Belgium, Holland & Poland March 2016 (Bruges to Warsaw via Amsterdam)
Having never been to Bruges or been outside of railway premises in Amsterdam, Easter seemed like the sensible time to visit both; while the ultimate destination was Poland. Having booked flights back from Warsaw it wasn’t until I began looking at the trip properly that I realised just how long it would take to get from Warsaw to Krakow and on to Auschwitz so a bit of re-planning followed.
Unfortunately the week leading up to or trip saw dramatic events unfold in Brussels with the airport & metro bombings; these put pay to a lot of transport in and around Brussels for a few days. Thankfully Eurostar were back running the following day but there was no train service to Brussels Airport; even during the time we were in Belgium some 5 days later.
Our destination of Warsaw would be reached solely by train, starting in Doncaster, and an interesting few days or travelling it would be.
Booked through British Airways direct
BA847 1150 Warsaw Chopin – Heathrow
Bruges – Hotel De Goezeput – is a straightforward 10 minute walk from Bruges train station and technically is on the outskirts of the old town in a quiet lane. Staff spoke fluent English and were helpful when checking in. Our room was No.10 on the top floor and while it looked very oldie worldy with wooden beams, and had great views, it was cold, draughty and a bit dangerous in some respects as one side of the bed had very low beams at the end of it. Unfortunately during our stay it was wet, windy and cold and we were glad to be moving on when we did as the wind and rain kept us up at night and the single radiator in the room was useless and barely heated up! Breakfast was good and cost 9 euro’s per person, with plenty to choose from, albeit continental style with nothing hot. For the price we paid I’d have expected better, in fact way better. During the summer there’d have been no issues at all. The room was clean and very spacious though.
Amsterdam – Ibis Amsterdam Central – the Ibis Amsterdam Centre couldn’t have been much closer and even overlooked the station at the rear of the hotel. Waiting to check-in took a great deal longer than it did to walk to the hotel itself and we were glad to get checked in and relax for a bit, in what turned out to be a very small room, by Ibis standards, on the 7th floor, which overlooked the city. Breakfast at the Ibis wasn’t included in the room rate and was a very pricey €18 add-on; which is just ridiculous, even for Ibis!
Warsaw – Mercure Centrum – which is almost immediately outside one side of Centralna station; but for a rather large shopping centre in-between the two; it’s easy to walk straight through it, or even round it to get to the hotel though. The Mercure itself was of a way better standard than I’d expected and for three nights at a little over £100 it was a relative bargain. The room was very spacious, spotless and included decent toiletries and most importantly a kettle with tea/coffee making facilities. Breakfast wasn’t included.
Krakow – Ibis Stare Miasto – despite the Stare Miasto Old Town) nametag it was quite a way from it, although relatively close to the station; just in the wrong direction from the old town! If you walk straight out of the station, through the subway, up onto the first floor of the shopping centre, straight out of the front doors and turning right you’re heading in the right direction. The red Ibis sign can be seen in the distance; beyond the end of the shopping centre. The Ibis Stare Miasto and Ibis Budget are one in the same building and first impressions were good, with the reception being spotless and the reception staff very helpful. The room was better than the miniscule one we’d had in Amsterdam and was a bit more like you’d expect from an Ibis. We used the hotel restaurant to have a spot of lunch before we headed out for the afternoon and the food was very good and freshly prepared in the restaurant’s spotless open-plan kitchen. Breakfast the following morning, included, was plentiful and had a good variety.
Interrail Global Pass (7 days in 1 month) – £243
Booked direct online through Interrail
Eurostar tickets London to Brussels Midi – £39
Booked direct through Eurostar over the phone using vouchers
Overnight Sleeper Reservations Dusseldorf Hbf to Warsaw Centralna
Booked through Rail Canterbury in the UK by e-mail
Saturday 26th March 2016 (Doncaster to Bruges)
As it was the Easter Holidays our railways were subject to a lot of engineering work and limited trains services ran into Kings Cross on the morning of Saturday 26th March; and those that did ran via Cambridge. Had you opted to do the 0626 from Doncaster to London you’d have arrived at 1020, or if you’d done the 0915 like we did you’d have arrived at 1050; the 0915 ex Doncaster being the first train direct up the ECML to Kings Cross. Unfortunately due to said fact the train was full when it arrived into Doncaster, at which point I was very glad I’d asked “my man” to reserve some seats from Doncaster to London; which randomly the system wouldn’t allow so they had to be reserved from York. Of course people were sat in them when we boarded but there was no issue moving them when we boarded. From Peterborough it was carnage on board with the train being full and standing down the aisles; which in coach B was quite dangerous as there’s only an exit at one end with the set being a HST and the guard’s office being at the rear. There was certainly no getting to the toilets en-route!
Despite having 2 hours in London before our 1258 Eurostar to Brussels was to depart we opted to get through security and passport control just in case there was extra security and things started to turn into a farce. As it happened they didn’t and with only the 1224 Paris and our 1258 Brussels during the time we were there things looked pretty much like business as usual.
When the 1224 to Paris was advertised the waiting area pretty much emptied, leaving plenty of room to maneuver. When the train departed however I heard nothing as it passed by overhead and had forgotten that Eurostar had some nice shiny new, crap, trains to play with; and was hoping our Brussels set would be a conventional set and not a new EMU!
Having kept an eye on the Eurostar staff it wasn’t hard to figure out which barriers would be opened next and we were first up to the platform when the doors opened automatically for people to access platforms 5/6. Thankfully our set was a conventional Eurostar, 373103/104, and was still in the original grey colours as well. We were reserved in coach 17 at the front, to save the legwork when arriving into Brussels. The journey was routine, although there were no ticket checks throughout, despite picking up at Ebbsfleet and stopping at Calais and Lille en-route; arrival into Brussels Midi was spot on time at 1608.
