I rose surprisingly easily and loaded up, before hurrying quickly back to the Gdańsk rail station. It was warm and I was rather hot by the time I got there, with 15 minutes to spare. However, this was when the ‘confusing’ aspect of the station that I’d read about came into play.
I actually found the right platform – but had to make certain as I didn’t want to end up in the wrong city. I queued at the cashier window and tried to asked but the lady there merely pointed me towards the main station terminal upstairs. I ran up there, and got two more redirects before establishing the only reason she’d sent me up there was that domestic long distance ticket sales appeared to be up here, and that I did indeed have the correct platform – and that my train had left two minutes ago.
Frustrated I reverted to my McDonalds free wifi, to find that instead of the 6 hour direct train, there were two indirect 8 hour long trains running a bit later. Both got in about the same time to Bialystok – a town I’d chosen merely for its proximity to the border with Lithuania, in order to maximise the benefit of my 5th and last day on the Global Pass. Opting for the single change option in Warsaw, I had 90 minutes or so to kill, and loaded up on supplies before sitting in the sun on the platform.
When the train arrived I got a seat in a cabin easily enough this time, and noted that once again I’d be going through Warsaw, changing trains there. Determined not to get this wrong again, I kept close watch on the stations and when I saw Warsaw coming up I dodged the first one, and then got out. I was at Warsaw Wschodnia, not Centralna. How did this happen, again??? I checked the boards and fortunately once again the train needed was coming back through this station. I had an hour to kill, so I went for a walk around the station which was undergoing massive renovations, and its neighbouring streets, before returning and getting a little anxious as the time passed and the train was yet to show itself. Fortunately there was a German family also looking for it, and it’s always slightly comforting to find someone else as confused as you in the same place looking for the same thing.
By the time my train arrived in Bialystok it was 6.30pm or so, and I had about a kilometre to walk. Upon leaving the station I found myself getting sharp pains in my side, and had to rest more and more frequently. It felt like a stitch, so I just kept going, managing to take some wrong turns as well to add to the pain. It seemed to go away when I took off my bags, so with enough rests I finally arrived at the one and only hostel in Bialystok.
Frustratingly the website this morning had said ‘nothing available’ but I’d decided to chance my luck, and indeed the guy who spoke almost no English confirmed that they had a bed available (several, actually). I quickly established that it was pretty much only Polish people using the hostel, and mostly older people, but it was cheap and it was a bed.
I wandered around town (now stitch-free) for a couple of hours – it’s a surprisingly nice city. Embarrasingly, I’d been expecting a rubbish little redneck-style village – considering most towns near the border I’d researched were small – but this city is nearly as big as Christchurch in population terms – 300,000, but is very densely populated so the city itself is quite small. It seemed very chilled, especially around the main Market Square where outdoor restaurants and cafes circled the area.
I stopped at a little caravan selling food to pick up a zapiekanka (a halved baguette with mushrooms, cheese and ham) where a local insisted on helping me order, and then followed me around town chatting about Bialystok. Just as I was thinking he was going to follow into the hostel as well, he said farewell and went off to visit his grandmother, while I finished my meal and headed to bed, determined not to miss the once-a-day train in the morning.
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