22½ hours in Inowrocław, part 1

“Ino-Rock” is a one-day, rock music festival held on the last weekend in August in Inowrocław, Poland. I say one-day festival; it’s an afternoon into the evening sort of affair, kicks-off about 16:00 and goes on until midnight. The venue is The Summer Theatre in Inowrocław (Teatr Letni w Inowrocławiu) and usually there are four or five bands playing. The Summer Theatre is no more than a covered stage and rows of bench seats set into a slightly rising landscape. No, that doesn’t do it justice really; like a lot of these places the venue becomes more than just the place it is when it is full of people and music but you get the idea, seats under the sky, bands under the stage roof.

Teatr Letni w Inowrocławiu

The nearest airport to Inowrocław is in Poznań. To get to Poznań I have to take the train to London and then out to Stansted. My modus operandi when visiting Poland has been to fly from Heathrow with British Airways into Warsaw and then go by train to wherever it is I want to be; returning to Warsaw and flying home again with British Airways. I like BA, I like Warsaw. Heathrow is easy to get to from Chesham. It’s a win-win-win situation.

To Boldly Go…

Then, one day in Łódź:
“How did you get here?”
“I flew into Warsaw and got the train.”
“You can get a direct flight into Łódź from Stansted.”
“I know, but it means I’ve got to go into London and then back out to…”
I’ve had that conversation a few times.

In a moment of weakness one day, with the prospect of going to another concert in Łódź, I booked a flight from Stansted. In due course I caught the train to London and then the curiously named Stansted Express out to the airport. The Stansted Express definitely goes to Stansted, I can’t argue that but it doesn’t seem to be very, um, how can I put it? It’s not very expressey. No matter, it arrived, eventually.

The last time I was at Stansted was in 1983 to see the visit of the Space Shuttle approach and landing test vehicle OV-101 Enterprise. The Enterprise was flown-in piggy-backed on the top of a Boeing 747 and the curious combination landed on the runway in what was essentially a very large grass field. Thousands of people had turned up to see this, we queued for hours to get out of the airfield car park and get home again but what a fantastic day it was.

Over the years Stansted has changed a bit, just a bit. Kin’ell, it’s enormous! I found the Ryanair check-in desk and bag-drop, checked-in and bag-dropped and strode off towards security and the queues, lots of lovely queues. Actually, the queues weren’t too bad, they seemed to be moving along at a fair old pace and before long I was air-side and kicking my heels waiting for the gate to open.

I Love Ryanair.

I don’t love Ryanair. Apparently there is an “I Hate Ryanair” website, more than one it appears (yes, I just did a little sneaky Googling there) where disgruntled passengers can vent their spleens. I had never flown with Ryanair before so I didn’t know what to expect but there was a dash of bad press associated with the carrier and this elicited just a little apprehension.

The departures board indicated that the gate was open so I went on the four mile hike to find it, well; it seemed like a four mile hike, it was a way, away, down steps, up escalators along corridors. Found it, queued, out onto the tarmac, up the rear steps and into the cabin. Found my seat, my window seat, oh yes, I always book a window seat, sat down.

Yellow. Yellow and blue. Bright yellow and blue. Say no more.

Apart from the ghastly colour scheme, Ryanair didn’t seem too bad. What do people expect from a low cost airline? It flew me to my destination at a lower cost than… Actually, BA doesn’t fly to Łódź so I can’t make that comparison but I was flown to Łódź, arrived on time, job done. The airport at Łódź is small compared to Stansted, tiny compared to Heathrow. It’s a bijou airportette and rather nice for being so. Border control and baggage reclaim are all in the one hall. No route marches, perfect.

Just buy a bigger suitcase…

To Inowrocław then. Metropolitan Line, Chesham to Liverpool Street. Stansted Express out to the airport. Check-in, bag-drop. I don’t know about you but I always check my bag into the hold. It’s a two hour flight to Warsaw, less than two hours to Łódź and even less to Poznań. There’s just me and my one bag; why do I want to take a bag into the cabin, lugging it up the steps and struggle to get it into the overhead lockers, jostling for space in the aisle with everyone else and then struggle to get it out and carry it down the steps again? People do though. OK, I understand about not wanting to pay for a checked bag but a lot of people have a checked bag and a cabin bag. Why not just buy a bigger suitcase and put it all in the hold?