Due to the heightened security in Brussels there was no direct access from Eurostar to the Thalys and TGV trains at Brussels Midi and there was definitely an increased security presence roaming around the station premises; including army personnel with rather large machine guns! The news had been reporting that people using Brussels stations were being subjected to bag searches on entry but as we didn’t exit the station we didn’t see any evidence of this.
The next train to Bruges was IC1538 1508 Genk – Blankenberge and while waiting 186204 arrived with IC9239 1245 Amsterdam – Brussels Midi and 186240 brought the empties in to form IC9255 1645 Brussels Midi – Amsterdam. SNCB’s 1905/1917 top and tailed IC1538 with their respective sets coupled in the middle and whisked us towards Bruges as we relaxed in the upper deck of the train; admiring the very flat surroundings as we glided through the dull weather outside.
The sets off IC1538 were split at Bruges to head their separate ways, the leading set going to Knokke and the rear to Blankenberge. Armed with ME maps for guidance we headed straight out of the station and walked to the Hotel De Goezeput; which took about 15 minutes at a steady pace. The De Goezeput is on the outskirts of the old town in a quiet lane. Staff spoke fluent English and were helpful when checking in. Our room was No.10 on the top floor and while it looked very oldie worldy with wooden beams, and had great views, it was cold, draughty and a bit dangerous in some respects as one side of the bed had very low beams at the end of it. The room was clean, spacious and had toiletries provided so we’d see how things went.
As it was already starting to get dark we didn’t hang around for long and went to get our bearings on Bruges. What we ended up doing was walking into the old town and when we came across the Bhavani Indian restaurant we couldn’t resist a decent meal; having not really had one all day! The Bhavani had been recommended by a work colleague and did have good write-ups. We managed to bag a table upstairs and had a window seat overlooking the square down below. Unlike most Indian restaurants the Bhavani has a set menu, from which you choose a starter and a main course and included in the €40 price tag are rice and Nan breads along with a salad and raita, with a small glass of dhal that precedes the meal. Veg dishes are cheaper at €35 and of course drinks are on top of that so the place is quite costly in that respect. The food was very good though and surprisingly some of it tasted just like it would in India especially the dhal and baji.
Pleased with our choice of food, although somewhat lighter in the pocket and not as stuffed as we thought we might be, we ambled back to the hotel taking in some of the sights Bruges had to offer on the way; with all the prominent tower structures of the numerous churches and the bell tower being well lit at night and they actually look better than they do during daylight hours; one of which, The Church of Our Lady, was perfectly viewed through one of the windows of our hotel room.
Tired from a long day of traveling we didn’t really make any plans for the morning, other than to set an alarm so we didn’t miss breakfast. The only question being when I got into bed was, would I or would I not bash my head on the low beam during the night, if I got out of bed?
Gen for Saturday 26th March 2016
1905/1917 IC538 1508 Genk – Blankenberge (to Brugge)
1905 IC1638 1802 Brugge – Knokke
1917 IC1538 1508 Genk – Blankenberge (from Brugge)
The Photo from Saturday 26th March 2016:
Sunday 27th March 2016 (Bruges)
Indeed the alarm did wake us up at 0900 so it was a good job it had been set; and no I didn’t bash my head on the beam during the night, having remembered to duck when I went to the bog! Breakfast was nothing special at the De Goezeput but it did the job.
Having spent the morning strolling round Bruges, a short afternoon trip out to Bruges station immediately revealed that my planned move was flawed when I found two EMU’s in the station, having just arrived to split and form the 1502 and 1505 departures to Blankenberge & Knokke respectively; that will teach me to not just assume that everything on a certain route is hauled without checking properly! Indeed the 1208 Genk – Blankenberge and 1542 Blankenberge – Genk are definitely not shown in the SNCB diagrams, along with a few other Blankenberge services as well; so be aware. Luckily for me though I’d turned up at Bruges an hour earlier than I’d originally planned so wasn’t quite as bowled as I could have been and thankfully IC1514 1442 Blankenberge – Genk departed with 1844 on the Knokke portion and 1912 on the Blankenberge portion. The Genk trains make at Alter, heading towards Brussels, and 1911/1835 were soon whisking me back towards Bruges on IC1536 1308 Genk – Blankenberge. Luckily for me there is an alternative to doing the Genk for Genk trains at Alter and having watched the EMU’s arrive back from Blankenberge & Knokke to form the 1542 Blankenberge – Genk forward I hopped onto IC515 1540 Oostende – Eupen instead with 1856 at the helm. The plus 4 at Gent Sint Peters made easily and I was soon heading straight back to Bruges with 1894/1922 top & tailing IC1537 1408 Genk – Blankenberge; and the heavens opened quite dramatically the moment I set foot on the platform at Bruges!
The rain was that heavy that it was bouncing off the floor on the large expanse of space immediately outside the station front; where a large number of people had taken up refuge beneath the station front to shelter. Despite the rain, the sun was trying to get through and a quite spectacular double rainbow spanned from one side of the city to the other; unfortunately I didn’t manage to get my camera out in time.
Gen for Sunday 27th March 2016
SNCB (As per SNCB Kinkempois SuO diagrams valid from 13/12/2015)
1922 – Day J1
1835 – Day J2
1844 – Day J3
1894 – Day J5
1911 – Day J6
1912 – Day J7
1891 – Day K3
1810 – IC536 1317 Eupen – Oostende
1856 – IC515 1540 Oostende – Eupen
Monday 28th March 2016 (Bruges to Amsterdam by train)
Having paid the hotel bill the previous night, as there is nobody in reception until 8 o’clock, we slipped out of the hotel a little after 7 o’clock, attempting to be as quiet as we could when creeping down the creaking old wooden stairs. Thankfully the very high winds and hammering rain that had pounded the roof overnight had died down and it was a fresh morning outside but still quite wet.
