How to use the train in Poland: 10 tips to help you.

Map of main train connections in Poland. Courtesy of Eurail.com

Map of main train connections in Poland. Courtesy of Eurail.com

In a week from now, I will be on my way to the Baltic Sea in Poland.

POLAND.

Our destination?

A little fishing village at the Polish Baltic Sea.

Catching a fish on the Polish Baltic Sea.

Catching a fish on the Polish Baltic Sea.

In order to get to the lovely little village called Leba, I have to get to another town called Lebork.

It scares the hell out of some people, and why?

It’s a place unknown that’s why.

In Europe.

In the East.

However, I’m here to tell you that it can be done and you won’t get kidnapped along the way!

Yeah well, no promises on the Bogus Bus!

Yeah well, no promises on the Bogus Bus!

Depending on where you are coming from, you need to:

1.  Get a ticket: If you’re flying, international airports in Poland are in Warszawa (Warsaw), Kraków, Wrocław, and Poznań. If you’re taking the international train, they generally connect to Warsaw however, if you’re coming from Berlin like I am, then Szczecin (Stettin) on the German-Polish border is your bet.

Will these "tickets" do?

Will these “tickets” do?

2.  Check online for best routes: The train company in Poland is called “Polskie Koleje Panstwowe” or PKP. They have a website which you can access here for routes. You can check out the details but you can’t buy a local ticket online only a Eurail ticket which you can buy with a credit card. For more info on that check here.

3.  Do your research: I live in Berlin and the Polish border is just under two hours away as such, there are discount prices from the German Railway Service known as Deutsche Bahn or DB. You can get a one-way single ticket from Berlin to Stettin for €10.00. Reduced tickets for €7.50. If you want to make a day of it, a day ticket would be €20.00 and €15.00 respectively. You could use it for every local transport in Stettin and the ticket is valid until 03:00 the next day!

Do your research. We wanted to go from Gdansk Glowny to Lebork!

Do your research. We wanted to go from Gdansk Glowny to Lebork!

Or you could get the German Regional tickets also known as the Länder-Tickets. These are fantastic bargains as the Berlin-Brandenburg regional one day ticket is only €29.00 and can be used by up to 5 people! That’s right. 5 people can travel on this ticket and they don’t have to be related! This ticket is valid from 09:00 to 03:00 the following day, and on the trams and buses in Stettin, and can be used to get to the Polish border. You sometimes see people hustling for ticket holders in Stettin ‘cos if you have 5 people travelling together that’s €5.00 each. A bargain if ever I saw one! You can get this ticket from Deutsche Bahn online. For more information check here.

4.  In fact, if you are in Germany, why not hop to some of our neighbouring countries too. It might take you a while, but you can take the train from Berlin to London for as little as €59.00, to Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Italy, Denmark, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia, and of course, Poland for as little as €39.00 per single ticket or one way trip! For more information check here.

Keep an eye out for bargains! Leba, Poland.

Keep an eye out for bargains!
Leba, Poland.

On German Deutsche Bahn trains, children under 15 years old travelling with their relatives, are free. On Polish trains only children under 6 years old travel free. This is a bit of a dilemma as “The Tall Young Gentleman” has just turned 12 and looks 14!

On talking to a Polish student of mine, it’s possible to pay for tickets ON the Polish train or at the border. However, our connecting train leaves in exactly 11 minutes which just gives us enough time to get off the German train, get on and run over the bridge, in order to run down into the Polish train.

So really, not a lot of time!

We’re also taking our train on Easter Monday. A large number of Polish people are religious and will be going “home” so not a good time to wing things and see what happens either…!

Or you could sing for your dinner in Poland!

Or you could sing for your dinner in Poland!

5.  Check all alternatives: The other alternative is not to take the single ticket from Berlin to Stettin and take our chances on the train, but to actually get the ticket and buy it from Deutsche Bahn. It’s more expensive but it does the job and gets us on the train at the time and day that we actually want to be on it.

