This last week has been quite a momentous one.
Saturday 28th December we were still in Warsaw after one of the most amazing Christmasses ever. I’ve written about it before. But Saturday found us on the train to Kraków. This was my husband’s first visit to Warsaw Central station since it was rebuilt quite a few years ago now, and he was obviously worried. In his mind it was still the violent centre of Warsaw gangland that he believed it to be when he was young – his eyes were everywhere, looking out for me, our luggage and most importantly the platform. To his astonishment, however, the station was clean, bright, friendly and extremely well signposted. He really hadn’t believed me – the voice of experience – but was eventually persuaded.
We were travelling first class on the Pendolino – it has a long nose for an engine – like an aberration of a giant mole – but it was extremely easy to find our seats. The only problem for me was actually getting on the train itself. Three high steps. But I knew about that and was mentally prepared.
Anyway we sat down, got our our books – I started volume three of a thriller by Remigiusz Mroz – in Polish – and settled in for the long ride. After an hour or so refreshments came round. Jacek asked if he could have a beer. Oh no, not in the carriage. There might be children present so that would never do. But you can go to the dining car. So he did
I wanted to read my book so I stayed. But it brought back memories of when I travelled all round Poland for six weeks by train in 1972; the height of communist Poland. The trains were slow – extremely slow – so I often went in a sleeper. But the dining cars were magnificent. Category S for super class. White tablecloths. Silver service. And Turkish coffee to die for. Very bourgeois and out of keeping with the rest of the country. But I was rich, relatively, and there was nothing else to spend any money on. And as I said, the coffee was delicious. I can almost taste it as I write.
When Jacek came back having drunk his beer I asked him about the white tablecloths etc. No such things. Formica, crowds. And children. Obviously they are not offended by beer drinkers there,
We arrived in Kraków where the signposting for taxis is bad. We walked through the station shopping centre and eventually found an exit straight into the pouring rain. Walking past the Vienna Andel´s Hotel, which I recognised having stayed there with Marysia a few years ago, we got into a taxi and got to our hotel. Hotel 32. Perfectly clean, nice and reasonable but a bit of a contrast with the Warsaw Sheraton Grand, which we had just left.
Never mind. We unpacked and rushed off for lunch to the best meal we have had in a long time in a restaurant that was recommended to us – la Albertina. It was excellent, though we would never have gone in on our own. Looks very unexciting from the outside. But the food looked and tasted superb. What delighted me was that the restaurant was not arrogant enough not to offer us salt and pepper – but we’re delighted when we waved it away as the food was flavoursome enough.
Then of course we had to have a nap. So when did we do any sightseeing?Well you may ask. We emerged into the cold after a couple of hours and walked around the main square. Went to Europejska cafe to warm up. Then out again to look for a snack. Found an Argentinian steak house “Pimiento” and managed to force down two tiny beefy starters. Delicious. Then back out into the cold and home.