Having learnt my lesson the previous afternoon as regards not assuming all trains on a certain circuit are hauled, my homework revealed that IC1507 0742 Blankenberge – Genk wasn’t listed on the hauled diagrams so we were at the station in time to do IC507 0740 Oostende – Eupen to Brussels instead. In a strange twist though we watched a hauled set arrive behind an EMU as we departed on IC507 with 1810 propelling on the rear; at Brussels Midi IC1507 0742 Blankenberge – Genk rolled in with 1924/1921 top & tailing the train so off to Brussels Central we went, where we made the late running IC9212 0552 Amsterdam Central – Brussels Midi back into Midi with SNCB 186198 (SNCB 2806).
186204 (SNCB 2812) was soon in Brussels Midi with the NS stock to form IC9227 0945 Brussels Midi – Amsterdam Central, which was quite empty to Antwerp, where it filled up a little but was never a full train all the way to Rotterdam; where we got off to use the Intercity Direct route towards Amsterdam. This route is quicker as it uses the high speed route but also attracts a supplement on top of your ticket to use it; which doesn’t apply to Interrail tickets! The supplement is applicable from Rotterdam to Schiphol and is €2.40 but €10 if bought on the train! It’s easy for locals to pay the supplement as they just tap a machine on the platforms, just like using an Oyster Card in London, and that’s them sorted.
Gleaming NS 186’s 186116/186016 arrived to form ICD1027 1209 Rotterdam Central – Amsterdam Central and with only 7 minutes to get ourselves some food we were quite disappointed when we came across a Pasta place downstairs as we didn’t think we have time to get something sorted; it took 3 minutes from ordering to having our freshly cooked penne arribiata in our hands, which was consumed en-route to Schiphol where we alighted to do ICD927 1157 Breda – Amsterdam Central into Amsterdam. Both 186148 with ICD927 and 186204 with IC9227, which we’d got off at Rotterdam, were sat in at Schiphol at the same time with 186148 winning the race into the Dutch capital.
I’d picked a hotel very close to the station and the Ibis Amsterdam Centre couldn’t have been much closer and even overlooked the station at the rear of the hotel. Waiting to check-in took a great deal longer than it did to walk to the hotel itself and we were glad to get checked in and relax for a bit, in what turned out to be a very small room, by Ibis standards, on the 7th floor, which overlooked the city. Breakfast at the Ibis wasn’t included in the room rate and was a very pricey €18 add-on; which is just ridiculous, even for Ibis!
We’d been keen to get out and about when we arrived into Amsterdam but weren’t so keen with what we found; as we walked back to the hotel we admired what I’d consider to be the best feature Amsterdam has as we walked by; Amsterdam Central railway station!
Gen for Monday 28th March 2016
1810 IC507 0740 Oostende – Eupen
1812 IC529 0617 Eupen – Oostende
1924/1921 IC1507 0742 Blankenberge – Genk
SNCB (Brussels – Amsterdam 186’s)
186198 (2806) – IC9212 0552 Amsterdam – Brussels
186204 (2812) – IC9227 0945 Brussels – Amsterdam
NS Intercity Direct
186016/186116 ICD1027 1209 Rotterdam – Amsterdam
186144 – ICD938 1255 Amsterdam – Breda
186148 – ICD927 1157 Breda – Amsterdam
186236 – ICD936 1225 Amsterdam – Breda
Photos from Monday 28th March 2016:
Tuesday 29th March 2016 (Amsterdam; or not…….)
An early night the previous night allowed me to feel more than refreshed when I headed out of the hotel at 0615 for a morning spin about. NS 186011/186014 top & tailed ICD1014 0640 Amsterdam – Rotterdam away and SNCB 186198 (2806) then dropped into the station with the stock to form IC9216 0652 Amsterdam – Brussels Midi, closely followed by NS 186019 with the stock for ICD914 0655 Amsterdam – Breda. My morning of nedding between Amsterdam and Schiphol commenced with 186019 at 0655 and finished with NS 186015 arriving into Amsterdam with ICD917 0926 Breda – Amsterdam. Everything seemed to work pretty much like clockwork but for a little lateness here and there and the fact that ICD907 0656 Breda – Amsterdam was cancelled. There were only three none NS owned 186’s out on the Breda ICD’s though, 186236, 238 & 239 with all 4 Amsterdam – Rotterdam turns producing as per diagram with 186016/116, 186011/014, 186010/117 & 186018/112 and SNCB 186’s 186201 (2809) working IC9220 0752 Amsterdam – Brussels Midi and 186240 (2844) working IC9211 0545 Brussels Midi – Amsterdam. A good morning for my red pen it was too…….
Rather than disappear for the morning we opted to take a walk in search of breakfast and returned to the hotel with some nice fresh stuff from a bakery, after a McDonald’s breakfast! As we had to check out of the hotel by midday, and didn’t have anywhere to reside until we departed Amsterdam for Düsseldorf at 2031, we made the most of the room and literally checked out at 1200 on the dot, depositing our big bags in the hotel’s storage room as we did.
An amble to Anne Frank’s museum revealed queues than must have stretched for about 300m from the entrance and didn’t seem to be going down at all as we assessed the situation right outside the entrance; so as it began to rain we walked back towards town, hoping that the queues would be a lot smaller after 1700, as the had been the previous evening.