As an international train route, the Polish train company (PKP) insisted on paid reserved seating so tickets could not be printed online. In fact, the price was unavailable online at the time, so I made a reservation enquiry instead. Deutsche Bahn responded quite quickly with the details.

A one-way ticket from Berlin Hbf (Main train station) or Berlin Gesunbrunnen arriving at Lebork in Poland, would be €60.10 for 1 adult. Children are free. The administrated ticket would be posted to my home at a cost of €3.50. Paid reserved seating for TWO people on the seats that I requested would be €4.50 each and so the cost would be €72.60 or $100.80 for a journey between two countries to the sea. On the return journey, I will be buying our train tickets in Poland and paying in zloty.

If all else fails....use alternative transport!

If all else fails….use alternative transport!

6.  Take some refreshments with you: From Berlin, you take the Regional Train to the Polish border and no refreshments are sold on the train. The train that we will be taking from Stettin is also a Regional Train and the station is a tiny little thing.

Generally, you get out of the super-clean-fast-efficient-modern Deutsche Bahn train. You grab your stuff and make a run for it. You run onto the platform, go up the bridge dragging your stuff and laptop with you, run across the bridge and drag all your stuff and laptop down again. You then check which one of the two small trains is actually yours.

Perhaps, a paid reservation is actually a good thing as I remember that the last time we went to the Polish Baltic Sea, we found a compartment that was empty and private and with only one person in it.

At first.

By the time we got to the next train stop all hell let loose, and the train got so crowded and cramped that people were sitting on their bags and suitcases in the hallway and corridors, and there was no room to move. The train was delayed for about almost an hour and more delays continued, such that I lost my orientation and we missed our stop.

Oh, about 20 minutes ago!

People rushing on the Polish train.

People rushing on the Polish train.

7.  If you miss your train stop, don’t panic: I realized that we had missed the stop as the countryside scene that was I expecting did not show up on my horizon. Hmm.

I couldn’t really look outside the window as the window was blocked with passengers in the corridor, I couldn’t check the train map that you normally see in the corridors as I couldn’t get to the corridor and I didn’t have an iPhone in those days.

A girl in her early 20’s noticed that I kept attempting to leave the compartment. She confirmed that I had missed our stop.

OK. I’ll get off at the next stop.

Oh, I’ve missed that too and the train is now going East further into Poland whereas I was supposed to be going to the sea which was in the West!

8.  Talk to the locals: My fellow travellers were very helpful and we spoke in a mixture of Russian and Polish. Even though I don’t speak Russian and my Polish is very basic to the point of only 2 or 3 words, they finally understood what I was asking! They helped us get off at the next available stop.

I asked every train official as to the next train back to Lebork and they all said that the next train would leave in 2.5 hours.

Not good. At all.

I really couldn’t wait that long and there were no inter-town buses available moreover, it was close to 16:00 and I didn’t want to be at a strange train station, with luggage and a young child at the time, in the evening.

Talk to the Polish local people.

Talk to the Polish local people.

9.  Use your head if it all goes bananas: The train officials weren’t really very helpful and pointed at contrasting directions so I decided to look around the station and other platforms and lo and behold, the connecting train that I wanted was still ON THE PLATFORM! I checked and double-checked that it was indeed the right train, then we hopped on.

I so bugged the inspector as per how many stops we had left and what time we were expected to get to Lebork as there are no announcements and no indicators. It was a case of watching each and every stop…. 75 minutes later, we were there.

In Lebork. Going towards Leba.

Leba train station, Poland

Leba train station, Poland

10.  Take the bus: Our connecting train had already departed and other trains were leaving once an hour with the next train departing at only 18:06. Outside the train station at Lebork are lots of mini-buses. Tell the driver where you are going as the inter-town buses ply all around the station.

Our mini-bus journey from Lebork to Leba took just 30 minutes and cost 5.20 PLN /Zloty or a fabulous price of €1.25 or $1.70.

Taking the Polish mini-bus on the Leba-Lebork route.

Taking the Polish mini-bus on the Leba-Lebork route.

