Bus and Train
09.06.2011 - 11.06.2011 17 °C
Leaving Berlin we took a late night coach to Gdansk. At the station there didn't seem to be any other passengers waiting, 10.30 this very small mini bus pulls up with Gdansk written on the side. Inside we couldn't be more happy, loads of room and air conditioning and all for twenty pounds, our only concern was how much we should tip the driver. One hour later the Bus pulls into a station, and alas we had to transfer onto a larger coach full of people, no leg room and cold air blasting out onto us, so much for a relaxing journey. We didn't get much sleep that night.
We arrived early in the much raved about Gdansk, to find that the weather had taking a dip, no longer was it hot with blue skies, but freezing with grey clouds above us. Getting out the station was an experience, not as pretty as we expected but, dirty with beggars and rough looking characters everywhere. Trying to find the hostel was a challenge, mainly due to not having a map to hand and following street signs that all look the same. Once there we found that the staff were very helpful running the Old town hostel like a military operation. The old town in Gdansk is very ornate, with decorative buildings. However I did find it a little like mutton dressed as lamb. There were flocks of tourists everywhere, but Venice it's not. There's a real gritty aggressive side to Gdansk, it's not hard to see that there is a lot of poverty in the city. Walking around it doesn't feel very safe, though we had no bother. We only stayed for one night, which was enough. The only saving grace was the hostel, where we met some very interesting characters, like a Swedish gentleman that worked as a doctor in war torn countries. His stories were amazing and his passport was very impressive. We would have liked to have spoke to him longer.
At the train station we bought tickets to Krakow and tickets from Krakow to Kiev. The first journey was to take about 12 hours and the second 21 hours both by train. We decided to pay a little extra for the trip to Kiev and get a carriage with a bed, whilst the other we got a seat. As we don't speak Polish we wrote down what we needed and presented it to the ticket office, this makes life so much easier for both parties.
Never get a seat only ticket across Poland. We arrived at the Gdansk train station with plenty of time along with half of Poland that also had tickets for the train. When we got on every carriage was full with only the small narrow corridor to stand in, along with a whole load of students. Every time we sat down, someone had to go to the toilet, or with everyone smoking the windows were open with rain and cold winds pouring in. I thought it was going to be all to much for Sarah from the look on her face and to be honest I was ready to get off, sleeping on a platform would be much better than this. Even though all the spaces are taken, the station keeps selling tickets. Don't get me wrong we got what we paid for. Twenty pounds to cross a country, too good to be true. Once we got to Warsaw 7 hours in, most of the passengers got off, so we jumped into a carriage and got a seat before anyone else boarded the train. The journey was rough and took a lot out of us, but we did feel a sense of achievement as stupid as that sounds. We both know that we need to face difficult journeys in the weeks to come.
Both of us starting to hate Poland, Krakow definitely saved the day. Getting out the station it was much cleaner, beautiful parks and friendlier people. We made our way to the Globeart hostel, easy to find and in a great old building. The staff were great, though it is a hostel that is aimed more for the tourist that wants to enjoy the nightlife and less for the weary traveler. We really enjoyed Krakow, especially the Jewish section, where the bread is to die for. There's plenty to see also with endless museums and places of interest. I don't think there's anything we don't know about the second world war now.