Inowrocław, the journey home.

Listening to information being broadcast over a railway station PA system is, in my experience, never an easy proposition, even if it is in a language in which you are fluent. Most, not all I grant you but most PA systems carry a certain amount of distortion, are too loud or too quiet and are of course subject to any other noises going on around you; passing trains for example.

Waiting for a train.

It’s a Sunday morning, there I am then, sitting on one of the curious, small, wooden-topped, concrete, what I can only describe as “stools” at the railway station in Inowrocław, waiting for a train to Poznań. It’s 107 km and takes 1 hour and 12 minutes, thank you Polskie Koleje Państwowe for that useful information printed on my ticket. It was a cloudy, grey, heavy day; as usual I’d got to the station way in advance of the scheduled departure time of my train simply to watch any interesting trains which may come through and as it happened there were a few of those seemingly interminable freight trains which rumble across Poland. In fact, Inowrocław seems to be a “staging post” of sorts, while I was waiting three of these freight trains stopped in the station and the driver got out to be replaced by another which was all good stuff for a train nerd like me.

During this time there had been one or two announcements over the station PA, some of which hadn’t been aurally obscured by the rumble of trains and those I could hear I had of course tried to make sense of but unfortunately my Polish language skills were not up to the job. I usually watch the other people on the platform to try and gauge their reaction, nobody seemed unduly perturbed. My train, an “Intercity PKP” train, was due to leave Inowrocław at 10.41 and get me to Poznań at 11.53, or thereabouts, giving me an hour and a half or so to mooch about in Poznań, a town I particularly like to mooch about in, before I had to get to Poznań Airport to catch my flight back to England.

10.41 came and went, there was an announcement, I made out “Poznań” and something about “minutes”, I guessed there was a delay but I had about 90 minutes built-in to my travel time so I wasn’t worried. 20 minutes late became 40 minutes late, still no train, 50 minutes late. The first tingling of worry began to tickle my worry buds. Just after the train was 60 minutes late I was hailed by two people from some way down the platform, hearing my name I looked around and there were two people I knew, Marzena and Mariusz, walking towards me. I rose from my “stool” (titter ye not, you know what I mean) and greeted them both. There was another PA announcement, Marzena tilted her head, listened and frowned, “They have 120 minute delays” she said. Now I worried.

We stood there on the platform chatting for a while; we were all trying to get to Poznań as it happened, when a local, stopping train bound for Poznań pulled into the platform. Ah well, this train was better than no train. There were by now a considerable number of people on the platform, en masse we boarded the train.

Nie ma pociągu.

I had a ticket, a ticket for the Intercity train, I didn’t have a ticket for this train which was run by a different company, so, as you are advised to do in these situations, I made my way, along with a goodly number of other people, to the front of the train hoping to find the conductor and buy a ticket from him. Maybe not surprisingly he was nowhere to be seen. Marzena and Mariusz meanwhile had found three un-occupied seats and I was invited to join them, which I did. I sat there initially as we rattled along, going over in my mind how to explain that I had a ticket, but not for this train. „Mam bilet ale nie ma pociągu…” After a while the conductor did appear but he was it seemed on some sort of mission somewhere further down the train. No tickets were inspected; I supposed that as there were such serious delays all the rules were out of the window, so I sat there, slightly relieved, and stared out of that window as the Polish countryside slipped past.

The previous day in Inowrocław had been the 10th edition of the Ino Rock Festival, held at the open-air Summer Theatre. Not so much a festival as a concert really, five bands playing, gates open at 16.00, first band on at 16.30. I had been there with Marzena and Mariusz and a host of other people. I arrived in Inowrocław on the Friday, got to my hotel, booked-in and then went out to get fed. I went up to the Rynek and had a meal there in one of the outside cafés/bar/restaurants, and a very nice meal it was too. As I sat there savouring my second glass of beer two people I knew turned-up, they were also going to the concert on Saturday. After exchanging greetings there was a ‘phone call and then, I was dragged off to a barbeque! The barbeque was hosted by two other people I knew who just happened to live in Inowrocław, the other guests I knew too, we were all going to Saturday’s concert. I was plied with beer and sausages, very tasty sausages I must say. By now it was dark and the insect population were out in force, I sustained one or two Mozzie bites but nothing serious, insect repellent had been passed around earlier and we had all had a spray.