As we had little to no interest in doing anything more in Amsterdam, and were merely passing time before we departed that night, we decided to get on a train to Den Haag for lunch and what a cracking idea that turned out to be. SNCB 186205 (2813) led the way on IC9240 1252 Amsterdam – Brussels Midi and en-route ME Maps showed a few places right outside the station to eat at with the Phad Thai being our chosen place; where the menu’s were in English, the staff were great, the food excellent and tasty with the price-tag not being hiked like city centre food places. As a bonus there was a cracking WiFi signal throughout the place, which came in handy while we were passing the time of day.
After a nice meal we planned to head back to Amsterdam via Rotterdam, to complete the loop the long way round; which involved a slight detour back from Rotterdam to Den Haag when 186227 (2835), working IC9244 1352 Amsterdam – Brussels Midi, made the minus onto 186201 (2809) working IC9239 1245 Brussels Midi – Amsterdam at Rotterdam; which we did back to Den Haag for 186183 (2861) back to Rotterdam on IC9248 1452 Amsterdam – Brussels Midi. As I’d seen 186183 heading into Amsterdam as we departed on out way to Den Haag originally; I knew it should be heading back our way. Unfortunately 186213 (2821) was just departing Rotterdam as we arrived, with IC9243 1345 Brussels Midi – Amsterdam, so there was no bonus 186 at the second time of asking; there actually turned out to be two!
ICD1043 1609 Rotterdam – Amsterdam was cancelled for some reason so there were plenty of people waiting for ICD943 1557 Breda – Amsterdam when it rolled in, all having tapped their cards on the supplement scanner to allow them to do the Intercity Direct route before boarding; it was amazing how many only did it at the last minute as the train was arriving. 186239 was the nag for ICD943, which was on the turn that involved the cancelled ICD907 0656 Breda – Amsterdam that morning so must have been kicked out from Amsterdam starting with ICD924 0925 Amsterdam – Breda? As luck had it 186213 (2821), which we’d watched depart Rotterdam with IC9243 1345 Brussels Midi – Amsterdam, was sat in the tunnel outside Schiphol Airport as 186239 ran in with ICD943; it would have been very rude not to get off for it, and there wasn’t even any running about to be done either. Both trains ended up in Schiphol Airport at the same time and both were sat in Amsterdam Central, after arrival on platform 14, waiting to head out empties; with the ICD having been allowed to run into Amsterdam first, which seemed like a regular thing from Schiphol. Also sat in were 186122/186113 waiting to depart with ICD1056 1710 Amsterdam – Rotterdam. This explained the 1609 Rotterdam – Amsterdam being cancelled as this set had replaced 186010/186117, which had been on the diagram earlier in the day.
Expecting a smaller queue at Anne Frank’s museum after 1700 we took a stroll back there, only to find the queues no shorter at all so gave it up as a bad job and went in search of some bits and bobs to take with us overnight to have for breakfast the following morning as out overnight train wouldn’t get us to Warsaw until 1215 the following afternoon; it was a bit of an endurance as we couldn’t find anywhere suitable initially but we got there in the end! Our bags were retrieved from the Ibis storage room and we abused the waiting area for a while to re-pack them; before heading to the station to get some food before our lengthy journey to Warsaw commenced.
Having used the place before, which I still can’t remember the name of, there’s a pizza place in the main subway at Amsterdam Central station which rustled us up two great pizzas; which were better than most produced in Italian restaurants and are prepared freshly by the very friendly staff that work there.
As time allowed us to do so, 186122/186113 were done out to Schiphol with ICD1064 1910 Amsterdam – Rotterdam for 186225 (2833) back in with IC9255 1645 Brussels Midi – Amsterdam and we passed 186125 (2803) with IC9268 1952 Amsterdam – Brussels Midi on the approaches to Amsterdam; which left only one of the SNCB 28 turns unaccounted for that day.
186237 was soon along with the stock to form CNL419 2031 Amsterdam Central – München Hbf, the seating coaches of the IC60419 portion are right at the rear of; and were virtually empty on departure from Amsterdam. I was expecting a long walk to the front of the train at Emmerich to see what DB loco would replace NS’s 186237 but it wasn’t needed as we went sailing through! Last time I’d done the train with 186148 it had been replaced by a DB 120 at Emmerich but it seems the diagram must have changed in the last 12 months? Despite the lack of loco change at Emmerich CNL419 was 25 late by Duisburg Hbf, which put pay to any spin move towards Düsseldorf but thankfully it wasn’t late enough to warrant getting off and festering for our EN447 Köln Hbf – Warszawa Wschodnia; so through to Düsseldorf Hbf we went and were presented with DB 111150 working RE10143 2151 Aachen Hbf – Hamm Westbahnhof a few minutes after arriving. So back to Duisburg Hbf we went and DB 101076 arrived shortly afterwards with EN447.
As it was late we didn’t waste much time trying to get into our berths but sleep wasn’t something that came easily at all thanks to the PKP coach being in a bit or a rickety state with the connecting door between our compartment and the next rattling away nicely when the train started away; this had to be plugged with some tissues and needed a bag leant against it. Then as we picked up speed the bunks in the opposite side berth started to shake quite badly and it sounded like the coat hangers in the other compartment were rattling about in the small closet; what a fucking racket and even my earplugs didn’t give any respite from the crappy PKP coach. A very, very crap night’s sleep followed!
