In Poznań the sun is shining, the sky is studded with clouds but not enough to detract from the overall sunniness of the day. I’m at Poznań Główny railway station waiting for a train to Kołobrzeg, a small seaside town on the Baltic coast. I’d just walked up from ul. Rybaki where the hotel I was staying at is located. It’s about a 20 minute walk and I hadn’t quite appreciated how hot it was out on the streets and as I trudged along with my bag on my shoulder I could feel the sweat trickling down my back.
When I got to the appointed platform the train indicator was telling us (in Polish, English and German) that the train was delayed by 15 minutes and people on the platform were impatiently shuffling about in the heat.
Eventually the train arrived and I found my reserved seat, No. 76 in coach 11, I lofted my bag up onto the luggage rack and settled down for the four and a half hour journey to the coast. It’s not that far, 266 km according to my very informative ticket, about 165 miles or so but this train it seems is in no hurry to get there. We set off, sliding through the outskirts of Poznań, up past Lake Rusałka and the nearby Golęcin forest area where I had been exploring the previous (rather grey and cloudy) day and out into the open countryside.
For the most part Poland is rather flat, I can just hear Noël Coward saying, “Very flat, Poland” and I don’t know why because it wasn’t him saying, “Very flat, Norfolk” in Private Lives but still, the association is there. There are of course mountains in the south, quite substantial mountains but for the most part it is a very flat country. There is though, a hill in Poznan and I had to walk up it to get from my hotel to the railway station; however, it can be done on the flat, so to speak.
The trick is to walk along to the “bottom” end of the Stary Browar shopping complex, up a few steps from the street and into the building. Then up two substantial flights of escalators, from here you walk on the flat, out of one part of the complex, across a courtyard and into another part of the complex. Up a third long escalator, a bit more walking and then down a fourth, much shorter escalator and exit the building and there you are, at the top of the hill where it’s all on the flat to the railway station. Well, almost, there is of course the pedestrian subway under ul. Matyi which entails negotiating two flights of steps.
So there I am rumbling at a stately speed across Poland, the railway seems to be single track for most of the journey with passing loops at stations. Indeed, at one station we were looped to allow a southbound train go past, a southbound train which seemed to be travelling much faster than we had been. No matter, I have all day, which is just as well really. As we progress northward the sunny skies of Poznań are gradually replaced by an all-covering high cloud base, it’s still warm outside but getting decidedly greyer with every passing mile.
I’ve managed to book myself into a little self-catering apartment right next to a level crossing just outside the station in Kołobrzeg, well, about 15 minutes’ walk from the station. I didn’t know it was right next to the level crossing at first, the photo I saw on the booking site was carefully shot to hide that fact but when I looked it up on a map and saw its proximity to the railway I couldn’t resist
At Bialogard we stop for about 20 minutes and the train divides, the front portion going on to Ustka, us rear portioners of course eventually for Kołobrzeg. Our attenuated train sets off, turning left as it follows the rails to the coast and In due course we approach Kołobrzeg and as we do I open the carriage window and lean out to take a photograph of where I’m staying as we pass. Not that I advocate leaning out of train windows, but it’s so much easier in Poland, at least with the older loco-hauled stock.
A few minutes later we have come to a stand at the platform in Kołobrzeg, I alight from the train and go to look at the locomotive, as is my wont to do but so slick is the operation that the train loco has already been uncoupled and a diesel shunting loco is moving in to take the carriages away.
As I stand and watch I suddenly become aware of a slight precipitation, oh yes, it’s raining, only very slightly but raining nevertheless. I retrieve my folding brolly from my bag, unfold it and proceed down the road to find my lodgings. The rain imperceptibly gets heavier.
Down this road, across the carpark, slight left, across the road, across the side road and I’m standing on the pavement outside a large metal gate wondering how to get in. As I’m standing there a man appears on the other side of the gate and hails me with “Antek?”, he’s using the Polish diminutive of Antoni, “Tak” I say smiling, “Rezerwacja?” he asks, “Tak” I say again. He pulls the gate open and bids me enter. And there was me thinking that it was one of those electronically operated gates. A small conversation then ensued, mostly consisting of me telling him that I only understood a little Polish and him likewise telling me that he only understood a little English. He handed me the key to the apartment’s door, watching as I unlocked and opened it. “OK?” he asked, Stepping inside I put my bag down and looked around, there were two single beds, a larger sofa-bed, a small table with two chairs, a large wardrobe and a small “kitchen” table underneath which was a fridge and on top was a kettle. No cooking facilities but that was not a problem. What I had seen looked fine so I told him “Yes, OK”, followed by “Tak, jest OK” just to get the message across.
