Despite the long day and the late night I’d had yesterday I was awake around 04.30; I pulled the blind up on the door and peered out, the rain had stopped, hooray! There were still a few clouds about but there were also patches of clear sky between the clouds. It was stupidly early so I went back to bed but didn’t sleep, after about 40 minutes I got up again and brewed some tea. The sirens for the level crossing sounded and I opened the door to watch whatever train may appear. What did appear was a diesel shunter with a solitary carriage in tow, it crossed the road going south then a few minutes later reappeared propelling its charge back across the road northwards.
Unlike in Britain the Polish national rail network still uses lots of loco hauled stock and shunting engines are employed to move the stock about and marshal it as required. One set of points in the lengthy sidings outside the station was it seems conveniently located just the “other side” of the road near where I was staying and indeed a few more times that morning I watched as the barriers closed the road as shunter plus shuntees trundled across one way and then came back on another line. From what I later ascertained there were three resident diesel shunters (two 0-6-0 and one Bo-Bo) at Kołobrzeg which every now and then would whip-off a coach or three and shunt them somewhere or other. Ah, such fun…
Some hours later after watching various shunting movements, a prolonged period of wondering why Polish television seems to consist mostly of advertisement breaks and an improvised breakfast I set out once more for the beach. The day was much improved on yesterday afternoon/evening. There was a bit of a breeze bowling clouds along at a good rate of knots but the sun was shining. I walked up to the railway station, you know, just to see what was going on and take the inevitable selfie with the station name sign.
I walked up onto the platform, there was a train in, headed for Kraków; hmmm, if it took four and a half hours to get here from Poznań then here to Kraków would probably take most of the day, I thought. In a bay on the opposite side of the platform was one of the diesel shunters, the Bo-Bo type. I walked up and then down the platform, and then under the subway and up onto the other platform. A little way off at the sea-end of the station sidings there were a number of locomotives, EU07 or EP07 types by the look of it and also the other two shunters, the 0-6-0 ones.
My gricing instinct satisfied I resumed my course for the beach; today was indeed a very different day, there was sunshine and lots of people, most of them were, just like me, making for the beach. The paved thoroughfare which let up to the pier was fairly thronged with holidaymakers and when I came within sight of the long, sandy beach it too was teeming with people, this was more like it. I spent some time idly ambling along the sand near the surf-line; I took off my sandals and walked in the surf. Oush, it was cold in there, now I fully understand that phrase, “It’s Baltic” but temperature of the water aside it was a lovely day and there is something very satisfying about ambling along that often capricious border between the land and the sea. I ambled then, not a care in the world, only the wind and the tide, oh, that and the many hundreds of people on the beach but still, I ambled quite contentedly. After ambling in one direction for a while I retraced my steps back towards the pier and decided to go and visit the lighthouse.
Kołobrzeg sits at the mouth of the Parsęta River and where the river meets the sea there are two breakwaters affording some protection of the river from the waves. Set back from the shore above the eastern breakwater there is a lighthouse, not a great tall one but a rather squat looking one. There was a light here at the mouth of the river as far back as 1666, but this was only shone as ships approached. By 1866 there was a permanent lighthouse operating. In 1945 the lighthouse was blown-up by the Nazis so it couldn’t be used as a look-out for the Polish resistance fighters but immediately after the war the lighthouse was rebuilt in a slightly different location using as the base the ruins of a nearby fortification which was built by the Prussians in the 1830s. This composite building gives it a very distinctive shape.
I headed up off of the beach and made for the lighthouse, 8 zł to get in, nothing to stand in the queue though so I stood in the queue which slowly shuffled towards the entrance. As soon as I had paid the entrance fee and had my ticket and receipt, very important to get your receipt, I could see why the queue had been moving so slowly. There was a very narrow stone stairway which spiralled up into the base of what had been the Prussian fort; at the half way point (of the base) there was a small landing which opened out into a gift shop. Waiting for people descending I continued upwards and came out into the lighthouse building proper. There was a large metal stairway, winding its way up the inside of the building, a modern addition which took you up to a viewing platform just below the lantern level. I stepped out into a gale-force wind, well, ok, not gale force, maybe 4 or 5 on Mr. Beaufort’s scale but definitely very windy. There were about a dozen other people up here, all being blown about by the wind. From this vantage point there was a good view of the beach I’d just been walking on, the pier and the two breakwaters reaching out into the Baltic; in the other direction Kołobrzeg was spread-out before us
I never used to be worried by heights; I’m not really worried by them now, not really. I can be in a very tall building and it doesn’t faze me, on my very first trip to Poland I was in a hotel on the 29th floor, the view was amazing, going up and down in the lifts was a doddle, no problem but being out in the open a long way up is different. It doesn’t scare me; it just makes me a little apprehensive. The first time I noticed this was back in the late 1980s, I was with a girlfriend and we were up in Central London, I suggested that we go up to the top of The Monument, so we did. I led the way up the spiral stairway eager to get to the top but upon exiting onto the viewing platform something happened, I held on to the handrail then pressed my back against the stone of the column. It’s odd to describe, I wasn’t frightened but I wasn’t quite happy. I still get that feeling every now and again but it doesn’t stop me enjoying places like the lighthouse where I now stood.
Having drank my fill of the views I made my way back down to the fort level. I had a look around the gift shop but nothing caught my eye and it would only be more stuff to lug home again. Going to the stairway I waited for a gap in the ascending traffic and started down, soon appearing back out in the sunshine.
