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Tag: train

Moltke Bridge in Berlin, Germany

Like probably every decent traveller, I love airports and I love train stations. Berlin has one of the biggest train stations in Europe, and when you exit toward the Spree river and walk towards the water, this view is your reward: Moltkebrücke, Berlin, GermanyWhen I’ve spent a weekend away inside of Germany, I often take an early morning train back to Berlin and walk from the main station to my work. I could public transport instead of walking. But I love arriving in Berlin and being welcomed by the river, the bridges, even the government buildings you see in the background of the picture. This is also part of the pulsating, thriving capital I love, even far away from cool hipster neighbourhoods like Kreuzberg and Neukölln.

The bridge in the picture is called Moltkebrücke. Helmuth von Moltke was chief of staff of the Prussian army in the late 19th century. The bridge certainly shows Prussian grandeur with its red sandstone structure and its delicate ornaments. If you google it, you will find pictures of it with the old Lehrter Bahnhof in the background – the beautiful historicist train station that once stood in the place of what is now the modern, steel and glass main station. Berlin, a palimpsest made up of different time layers – if only you want to see them.

If you have read My Mission statement, you know why I love bridges. To me they are the most universal symbol of connection, of bringing people together and overcoming anything that may seperate us. I want to present to you pictures of bridges that I really love in places that I really love on my blog every Sunday. If you have a picture of a bridge that you would like to share with my readers as a guest post, feel free to contact me!

Train Station Blankenese in Hamburg, Germany

Quite likely you will see this picture and think to yourself: „Why in the world did she choose *that* bridge?!?“ It’s not pretty or remarkable in any way, I guess. But it means a lot to me, which is why I thought it fitting to be the last bridge in 2013.

Train Station Blankenese, Hamburg, GermanyThis is the metro station close to my parents‘ house in Hamburg. Most of my adventures started from here. When I was in primary school, I would take my dad’s hand in the morning and walk with him to the train station, across this very bridge, he would descend to the platform to take a metro to his office, and I would walk a bit further to school. I often went to pick him up in the evening when he came home from work, too. We would make little poems about the plants, trees and bushes we discovered on the way between the station and our house (my dad is a passionate gardener).

When I started high school I took the metro for two stations from here myself in the winter – in the summer I went by bike. As I grew older, I would go on the metro to the city center of Hamburg more and more often – first for shopping or to go to the cinema, later for going out at night in the infamous Reeperbahn red light district. Even my five month backpacking trip through Central and South Eastern Europe started at this very metro station on this bridge. It has been the beginning of so many things. And now, when I come home to visit my parents and I cross over it again, it is always crossing back into my childhood and coming home.

If you have read My Mission statement, you know why I love bridges. To me they are the most universal symbol of connection, of bringing people together and overcoming anything that may seperate us. I want to present to you pictures of bridges that I really love in places that I really love on my blog every Sunday. If you have a picture of a bridge that you would like to share with my readers as a guest post, feel free to contact me!

From my Travel Playlists

There is a playlist on my iTunes that I treasure dearly. It holds the music I had on my iPod shuffle when I travelled the Balkans three years ago. A limited selection of songs that accompanied me on many bus and train rides through the beauty that is South Eastern Europe. Tunes so familiar to me that I know every change of rhythm and every funny note, and for most of them, the entire lyrics. Some of them I started out with, some of them I added while on the road. I picked a selection of them to share with you – because when I am having a melancholic day, I put on some Bosnian coffee and this music and I am transported back to Balkan sunshine and the soft rocking of a bus on a scenic route. And also because right now, it is summer in Berlin and I am happy, and this music makes this feeling ten times more intense.

1. Regina Spektor „Better“

If I kiss you where it’s sore
Will you feel better?

I love this song especially for its piano intro and for Regina’s slightly strange pronunciation of English. While the lyrics are actually quite blue, the melody is wide open. If songs had a colour, to me this one would be as turquoise as the waters of the Bosnian rivers I love so much.