The apartment was on the ground floor and opposite my door but at 90 degrees to it was another door leading into a covered staircase which went up to the first floor. “Problem…” he said, and indicated the doorbell switch on the second door; I walked back out into the rain to make a point of looking at the doorbell, “OK, rozumiem”, I said, and after shaking my hand he took his leave, through his door and upstairs leaving me to go back in through my door. I closed the door and looked around, yes, this would indeed be fine I decided. I opened the door to the toilet/shower room, yes, fine indeed.
I unpacked a few things from my bag, then I heard the warning siren for the level crossing, it was not nearly as loud or intrusive as I imagined it might have been. I opened the front door and stood there looking out, waiting for the promised train to appear. By now it was raining quite heavily and soon enough a train trundled past, yes, I concluded, fine indeed.
I pottered about for about half an hour, getting my gadgets out and plugging them in to charge their little batteries, checking things on Facebook, checking my emails, you know, all that sort of important, trivial stuff. The rain showed no sign of easing but I wasn’t for siting in all afternoon/evening. I pulled my boots on, Chelsea, not Wellington, donned my waterproof jacket which I’d bought the day before in Poznań. Not a proper jacket more of an over-thingy really, thin PVC sort of thing. Before I arrived in Poland the weather forecasts I’d seen suggested more sunshine than rain but on the rainy day I bought the jacket there wasn’t much sunshine in evidence. Anyway, wearing said jacket and with umbrella held high, I ventured out into the rain.
First priority, find a shop and buy some fodder. Rather than retrace my route from the station I decided to let my unerring sense of direction guide me on a loop around which would eventually bring me back in the direction of the station; it almost worked. I found a shop and bought some fodder, nothing very healthy but something to munch on later in the evening and for breakfast; I also copped two bottles of local beer and a packet of Uszatki, a variety of pierniki, Poland’s rightly famous gingerbread. Uszatki is a mint flavoured, sugar frosted, soft gingerbread and quite delicious. So, with provisions in the bag, I set off to find the station and then the beach, I’d memorised the way to the beach from the station you see, but as it happened, my unerring sense of direction erred a bit and I pitched-up at the beach first, bypassing the station somewhere. I reached a paved thoroughfare with seaside-town-type-shops, restaurants, cafes and shops selling ice cream and souvenirs. The thoroughfare led directly onto Kołobrzeg’s short pier.
The grey sky came down to a grey horizon and kissed the grey, almost flat calm sea. There were a few people about, hardy types or maybe just idiots, like me. I walked out onto the pier and a chap approached me, “Przepraszam”, he said holding out his mobile phone and indicating that I should take a picture of him on the pier, I indicated my assent to his request and took his phone, took a few pictures and handed it back to him. “Danke”, he said as he took it back, “Ah” I thought, “another crazy tourist.”
I walked to the far end of the pier, taking selfies as I went, well, yes, of course I did, who wouldn’t? Sand, sea and rain and all that; I’d made it to the coast. Three years ago I was in Gdańsk and I’d planned to visit the beach at Sopot but being a newbie in Poland I got confused by the ticket machines and you know, being a bloke and all that and not wanting to actually ask anybody for help, I gave up on the idea, confining myself to Gdańsk for a few days, which was nice enough. Meanwhile on the pier in It Kołobrzeg was raining, I might have mentioned that, it was raining very heavily, my jeans were wet almost up to my knees and my boots were making a squelching sound when I walked; time to get indoors and get dried off. I walked back down the pier and made for where I now realised the railway station was and thus got back to the apartment.
After getting dried off, hanging soggy clothing up to dry and unpacking the goodies I’d bought from the shop (I also seemed to have collected a decent amount of rainwater in the bottom of the carrier bag) I brewed a man-sized mug of tea and, It being Wednesday and there being Wi-Fi available in the apartment, I settled down for the weekly ritual of listening to the Rock’n’Prog show. As Steve Hogarth once sang; “Thank god for the internet“, but in a rather better sense than was meant in that particular song…
After three hours of listening to some rather good music and “chatting” with other audience members on the show’s Facebook page, the show finished at midnight. I decided it was time to get some kip but before I turned-in for the night I opened the door and peeked out, it was still raining.