Saturday, 15 June 2013

Home to Russia: Part 2

Once again the day started well, an early breakfast in the hotel set me up and then I take the short walk to the station. I've plenty of time so take a final walk around the Dom and then take my seat on the train. Today's journey is scheduled to be 10 hours with a change in Berlin. When I booked I was given the option of a first class ticket for an additional 10€, which sounded like a good deal, and took it.

From Trans-Europe 2013
First class on an ICE is significantly more comfortable and spacious than 2nd so very happy to have paid the premium. When the ticket inspector looks at my ticket I get some bad news, the ticket is good, but the train will be late getting to Berlin and I'll miss my connection.

I realised when we approached a stop at Bielefeld that this must be the same train that I took all those years ago when as a schoolboy I took the train from Cologne to Bielefeld. Seems that I am retracing some of my steps.

We are on only a few minutes late when we arrive in Hanover and I'm optimistic that they will make up the delay but this hope is dashed. It seems that floods that have been impacting Central Europe are to blame and we travel slowly through some areas of extensive flooding.

From Trans-Europe 2013
We eventually arrive in Berlin Ostbahnhof just over an hour late and my first task is to rebook onto a later train, I'm in luck there are two more today but the earlier one, with a change at Poznań, doesn't get in till almost 10:00pm and the later non-stop doesn't get in until almost midnight.

In the end I opt for the early train with a change, not necessarily a wise choice given my recent experience changing trains, but the ticket lady gives me two tickets so that if I miss the connection I can just get on the later one. I am optimistic that the belt and braces approach will work out.

From Trans-Europe 2013
The train is an Inter City (IC), note the lack of Express in the description, it is not as quick or comfortable as the ICE but not too shabby either.

As we head east from Berlin the train is still travelling through gently undulating terrain but we also travel through extensive forests as well as the familiar farmland of predominantly cereal crops. We pass through more areas of flooding between Berlin and Poznań but it doesn't slow us up and we arrive on time and I manage to make the connection in the 5 minutes available.

As the day wears on each train is slower and less comfortable than the one before. Our destination is Warsaw (Warszawa) which is a long way in the Central European Time Zone and as such sunset is going to be pretty early and I'll be arriving in the dark. While I have learned from my casual arrival experience in Cologne I am always wary of walking around cities I do not know in the dark. Perhaps I'll take a taxi.

We arrive as scheduled and I decide that the station area is light and lots of people are about so I'll walk to my accommodation for the night. I find it quickly and easily. I'm pretty tired and fancy a beer before bed but cannot find anywhere that will accept something other than złoty. Fair enough, but worth a try!


A day in Warsaw

As with Cologne I allowed myself one day in Warsaw. I have also visited this city briefly once before in the winter of 2004 with one of my daughters.

First task was to find a kantor and change some money. Excellent rates of exchange, British Currency Exchanges are a ripoff.
Advice to travelers from Britain: bring Sterling and change it in Poland, you get lots more złoty for your pound.
When last here we only visited the Old Town (Stare Miasto) so I though I would head that way again.

Royal Castle, WarsawFrom Trans-Europe 2013

The whole place was rebuilt after World War II and even when I visited almost 10 years ago I thought it had a bit of a Disney feel to it. In mid-winter it felt a bit Disney, in high summer it seemed even more so! There were enormous crowds, countless tour groups of many nationalities as well as a large number of school groups.

From Trans-Europe 2013
I wandered the sights for a few hours and decided it was time to move on. I did a bit of random rambling before deciding it was time for evening refreshment. I'd seen enough tourist restaurants offering food from around the world or authentic, traditional Polish fare and wanted somewhere away from it all. I found a little hole in the wall place and since I couldn't understand the men, or share a common language with the lady taking orders, I chose what the person ahead of me ordered. It turned out to be veggie, but tasted fine, what else could I possibly want? Hmmm, a beer.

Photos of trip across Europe
Next task was to find a bar, found one nearby that had a sign with one word I understood piwo (beer) and another promocja which I thought might be promotion, and a price of 7złoty. No English, French, Spanish, German speakers so no conversation. Just a couple of nice beers.