Gen for Tuesday 29th March 2016
NS Intercity Direct (As per NS Class 186 diagrams valid from 13/12/2015)
186238 – Day B1
186239 – Day B2
186119 – Day B3
186004 – Day B4 (had migrated to Day B5 by ICD948 1525 Amsterdam – Breda)
186019 – Day B6
186015 – Day B7
186114 – Day B8
186236 – Day B9
186016/186116 – Day R1/R2
186011/186014 – Day R3/R4
186010/186117 – Day R5/R6 (suspect up to ICD1035 1409 Rotterdam – Amsterdam as ICD1043 1609 Rotterdam – Amsterdam was caped)
186113/186122 – Day R5/R6 (from ICD1056 1710 Amsterdam – Rotterdam; return of caped ICD1043)
186018/186112 – Day R7/R8
186237 CNL419 2031 Amsterdam – München Hbf (to ??? went beyond Düsseldforf Hbf)
SNCB (Brussels – Amsterdam 186’s – as per SNCB 28 diagrams valid from 13/12/2015)
186240 (2844) – Day V1
186225 (2833) – Day V2
186125 (2803) – Day V4
186205 (2813) – Day V5
186198 (2806) – Day V6
186227 (2835) – Day V7
186201 (2809) – Day V8
186183 (2861) – Day V9
186213 (2821) – Day V10
101076 EN447 2131 Köln Hbf – Warszawa Wschodnia (to Berlin Wannsee)
101031 shunted stock onto EC42 at Berlin Wannsee
111150 RE10143 2151 Aachen Hbf – Hamm W’bf
Photos from Tuesday 29th March 2016:
Wednesday 30th March 2016 (An afternoon in Warsaw)
A stroke of luck had me heading to the toilet when EN447 was at Berlin Wannsee; it was the slow stagger, which felt like a shunt move that actually prompted me to get out of bed and investigate. What I found, disappointingly, was DB 101031 propelling us into the opposite platform to which we’d arrived and the stock was marshaled with the set that formed EC41 0637 Berlin Hbf – Warszawa Wschodnia in Wannsee station, before what I later found to be PKP 370005 took us forward, with both trains running combined through to destination.
After departing Berlin sleep didn’t seem to want to come back to me at all, although I did notice that the berths and hangers seemed to have stopped rattling at some point during the night; probably when the berths became occupied? It was probably about 0830 when we both gave up on sleep and spent the rest of the journey trying to get comfortable in the berth, which was about as easy as it had been to sleep overnight! Not one of the best overnight journeys I’d ever done and a definite note for the future to try and avoid PKP stock on overnights where possible!
We arrived into Poznan Glowny a little late but as EN447 was booked to stand there for 16 minutes it departed right time. I half expected it to follow TLK83106 0648 Szczecin Glowny – Prezmysl Glowny, which was due to depart first, but as EP07-1069 had only just been detached to run round when we arrived there was no danger of it getting in our way as we passed SU60-006 on our way out of the station. When I ended up on TLK83106, while spinning about in Warsaw later, EP07-1069 led the train with SU60-006 inside it, crewed and running! Quite where it was heading I don’t know.
When I’d first discussed going to Poland with someone I’d been told that it took time to get around the country as trains just staggered around the place at no great rate of knots at all; well EN447 wasted no time at all in getting to Warsaw and hammered along at a very respectable pace indeed, arriving into Warszawa Centralna a couple of minutes early.
We were booked into the Mercure Warszawa Centrum, which is almost immediately outside one side of Centralna station; but for a rather large shopping centre in-between the two, which sufficed for a quick snack at KFC on the way though it. The Mercure itself was of a way better standard than I’d expected and for three nights at a little over £100 it was a relative bargain. The room was very spacious, spotless and included decent toiletries and most importantly a kettle with tea/coffee making facilities. It was a shame we wouldn’t be enjoying as much as we’d have like to when we headed to Krakow the following morning. As I’d booked the Mercure in Warsaw, before realizing how long it would take to get to Krakow, I’d done so on a non-cancellable rate but as it was so cheap it didn’t really matter when I booked the Ibis in Krakow for the following night and at least it meant we could leave our big bags in Warsaw while we headed south.
A couple of hours of cranking in the early afternoon had me running around Warszawa Centralna like a headless chicken with my book being rather empty in Poland. Most of what produced featured the number 7 in the class although there were a few EP09’s about. Thanks to a bit of late running things went a lot better for me than they could have done. Everything viewed PKP IC-wise was as per the current train lists for the March timetable as regards train formations. A couple of hours sufficed to run the red pen down somewhat and by 1530 I was back at the hotel enjoying a much needed cuppa.
Later that evening it was almost 2 hours after we first arrived when we walked out of the Hard Rock Café; and I felt almost 2 stone heavier! The food was fantastic and the portions were definitely not light ones. We were ultimately beaten by our deserts but I highly recommend the twisted mac & cheese, despite the fact the waited told me it contained over 3000 calories when I’d finished it; which is more than the recommended daily intake for a male! Having had a three course meal, including drinks, the £36 bill seemed minuscule in comparison to what we’d eaten so not only was the food excellent, the atmosphere nice and the music right up my street, the cost made the visit well worth it.
A much needed slumber on the hotel bed followed the food marathon, which was disturbed somewhat by the racket coming from the rowdy lot in the next room. A complaint to the hotel reception almost had us changing rooms until I was told we’d be no better off as there was a large group arriving on that floor the following day. Thankfully the noise just stopped completely about an hour later and peace prevailed. Randomly the hotel staff said they couldn’t really do anything about the noise until after 2200, which was quite what I wanted to hear but they did eventually agree to ring the room and ask them to keep the noise down; whether that actually happened or not I don’t know. Either way, as we were exhausted after our crappy overnight and stuffed after our food marathon earlier, sleep seemed to come very easily that night; and apparently I even had a bit of a snoring thing going on within seconds of closing my eyes!
