The clock chiming outside our window woke me up this morning so I opened the blinds and had a peek outside – yet another dawn bridge (to be?) getting her photo taken in front of the clock. You really got to ask yourself – with the amount of post-processing that the Chinese apparently like in their photographs (people photoshopped out, rubbish, pigeons, and all sorts of things erased is okay) why don’t they just use huge backdrops and shoot them in China?
Breakfast from Mozart’s Cafe which is the Grand Hotel’s restaurant… of course with clock outside the breakfast room. After breakfast, we had arranged a private transfer to the train station having discovered it was pretty much the same exorbitant rate that the rip off artist taxi drivers and Uber drivers were charging from the train station anyway… only this way we would have a fancy car and a nice man helping us with our luggage. Worked well and we got picked up right in the pedestrian square in front of the hotel.
We arrived at the train station around 0930 for a 1024 train. The train station is huge having been remodelled in the last decade or so and felt like a shopping mall that happened to have trains going from it – plenty of stores selling shoes, handbags, toys, books, as well as cafes etc.
Once we figured out the boards, we waited patiently for our platform to be announced. I was getting quite concerned – it was nearly our departure time and no platform had been announced, I wasn’t looking forward to having to run for the platform with my suitcase in tow after having been standing around waiting for 50 mins…
Time was moving slowly. We were really unsure what was going on. No one seemed to know what was going on. There were several delayed trains showing up on the board that were possibly holding up other services from arriving.
Eventually, our train showed a 20 minute delay and we all dutifully stood around waiting to see the board give us a platform as there might be plenty of shopping opportunities at this train station but there is very limited seating for people waiting for trains on the concourse.
When the 20 minute delay was announced, it was then that I felt we needed to find a seat. I can’t stand around indefinitely with my stupid back pain and I really can’t do it after all the standing around on street corners listening to Martin that we did yesterday.
I ended up having a chat with Mr K back home, that went like this:
Mr K: What train today?
RMB: None at this rate. Delayed. No platforms on the board and we are getting rather stressed. Krakow if it ever turns up.
Mr K: Bugger. I am sorry to hear that one. Hopefully, the train ride itself is enjoyable.
RMB: Just delayed another 20 mins. So our 10:24 train that we were here for at 09:30 is now allegedly going to leave at 11:05 and there are no seats in this entire fucking place.
Mr K: No seats? I don’t think people who design stations ever use them. That makes no sense. <3 Sending you love, that sounds awful.
RMB: There’s too many people to provide enough seating. James just hovered over some poor people until left, so I have a seat. For now. But it’s been panicky all morning as we have come close to and seen our departure times keep lapsing. They have no platform on the board. So it’ll be a mad dash once they tell us. Other trains are delayed 40, 70, 100 minutes. So fuck knows how long before our train comes. And that means a LATE arrival to Krakow. Seven-hour trip. So we won’t get there until well after dark now.
Mr K: Fuck. That sounds terrible for you guys. I can’t imagine how stressful that is. :'( Travel days! Did you at least get a decent nights sleep?
RMB: It’s fucking public transport is what it is. We’d be dealing with none of this shit if we had been able to keep a hire car to take into Eastern Europe. Yes and no on the sleep. Lots of yahooing in the square over football matches or some such shit.
MrK: Yes I am sure every delay has a little twinge of painful due to the car hire situation. Would annoy me.
RMB: So they only just made the announcement that our train is now 50mins late. But that 50 mins is up in 2 mins, so I guess it will then go in a queue for another late announcement after all the other late announcements.
RMB: That column on the right shows how late the trains are. Photo was taken 20 minutes ago.
Mr K: That is a difficult board to read
RMB: The platforms are the second last column. So we’ve been standing around for about 45 minutes waiting for a platform only to start seeing the delays.
RMB: 90 minute delay now.
Mr K: Your story is not getting any better here :'(
RMB: I am aware. We could have had a midday check out from the fancy hotel. Instead, we rushed out by 9am. :/ This is a bit balls. We have just heard that one trains has been replaced with a bus service. Hopefully that was a domestic route. But we are looking at flight options in case our train is cancelled all togheter.
Mr K: <3
RMB: You want to know how stressful this is for everyone? Some guys is literally having an epileptic seizure right near us. He’s on the ground and people are tendering first aid and calling emergency services.
Mr K. No, I have a fair idea. but that is a bit full on.
And so on and so forth. There really was an unfortunate gentleman having a seizure right near us. He seemed well attended by family, and people were on the phones presumably for ambulance etc, but I did see someone who obviously worked for the train station walk right past the situation without doing anything or calling for assistance.
By the time we were done we had been waiting for nearly two hours. The poor man had his seizure only minutes before our gate was finally announced.
In the interim we had people of varying proficiency sititng down to play this nearby piano. It was in equal parts delightful and atrocious.