2. Dixie Chicks „Not Ready to Make Nice“

I’m not ready to make nice
I’m not ready to back down
I’m still mad as hell and
I don’t have time to go ‚round and ‚round and ‚round

I downloaded the Dixie Chicks album because of a different song, but this one came to be ma favourite. I learned the whole history behind it only later, but it spoke to me as a fight song from the beginning, as a song that encourages you to stand by your anger and not surpress it, to admit to feeling hurt and misunderstood and treated unfairly. I sometimes forget that it is important to allow these feelings their space.

3. Bijelo Dugme „Tako Ti Je, Moja Mala, Kad Ljubi Bosanac“

Jesi l‘,  mala, ljubila do sada?
Jesi, jesi – al‘ Bosanca nisi!

Have you kissed already, little girl?
You have, you have – but not a Bosnian man!

This song is on a Bijelo Dugme album that I bought in Rijeka in Croatia. Bijelo Dugme are something like the Yugoslav Rolling Stones, and quite a few of their songs just put a huge smile on my face because they are playful and silly and fun. I also learned quite a bit Bosnian / Croatian / Serbian by listening to their music.

4. Edward Maya „Stereo Love“

When you gonna stop breaking my heart?

There are no lyrics of any great depth to this song – what is so catching about it is the instrumental part. It was played in countless beach bars and night clubs I went to on my trip, and while at home I probably never would have liked it, on the trip it encaptured that feeling of relaxation, summer heat and freedom of care.

What do you think? Do you have travel tunes that remind you of a certain trip? Does music ever transport you back into a situation in the past?

Bridges Endangered – Flood

The situation in Eastern and Northern Germany in the past weeks calls for a post about bridges in danger.

1CIMG9996 I do not know how much the European flood is in media outside of the countries that are affected by it – although it already has its own wikipedia-entry. Heavy rain falls have led to the Danube, the Elbe and quite a few of their tributaries having significantly higher water levels than normal and flooding cities, towns and villages along their banks. Some of the affected regions suffered from significant flooding only eleven years ago, in 2002, when the same rivers burst their banks and caused severe damage of financial, material, and, as it now shows, also of emotional kind. People are afraid to lose everything again when they have just already been through it. I also remember the flood of the Oder river in 1997 and the pictures on the media back then and how they struck me as so incomprehensible.

To me in Berlin, I have to admit that the flood this time was reasonably far away, and although I followed it in the media and heard stories from friends and colleagues who work or live there, I had no truly emotional reaction to it. In a way, it was something that was happening in a whole different place. Now this weekend I travelled from Berlin to Bielefeld. The Inter City Express route between Berlin and Hannover is now closed down due to the floods, and we were redirected via Magdeburg which is right by the river Elbe.

As we pass into it, we cross a bridge that doesn’t even feel like one anymore. We pass right over the water. At the shore, pathways disappear into the water that under normal circumstances must lead to a path that goes by the waterfront, and trees appear out of nowhere in what looks to be the middle of the river.

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We go on and cross a few of the Seitenarme. Or so I think – then I see the tip of a street sign, fixed, yet disfigured, displaced, not being able to direct anything, and I notice that it must be a street that is flooded. A bit down the river I see sandbag dammings and the signs that say „Technisches Hilfswerk“ (Federal Agency for Technical Relief). Suddenly this has a dimension of reality to it.

I don’t think my pictures can do it justice. I just took them with my phone out of the window of a moving train. But going through that area I think of what my colleague who works in Passau has said: „Now I know what a natural catastrophe is.“ And in Passau it is so much worse because it is located where the three rivers Donau, Inn and Ilz meet – and they are all flooding. I am just glad that here in Germany, there is mainly damage to property. Still some people have lost the basis of their lives, and I am sure to them it is quite existential.

What I cannot help to think is that we always try to relate and compare stuff like this. I think about how horrible this is – and then I think about the Tsunami or Katrina and think that we are so lucky to only have such small problems. But then can you really ever compare? Probably not. All you can do is be grateful if you and your loved ones are safe, show compassion for the victims, and try to help.

