more polite than their Polish counterparts. Perhaps they had been given ‘customer care’ training ahead of the Euro 2012 football championships?
The train arrives at the main railway station in Lviv. Photo BTWT.
(Click image to expand.)
Arrival at Lviv was at 06:03 local time – an hour earlier than the time advertised by the TK Telekom timetable. I was picked up by friends – who had ascertained the correct time from the local timetable – and taken to my apartment. First impressions of Lviv were positive – there is no traffic about at 06:oo hrs – and the roads seemed no worse than the worst roads in Lodz.
Lviv, like Lodz, has a metre gauge tramway system and, like Lodz, has abandoned some of its most picturesque lines. I noticed that in the worst places the tram rail stuck out some 200 mm proud of the coble stone surface. I could see that Lviv could take quite some getting used to!
To be continued…