One of the things I love about travel is, well, the travel, the actual getting on and off of a variety of transportation devices. There’s such a sense of excitement and anticipation in the build-up to the moment when it (the moving thing) begins to pull away from the gate. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Planes are probably my least favorite (and getting less so) mode due to the hassles of security and the intense compression of space combined with the seemingly endless duration of time. But I have to give a shout out to the good folks at Turkish Airlines, who make the process about as bearable as possible for those of us who chose to fly economy class. While I have flown them for both short (~ three hours) and long (~10 hours) hauls, their true hospitality shines through on the transatlantic flights.
Turkish has kept in play in economy class many of the amenities that we used to see on American carriers – pillows, blankets, slippers, toilet kits, free movies. But just wait – the best part is the food. Hot, delicious, healthy, beautifully presented food, loads of it, served on real plates with real metal utensils, booze if you want it, and then times two. For.free. With choices of low salt/vegetarian/Hindu/and a bunch of others I don’t even remember. Be still my beating heart.
Next up are trains, which will always have a special place in my heart due to the association I have with my first European jaunt complete with Eurail pass and Youth Hostel card. (Remember those?) So, although most of my Polish trip is on Polskibus (more about that in a moment), I did plan one grand trip at the end on Deutsche Bundesbahn, and so I went to the Berlin Hofbahnhof to secure a ticket.
Okay, you purists, this is the S-bahn (light rail), not the real train itself. But doesn’t it just get your blood pumping to see the high curved ceiling and the welcome sign? Can’t you just hear the three-toned bell piped throughout the edifice with the sonorous and unintelligible German voice announcing the arrival or departure or delay of some train or other? Isn’t the sense of adventure and romance palpable? Well, it certainly is for me.
That being said, this trip I’m saving money on transport and spending it on hotels, which, as I get older, are more important due to the quality of the beds. So. I did a little research and learned about Polskibus, the new economy bus company in Poland which is similar to Bolt Bus in the Northeastern and Northwestern corridors of the US. It’s really really cheap and really really handy. All you do is go online, book your itinerary, print out your ticket, and show up at the right time in the right place and go. Prices are based on how far in advance you plan and the popularity of the route. My entire trip around Poland is costing me less than $25. Yup. The trip I took yesterday from Wroclaw to Krakow (and I’ll tell you about Wroclaw in the next post) cost 5 zloti, about $1.25. One dollar and twenty-five cents for a three-hour bus trip complete with cookies and apple juice. It cost me three times that to take a taxi from the bus station to my hotel. It’s nothing short of a miracle. So here’s a shot of my first Polskibus leaving from Berlin to Wroclaw this past Monday:
Before you snort coffee out your nose, just remember that red and white are the national colors of Poland and, well, yes, the rest of it is just loud, but it makes it easy to spot in the dreary grey bus stations.
So, the first bus trip from Berlin to Wroclaw was about four and a half hours and took us through the countryside that was rather flat, so no great scenery to report (although quite a few windmill farms, which was good to see). The only good shot of the trip was this ad that I spotted as we headed out of town. Who knew Mongolia had a marketing department? Certainly not I. But here’s proof:
All right, I’ve played you long enough. Next post I’ll start telling you about my Polish adventures for real. It’s a fascinating place to be sure and I’m thrilled to have the chance to learn more about it. Stay tuned.