There is a picture gallery at this link that I found that should show the dimensions of the flood. If you speak German, this is where you can find out how to donate money to help in the damaged areas.

Pitfalls of Train Travel – a Horror Story

I love train rides. Really, I do. Julika of Sateless Suitcase has recently written a super thorough post on the beauty of train travel if you need convincing. Yes, it is great. It is absolutely lovely. I can’t get enough of it. I’m serious. I am genuinely excited about my overland travel from Berlin to Nottingham. That said – train rides can be the most aggrivating thing in the world. I wish it weren’t so, but it is. Luckily the circumstances in which this is true are limited, but they do happen. Boy, don’t I know it. I hope my story saves some of you some grief when travelling overland in Western Europe.

Being on the train can be great – or not…

I get to Berlin central at midnight with some thirty minutes of time to kill before my night train to Cologne leaves. I’m looking forward to snuggling into my seat and be rocked to sleep by the moving of the carriage on tracks. I’m travelling – nothing else makes me happier than that. When I look to the annuncement board, however, it says my night train is over two hours delayed. It is to do with the flood in Poland and Czech Republic. I’m alarmed. This means I will miss my connection at Cologne to Brussels, and the follow-up from there to London, and I will definitely lose my connection from London to Nottingham. Domino effect… I am going through options, and I have a quick moment of panic.

Now, none of this would have happened if my train went through from Berlin to Nottingham. This way, I’m going to be anxious at every station if they let me go on or if they won’t accept my ticket, because it was supposed to be valid only for that specific connection. Having to change much is always a risk. Try to always travel short distances if you can and avoid connections with too many changes! Also, if I had a lot of time, this would be a much smaller deal. The delay will cost me at least half a day. Given that I only have three days in England anyway, that is quite a high percentage. Calculate your time generously and don’t reckon with five minutes being enough for changing ever! Of course all of that would also be less of a problem if I had enough money to just buy another ticket at any given moment. If at all possible, have a financial back-up in your account for cases like this!

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Passing through Liege train station

Basically it comes down to this: Do I take the risk of this not working / costing me tons of money, or do I get my ticket refunded and go home. But what kind of a traveller would I be if I let this scare me away (athough I must admit that talking to Andrew on the phone and having him reassure me most definitely helps!). I do take the delayed night train to Cologne and hope for the best. Take it one stop at a time. Every train is taking you closer to your destination. Don’t think about the final stop just yet. At Dortmund they make us get on a different (if also marginally delayed) train to Cologne, because the night train is trying to catch up time and won’t call there. Too late do I notice that it does not stop at the main station in Cologne, but only at two smaller ones. Because of this, I have to change again in Düsseldorf to a train that is twenty minutes late. I am starting to just feel cynical about this, and I feel bad for travellers who don’t speak German and might not get by in this mess. I help a Taiwanese girl find her way and hope that other international travellers also find helpful locals. If they don’t approach you themselves, ask locals on the delayed trains for help, especially when you don’t understand the announcements! Thankfully at the service point in Cologne, my ticket is re-issued for the next connection to London without extra payment. Now all I have to worry about is getting from London to Nottingham. I relax a little. My train to Brussels is 15 minutes late. I have no words. In Brussels at check-in for the Eurostar train to London I am still a bit anxious, but it all goes smoothly.