Through the corridors, up and down stairs and escalators, out onto the tarmac, there stands our ship, resplendent in white, blue and gold, up the steps, window seat. Seven and a half miles up, quite literally flying along at 500 mph, who wouldn’t want to be able to look out of the window? It was cloudy; I had a great view of an awful lot of clouds.

Speaking in tongues.

Poznań airport is a little bigger than Łódź but smaller than Stansted. I collected my bag, got some cash out of an ATM and went to the taxi rank. As ever, my opening line is to ask the driver if he speaks English. I do this in Polish of course; sometimes the driver says “Yes”, and sometimes there is a shake of the head and a shrug. Sometimes the driver says “Tak” and then proceeds to ask me, in Polish, where I want to go. On this occasion the driver informed me that yes, he spoke English. He spoke quite good English as it turned out. I asked to go to Hotel Stare Miasto, “Sure” he said and we set off. He asked me what I was doing in Poznan and had I been here before. I told him that yes, I had been here before and then I got all big headed and said in Polish, “Juro ja jechać do Inowrocław, iść do koncert na Teatr Letni”

Now, any of you that can actually speak Polish will probably be shaking your head at this point but it was the best I could muster and he had understood what I said, that’s the main thing. He then asked me, in English, what sort of music it was that was going to be played at the concert. “Rock” I said, “Progressive Rock”.
“Ah” he said, “I like rock” and he began furkling about in the glove box (Why do we still call it a glove box?), pulled out a CD and pushed it into the CD player. Guns N’ Roses. “You like?” He asked. I nodded approvingly. It was OK; it was jolly enough for the short journey to my hotel. I don’t like Guns N’ Roses, well, not all of it, especially that gawd ahwful “knockin’ oahrn heaven’s dohaw-ahw-ahw” song. But that’s just mah opinion and that was not what was playing so it was OK.

It was a late afternoon flight so I got to the hotel sometime after eight in the evening. Hotel Stare Miasto is a nice little hotel in a bit of a run-down area of Poznań. The building next door is in a terrible state, there is work going-on, OK, signs of work going on, I didn’t actually see any work going on but goodness knows it needs work to go on. The hotel however is just delightful. I took my bag to my room and then ventured out to a local bar I know.

Market square heroes.

I had not stayed out late; I’d had a few beers and gone back to the hotel and gone to bed. I awoke to a rain shower but that soon cleared up. I abluted, S, S and S and went to my bag for clean pairs of underpants and socks. I was only away for three nights so there wasn’t a lot in my bag, no, not a lot, not even underpants and socks. Bugger! Ah well; donning yesterday’s underpinnings I went down for breakfast.

After breakfast I went out to buy some underwear. The rain had cleared and it was shaping-up into a nice day. I walked to the old market square. This is probably the most touristy part of Poznań but early in the morning it is quite peaceful. I stopped to take the obligatory photo of the colourful little terrace of shops and sat a while to take-in the vista, the atmosphere.


The market square, Poznań

There was a large group of Italian tourists a little way off, the guide had a small megaphone contraption and she was expounding upon, well, something or other, I don’t speak Italian. The group moved towards me, stopped and there was more megaphone speak. The group moved again, coming towards me again and then surrounding me where I sat on my bench. The megaphone went into action once more, its operator was waving this way and that, some heads followed her gestures, others were off on their own courses. I sat there, trying to look like this was all fairly normal, being surrounded by Italian tourists and I suppose in the old market in Poznań, it is fairly normal. The tourists moved off, the megaphone making further noises as it faded into the distance.

I arose from my seat and went off the find some pants and socks but first I walked up to Freedom Square, a large mostly empty public area just off-of the Market Square. There is a sculpture-cum-fountain at one end of Freedom Square which I have seen described as one of the ugliest in Poland. I quite like it; it’s all geometric and angular, quite out of keeping with some of the surrounding architecture but for all that, I like it. There is a wooden board-walk and you can walk through the middle of the thing if you so desire. I desired. There’s quite a lot of Freedom Squares, Freedom Parks and Freedom prefixed places generally in Poland, it serves as a reminder that history here has been very different to that of my home country.