Gen for Wednesday 30th March 2016
370005 EN447 2313 (29/03) Koln Hbf – Warszawa Wschodnia (from Berlin Wansee)
EU07-324 EIC1702 1249 Warszawa Wschodnia – Poznan Glowny
EP09-022 EIC1623 0715 Wegliniec – Warszawa Wschodnia
EP07-537 TLK11105 1316 Warszawa Zachodnia – Terespol
EP09-027 EC112 1340 Warszawa Wschodnia – Praha Hlavni Nadrazi
EP07-1069 TLK83106 0648 Szczecin Glowny – Prezmysl Glowny
EP07-514 TLK19103 1400 Warszawa Wschodnia – Lodz Kaliska
EU07-325 TLK91105 1212 Lodz Kaliska – Warszawa Wschodnia
EP07-374 TLK38107 0746 Prezmysl Glowny – Szczecin Glowny
EP07-312 TLK81109 0620 Szczecin Glowny – Warszawa Wschodnia
EP09-030 TLK13111 1439 Warszawa Wschodnia – Krakow Glowny
EP09-025 EIC1804 1444 Warszawa Wschodnia – Szczecin Glowny
EP07-422 TLK10109 1446 Warszawa Zachodnia – Suwalki
EP07-411 TLK19159 1454 Warszawa Wschodnia – Lodz Kaliska
370010 EC43 0937 Berlin Hbf – Warszawa Wschodnia
Thursday 31st March 2016 (Krakow – Wieliczka Salt Mine)
It wasn’t an early start but we left plenty of time between leaving the hotel and our train’s departure from Warszawa Centralna to Krakow so we could muster up breakfast from somewhere on the way. Unfortunately the shopping centre was closed, although we did manage to get through the doors to it as someone walked out and were immediately thrown out by the security guard once we had. That left plans A & B completely out of the window and the only option we found for breakfast was a Paul’s bakery on the main station concourse; which was more than sufficient.
Despite having Interrail passes we had to make reservations on our train from Warsaw to Krakow, as is the case with all PKP Intercity trains throughout Poland. These were easily obtained in seconds at Warszawa Centralna, when we’d arrived the previous afternoon. Unfortunately though, once we’d boarded EIC1323 0849 Warszawa Wschodnia – Krakow Glowny it became apparent that out seats were one behind the other as opposed to side-by-side; with the seat numbers not being in any sensible order at all so it’s pretty much impossible to figure this out until you’ve boarded the train. We managed to swap seats with someone who boarded at Warszawa Zachodnia and PKP’s EP09-010 led the way to Krakow; with another of those slow PKP Intercity trains I’d been warned about! It’s booked to cover the 289km from Warszawa Zachodnia to Krakow Glowny, non-stop, in 2h23m; which is a very respectable average speed of 121kmph or 75mph. So not really that slow at all and there was no slowing down at all en-route, as we arrived into Krakow 5 minutes early!
Shopping Centre’s right outside station entrances in Poland seemed to be a “thing” as Krakow Glowny had one to negotiate as well at Warszawa Centralna. We were staying at the Ibis Stare Miasto (literally translated as Old Town), so naturally followed signs in the shopping centre for the Stare Miasto and ended up at completely the wrong end of it, to where the Ibis was, as a result. Despite the Stare Miasto nametag it was quite a way from it, although relatively close to the station; just in the wrong direction from the old town! It was a harmless walk though, and had we gone the right way first the sensible way to get to it is walk straight out of the station, through the subway, up onto the first floor of the shopping centre, straight out of the front doors and turning right. The red Ibis sign can be seen in the distance; beyond the end of the shopping centre.
The Ibis Stare Miasto and Ibis Budget are one in the same building and first impressions were good, with the reception being spotless and the reception staff very helpful. The room was better than the minuscule one we’d had in Amsterdam and was a bit more like you’d expect from an Ibis. We used the hotel restaurant to have a spot of lunch before we headed out for the afternoon and the food was very good and freshly prepared in the restaurant’s spotless open-plan kitchen.
The afternoon plan was to head out to the Wieliczka Salt Mine and I’d booked the tickets for their 1500 tour, with an English guide, online weeks previous at home. Train services out to Wieliczka Rynek-Kopalnia are operated by KML and their nice shiny new EMU’s run every 30 minutes from Krakow Airport to Wieliczka Rynek-Kopalnia, via Krakow Glowny. The station at Wieliczka Rynek-Kopalnia is the end of the line and as the trains arrive evidence of the Salt Mine can be seen.
Having ventured 135m into the earth it was good to get back to the surface and into the fresh air. Having collected our bags we headed back to Krakow on the same EMU we’d arrived on, with the same guard checking our tickets; who must have done two return trips to Krakow Airport since dropping us off earlier!
As we had time back in Krakow we took a walk into the old town, to the main square to briefly admire the St Mary’s Basilica before the sun disappeared for the day. It was busy so we didn’t hang around for long and took up residence in the rather empty The Mexican restaurant on Floriaknska, near the St Florian’s Gate. This place seems to get very poor reviews online but the service was good and food we had was tasty and spicy; and certainly didn’t have any complaints when we left to walk back to the hotel.
Having had a relatively relaxing day really we retired early as we had and early start and long day the following day; a day that should have provided the highlight of the trip when we visited Auschwitz.
Gen for Thursday 31st March 2016
EP09-010 EIC1323 0849 Warszawa Wschodnia – Krakow Glowny
Photos from Thursday 31st March 2016:
Friday 1st April 2016 (A Fool’s Day to visit Auschwitz……)
Breakfast was served in the Ibis from 0630 and we were downstairs, having checked out, waiting outside the locked restaurant doors for it to open at bang on 0630! By 0645 there were quite a lot of folk in the place and there was plenty of food to choose from so we didn’t go hungry for the morning.