In Brussels, behind security

In London St Pancras, the train that my ticket is issued for has left hours ago. At information they send me down to the booking office, where I somewhat hysterically explain my situation to the nice motherly lady. She looks at the ticket and says in a deep voice: „Nothing I can do about that…“ I feel tears rising. „Nothing at all?“ I ask, probably looking very upset. A standard train ticket  here would cost almost 80 pounds. I don’t have that money. My last option is to take a bus for a much more affordable price, but in that moment all I can think of is how weird and unfair it is that I should lose my ticket in England due to a delay caused in Poland that is absolutely not my fault, and how they expect someone who even goes through the planning ahead and who looks for cheap options to deal with a situation like this. I apologize to the nice lady for crying, when she utters the magic words: „Do you have a stamp at all that a train was late?“ I’m not saying you should cry, but, well, if you actually are desperate… what can I say, it helps. I carefully say: „Yes, but it wasn’t the Eurostar train to London that was late…“ „That doesn’t matter, darling.“ I show her the stamps I got in Cologne when my ticket got re-issued. She looks at them and says: „Sweetheart, dry those tears now. You’ve done yourself a big favour. Now I can act.“ And then she gives me a ticket marked SOS that I can use for any train to Nottingham on that day. I am so relieved I am now almost crying more, not less.

When finally I get off the train in Nottingham I have a total delay of 4 1/2 hours – it could be much much worse. I am a bit ashamed to think that my tears at the London ticket office probably played a role in this, but what’s more important is that I learned that you must always get a confirmation that your train was delayed if you want a chance for rebooking or refunding!

What are your experiences with delayed trains? Do you stay calm or do you go crazy when your journey is challenged? Any advice on what to do when you miss connections?

Oderbrücke, Frankfurt (Oder) / Słubice, Germany / Poland

Bridges on Sundays comes to you from a place today that brings the Bridge as my symbol of connection between cultures to quite a literal level.

Oderbrücke, Frankfurt / Oder - Slubice, Germany - PolandThis photo was taken out of the train on Oderbrücke that connects Frankfurt / Oder in Germany with Świecko (Słubice) in Poland. The river Oder has only marked a border since 1945. Before, both sides of the river were German. After World War II Germany lost its Eastern territories, namely Silesia and Eastern Prussia, to Poland, while Poland lost large parts of Galicia, the Wilna and Nowogrodek areas to the Soviet Union. This map might make it clearer. In 1949 the Odra became the official border between the newly founded German Democratic Republic and the Polish People’s Republic. The Federal Republic of Germany didn‘t recognize this border officially until 1970 when Willy Brandt was chancellor. He had brought on a political course of rapproachment with the East. It was perceived as scandalous back then. Federal Germans felt that Brandt was giving up on land that was actually theirs to re-obtain one day. Thankfully those times are largely behind us, and hardly any German wants these territories back, but resentments die hard, and there is still mistrust between Poles and Germans when it comes to this, especially in older generations.

I only visited Frankfurt and Słubice for the first time last May and walked across a different bridge then that is open for cars and pedestrians. I remember feeling elated. There was no border control. There were no fences or gates or barriers. There was, simply spoken, just free access between the two countries. I thought “Schengen”, thought “European Union”, but this meant so much more than politics. It meant bridging the gap between two countries and removing all obstacles for people to come together and work through the hardships that history has burdened them with.

If you have read My Mission statement, you know why I love bridges. To me they are the most universal symbol of connection, of bringing people together and overcoming anything that may seperate us. I want to present to you pictures of bridges that I really love in places that I really love on my blog every Sunday. If you have a picture of a bridge that you would like to share with my readers as a guest post, feel free to contact me!

Back to Wrocław

Diesen Post gibt es auch auf Deutsch!

The train from Berlin to Wrocław goes through, I don’t need to change. As we are approaching the Polish boarder, we are entering Slavic lands while still in Germany: In a small train station a sign reads „Lübbenau (Spreewald)“, and another one: „Lubnjow (Błota)“ – the first is German, the second is Sorbian. The Sorbians are a Slavic minority in the Lusatia area in the easternmost corner of Germany. The letter ł on the Sorbian sign – it exists in Polish too, and it puts a smile on my face. I note down some of my thoughts in my journal. As soon as we have crossed into Poland, the train tracks are bumpier, I can tell from my own handwriting. It jolts and judders across the paper, not  looking like a chain of soft, round little living creatures as it usually does, but edgy like staples or tiny wires.