The Polish state railway company is called Polskie Koleje Panstwowe or PKP. For more information please contact: PKP.

For more information on travelling in Poland with a the Eurail pass, please contact: Eurail Poland Pass.

For travelling around or from Germany, please contact: Deutsche Bahn.

This article is not sponsored and all opinions are my very own. Next week I’ll be writing about the food of Poland, so watch this space!

Have you ever used the train or bus in Poland? Would you try it out? Have you ever used public transport in a foreign country? What are your stories? Spill the beans!

Relaxing on the Polish train.

Relaxing on the Polish train.

If you like this post.

Share it!

 

Going to Poland: 10 reasons not to go!

The Vistula River in Gdansk / Danzig.

The Vistula River in Gdansk / Danzig.

In a few weeks time I’ll be on the road again. The fact that I live in Germany means that I have pretty easy access to other European countries nearby, and isn’t that a wonderful thing. The fact that I live in Berlin means that you can also get out there and do stuff!

So in order to put that into action I’m going to be on the road to Poland.

Now I really like Poland and so does “The Tall Young Gentleman” since he’s a chip off the old block and all that, but “The Music Producer” aka my husband, not so much.

However, a lot of people don’t really know a lot about Poland, have stereotypical thoughts of people queuing for bread, or are scared because Poland was a country locked behind the Iron Curtain and is therefore, shock and awe – a card-wearing member of the Eastern Bloc and therefore, Eastern Europe!

The old city of Gdansk / Danzig.

The old city of Gdansk / Danzig.

Well, if you want to visit Poland you had better brace yourself as I’m going to tell you 10 reasons why you shouldn’t bother!

1.  Poland is a large country: If you’re looking for an island that is small and quaint, then don’t bother.

Poland is one of the largest European countries surrounded by an interesting mix of Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Lithuania, Belarus, the Ukraine and Russia, It’s in the middle of the continent and is rather more Central Europe than Eastern Europe.

2.  Poland has too many aspects to it: If you’re looking for just the beach or just the mountains then you’ve come to the wrong place: Poland is a wonderful blend of beaches, lakes, forests, mountains, and interesting cities with lots of history. Quite like Germany in fact!

At the opera in Krakow. Courtesy of krakow.pl

At the opera in Krakow. Courtesy of krakow.pl

3.  Poland is cheap: If you want the 5-star treatment at 5-star prices then go to Japan. I know that Berlin has modest prices but prices in Poland are even, dare I say it. Cheaper.

If you’re looking for a bit of an adventure and the budget is not as much as you would have liked, then you could do worse than to go to Poland.

Horse-riding in Poland.

Horse-riding in Poland.

4.  Polish food is going to knock you for six or perhaps even for seven: If you’re looking for pizza and chips then stay at home. If you are willing to experiment, then exotic items like zurek (soup made from sour rye flour and pieces of varied meat) and pierogi (a type of dumpling) is there for the taking.

Even Poland has kebab; albeit Polish style!

Even Poland has kebab; albeit Polish style!

5.  Poland is an old country: If you’re looking for clean lines, modern buildings made of glass and skyscrapers every 2nd street, then you must have mistaken Poland for Hong Kong.

Poland is an ancient country with over 1,000 years of history so of course, things are going to be old. The churches and synagogues are old. The castles are old. Even the cobbled streets are old. Rather annoying if you want to zip down the street with the latest sports car.

Szczecin / Stettin and some of the 17th century historical houses.

Szczecin / Stettin and some of the 17th century historical houses.

6.  Poland is traditional: Forget the hordes of drunken stag night drinkers. There are kids and senior citizens everywhere and lots and lots of churches that people actually go to on a Sunday. So please don’t vomit on the church steps. Tradition and family values are still pretty important in this country and if you can’t deal with the bash on the head and a huge shove by an old woman, don’t go there.

Witches and cake in Leba, Poland!

Witches and cake in Leba, Poland!

7.  Be ready and prepared for anything: Poland might be a country that has existed for thousands of years but in modern terms, it’s still pretty “new” and as a result, things can be slightly.

