Day 2: 6 hour stopover in Warsaw
Warsaw Travel Blog› entry 3 of 260 › view all entries
April 7th, 2010 – by: Biedjee
No sooner had I finally found a comfortable position and dozed off, did the attendant bang on the door to hand me back my ticket. I had been told this would happen half an hour prior to arrival, but we still had a good three and a half hours before arrival, at an ungodly hour of 6:45 in the morning! Argh, and I didn't even want my ticket back, he was welcome to keep it, if only he would let me sleep.
Due to maintenance works near the Dutch-German border, I had not been able to take the (almost) direct train to Kiev. Instead I had to take this overnighter which gave me a 6-hour stopover in Warsaw.
I had been in touch with Maciek, a Polish guy who I'd met on the Trans-Siberia trip two years ago.
As the train rolled in to Warsawa Centralnia an uncomfortable feeling crept up inside me. That was not what it said on my ticket. My ticket said Warsawa Wschodnia, which was also the station from where my train tonight would leave. But what use is a central station if it isn't the destination of international trains? I decided to give Maciek a call, but as the Warsaw central station is underground, I didn't get mobile reception.
Not to worry, we would meet at Wschodnia, only it would take him 15 minutes longer. As I stood there at the train station waiting for him I had a genuine 'wtf am I doing here' feeling. Why on earth would a travel agent in Amsterdam send people to this station instead of the central station? This was a suburb, and by the looks of it, not the most pleasant one either.
As I stood there, pondering these thoughts, Maciek crept up to me and slapped on my back with a loud 'POLIZIA!!' It was wonderful seeing him again. Within minutes it seemed as if we had last met two weeks ago, rather than two years.
After dropping off my luggage at a bank where a friend of Maciek's works ('a bank is safer than the luggage storage at the train station' Maciek reasoned) we travelled down to the central station from where I would also be able to catch my train to Kiev tonight. My reservation was exchanged for a proper train ticket and off we went to explore the city.
Knowing Maciek, I knew this wouldn't be a regular sightseeing tour. While on the tram he had pointed to the newly constructed 'old' centre and the re-erected royal castle. Not interesting enough for a half-day's visit, “next time you come back you must stay longer and you can visit Warsaw properly”.
So after a coffee and a quick bite to eat, he took me to an abandoned construction site. They had started building one of the highest buildings in the city here, when money ran out and they stopped construction.
Obviously there were no elevators installed, so we had to walk up the stairs to get to the roof of the 20+ story building. But it was worth it. The view was quite impressive from the top, as you could see most of the centre from this vantage point.
We sat down on the roof and chatted for a while, while sipping a beer (it is illegal to drink beer in public in Poland, so I'd already broken the law twice today!)
After this we walked to the old Jewish ghetto, or what was left of it. During the war the Germans built a war around the predominantly Jewish district and crammed more than half a million people in there. Then after an uprising they bombed the entire quarter. These days only two blocks are still left standing, and they are kept in their original state as a reminder of the atrocities that took place here.
After this there wasn't all that much time left, so we went for one more beer in one of Maciek's favourite hangouts, before heading back to the train station.
It had been a lightning quick visit, but for me, this had basically been a bonus. After all, I had intended to take a direct train to Kiev, so this was a great bonus being able to see Maciek again. However, he didn't agree with the title of this journey - it should read Warsaw to Kuala Lumpur in his opinion.
The good news is that we will see each other again next week. I will be joining the Norwegian band Gazpacho as tour manager on their Polish tour April 16-18, so I will be interrupting my journey to fly from Istanbul back to Warsaw. I know, I know, it is crazy, but really, it made much more sense when I booked it!
So it was a quick goodbye to Maciek and off I went again, back on the train.
But what I had loved so much about these trains on the Transsib trip, was that I had slept amazingly on the train. As of to proof these trains were better I started the journey by taking a little nap. Or maybe I was just knackered of having slept only three hours the previous night and the frantic tour around Warsaw today.
On the train I was greeted with another familiar thing: provodnitsas. Every single one of them displaying that loving warm beautiful Russian indifference, as soon as they realised I don't speak a word of Russian.
At one point I tried to find the restaurant to buy a drink, and walked in the wrong direction. A provodnitsa started barking at me, and as soon as she realised we didn't have any languages in common she just shrugged and walked off. I tried to explain my need to quench my thirst by making a drinking signal with my hand, but she just looked at me as if I was an unwanted person invading her territory. I had understood that Ukrainians are different than Russians, but so far the staff working the trains is definitely of the same mould!
My fellow-travellers on the other hand were all friendly nods and smiles, even if none of them spoke another language apart from Polish or Ukrainian.
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