Most people visiting Krakow do Auschwitz on an organized tour from the city but we were doing it on our own accord and opted for getting the train out to Oswiecim and surprisingly we weren’t the only two doing it either. Trains on the Oswiecim line are worked by old EN71 EMU’s and the 0739 departure from Krakow Glowny was wedged and standing on departure; it couldn’t have stopped in any worse a place for us as regards getting on and we ultimately ended up standing out of Krakow Glowny until the train almost completely emptied at Krakow Business Park and was virtually empty for the whole journey to Oswiecim.
Heading out to Oswiecim was a slow affair and was pretty much how I’d been expecting the Intercity trains to run after the conversations I’d had with people before my first venture to Poland; very slowly indeed. As we ambled through the countryside though, deeper into rural Poland, the drizzle that started made it feel like we were in Eastern Europe and it was a far cry from the impressions Krakow & Warsaw cities gave; which is one of prosperity and progression. The atmosphere outside would certainly add weight to a wander round Auschwitz, which I’d always envisaged to have a bleak and damp outlook even at the best of times, and once off the train we walked the 1.8km from the station to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial & Museum; in the morning drizzle.
Drenched we sought a bit of refuge by the museum entrance before going to the information kiosks, where upon presentation of our pre-booked tickets, we were given stickers with the time of our tour on and advised to head into the museum entrance to see the 15 minute movie prior to the tour commencing. While entrance to the memorial is free you can pay for the services of a guide and be included in a group tour; all of which is bookable online but computer displays show the amount of places remaining on group tours and what languages they are in; so they can be bought on the day if availability allows. From April 1st through the Summer, entry for individual tourists is not permitted after 1000 without going in with a tour guide so be sure to book your place if you don’t want to miss out.
Our initial attempt to get into the museum, through what seemed to be a bit of a free-for-all type queuing system in the car park, failed on two accounts, one we were 6 minutes too early to be allowed entry and two because my rucksack was too big to take into the site. The result of that was my rucksack being left in the left-luggage place on site, for which a charge of 3 zloty is made. As Danielle’s bag was within the size limits, just, she didn’t need to leave hers but her bag was ultimately the reason we said “fuck it” and walked away from the museum in disgust!
Entry for those on the 1030 tour was permitted at bang on 1000, which only transferred people from a queue in the car park to a queue to get through security. When we got to the front the security staff took their makeshift size chart to Danielle’s bag and randomly the guard checking it asked for a second opinion; his ignorant mate just took a look at it and dismissed it straight away, which prompted us to question why. When put down on the counter by the x-ray machines and measure it was clearly within the size limit but both guards proceeded to stretch it out and basically pulled it upwards until it was outside their measurements; and dismissed it again, despite our protests. The some ignorant bitch on the gates at the side of us told us “I don’t have time for this”; which basically meant fuck off; so we did! And there ended our tour of Auschwitz; before it had even started.
After collecting my bag from the left luggage, 5 minutes after paying my 3 zloty to deposit it, I attempted to get a refund on our tickets but was point blank refused in quite a rude manner as well; which pretty much summed up our Auschwitz experience. It was a miserable day, which as I say should have added to the Auschwitz experience, but all it did was dampen our spirits as we headed back to the station in the rain. This was the last day of our trip and had basically been spoilt by ignorant staff, of which the security staff would have been well suited to processing people into the site during WWII and not processing people into a memorial museum, who have chosen to attend the site and paid money to do so. It was a highly disappointing experience, involving arrogant and ignorant staff, with very little evidence of order or organization outside the entrance to the museum; and what’s more it had completely wasted a morning that could have been put to far better use in Krakow itself.
Unfortunately the next train out of Osweicim was over an hour after we got back to the station but at least it had a waiting room for us to attempt to dry off in and the booking office came in very handy to get some reservations back from Krakow to Warsaw on an earlier train while we waited. Again the wet and cold atmosphere, along with the utterly run-down look Oswiecim station had, gave a real sensation of how far east we were and more to the point just what conditions the poor people inside Auschwitz had to endure. The first heat we were treated to was when EMU EN71-007 dropped into the station to form the 1135 Osweicim – Trzebinia, which we’d figured out connected into a train forward to Krakow at Trzebinia. The guard on board the empty train managed to tell us in English that we had 7 minutes at Trzebinia and that the train forward to Krakow would depart from platform 2; which was very helpful of him and probably because I’d already filled our Interrail passes out for both journeys all the way back to Krakow.
The transfer at Trzebinia was relatively straightforward and we headed for the only platform that had people waiting on it. Soon enough a shiny new EN63 EMU rolled up with the 1127 Katowice – Krakow Glowny service, which was very cramped inside and had less legroom than Class 170’s in the UK! The journey would have been better on the ancient EN71 EMU we’d just got off, without all the mod-cons of on-board TV screens and air-conditioning. Still it delivered us back to Krakow on time so we had no complaints.
After a quick meal from KFC in the shopping centre I’d managed to figure out from the EU Rail app that there were a couple of PKP IC trains that could be done, both of which involved EMU’s to and from; which actually turned out to be the same KML EMU but the moves to Krakow Plaszow involving EU07-244 working IC37102 1030 Przemysl Glowny – Krakow Glowny and EU07-052 working IC73103 1414 Krakow Glowny – Przemysl Glowny worked a treat.
As booked our reservations for EIC3522 1433 Krakow Glowny – Gdynia Glowna, to Warszawa Centralna, weren’t together but as the train wasn’t full there was no issue and as it was right away to Zachodnia from Krakow it was even less hassle than it could have been. Despite being brought to a stand on the outskirts of Warsaw EP09-003 still delivered us bang on time into Warszawa Centralna; where Danielle went back to the hotel to deal with some trip advisor write-ups and I played out for a bit.