A little salt in the air.

On Saturday morning I went out for a walk, the day was bright and sunny, I had a stonker of a bite on my chin which had come-up during the night, I wasn’t going to win any beauty competitions with that but hey-ho, that wasn’t why I was here was it? Inowrocław hosts a curious feature, Tężnie Solankowe, a Saline Graduation Tower, not really a tower as such although there are two towers but a wooden structure filled with branches of blackthorn.

A saline solution is pumped to the top of the structure’s walls and allowed to drip down through the branches; the evaporating water produces mineral-rich water droplets in the air which are held to be beneficial to one’s health when inhaled. I had been there with a friend two years earlier after attending the 2015 Ino-Rock Festival and this particular sunny Saturday morning I decided to go there again. After visiting Tężnie Solankowe and inhaling the beneficial airs, I strode off to where I had seen there was a footbridge across the extensive railway sidings just south of the railway station and a period of gricing ensued.

Beer in the Rynek (Piwo na Rynku).

By now it was early afternoon and I decided to make my way once more up to the Rynek in search of sustenance. When I got there I discovered a group of people, some of whom I’d been with at the previous evening’s barbeque and some others who I knew plus more who I didn’t know but yes, you guessed it, we were all going to the concert later. One of their number, Krzysztof, called to me and asked if I would like a beer. It was a hot day, I’d been out in the sun, yes, I would like a beer. He introduced me to a bottle of Żywiec APA, (American Pale Ale) which was cold and rather tasty. A few other concertgoers showed-up and we sat there enjoying the good company, the sunshine and the beer.

Now, being a fair-skinned Englishman, possibly of Viking descent, well, I like to think I am, I’m not exactly built for sitting in the sun and after about two hours I was starting to feel decidedly cooked. It was an hour before the first band was due on stage, half an hour until the gates opened, so I made my excuses and left the group, seeking a little respite from the sun before the music started.

Teatr Letni i Komary.

A little later at the concert we all met-up again, the outside theatre was filling-up nicely and everyone was looking forward to some good music. The first band on was “Collage”, a Polish band I’d seen before a number of times but since I last saw them in January 2016 they had gained a vocalist and a new lead-guitar player. The sound of the band seemed the same but in my opinion the new vocalist didn’t have the range of the previous guy. Second up was a band from Russia called “iamthemorning”, this was one of the two bands playing that evening which I was really interested in seeing. On CD, iamthemorning come across as very, um…, wispy and ethereal; I have both of their albums released to date and I like them but live they were an altogether different affair and I have to say that I really enjoyed their set.

By now it was getting well into dusk and it was at about this time that the attack started. Mosquitoes, lots and lots of the little blighters. The third band on was the second band that I was interested in seeing; “Mystery” from Canada. Their set was also highly enjoyable, in spite of the relentless Mozzie attacks. It wasn’t just me though; standing down in front of the stage I could see lots of other people slapping the backs of their necks, legs, arms etc. The fourth band was “Meller Gołyzniak Duda”, the name made up from the surnames of the three constituent performers. I’d heard their CD some time before and while it was OK, it didn’t really speak to me. Top of the bill was “Pain of Salvation”, again, not really my cup of tea. Oh yes, I’m a real fuss-pot sometimes when it comes to music.

After Mystery had finished their set I got a beer (yes, another one) and went and sat on a bench with a number of the people I’d been with earlier in the Rynek. I was sitting opposite Marzena, not the Marzena I mentioned earlier, she was down by the stage taking photographs, but another Marzena, this Marzena, unlike the other Marzena didn’t speak English. I know she didn’t because she smiled at me across the bench and said, in English; “I don’t speak English”. I smiled back and said, „Nie mówię po polsku”, we both laughed. It was at about this time that I received a message from another friend, Monika, she sent me a photo of some tables, chairs and the ends of someone’s legs with red trainers, the photo was annotated with “INO outside” and a smiley face. Intrigued, I asked her where she was and she informed me that she was sitting outside a restaurant just down the road, with a friend listening to the music and that the beer was good there.