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Outside of the windown I see Lower Silesia pass me by. I entered this part of the world for the first time almost exactly six years ago. I’m trying to remember that day, but I can’t unearth too much from the depths of my memory. Back then I felt homesick for the first, maybe the only time in my life, and that feeling cast a shadow on so many things. It envelopped me in a large black veil that kept excitement and anticipation from coming to me like they usually do when I start a trip to the great unknown. The notion of „cudne manowce“ comes to my mind, an expression from a song by the iconic Polish poet and songwriter Edward Stachura. It means something like „the enchanting astray“. My co-worker Renata says that it can’t really be translated to German, because for the efficient and pragmatic people that we are, the astray can never be enchanting. If that is true, I’m afraid I’m not very German after all.

Now I’m looking at little villages with their Prussian architecture train station buildings and their white town hall towers reaching toward the skies with square-cut pinnacles in Tudor styled architecture. They look just like they do in Ziemia Kłodzka, which is the area I was on my way to back then, and I cannot believe that it is only – or already – six years lying between the person I am today and the person I was then.

When the train arrives at the main station in Wrocław, I can’t at first glance piece together where I am and what I am seeing. Everything is new, everything is different. The station building has been painted bright orange.

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Ther concourse is light and spatious. Everything has been renovated for the football Euro Cup last June. My memory paints such a different picture – a dark, manky hellhole with rude and unfriendly elderly ladies in the ticket boxes, and myself feeling panickstricken when one night I almost didn’t get a ticket for the night train to Szczecin and thought I’d have to spend the night on the cold and smelly platform.

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In the crossing underneath the platforms there used to be many kiosks and food stands – they are all gone, instead there are high tech lockers and everything is smooth and evenly tiled. I wonder what might have happened to the people who used to work in those little shops?

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This is not the same place. Everything is signposted – and what’s more, bilingually so! I wish I had some of the people with me who think of Poland as backwards, grey, ugly and cheap. They would not believe their own eyes.

Two days later my train is leaving the main station in Wrocław. My seat is rear-facing and so I look straight ahead as the large orange building is moving away from me.  In this moment I have the paradoxical feeling of looking aback and ahead at the same time –  back to the place I am leaving right now, and that I’m missing already in a feeling of reverse homesickness. And ahead to my future that may just be so kind as to gift me with a new Polish adventure, one without feeling homesick for Germany; to a future that may grant me to understand this country better, to explore it, and with any luck even to participate in shaping it in some way.

Why do I love Poland? I have no idea. Isn’t it the purest love that doesn’t require any explanation?

Zurück nach Wrocław

This post can also be read in English!

Der Zug von Berlin nach Wrocław fährt direkt, ich brauche nicht umzusteigen. Schon im Spreewald beginnt das Land der Slawen – Lübbenau (Spreewald), steht auf dem einen Schild am Bahnhof, und auf dem anderen steht Lubnjow (Błota) – das ł im Sorbischen zaubert mir ein Lächeln aufs Gesicht. Ich notiere mir Gedanken in mein Notizbuch. Kaum sind wir hinter Grenze, schon ist die Strecke unebener, man sieht den Unterschied an meiner Schrift, sie ruckelt und krakelt sich über das Papier nicht wie sonst als weiche runde Tierchen, sondern eckig wie Heftklammern oder kleine Drähte.

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Vor dem Fenster zieht die niederschlesische Landschaft vorbei. Vor fast genau sechs Jahren bin ich zum ersten Mal in diesem Winkel der Welt gewesen. Ich versuche mich daran zu erinnern, aber viel kann ich nicht aus den Untiefen meines Gedächtnisses hervorkramen. Ich habe damals das erste, vielleicht das einzige Mal in meinem Leben Heimweh empfunden, und das hat vieles überschattet. Es hat einen schwarzen Schleier um mich gelegt, der die Aufregung und die Vorfreude verhindert hat, die ich sonst auf dem Weg in das große Unbekannte stets empfunden habe. Die „cudne manowce“ kommen mir in den Sinn, aus einem Lied des polnischen Kultdichters Edward Stachura. Das bedeutet so etwas wie „zauberhafte Abwege“. Meine Kollegin Renata sagt, man kann das kaum übersetzen, weil Abwege für die effizienten und pragmatischen Deutschen niemals zauberhaft sind. Wenn das so ist, bin ich wohl wirklich nicht besonders deutsch.
Nun blicke ich auf kleine Dörfer, deren Bahnhofsgebąude so häufig preußisch aussehen und aus denen weiße Rathaustürme hervorragen, die von eckigen Zinnen geziert sind, im Tudor-Stil. Sie sehen genauso aus wie im Glatzer Land, in der Ziemia Kłodzka, wohin ich damals unterwegs war, und ich kann nicht fassen, dass mich nur oder schon sechs Jahre davon trennen sollen, wer ich zu jener Zeit gewesen bin.