I walked around to the quayside, here were pleasure boats vying with each other to take passengers on a short cruise around the harbour. One boat was dressed as a pirate ship, one as a Viking longboat, one as the Santa Maria there was also a WW2 Motor Torpedo Boat, a real one, which I thought at first was just a static exhibit but upon deciphering the placards on the quayside realised that it too was giving cruises around the harbour, but not just yet, the next one was in 40 minutes or so. I mulled this over and walked up the street taking in the stalls selling all manner of seaside souvenirs. Returning to the quayside I decided to pay the 1 zł admission fee for a walk down the eastern breakwater There was quite an appreciable swell coming into the river being helped along by the wind, waves were breaking over the concrete parapet of the walkway, exciting stuff. I made it to the red marker light at the end of the breakwater without getting wet then turned around and ran the gauntlet of the waves again to get back to the quay.
The torpedo boat had gone, ah well, never mind. I perused the other boats and decided to favour the Viking longboat which was setting sail in 10 minutes time. I bought my ticket and boarded. Of course, the boat is nothing like a Viking longboat, it’s a broad beamed steel hull with large wooden bow and stern decorations in the style of a Viking longboat, below the deck lurks a 350 horsepower diesel engine. The chap I bought the ticket from had been very apologetic saying that the boat was only going around the harbour, I gathered that usually the trip went out a little way beyond the breakwaters but the sea was looking a bit rough out there today.
We slipped our moorings and as we moved away from the quayside the swell from the sea began to make itself felt, it was actually quite a large swell and as we slowly made our way along the eastern breakwater the boat was pitching quite well. We cruised slowly along to within about 100 m or so of the end of the breakwater and then the boat slowly began to turn to go back the other way. I had perched myself up by the starboard bow and I could see what was going to happen; it all depended upon how quickly the skipper turned the boat. Slowly was the answer and as we came broadside on to the swell we stopped turning and indeed stopped altogether and side–on to the swell the boat began to roll quite significantly. Children were crying, adults were screaming, we sat there for about, well, probably only about a minute but it seemed longer. I realised that I had a big grin on my face, others on the boat weren’t looking so happy. Then our course resumed and we turned until we were facing back down the river and set off for a mini cruise around the docks.
And in spite of our unhurried progress around the harbour all too soon it seemed we were approaching the quayside. Disembarking I wandered back onto the beach and then to the pier. I walked out to the end of the pier where, in stark contrast to the previous day, there were lots of people enjoying themselves, the cafes and bars were open and thronged with folk in a holiday mood. The wind was still quite brisk and the waves were making a good show of crashing against the pier’s supporting legs. I gazed out across the Baltic wondering what was out there, Denmark and Sweden probably.
By now it was late afternoon, I decided to return to my apartment via the shop I’d found yesterday, this time I knew exactly where I was going and when I reached the shop I bought more essential supplies, including, but not limited to, beer and two more packets of Uszatki, these I was taking back to England with me. I got back to the apartment, let myself in and brewed a mug of tea. I fired-up my Samsung Galaxy Tab thing and checked the time of sunset, 21.24, about three hours away. I thought I’d mosey-on-down to the beach and watch the sun setting into the Baltic. Plan A.
After dining upon some of the goodies I’d procured earlier and drinking anther mug of tea I lay down on the bed and drifted into Telly Land, getting up occasionally as trains passed over the level crossing. Then I fell asleep, not for long but I definitely fell asleep. I woke with a start, slightly miffed that I had drifted off, I checked the time, 20.57, bugger! It was a good 15 to 20 minute walk back to the beach; I put my sandals on, grabbed my camera and set off at a brisk march. As I came to the thoroughfare which led to the pier I saw a golden ball reflected in a shop window, I walked out onto the pier just as the bottom limb of the sun was touching the horizon, phew! Made it! I snapped away, along with all the, it must have been hundreds of other people all doing exactly the same thing, ranged along the western side of the pier and standing on the beach, we were all here to watch the sunset.
The sun sank into the sea; I took a somewhat more leisurely stroll back to the apartment, stopping off, as one does, at the railway station in search of some elusive low-light shot, I’ll know it when I see it. On the walk back the light was fading and throwing trees and buildings into sharp relief against the sky, again my camera was active; there is something beautiful about the light at this time of day, this time of year, things begin to look different. Having reached my destination I let myself in and opening one of my bottles of beer, fired up the Tab to get some music playing and sat down to enjoy the beer. Before I turned in for the night I contemplated going back to the beach in the early morning to watch the sun rise… It was late, I was tired and I dismissed the thought.
The next day I rose, abluted, broke my fast and packed my bag. Having a last look around the apartment to make sure that I hadn’t left anything behind I stepped outside and locked the door. I rang the doorbell on the owner’s door and shortly he appeared and I handed him the key. Another half Polish, half English conversation ensued as I tried my best to thank him and tell him that I thought the apartment was very nice, „To miejsce jest bardzo ładny”, I think he got the gist and it was indeed very nice, I had already decided that I need to return here and stay for longer next time. Shaking hands we parted company and I walked up to the railway station where, when I got there, I found that my train was already in and waiting. I had harboured ideas of going back to the beach for one last look but my bag was heavy so I thought why not just get on and sit down?
So here I am at Kołobrzeg railway station waiting on a train for Poznań Główny, 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.