I atually had to run for my train to Gdańsk, having left it late to leave for the station, making it on with two minutes to spare. Ah the joy of trains. This journey was to be broken into two segments – split in half by a change at Warsaw. So after I found a seat, did some planning and reading and so on, the time passed relatively quickly before people started moving – usually a sign of a big station coming up. I got ready, and indeed – Warsaw something station appeared in the dark, so I grabbed my gear and hopped off, knowing that I had 15 minutes between trains.
Around 11.30pm now, I walked downstairs and looked around, found the departures board and then realised my mistake. Warsaw has 3 stations – Warsaw Zachodnia, Warsaw Centralna and Warsaw Wschodnia. I’d gotten off at Zachodnia, when I was meant to change at Centralna.
Wikitravel.org notes that:
Trains running eastwards start at Warszawa Zachodnia, stop at Warszawa Centralna and then at Warszawa Wschodnia, while trains heading westwards make the same trip in the opposite direction (except that they don’t always stop at Warszawa Zachodnia). The same is true for arriving trains. Tourists often find it confusing that the main train station (Warszawa Centralna) is not the last station on the route.
However, not going to Warsaw myself I hadn’t read this page at the time.
Sprinted back up as fast as I could with a pack on to see my train departing towards the city. No need to panic, I’ll just get the next….oh, the next train is at 4.30am. I looked around, most people had gone, it was dark and grimy, and no lights in sight outside. I wandered up to the terminal and found one person on duty, figuring I’d ask about a hostel. Just to satisfy my fading hope, I asked “Gdansk?” first, and she simply said “Platform 6”. Turns out that the trains go through this station into the city, and when going to Gdańsk come back out through the same station! I had a few minutes to spare, so ran back down and to the platform, just as the train came crawling in. Phew.
I hopped onboard and started the process of finding a seat. The Global Pass may let you on any train, but unless you reserve a seat separately, you just have to hope. And opening each cabin and glancing in, I was met with either families, full ones, people sleeping, or large scary men who didn’t look like they wanted me interrupting their card games / drug deals. I went right along the train and back, before deciding that the bicycle carriage actually had a lot of leg room and space – so I settled down there along with two Bulgarian women who clearly had the same idea, while the son of one of them was keeping an eye out for people leaving cabins. A little frustratingly they kept trying to talk to me – but while some people will use hand signals and gestures if you can’t understand, they’d just keep repeating the questions in Bulgarian and then laugh when I couldn’t reply. They did however ask “internet?” when they saw me watching a podcast on my laptop, so some words are universal, I guess.
The night went relatively smoothly – albeit wihtout sleep – until the early hours of the morning when we stopped at yet another station. I propped myself up from the floor to take a look out of the window, and heard a loud “crack”. I’d put my right palm directly onto my Kindle, and cracked the screen. Not impressed. Fortunately it’s under insurance.
Finally, not long after the sun had risen, we pulled into Gdańsk Główny – the main railway station. It’s considered to be a confusing experience to non-Polish tourists, according to Wikipedia, there being almost no non-Polish information. This didn’t particularly concern me as I had some directions and didn’t need to worry about using the station itself until tomorrow. I’d had no sleep and it was around 7am, but a new city now beckoned to be explored…
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