It turned out to be another two hours of running round like a headless chicken; again with a bit of lateness being to my advantage. As per the previous evening most locos I had featured the number 7 but only one EU07, EU07-305, graced Warszawa with its presence during my nedding about. The afternoon completed itself nicely with two EP08’s following each other; EP08-009 with IC16107 1824 Warszawa Wschodnia – Wroclaw and EP08-011 1839 Warszawa Wschodnia – Krakow, before I ended up on 370008 back into Centralna with a late running EC130 0822 Budapest Keleti – Warszawa Wschodnia.
With no plans for dinner we couldn’t quite resist a return visit to the Warsaw Hard Rock Café, which was a lot fuller than it had been on our previous visit but the waiter serving us remembered us and the food he brought out was just as good as it had ben two nights previous. The unfortunate events and situation from the morning’s escapades did feature in our topic of conversation that evening but rather than dwell on the fact we enjoyed our last evening away and discussed the better points of the trip instead. It had seemed to be a very strange trip indeed, with more disappointments than anything else but either way we’d enjoyed it and had plenty to talk about when we got home; all we had to look forward to at this point though was packing our bags when we got back to the hotel room.
Having already checked in for our British Airways flight home, using PKP’s WiFi on board the train from Krakow to Warsaw, there was nothing left to do other than get up the following morning and head to the airport; and back to the grind at home.
Gen for Friday 1st April 2016
EU07-224 IC37102 1030 Przemysl Glowny – Krakow Glowny
EU07-052 IC73103 1414 Krakow Glowny – Przemysl Glowny
EP09-003 EIC3522 1433 Krakow Glowny – Gdynia Glowna
EP07-1010 EIC1323 1644 Warszawa Wschodnia – Krakow Glowny
EP07-382 TLK4521 1413 Katowice – Warszawa Wschodnia
EU07-305 TLK15113 1714 Warszawa Wschodnia – Bydgoszcz Glowna
EP09-006 TLK81107 1135 Szczecin Glowny – Warszawa Wschodnia
EP09-021 EIC110 1739 Warszawa Wschodnia – Ostrava Suinov
EP07-385 TLK53107 1408 Bydgoszcz Glowna – Przemysl Glowny
EP07-347 TLK19105 1754 Warszawa Wschodnia – Lodz Kaliska
EP07-408 TLK91107 1613 Lodz Kaliska – Warszawa Wschodnia
EP07-135 TLK38105 1300 Rzeszow Glowny – Pila Glowna
EP07-332 EC10 xxxx Warszawa Zachodnia – Moskova Belorusskaja
EP08-009 IC16107 1824 Warszawa Wschodnia – Wroclaw Glowny
EP08-011 EIC1327 1839 Warszawa Wschodnia – Krakow Glowny
370008 EC130 0822 Budapest Keleti – Warszawa Wschodnia
Photos from Friday 1st April 2016:
Saturday 2nd April 2016 (A delayed journey home)
With a bit of time to spare in the morning, before we needed to be airport bound, it would have been rude not to use it wisely and as there were a few loco-hauled trains about, an hour revealed three EP07’s and three EP09’s in my book, before we headed out from Warszawa Zachodnia to the airport aboard SKM’s 0853 Sulejowek Milosna – Warszawa Lotnisko Chopina; with airport bound services being every 30 minutes from Centralna and even more frequent from Wschodnia and Zachodnia there really were plenty of trains to choose from.
There was hardly anyone going through security when we arrived, which might, or might not of course, explain why the security staff wanted everything electrical out of my bag and in the trays. Which basically was everything but my clothes and I ended up having my stuff spread across three trays as it went through the x-ray machines; I might as well not have bothered packing at all the previous night and it seems the security staff on our particular set of desks may well have been to the same training school as those at the Auschwitz Memorial had!
With only just over an hour until our 1150 flight to Heathrow departed everything looked ok, until an announcement 30 minutes before departure advised everyone that the plane was delayed and a further update would be given 30 minutes later. We eventually found out, from the pilot himself, that when he’d landed the No.2 engine had stuck in reverse; which would prevent him taking off. Fitters had been called and were working to rectify the problem but they couldn’t give the pilot an estimate. A look out of the window, towards the plane a short while later, revealed a few fitters looking over the faulty engine, which had both doors fully open and another fitter basically inside it trying to find the problem.
The result of the problem was 1h50m late departure from Warsaw, which followed a bit of a free-for-all when it came to boarding; which had no decorum to it at all as a result of the plane’s late boarding. Despite the lengthy delay we were on stand at Heathrow only 55 minutes late, which was unfortunately late enough for us to miss the 1603 from Kings Cross back to Doncaster but as a result of the late arrival we dropped nicely into the 1703 & 1710 departures north; which were 91103 & 91110 respectively. So 91110 it was on 1F90 1710 Kings Cross – Leeds, which was randomly not stopping at Wakefield! I’d half expected a bit of an issue with our Interrail tickets on the way home as the new rule of using them for two journeys in your own country had only recently taken effect; yet one of Kings Cross’s finest, Osmond Khatri, didn’t blink an eyelid when the Interrail’s were produced so a nice relaxing journey it was; as the fastest Class 91 in the west delivered us home to Doncaster. Which is a fact by the way after it reached 162mph back in 1989 on Stoke Bank; there’s even a plaque on the side to commemorate the fact!
Gen for Saturday 2nd April 2016
EP07-395 TLK11113 0515 Terespol – Warszawa Zachodnia
EP09-005 TLK71103 0512 Poznan Glowny – Warszawa Wschodnia
EP09-008 EIC1323 0849 Warszawa Wschodnia – Krakow Glowny
EP07-435 TLK11016 0601 Terespol – Warszawa Zachodnia
EP09-011 IC31114 0513 Krakow Plaszow – Terespol
EP07-1047 TLK51108 0434 Gdynia Glowna – Warszawa Zachodnia