At one point a well dressed lady on her phone sat down on the piano stool with no intention to play the piano and was patently ignoring the dirty looks people were giving her for using the stool for a seat and not playing (station’s fault really for not providing enough seating and many were sitting on the floor), until some kids came along and started mashing the keys incoherently which eventually forced her to relinquish her position so she could stay on her call. Gotta love kids – they don’t care.
Then predictably our platform was posted without notice and it was a mad dash to make it to the platform. Given the delays we had no idea how long it was going to wait around to load passengers. We get up to the platform and see the signage is telling us that yes, this is the train to Krakow. Our previously posted 90 minute delay was now showing a 110 minute delay, so we found ourselves standing around on the platform with a bunch of Czech people who looked confused. I spoke with them and they said they didn’t think this was actually the train to Krakow. FFS. They seemed to have a slightly better knowledge of what was happening than we did – so I thought we’d stick with them until we were sure this was our train… last thing we needed after over two hours of waiting was to get on a train going somewhere else!
They spoke with a lady who was cleaning the train who told them the train was not going to the town they wanted which was on the way to Krakow, so they thought it wasn’t the right train. Then another lady came along and said it was the train to Krakow but that the crew hadn’t arrived yet (How the fuck could the crew to drive/service the train not be there? We had been waiting for over two hours?!).
On the platforms, we could no longer hear the PA system’s recorded announcements telling us what was going on with the delays or final boarding calls anymore. So confusion reigned for everyone – tourists and locals alike. Eventually someone came along and said that this was definitely the right train and it was definitely going to Krakow and we sort of went… ‘Well, ok then’ and boarded the train, still somewhat unsure of what the hell is going on.
We settled into our compartment and were hoping for the best. Two people came along to talk to us, neither of whom spoke English so we were still a bit ‘Errr…?’ until about 20 mins into the journey a conductor came along asking for tickets. We handed over our ticket and she didn’t express any alarm about us being on the wrong train so we took that for a good sign.
Finally felt like we could relax a bit and just let this damn train journey happen. yale went down to the dining car and found some Happy Hour ciders at just 55kr each (about $1.60) and I was starting to feel like maybe this won’t be so bad. We are at least on our way. The next six hours passed in a blur of forrest and small towns with the occasional stop to not pick up anyone and seemingly not really to let anyone off. The train was more than half empty so I have no idea how this is at all profitable to run.
I spent most of the day catching up on my post about our stupidly ambitious Prague walking tour. That and drinking more cider.
Some late afternoon views as we were heading closer to Krakow. So, we know we are going to arrive into Krakow station a full two hours late. Yay! Which means that we had been on the phone from the train trying to make sure that our hire car would still be able to be picked up. We were concerned that their office may have been closed. Turns out that was an impossibility, they don’t have an office, they have a guy who meets people at a pickup point in the main carpark to hand over keys and sign paperwork so we had the hire car main office people trying to track him down to make sure he could meet us in the carpark still.
We got off the station and discovered that there were signs leading to airports, connecting buses, taxis, a shopping centre, but do you think we could find our way out of there to a carpark? Any carpark? We were going up and down the levels of the terminal building looking for signs to a carpark when I nearly got cleaned up by a suitcase that someone had let go of, on an escalator. A young woman with a 60cm roller suitcase had stepped onto the escalator with her suitcase in front of her and must have either let go of it thinking it’d be fine or lost control of it, because yale grabbed my bag and hurried off the escalator backwards and yelled at me to get out of the way as this large suitcase was flipping down the stairs end over end heading right for us! FUN! A loudly spoken, cow/sheep wrangling American managed to stop the runaway bag from doing any damage, but the heart rate was up!
We did eventually manage to find a ‘P’ for parking sign that led us out to a rooftop car park hat extended in every direction for almost as far as you could se. Bugger. How are we going to find the meeting point here? Even Google maps didn’t help us – it was showing several rental car meeting points. yale left me with the bags and went to scout out the probable location, at which point I was like, is this wise? I’m here with two bags I can’t carry, and a few big boofy looking Polish dudes standing around shooting the breeze looking rather bored. Hmmm…
Anyway, he didn’t walk far and came back to get me. We went to the meeting point and ran into some hapless South Africans who had been waiting nearly an hour for their appointed meeting to actually occur and what little energy I had for dealing with transit crap just fled. They said our guy had been there earlier but had left. So we waited no t knowing how long the dude would be or if he would turn up at all… we were only able to contact the head office people?!
Eventually he turned up. Hoo-fucking-ray. And they did the paperwork in the half dark and we got our car. It was nearly 8pm now and we had expected to be doing al lthis around 5pm. So by the time we got our stuff loaded into the car and drove the 10 minutes to the hotel we were shattered. Dinner? Oh bother. Should have grabbed something on the way. We ended up doing something I find positively abhorrent and used Uber Eats to just ‘find food’. It was nigh on 10pm by the time we had something to eat.
Long stupid transit day, done. Urgh.