Mad dogs and Englishmen Part 3

By | 13/10/2019

What is a Railway Station?

I mentioned the Berlin central station or to give it its proper name Berlin Hauptbahnhof, (there are actually 5 station in Berlin starting with the name Berlin, so knowing exactly which one you want is useful). To call Berlin Hauptbahnhof just a railway station belittles its, think of it more as a multi level shopping centre married to a multi level railway station. Berlin HBF (as it is know as) is a 16 platform travel interchange and includes shopping and restaurants on three levels. The 16 platforms are split over 3 level plus there is also an underground trains. I have to say I have never seen anything like this, it was an amazing place and if you a stop over here for a few hours, guarantee you won’t be bored. Check this web page out for some useful info on the station https://www.seat61.com/stations/berlin-hauptbahnhof.htm

The next leg of our journey involved starting getting our next international train from Berlin Lichtenberg. Getting to Lichtenberg has threw us a curved ball as we found that one of the two the two local train from Berlin Hbf to Lichtenberg was not running due to track maintenance (about 3 weeks worth). We did not find out until we got to the second of the two station, Ostkreuz.. We spoke to two German DB train officials who gave us a route they worked out on their phone which we photographed. As we stood waiting on the platform wondering if we would get to Lichtenberg on time at local train pulled onto the platform with the headboard stating it was going to Lichtenberg, this was not the train the two officials said to take but we decide what the hell lets go for it. Luckily for us we arrived at Lichtenberg in time for our International train to Poland.

If Berlin Hbf is the epitome of a modern railway inter change then Berlin Lichtenberg is the epitome of a 1970 East German railway station. It would not be out of place as the setting for a Hollywood block buster involving a spy\political prisoner swap. While it was clean and presentable it had that old 1970 bland functional no frills feel about the place.

The view of the station was not helped when we arrived the Paris to Moscow express was sat waiting for passengers and the hostesses duly standing on the platform were your typical 1970 looking Russian women, nothing young or petite about these hostesses. The next stage of our Journey sees us travelling to Torun in Poland with a change of trains at Poznan in Poland. Having sussed out we were not on the Paris to Moscow train we waited for our to arrive and as we waited so the crowd of other passengers grew waiting for the same train. The platform notice boards changed and the station announcer crackled into live to announce the arrival of our train and a major rugby scrum followed to get on board the 5 carriage train. Fortunately we had reserved seats so we were not to concerned about trying to grab a seat.

When is a window seat not a window seat?

Now when I travel I am a windows seat person and when we booked the tickets and they asked if we wanted windows seats we said yes, well if you do the same don’t expect to get a window!!

My seat was on the outside of the carriage (window side if you like) but rather than a window I got the window pillar and about 3 inches of glass which I had to turn my head through 100 degrees to see out off. I felt like that kid at school who is sat on the opposite side of the classroom from the window when there was something happening outside and you could not see what is going on. My first views of Poland came via the window on the other side of the carriage, a view but not like being next to the window.

Thing were not helped by the fact the carriage had obviously seen betters days rattling and bouncing along the track and at a speed more associated with the local school run rather than international express trains. After a couple of bumpy hours we arrived in Poznan.

Poland

A 40 minute wait at Poznan for our connection train to continue our journey to Toran gave us enough time to grab a bite to eat. We were to find out upon our return that there are two faces to Poznan station (more on that later). We were in a section of the station which is under the platform and contains a shops selling food and drinks and a haircut!!Having found a small bakery selling some form of bread with melted cheese and bacon it was time to find our platform. This took sometime as we had to find somebody who understood English, eventually we had the platform information and went in search of the platform. With no lifts in sight it was a stair climbing job with heavy bags up to the platform. I made it to the top with mine and then had to descend back down the stairs to rescue the wife bag as she struggled up the stair. Our train was on the platform but nobody was allowed to board so we sat and ate of cheesy bacon bread things. This was the only train journey where we could not reserve our seats as it was classed as a local train journey. The train was only a two carriage train and the crowd was growing to get on board. Fortunately we got a couple of seats but there was a lot of people standing.

A lot of money seems to have been spent on the Polish railways, the train we were on was a modern style train (certainly better than the one that brought us to Poznan which was in fact a German DB train). All the station we saw had new platforms, signage, lighting, fencing but many of the station were completely rundown, I have no idea what the inside was like as we never got the chance to see inside but some were in a very bad state or repair. We saw at least two railway depots that had been closed down, the semi circular engines sheds with the engine turntable, all the building derelict. Miles of empty railway siding some had very old and rust railway stock (which I assume they were old Polish railway stock). This was a local train and stopped at just about every station between Poznan and Torun. Just as the number people standing started to reduce then we picked up children from a local school who used the train to get to and from school and thus the number of standing grew.

