On Friday 1 May, we arrived in Poland at Katowice airport, a small, but bustling terminal thirty one kilometres from the city itself. It was dull and drizzly that day, but it was the start of a fascinating five day adventure during which I experienced so many impressions it's still hard to absorb them all.
|One of the regions numerous charming old trams|
I've always pictured Poland as being cold and grey, decrepit and forbidding; an image built up from memories of war films and photos, all of which seem to depict the country in winter for some reason. True, Koos has often been there in winter too, so this impression was confirmed by his snowy photos of trams at dusk, dark streets slick with rain and people wrapped like well-padded immersion heaters. I really didn't know what to expect except somewhere rather bleak, and our arrival to grey, damp and cool conditions threatened to support these ideas. But not for long - luckily!
The following days were mostly sunny and warm and our wonderful Rambler 5 day public transport tickets took us by tram and bus over an incredible distance - all for a grand outlay of just 10 euros each. We did try the train to Krakow, but even a snail would have got there faster, so we came back by bus instead. I asked Koos why we didn't buy return tickets on the train. Now I know. They don't sell them…probably because one way is enough for anyone's patience!
|One of my favourite things: deserted stations. This one has|
brand new platforms but the station buildings
are quite derelict
Poland is a country in transition. I loved its beautiful towns - Gliwice, Bytom and (of course) Krakow, but also the areas of crumbling decay, all of which are destined to be improved and renovated. There is a huge amount of building going on; however, at the moment it all seems a bit haphazard. Just as an example, all the railway platforms are brand new, but many of the stations themselves are dilapidated in the extreme.
|Old or new rails - I'm not sure which!|
|The station cat: she was so sweet I wanted to take her home|
Another draw was the old mining areas and the quiet suburbs around them where most people have their own charming, informal gardens full of flowering thorn trees.
Then of course there are the waterways. The Gliwice Canal ran just behind the station of Gliwice łabędy where we were staying. It was first on our list of places to visit as we'd intended to go to a festival in the marina there. We never quite made it and saw the boats disappearing off down the canal. After a 6km walk, we gave up trying to catch up with them, but didn't really mind as the peace of the tow path was soul food enough.
|A working mine outside Zabrze|
There is so much to tell, I can't do it all in one post - so I'll save the rest for another post or two, but I'll finish with a photo of Gliwice town square, one of the most beautiful I've seen in a long time.
|Gliwice town centre. I liked it even more than Krakow|