Freedom Square, Poznań

My train to Inowrocław wasn’t until 12:45 so I had plenty of time to go window shopping and tram spotting. I went to C&A to buy the essentials that were lacking and then went to visit to model railway shop that lurks within the same shopping centre.

I didn’t buy any railway models.

I wanted to, but I already have three separate railway model “things” going on at home and to start another would probably be folly, nice to look at the models in the shop though.

Do you like gołąbki?

Thus armed with fresh underwear I checked-out of the hotel and went to the railway station, nice and early, just so that I could watch trains coming and going.

Soon enough my train was top of the departures board so I picked up my bag and stood expectantly on the platform, gazing into the middle distance. Someone caught my eye.

Good heavens, it was someone I knew, no, wait, two people I knew. They were smiling and waving at me and I hadn’t noticed them.

Kasia and Marek, also waiting for the train to Inowrocław; I walked over and we greeted one another with the customary hugs and handshakes. And then in short order the train arrived. We were travelling in different carriages, seats booked, reserved, allocated, so I scurried off to the other end of the train to find my rightful place.

During the journey, I received a message from Kasia via Facebook Messenger, at Ino they were being met by another friend, indeed, a mutual friend, Jan. Jan’s wife Basia had cooked gołąbki, did I like gołąbki and would I like to join them? As it happens, I do like gołąbki and so I accepted the invitation, but I would have accepted no matter what was on the menu; Polish hospitality is not something to be lightly turned-down. At the station we were met by Jan and we all piled into his car for the short journey to their apartment.

Excuse me sir, there is a messenger for you.

Last year on the train from Warsaw to Katowice I got a message from a friend who was also on that train, again, via FB Messenger. They were travelling down from the Tri-City area and had spotted me on the platform at Warszawa Centralna. On that occasion I walked back through the train to find them and say hello. I found them and said cześć. We were all going to Katowice to go to a concert in the Spodek arena.

In 2013, on holiday in Ireland, I got a message via FB Messenger from one of the engineers at the firm I work for. It was a question about some drawing or other that I had been involved with. My mobile number and email address are both on record in the office but this guy had chosen to contact me via FB M; just goes to show how the thing has permeated our lives. Some of our lives. I know people who don’t use it and have no intention of being “converted” to the world of “Posts” and “Likes”. Unfortunately, I’m quite addicted to the bloomin’ thing, I think. And now that I do come to think of it, that’s how I came to be sitting in Basia and Jan’s apartment eating gołąbki.

Say, cheese…

So there we are, sitting in Basia and Jan’s apartment, tucking into gołąbki – pork and good stuff rolled in cabbage leaves with a delicious sauce and potatoes – There were six of us for the meal, Basia, Jan, Kasia, Marek, Piotr who had arrived at the apartment earlier and the Englishman. Along with the food there was also some home-made vodka to sample. When I say home-made, I’m not talking about a still in the backwoods, but rather vodka that had been flavoured with some fruit or other, in the manner that we make Sloe Gin in England. I do like a good drop of Sloe Gin.

I had in my bag two small truckles of strong cheddar cheese. I had put a post on FB about a week earlier of some cheese and crackers, as one does from time to time. The keyboard player of the band “Signal To Noise Ratio” had seen it and, as she was going to be at Ino-Rock and she knew that I was going to be there too, had asked, tongue-in-cheek that I bring some to Inowrocław. Well, why not? So I did. I was only going to buy one truckle but on a whim I bought two so having a “spare” I gave one to Basia as a thank you for the lovely meal she had prepared. Serendipitous or what?

Meal finished, it was time to go to the concert, time for me to check-in to the hotel, being carted off for an unexpected but very welcome meal had set my plans awry slightly, but only slightly. I was going to go up to the Market Square for a beer before the concert started, sit and watch the fountain play, but as it happened, things had turned out just fine.

22½ hours in Inowrocław, part 2

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