Trainspotting in Horse Town – part 1.
After the concert had finished I was led out of the auditorium and downstairs to a room underneath the stage, I think it was underneath the stage, I will admit to being a little disorientated but it was definitely underneath something. There was a bar and another smaller stage and lots of tables and chairs. This was the “After Party”; I was sat with a small group of people who knew more than a little English so that I would not feel excluded. Again, everyone was so kind and welcoming, I chatted with those whose English was up to it, beer was provided, this always makes it a little easier to talk. It was indeed a lovely evening, concert, party but I must admit that I left early, it was all very nice but when nearly everyone is speaking in a language that you only know half a dozen words of it gets a little daunting. I said my goodbyes and slipped away into the night.
The next day I spent in Konin; it was a sunny day and I went exploring. I walked down to the railway station to see what I could see. Again I was impressed by the length of the platforms, especially as the trains, the passenger trains at least, didn’t seem to be that long. As I said earlier, there were three platforms; one directly accessible from the road and the other an island platform. I went into the passenger subway and emerged on the island platform and looking about me I decided to walk down to the end of the platform, in the Warsaw direction. It’s something I do, if I’m waiting for a train I very rarely just sit and wait, I walk the length of the platform, a slow, measured walk, just surveying my surroundings and taking in the railway atmosphere, such as it is. I looked towards the platform end and started off towards it.
I say there were only three platforms, three lines where you can board and alight from a train, that’s how it would be reckoned in the UK but in Poland there are platforms and track numbers to contend with. The platform accessible from the road was platform 1, track 3. The island platform was platform 2, tracks 1 and 2. At this point let me say a bit about platform heights. The platforms at Warszawa Centralna had been high, like UK ones but here in Konin, and in a lot of other places as I had noticed on the journey out here, the station platforms are very low compared to UK platforms, you have to use the steps at the carriage ends to get down onto the platform.
Only three platforms (UK notation) here in Konin but lots and lots of sidings, I can imagine that in years gone by this would have been a very busy place but sadly now, apart from a few goods wagons it was very empty. I stood my lonely vigil for a while and eventually a train appeared coming in from the Warsaw direction, an Intercity train, loco and coaches. It stopped (platform 2, track 1), disgorged some passengers, while others entrained and then disappeared off towards the west and Poznań. Shortly afterwards a Regional Railways Multiple Unit came in from the west and stopped at platform 1. I slowly walked back along the platform to have a look at it, thinking that if I hurried it would probably depart before I got level with it but if I just ambled, it might just stay there. I know, there’s no logic to it but that’s what I did. As it turned out the train had stopped at Konin because Konin was its last destination so it sat there at the platform for some time.
Having reached the Multiple Unit I had a good look, it was very modern, pointy at both ends, shiny paintwork, quite impressive in fact. I then set off towards the other end of the platform, towards Poznań. Upon reaching the western end of the platform I turned and walked back.
The island platform that I was on was somewhat longer than platform 1. At the end of platform 1 there was a foot crossing to the island platform. The prospect of actually crossing the tracks by this manner elicited a feeling of excitement because this is not allowed in the UK. Looking both ways I crossed the tracks to platform 1 by means of the foot crossing, then, feeling somewhat guilty I waited to be accosted by some officer of the railway for not using the passenger subway but nothing happened. I had got away with it. Not that there was really anything to get away with, crossing the tracks by the foot crossing seems to be perfectly acceptable here in Poland. How very civilised; how very relaxed.
Funny things, languages…
The new, shiny multiple unit departed back the way it had arrived and a crowd of football supporters began to gather some way down the platform. I supposed they were football supporters; they were all wearing similar tops and brandishing similar scarfs. An Intercity train arrived and stopped at the opposite face of the island platform. Then there was an announcement over the station public address system. PA announcements are indecipherable at the best of times, in Polish they are nigh-on impossible for an English ear. The football supporters had understood though as en masse they all walked across the tracks from platform 1 to the island platform, not even bothering with the foot crossing.
Shortly thereafter a train arrived and stopped at the island platform opposite platform 1; an older, blunter, not so shiny multiple unit. The football supporters boarded, the train sat resolutely in the platform.
On the multiple unit one of the train doors opened, one of the doors on the side not at the platform. A young man sat in the doorway and jumped down into the gap between the two running tracks, walked to the end of the train and proceeded to urinate onto the ballast. How very um, relaxed. The supporter re-boarded the train. A freight train appeared and rolled through the station, an unfeasibly long rake of tanker wagons, they know how to do trains out here I thought.
Then shortly afterwards another freight train arrived and stopped on one of the tracks beyond the island platform. Woo-hoo! Loads of trains! It was at this point that I became aware on a man wheeling a bicycle up to the chain-link fence that separated the road from the platform. Catching my eye he stopped, leaned across the fence and spoke, well, shouted, it was a tad noisy. I didn’t understand what he said so I offered my stock “Sorry, I don’t understand” phrase in Polish. He looked at me and said something else, pointing towards the train containing the football fans. Again I didn’t understand, couldn’t really hear if truth be told so I walked over to the fence and said again, “Przepraszam, nie rozumiem po polsku.” Again he looked at me and then he said, in English (I was close enough to hear him properly now), “I am German, do you understand German?”
“Nie.” I said.
He was a German tourist, he didn’t know any Polish but his English was fairly good, better than my Polish at any rate, not that that would have been any use in this particular situation. We had a bit of a chat; he wanted to know who or what all the fans that had boarded the train were. “Football fans,” I offered which seemed to satisfy him, we did the, “Is this your first time here” bit, observed the weather, both agreed that Poland was a nice place to visit and then he was on his way.
Having drunk my fill of railways for the time being, I too went off on my way, up into the town and out onto a bridge that I had seen on Google Earth, a bridge that spanned the confluence, or maybe divergence of two rivers. It was a long bridge over what I suspected to be the river’s flood plain and then the river itself.
I walked out halfway, took in the views and then walked back again ending up in the park that I had found the day before, the one just by my hotel. It was getting towards evening by now and again there were families out enjoying the park. I sat for a while, enjoying the ambience and reflecting upon the day’s events, the concert last night and wondering what tomorrow would bring; hopefully a train journey to Gdańsk.
I went back to my hotel room for a quick freshen-up, hmmm, caught the sun a bit on the back of my neck. I then went downstairs and installed myself at the hotel bar. Seeing that they served Książęce Ciemne Łagodne, a beer that I had come across in Warsaw, and feeling sure I knew how to pronounce “Książęce”, I ordered one. The bar tender smiled and then pronounced it correctly for me. Another lesson learned.