Unpredictable.

If you’re looking for certainty and boredom, then Poland is not the place for you. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve missed my bus stop or even taken the wrong train, but if you can’t stand taking a chance and working with the outcome, then book the next extremely swift train with excellent service, to Switzerland!

On the train to Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic.

On the train to Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic.

8.  Tourist friendly: Well not really. Poland has loads of little towns that are not really packed with tourists. Some Americans. Some Germans.

Yes alright, but hardly what you would call, the holiday package group. I mean when did you last hear of friends taking a package holiday to Poland?

So if you are into that, Spain is rather pleasant at this time of year.

Tourists and travellers who do venture into Poland take either high standard hotels or decide to live with the locals which generally means a hostel or living with the family – pension / B&B style. I wouldn’t recommend a “package.”

This is how they welcome tourists in Szczecin / Stettin, Poland by putting them in stocks!

This is how they welcome tourists in Szczecin / Stettin, Poland by putting them in stocks!

9.  People use public transport: OMG. Get me out of here ‘cos I have to use the scenic train and horror of horrors, the bus. Packed with local people who. Talk. To. You. and Help. You. With. Your. Bags. How can that be?

If you don’t want local interaction and prefer to be on your lonesome, please don’t go to Poland.

It’s insane.

The people are quite friendly. Some even take photographs of you!

The old train station turned holiday home, at Leba in Poland.

The old train station turned holiday home, at Leba in Poland.

10.  City destinations: With a delicious mix of variety such as Krakow, Wroclaw, Gdansk (Danzig), Lodz, Warsaw or Poznan that include old style flavour and modern interests, Poland is not the place if you’re on the search for the glamour of Vegas or the romance of Paris, and if you’re expecting a pack of howling hounds and beggars with bowls of soup outside your hotel door, you’ll be disappointed. 

OK.

Perhaps, just the once! 

The people are not really starving but they were handing out bread in Krakow! Courtesy of krakow.pl

The people are not really starving but they were handing out bread in Krakow! Courtesy of krakow.pl

But what do we know about Poland anyway?

Whenever I say that I’m going to Poland, my German friends look at me as if I’ve gone mad. Let me correct that.

My West German friends look at me as if I’ve lost my marbles.

The relationship between Poland and Germany can be quite complicated. There’s the historical closeness in the first instance and the issue of where the German border ends and the Polish border begins. There is also the awful fact that Poland has the worst and most horrifying Jewish concentration camp in the history of Nazi Germany – Auschwitz. In fact, my friends advice me to go to Italy instead!

A black and white potrait of the sufferings of the concentration camps at  Auschwitz. Courtesy of the Collections of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.

A black and white potrait of the sufferings of the concentration camps at Auschwitz.
Courtesy of the Collections of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.

Well, Poland is the 9th largest country in Europe and has a population of roughly 38 million people. Even though Poland is part of the European Union, the country hasn’t yet made the switch to the Euro and uses it’s own currency of the zloty. As of now, €10.00 is PLN 41.63 (Polish Zloty) and $10.00 is PLN 30.38 (Polish Zloty).

Poland is said to be in existence from around the year 800 and although the people are of Slavic origins they are also a blend of German, Ukrainian, Russian and Jewish ethnicity. Territory, boundary and issues of property are still very prickly topics of which there is much unhappiness, anger, development and discussion.

Part of the Old Town in Gdansk / Danzig.

Part of the Old Town in Gdansk / Danzig.

Things are however changing in Poland as in 2004, exactly ten years ago, 10 new countries including the Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Poland, were welcomed into the fold and enlargement of the European Union (EU). Since then, the European labour market has opened to Poland and many local people unfortunately, left their homelands to the more economically prosperous countries like my original homeland of Great Britain, and of course to my new home, Germany.

Looking out towards the Polish Baltic Sea near Denmark!

Looking out towards the Polish Baltic Sea near Denmark!

Poland is in a most important location of Europe surrounded by East and West and the transit route of the Baltic Sea, and that is where I will be going from April 21st. I will be in Poland for a little less than a week and we will be taking the train from Germany.