Als ich nun zum ersten Mal nach vielen Jahren wieder in den Hauptbahnhof in Wrocław einfahre, bringe ich zuerst gar nicht zusammen, wo ich mich befinde und was ich vor mir sehe. Alles ist neu, alles ist anders. Das Bahnhofsgebäude ist in leuchtendem Orange gestrichen.

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Die Bahnhofshalle ist hell und hoch und verglast. Zur Europameisterschaft 2012 ist alles renoviert worden. Ich erinnere mich an eine dunkle, siffige Hölle, an unfreundliche ältere Damen hinter den Schaltern, an meine leichte Panik, als ich einmal beinahe kein Ticket für den Nachtzug nach Stettin mehr bekommen hätte und mich schon eine Nacht allein auf dem zugigen, muffigen Bahnsteig verbringen sah.

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In der Unterführung zu den Gleisen hin waren früher zahlreiche kleine Kiosks und Imbissbuden – sie sind alle verschwunden, stattdessen sind Schließfächer angebracht und alles ist glatt und edel gefliest. Was wohl aus den Betreibern der kleinen Lädchen und Büdchen geworden ist?

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Es ist nicht mehr der gleiche Ort. Alles ist ausgeschildert, alles ist mehrsprachig. Ich wünschte, ich hätte jetzt einige von den Menschen an meiner Seite, die sich Polen als rückständig, grau, hässlich und billig vorstellen. Ihnen würden die Augen aus dem Kopf fallen.

Ich fahre zwei Tage später rückwärts aus dem Hauptbahnhof in Wrocław hinaus und schaue geradeaus aus dem Fenster dabei zu, wie das große orangefarbene Gebäude sich von mir entfernt. In diesem Moment habe ich das paradoxe Gefühl, gleichzeitig zurück und nach vorn zu schauen – zurück auf den Ort, den ich jetzt gerade verlasse und nach dem ich mich jetzt schon wieder sehne in einem umgekehrten Heimweh. Aber doch auch nach vorn in meine Zukunft, die mir hoffentlich ein neues polnisches Abenteuer schenken wird, eines ohne Heimweh nach Deutschland; die Zukunft, die mir vielleicht erlauben wird, dieses Land weiter zu begreifen, zu erkunden, und mit sehr viel Glück sogar gestattet, es mitzugestalten.

Woher meine Liebe zu Polen rührt? Ich weiß es nicht. Und ist nicht die reinste Liebe die, die keiner Erklärung bedarf?

SKM-ka, or Gdańsk fast-forwarded

20121220-102554.jpgOne of my most innate Gdańsk adventures lies yet before me. I am going to ride the SKM, a kind of overground metro that connects all of Tricity – that is Gdynia, Sopot and Gdańsk. SKM stands for Szybka Kolej Miejska, fast city train, and wonderfully the Polish have not only made the company name the name for every vehicle that is part of the service, but also personified the abbreviation in the female so each train is called an „SKM-ka“. It is as though in German you would say SKM-in or in Spanish SKM-ita. It adds a whole different dimension of personality to the old, slightly dodgy-looking yellow, blue and white trains. It makes me think of them as old grumpy fat ladies who, while being harsh and cold to everyone, are truly loveable.

