There were many lovely things about Poland, including Wroclaw and our couch surfing host in Warsaw. However, my last memory of it is one of a ridiculous, irrational and often inaccessible transport system. So that is what this blog will be about. Feel free to save yourself for our next blog if you don’t fancy a rant about the Polish transport system.

Let’s start where we started: the always-constant battle between cars and pedestrians, which in Poland the cars are seriously winning. As a pedestrian you are not allowed to cross the road unless there is a ‘green person’ allowing you to. In other words, jaywalking is illegal. On its own this is highly annoying, but my temper was further enhanced by the fact that cars are allowed to skip traffic lights so long as there aren’t people crossing. Not even about to cross, but actually crossing. Basically, this translates as ‘cars have absolute rights’, while pedestrians have very few if any. This of course ends up placing the power even more firmly in the hands of drivers, with pedestrians increasingly marginalised and made second class. A driver can’t generally be blamed for running an individual over, because the individual shouldn’t have been crossing the road in the first place. All power to the car!

On top of this, bicycles are allowed to cycle on the pavement, which while not nearly as annoying as the cars, isn’t hugely convient. But given the state of driving in Poland (and also the state of the pothole-riddled, rickety roads themselves), you begin to understand it…

Then there is the trams. Even before you board the tram you encounter the problem that there is nowhere to buy your ticket. The best method I found to work out where the ticket place would be was to think of every rational place to put the ticket booth and then look somewhere else. That normally worked. Once you had your ticket and were waiting for the tram, you then had to run, often across a road, for the tram as the drivers seemed to make a point of not stopping at the station. Finally, if you ever made it onto the tram, you had the bizarre situation of noticing that there was enough space down the middle of the tram to let a wheel barrow with a really fat person in it pass, but there is virtually no seating on either side. There were only single seats down the side and so logically the vast majority of people had to stand.

All of this was topped by utter irrationality of the train stations. Despite all the aesthetic flaws of Soviet architecture, one thing that normally could be said for them was that the buildings were highly functional. Clearly no-one told this to the person who designed the Polish train stations. Instead, the designer scores full marks in highlighting the bureaucracy of the Soviet system. There was no main hall, central departure/arrival board or as there are in virtually every other European country, nor for that matter any signs. Instead there is just a maze of platforms. Buying tickets is no easier. For each different type of journey you have to go to a different ticket office. In other words, each different private company has its own ticket office. Plus, once  you’re finally on the train, I recommend that you bring a good and long read. Our journey from Warsaw to Vilnius is just over 450km, yet took us…wait for it…10 hours. This is an average of 45km/h (about 30mph)!

I think that is my rant over for now.

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