Follow my journey as I show you how easy and exciting it is to go to the area of Pomerania where the largest castle in the world resides – Malbork Castle – and where the sand dunes move at the Slowinski National Park. That place in the Slavic language known as the “Land at the Sea.”

Dawn at a fishing village on the Polish Baltic Sea.

Dawn at a fishing village on the Polish Baltic Sea.

This article is not sponsored and all opinions are my very own. I’ll also be writing about the transport, activities and food of Poland, so watch this space!

I have been to Poland many times, but what about you? Have you ever considered going to Poland? Would you try it out? Have you ever been to Eastern or Central Europe? How did you travel there?

Laughing on the Baltic Sea in Poland.

Laughing on the Baltic Sea in Poland.

If you like this post.

Share it!

How I watched basketball for the 1st time. Ever. And I liked it: The Original Harlem Globetrotters.

 

It's not Berlin but a street cafe in Beverly Hills!

It’s not Berlin but a street cafe in Beverly Hills!

Living in Berlin is brilliant! At the beginning of the year I told you that it was time to get out and do stuff. I did some public reading and sweating at bookshops and I went Carnival in Cologne. I went to the ITB, Berlin and learnt a whole bunch of stuff and I insisted on telling you how to be British and Great! and now I went to a basketball match for the first time. Ever.

My goodness. I’ve been busy!

So, who are The Original Harlem Globetrotters?

Harlem Globetrotters courtesy of cub scout pack 4020 - Basketball.

Harlem Globetrotters courtesy of cub scout pack 4020 – Basketball.

The Harlem Globetrotters are a basketball franchise legend. They began dazzling America in 1926 and were originally known as the Savoy Big Five. In 1941, the Globetrotters took on an amazing player called Reece “Goose” Tatum. This guy brought and developed comedy moves into the game, and their road to international acclaim was assured. By 1961, The Harlem Globetrotters were on the cover of “Life Magazine” and were breaking records in an America that was complicated by racial divide. By 1950, the Globetrotters were the first team to play basketball in Europe and “release” the first person of colour to contractually play in the NBA. His name was Nathaniel “Sweetwater” Clifton.

In 1959, The Harlem Globetrotters sold-out in the then USSR and met Pope John XXIII. Since then, they have been touring world nations and breaking down cultural and social barriers with their ball wizardry, artistic tendencies and good all-round tradition of family entertainment.

The Harlem Globetrotters are coming to Germany! Courtesy of The Harlem Globetrotters - Basketball.

The Harlem Globetrotters are coming to Germany! Courtesy of The Harlem Globetrotters – Basketball.

I even remember a Saturday morning cartoon TV programme that they used to have when I was a little girl. Even though we didn’t know a thing about basketball, we were suitably impressed.

The idea to watch the game came from the American Boy Scouts. If you can recall I mentioned that one of the benefits of being an expat is joining other expats and even though I was the only British person, we were fully involved, as the Boy Scouts had a job to do. They were going to flag and parade the Harlem Globetrotters in!

Excited American Scouts!

Excited American Scouts!

I mean, what an honour!

And so yours truely was able to get a close-up of the basket ball players and take lots of lovely photos and videos. We even had a section reserved for our group, family and friends. Unfortunately, quite a few photos were a bit of a blur with the fast-paceness of the game n’all, but you get the picture!

Press & Family Only!

Press & Family Only!

The Harlem Globetrotters basketball game is not really a competitive event but a means of entertainment and a way to spread the basketball word to novices such as myself, and to lovers of the game, such as overseas American folk.

The game was located in “the other” Berlin sports auditorium of which there are two. The Olympia stadium in West Berlin of Jessie Owens fame in 1936, and the Max-Schmeling-Halle of East Berlin. The location was great because I live in the gentrified old Jewish quarter of that very same area of East Berlin.

The game started with a warm up by the mascot who was a blue ball-like creature. This mascot was a merry fellow and proceeded to dance into the crowd, jump onto the seats and generally pull people out in order to take iphone selfies and play the adult version of musical chairs. The kids loved it. Even the adults were not averse to a few mascot shots of fame.