20121220-102544.jpgThe 15 minute train ride is uneventful – but it leaves me with time to reflect, like on countless other occasions, on this city. While a long-distance train seems a slow way of transport compared to, say, flying, this SKM-ride makes me feel like everything I connect with the city is rushing by, like someone fast-forwarded my thoughts.

First stop: Gdańsk Stocznia. The shipyards. This is where the Solidarność movement came about, where people went on strike to fight an unjust regime – one of the places where the end of the Cold War began. Another stop: Gdańsk Wrzeszcz. This is where my grandfather was born almost 100 years ago when it was called Danzig-Langfuhr. Yet another stop: Gdańsk Przymorze – Uniwersytet. Przymorze means „by the sea”, I love how the name is so poetic, although the area between Wrzeszcz and Oliwa is actually not exactly pretty but quite industrial. Finally Gdańsk Oliwa, where I get off. This, like Wrzeszcz, is a place that is familiar to me from literary depictions of Gdańsk. Grass’s Tin Drum, Chwin’s Death in Danzig, Huelle’s Who was David Weiser? – all their heroes have walked these streets, like I do now. Maybe my love for Gdańsk partly originates on the pages of books. I wouldn’t be surprised.

And with all these thoughts that revolve around Gdańsk throughout history and in literature, the thing I love the most about this moment is what I’m here for: I’m going to visit a friend. I’m not on a huge mission, not sightseeing or researching. I’m here just to hang out with someone, like any other person in this city might do on a Saturday afternoon. In this moment I’m not a tourist on a journey, I’m not an academic at work. I’m just me in a city that I love.

20121220-102535.jpgWhen I get back to Oliwa’s train station later that afternoon, the electronic board says that the SKM-ka to Gdańsk will be there in 5 minutes. I’m overjoyed with my good timing. Little do I know. I take out my headphones and turn on my music, sitting and waiting for the train, but it doesn’t get in. On the other side of the platform the board says that the train to Wejherowo will be there soon too. When it arrives, I wonder why it is going in the direction that I thought Gdańsk Główny to be in. Well, I must have lost orientaion. A few minutes later the board changes. It now says my SKM-ka will be there in half an hour. Shortly after this, another train going in the other direction is arriving on the platform’s second track. It is only then that I realize that I just let my SKM-ka pass by.

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SKM station Sopot

And that when I already have a history with this! As I now have half an hour in the cold, there is lots of time to remember at least one previous unfortunate incident with track numbers. A few years ago when I was living in Poland as a volunteer, I needed to go back to my home base in Lower Silesia from Toruń. My friend and I got to the platform, the rusty old board said that our train to Poznań would leave on the left track. We got on, chatting away, but after about 45 minutes we really started to ask ourselves why the train hadn’t left the station yet. After quite a bit of a hassle we found out that this was a regional train, when we should have taken the fast train from the opposite track that had left about 30 minutes ago. Not only did the train we were on leave later, it was also slower, so that we missed our connection in Poznań by way more than an hour. We did catch another train to Wrocław, and my friend made it home to her village by bus. I couldn’t get to my tiny town that day and, bound for a friend’s place, had an odyssey on Wrocław’s city busses to the outskirts of town and got lost in a jungle of the highest socialist concrete skyscrapers i had seen to date in the middle of the night. It all pretty much scared the life out of me and I wasn’t so hot for Wrocław for a while after that.

What do I learn from this about Polish trains of any kind, be it SKM or PKP?

  1. Never trust electronic boards on the platform.
  2. Always check both sides of the platform for your train and if in doubt, when a train is coming, ask a local if it’s yours.
  3. Always bring an extra sweater when you go to Gdańsk in winter. And wear it whenever there is even the slightest chance that you are going to be taking public transport. You may have to wait. And it will be cold. I at least am going back to Berlin with a runny nose.

… and with a smile on my face. Because when it comes down to it, this entire post just makes me realize how German I am and I really enjoy the fact that Poland, however well I may know it already, can still confront me with my own cultural imprint that I will most likely never get rid of.