One of the reason for wanting to do the train trip was to get a view of Poland, we saw houses that were derelict, others that were not far from derelict but were being lived in to modern and other in the process of being built. At times it was a very strange mix. Roads that were little more than gravel track but they had signs with the road name on and house along the road.

Polish Problems comes in 3’s

Soon the train was pulling in to Torun, a clean and tidy looking station. We made our way out the station and then suddenly realised that we had not planned for this part of the journey. We knew the apartment was not far from the station but further than we wanted to walk especially dragging a case behind you. We had no idea if any of the buses that served the station went to where we needed to go, timetables were incomprehensible (as we found out again later). There was already a queue of about 20 for taxis so after much thought we had no option but to join the queue and hope that we would be able to get to taxi driver to under stand where we wanted to go. After about 25 minutes we were at the front of the queue and there were no taxi, several came in the station area but these seemed for pre-booked, we just hoped they were informing their control room that people were still waiting at the station. The situation was not helped by the fact that it was now 5pm.

A taxi eventually arrived and we tried to tell the driver where we wanted to go and showing him the address of the apartment on a bit of paper, here came problem number 2. Fortunately for us the drivers English was quite good and he explained that the address did not make sense. Eventually the driver thought he knew where the apartment was and we set off in the rush hour traffic. Eventually we pulled up outside a residential apartment block which the wife recognised from google maps street view. Having disembarked from the Taxi we were only a few meters away from problem number 3. Having found the main entrance we duly rang to intercom button to the apartment we were due to be staying at and…………nothing. We buzzed the room several time and nothing happened nobody answered, nobody came down the stairs to meet us, zilch. Panic was now starting to set in as we had no other contacts for the apartment other than the online company we booked it through. Suddenly we were startled by the apartment front door opening and a man and his daughter coming out. We took our chance and approached him and asked him if he knew anything about the apartment we were due to be staying at. Thank fully for us he did know about the apartment and the person who owned it and he spoke fairly good English. The man was able to phone the owner of the apartment and passed on to us how to get access to the flat. It seem as though a missing email and a flat mobile (my mobile) battery were to blame for the confusion, without the help of this guy (neighbour??) we would have really been up a creek with out a paddle.

Once settled in our thoughts turned to food, by now it was 7pm and from our quick scan of the surrounding there were no local restaurants or take aways. There was a small corner shop across the road so we went shopping for our evening meal, beer and some food for breakfast. The evening was spent studying the Torun bus timetable, it might have been easier studying nuclear science for the good it did us.

Race Day

This is what we had come to Speedway for the final round of the Speedway Grand Prix at Torun Marianna Rosego Motorarena, the task was simple get public transport to Torun Plaza and then walk to the Stadium (about a quarter of a mile). So we walked to where we thought we had to get a bus from and waited, a bus turns up and between broken English and Polish we get told we are on the wrong route and we need to go back up the road and turn left. We ended up walking about a mile and not seeing any bus saying it goes to Torun Plaza. We found a bus stop with seats and decided to take a breather. Suddenly out of no where a bus with the headboard of Torun Plaza appeared, we thought everything was OK until we met the bus driver who did not give a s**t. At first he would not open the front doors (Polish buses have door halfway along the bus), when he did eventually open the door and we tried to explain what we wanted he just shook his head and pointed to the rear of the bus. By now I had spotted other people who had boarded the bus buying a ticket from a machine, then they stuck it in a second machine to get it activated. Unfortunately it was not that simple, there were a host of button and fares and we had no idea what was what, another passenger on the bus tried to help but without understanding each other language we got no where, the passenger spoke to a young girl who came up took some money off me, bought a ticket and then got me to activate it (it stamps a date and time on the ticket), she then repeated the operation for Karen ticket. We thank them both although I guess they had no idea what we were saying I think they understood what we meant. 10 minute later we were at Torun Plaza.

The Plaza while new was nothing exciting and to be fair pretty small compared to some UK out of town shopping centres, it was busy but certainly not crowded. They had a small food hall offering various take way style shops, we grabbed something to eat as this was likely to be the main meal of the day. After eating we took the short walk down the road to the Stadium.

The Stadium

I am not going to go into details of the actual speedway meeting, there are plenty of other place that have already done that, but rather just our view of what we saw and may help others in the future.

The fan zone was located outside the stadium which would have been on the 3rd and 4th bends. It contained the normal selection of meeting and riders sponsors, beer tent, food which was mainly fresh cooked large sausage on a BBQ and a roll. Monster (the drink company) had their normal stage setup where you get to meet Monster sponsored riders and they give away freebies. I had opted to stay way from the ensuing scrum that normally takes place when the freebies are handed (or thrown) out to the fans. The wife came away empty handed and had got an elbow to the head when another fan though they deserved the freebie she had just caught, as for me I managed to bag a Patryk Dudek flag which was thrown into the crowd, went through the hands on one fan, bounced off the head of another fan and landed at my feet, (apparently this did not go down well with Karen).

