10 September 2011
car 14, where are you?
there's a lot to love about Polish rail.
you get your typical (mostly) on-time European performance. the stations have reasonable signage and platform information. it's cheap -- three intercity trips for three people, in first class, came to under $300 USD total.
but it gets better. there is a generous mix of new carriage and (very) old, depending on the line/route. i traveled with my mom and my gf between Warsaw, Lubin and Krakow, and all rides had older cars with the compartments and side hallway. Poles love to stand in the hallway with the windows down, enjoy the breeze, and watch the scenery roll by.
i had opted to go with first class, as the seats are assigned. i found out later that the compartments have 6 seats instead of 8, so they're a little more comfortable. the WC, however, is just as disgusting as that in second class.
the thing i didn't love is that, without some intimate knowledge of Polish rail, you will have trouble finding your car. on our first ride, from Warsaw to Poland, i was confounded on how to find car #14, our car. we ended up in 2nd class, with people glaring at us because of some unwritten rules we'd broken about not overloading compartments (we doubled the passengers from 3 to 6).
before our 2nd journey, i emailed the service that sold me the tickets (official polish rail outfit? ticket reseller? who knows, but the tickets were good) and they told me to look for the 1st class cabin, identified by the number 1 on the side (easy enough) and the gold stripe "across the windows". For the 2nd journey, i noticed that *all* the cars had gold stripes across the windows and two first class carriages.
once aboard, i was able to find the 4" x 4" piece of paper inside the vestibule that said "14". huzzah!
so, we managed 2 of 3 trips in first class. not too bad.
oh -- for the first journey, i did find a conductor and showed him my ticket. he "helpfully" pointed behind me. whether that meant i was on the right car and my compartment was behind me, or on the wrong car entirely, i couldn't tell.