Feeling a little weary and mindful that the next day was going to have a long day, travelling back to England, I slipped out of the Summer Theatre and down the road to the restaurant. The friend that Monika was with turned out to be someone I knew, Anita, the two of them had travelled down from the Tri-City area, without tickets for the concert, to sit outside and listen to the music. I sat with them for a while and we had a good catch-up chat and a few more beers. Meller Gołyzniak Duda had finished their set and it was getting on for eleven so I bade farewell to Monika and Anita but not before a waiter had been pressed into taking a group photo, it was a rubbish photo, but that’s not the point, it’s the memories that count.

Monika, me and Anita

I got back to my my hotel room; the Mozzies had indeed been merciless; I had bites all over, literally.

One of those days.

So, back to the Sunday, sitting on the rather crowded train to Poznań and trying not to scratch the myriad bites I had received the evening before. The journey took about half an hour longer than the Intercity train would have, had it turned up, I’d got on this train an hour after the train I was going to get so by the time we got to Poznań my mooching about time was well and truly gone. I said goodbye to Marzena and Mariusz and got straight into a taxi and went to the airport. I checked the time; I was alright, another half hour until the bag-drop closed. Walking into Departures I found the place strangely deserted; I breezed up to the desk, dropped my bag off and headed for security, still a distinct lack of people. I checked the info screen and headed for the appointed gate. Ah, there were all the people, queueing to get through passport inspection. Almost half an hour I spent in that queue, gradually inching towards the four occupied booths, four out of eight, not good enough Straż Graniczna.

About two thirds of the way towards the passport inspection booths two more were opened, someone had obviously seen that there was a backlog of people. Eventually I was air-side and went straight to the duty free shop and while I was queueing to pay for the goodies I’d selected I glanced over my shoulder to see that people were already filing out to the waiting aircraft. I got to the cash desk, paid and marched straight over to the gate where I presented my boarding pass only to be informed that this flight wasn’t for Stansted, the Stansted flight hadn’t arrived yet. It was turning into one of those days…

…and enjoy your flight…

My Plane eventually arrived shortly after it was scheduled to leave, I climbed aboard and stashed my duty free under the seat in front of me, settling down as best I could in the Ryanair seat. The flight was uneventful and in a little over two hours we were safely down at Stansted where I got into the queue for the automatic ePassport gates. The place wasn’t too crowded but some people just seem to have the knack for not using these gates properly. The guy in front of me was wearing a baseball type hat; as he stepped forward into the gate he removed the hat, well, that was good, he then put his passport into the reader but then he proceeded to muck it up by not holding his passport in the reader, not standing still and not looking into the screen. A buzzer sounded and red lights came on; the obviously confused guy came back out of the gate. Two more goes he had, eventually getting through on the last attempt. Nobody came to help him; not good enough Border Force.

Bag collected from the luggage carousel, I made my way down to the Stansted Express platforms where a train was just about to depart. “London mate?” shouted one of the platform staff, “Yes” I said, “This train” he said, indicating along the platform “but hurry it’s about to go”. I assessed the situation, there were two trains in the platform, the train indicated was of course the one at the far end of the platform. My bag was heavier than normal, I was tired, it was hot, I wasn’t going to run anywhere just at that moment. No big deal, the trains are every 15 minutes. I waited for the next one.

Upon arrival at Liverpool Street I found that the direct access to the Underground Line platforms was closed, closed for renovation so I had to go out of the station, across the road and use another entrance. The first train to arrive was a District Line service, then a Metropolitan Line service to Uxbridge. I boarded the Uxbridge train and rode it to Finchley Road where I got off and waited for a Chesham service, which, against all the odds, arrived some four minutes later. I got on, pushed my bag underneath the seat and settled in for the journey out to Chesham. It had definitely been one of those days.

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