We had been told at this time of year it can be cold at the stadium and that we should wrap up well, they were wrong it was f^%$£” freezing. It was so cold that we both bought a hooded top to wear to try and keep warm, while it certainly helped the coldness still crept in into our body. So if you plan to go to the Stadium in October wrap up well it does get very cold. Now we knew our seats were on the 3rd bend but even though we were outside the stadium on the third bend by the entry gate we had to walk all around the stadium due to security fencing to get onto the other side of this security fence so that we could get to our seats.

Once in the stadium getting to our seat was going to be an issue for Karen, we were up in the gods three rows from the back and to make life harder there was no hand rail (H&S would have a field day but hey this is Poland). In the end Karen climbed the steps on all fours (she hates heights) and with very few people in the stadium it looked very steep. Finally seated we waited for the event to start, it was great, a Polish riders wins the 2019 GP series in front of 14000 polish fans was always going to be a party.

Once the meeting was over we had to decide how to get home (or at least back to the apartment) not knowing if the buses were still running this late at night we opted to get a taxi and we joined a very long queue. There were plenty of Taxi coming to the stadium but the problem was rather than coming to the taxi rank people were waving the taxi down before it to the rank so were jumping the queue, and so we waited. Eventually we were at the front of the queue, the taxi pulled up and we got in and showed the driver the address on the piece of paper we had and like the taxi driver yesterday, he was confused by the address. After a minute or so the driver seemed to under stand where we wanted to go out of the stadium. We checked if anybody else was going our way but we were on our own. This driver proved to be spot on and delivered us to the apartment without an issue.

In the morning

Sunday dawned bright and sunny, we had planned to go into the old town Torun which was a medieval town complete with rebuilt wall and gate house. The town was crowded and not helped that the local football team was playing at home so they were all in town lubrication their vocal cords before the match along with an escort of riot police (police are becoming a theme on this holiday).

If you like old building – towns with history you will love old town Torun, lots of old buildings (even a leaning one) there are several parks and a walk along the river and if you are lucky you will find the bakery that makes all its own bread and cakes. The cakes were delicious, never got the chance to try the bread though but they are open until 9pm on a Sunday. It is worth pointing out that a lot of shops in the old town were closed although there were still a lot of shops open.

Having found somewhere to eat we decided to head back to the apartment, we grabbed a taxi from the taxi rank, the driver understood English (at least we though so) and we got back to the apartment. As we had to be at the railway station for 9:15am the following day we asked the driver if he could be back at the apartment at 8am the following day or book another taxi for us through his control room, no problem 8am tomorrow here was his response. Happy that we had sorted a taxi to the station it was back to our apartment.

The Return

We were up early Monday morning, packed our bags and made sure everything was clean and tidy in the apartment before making our way outside the apartment and waiting for the taxi. Well 8am came and went as did 8:15am and 8:30am and no taxi. We tried calling another taxi company and they said they would send a car, nothing we phoned again and they promised to send a car again. By now panic was setting in as we were looking at missing the train. I managed to flag a taxi down at the same time as one of the taxi’s we phoned for turned up, it was now 8:50am. The traffic to the train station was busy but not to bad, We got to the station and made our way to the platform, it was not long before our train arrived. Thankfully it was not as busy as it was on the way to Torun. A sunny days made for a pleasant ride back to Poznan. I said earlier on our outbound travel that there were two side of Poznan station. When we arrived we had used the under platform subway to get to the other platforms, this was a dark dingy area that really did not shine a good light on the station. With a 90 minute wait for our Poznan to Berlin Lichtenberg International train. We made our way to the main concourse, boy what a different place. Bright, modern, busy and nothing like the gloomy subway we used before. We grabbed some lunch and then waited until nearer the time and made our way to the platform for our Berlin bound train.

When it arrived on the platform we were at the wrong end of the platform and had to make our way down the platform to our carriage and reserved seats. When we got to our seats we found that they had placed me in one pair of seats and the wife in the pair of seats behind, have no idea why. As all bar one seat was empty the wife sat with me and were were able to let the person who had reserved the other seat next to me that they could take the seat behind us They were all reserved seats and the other person was happy to sit behind. This train was made up of carriages that were better than the outbound train carriages, not so bouncy or rocky and my window seat was a window pillar again. Knowing what laid ahead at Berlin Lichtenberg (rail maintenance) we planned a slight different route back to Berlin Hbf. Our planned route worked perfectly and we were soon back at Berlin Hbf.

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