The Harlem Globetrotter Mascot - Basketball.

The Harlem Globetrotter Mascot – Basketball.

Once the Boy Scouts paraded the players in and all the little children could try their hand at dunking, the game could begin. I could tell that “The Tall Young Gentleman” wanted to get in the queue too but apparently, that wouldn’t be cool. The 16 year and 17 year old boys behind me also had desire in their eyes but no way were they going to surround themselves with babies.

"Moose". The Harlem Globetrotters & Basketball.

“Moose”. The Harlem Globetrotters & Basketball.

In public.

And with mother in tow.

A scandal!

I was astonished because the game began with the players jingling around and twerking and giving the referee merry hell. Don’t ask me about the rules and scoring system because I truely haven’t got a clue! All I can tell you is that as we were sitting 3rd row from the front, the aim of the game seemed to be to dunk the ball into the net in as flamboyant a way as possible.

"Firefly" Fisher: The Harlem Globetrotters - Basketball.

“Firefly” Fisher: The Harlem Globetrotters – Basketball.

Being that I had never watched a basketball game before, I actually thought that the running around in slow motion, making moves in a flashback manner, swinging, jumping, standing and sitting in the net, was the real deal! It was only after my jaw hung open when I saw what I thought was the ball “flying” in the air for an enormous amount of time, that the penny dropped, and I realised that the ball had been swooped for a plastic airball, the type that you find at the amusement fairground.

"Ant" Atkinson. Harlem Globetrotters - Basketball.

“Ant” Atkinson. Harlem Globetrotters – Basketball.

I’m gullible like that sometimes!

We went All-American and stuffed ourselves with popcorn, cola, nachos, and beer, at surprisingly cheap prices. I mean, where can you find popcorn for €1.50 or $2.00? Admittedly, the drinks were “middle class” prices though but that was perfectly alright!

Popcorn and stuff at the Harlem Globetrotters - Basketball.

Popcorn and stuff at the Harlem Globetrotters – Basketball.

We really had a great time and The Harlem Globetrotters encouraged the audience to take part by taking handbags from people, throwing water at us, involving the kids in the game and generally making fun and destroying the semantics of the German language and yes, a lot of the conversation piece had to be translated in order for the general audience to understand what the players and referee, were saying.

"Sweet J" at the Harlem Globetrotters - Basketball.

“Sweet J” at the Harlem Globetrotters – Basketball.

The team leader “Ant” was a scream. The guy called “Flip” was entertaining, and “Moose” I particularly liked, as he had gorgeous hair!

You can see how close we were to the front.  Some of the younger Scouts with "Ant" at the Harlem Globetrotters - Basketball.

You can see how close we were to the front. Some of the younger Scouts with “Ant” at the Harlem Globetrotters – Basketball.

At the end, the players were generous enough to give autographs and make photographs to anyone who wanted them. I thought that was lovely. We only “worked” with two of the players as “The Tall Young Gentleman” was beginning to droop.

It was rainy and stormy that night and we even had hailstones, but we didn’t care as we both watched a real basketball game for the first time. Ever. And we liked it!

This article is not sponsored and all opinions are my very own.

"The Tall Young Gentleman" with "Quake" at the Harlem Globetrotters - Basketball.

“The Tall Young Gentleman” with “Quake” at the Harlem Globetrotters – Basketball.

The Harlem Globetrotters are doing a German Tour in 2014 so if you still want to catch them in another part of Germany please contact: The Harlem Globetrotters German Tour.

Prices were very reasonable for 3 hours of entertainment. Our group ticket for adults were €30.00 or $41.00. Children 12 or under, were €20.00 or $27.00.

For general information about their world international tours contact: The Harlem Globetrotters International.

Have you ever been to a basketball game? Did you like it? Have you played basketball yourself?

"The Tall Young Gentleman"

“The Tall Young Gentleman”

If you like this post.

Share it!