THE NOT-SO-BLUE POLES

 

After the the three tiny Baltic states, each about the size of Tasmania, Poland seems vast and expansive, a bit like home in a way, but considerably greener.

You have to beware of cliched stereotypes for any country, but often they hold a grain of truth. For Poland two are no doubt the fervent Catholicism and remnants of the old Communist past that refuse to give up their hold on parts of people’s lives.

Look no further than the railways for the latter and we found it last night trying to buy tickets to Krakow. Hundreds were in the queue at the central railway station and the locals told us this was normal. There were just a handful of staff to cater for them and one operator managed to take half an hour to serve one customer and then when the next one arrived, she spent another 10 minutes attending to some bureaucratic housekeeping before even acknowledging the person waiting without complaint. Made Medicare seem user friendly.

Despite this most people seem kind and cheerful. The city reminds us a bit of Melbourne and its best qualities. There is however an extensive network of pedestrian underpasses beneath the central city designed no doubt by the old regime without ramps or escalators and a bugger for us with wheelie suitcases. While I was hauling one suitcase up one long staircase a guy came along and grabbed Jill’s, no he wasn’t a bag snatcher, he just carried it up the stairs for her and disappeared without expecting even thanks. He was Indian.

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