Europe, Konin, Poland

Stranded in Konin.

June 29, 2012
Konin, Poland aka Hell.

Konin. Just where is this place you wonder?

There’s a reason no one knows anything at all about Konin. No offence to the city’s residents, but the part I saw closely resembled hell. The streets appeared desolate, and empty, the perfect setting for a depressing, apocalyptic movie. There are no compelling reasons for one to travel to Konin.

Konin, Poland aka Hell.

And this is exactly where I got stranded for a night while traveling in Poland over Easter weekend. I’m sure your next question is “Cheryl, how the fuck did you get stranded in hell, I mean Konin?

Well, it’s a not so funny story that I’m sure will make you laugh nonetheless. But please laugh with me and not at me?

You may or may not have already read about my Easter weekend in Gdansk, where I checked out street art and visited the nearby Sopot for my first glimpse of the Baltic Sea and the crazy cool Unvertical House.

I was scheduled to leave Gdansk at 1:30 PM, Monday afternoon. I left my hotel around 12:30 PM taking time to walk to the central station, enjoying the outdoors before boarding the train for the seven-to-eight hour journey back to Berlin.

I arrived at the main station at 1:00 PM, well before my train arrived giving me enough time to find what I thought was the right platform. Yet when I got there, I immediately sensed something was wrong – the platform was empty save for one girl.

I approached her and asked her if she knew English and when she nodded yes, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Then I quickly asked if she was also waiting for the train to Berlin. She said no but offered to go to the ticket window with me to speak Polish with the railway employees and help figure things out.

A comedy of errors ensued.

Much to my surprise and then dismay, the lady at the ticket counter shouted angrily at me in Polish.

When I asked my “translator” why I was being yelled at for no reason, she cutely tried to explain her best in her broken English that the train had already left. She actually turned her hand into a pretend locomotive and made “choo choo choo” sounds to demonstrate what she was trying to tell me.

Turns out the train headed to Berlin had left at 12:30 PM. This meant that I’d miss my connecting train in Posnan as well.

FUCK!

The incredibly efficient and reliable DeutsheBahn printed the wrong time on my ticket. I was about as confused as Rick Perry when he suffered that long moment of silence during one of the Republican presidential debates.

A Confused Rick Perry.

Turned out I could use the same ticket for a later train headed to Posnan and that I only needed to wait another 2 hours.
The hours ticked by rather slowly but finally I was on my way.

Another miracle occurred when I found a lady at the ticket office in the Posnan train station who actually spoke English. She told me the next train would arrive in 3 hours and that I’d be back to Berlin by midnight.

FUCK!

More waiting. I’d get home 5 hours later than originally planned.

As my departure time approached, I eyed the schedule and saw that two trains were coming in at the same time. For both trains, it said Berlin.

FUCK!

Which train was I supposed to board? I rushed back to the ticket office and they told me which one was the right platform. I boarded the train, kicked back and relaxed. I was finally on my way home to Berlin.

Or so I thought.

The inspector came to check my ticket. He looked at me and said “Miss, you’re on the wrong train. You’re headed to Warsaw.

FUCK!

He offered me two options – to buy a ticket for the journey to Warsaw and another for the return journey back to Berlin. He said it would be easy to find accommodation there. My other option was to get off at the next town Konin, not pay for a new ticket and encounter the possible difficulties finding a place to rest my head for the night.

Either way, I’d be spending the night in Poland. There were no further trains back to Berlin that evening. I yearned to be anywhere but where I was …

FUCK!

I obviously chose Konin and not having to shell out more of my precious Euros.

I was the only one who got off the train at that stop. There wasn’t a soul around.

Leaving the train station, there were two ways to go –right or left.

Choosing left, I walked out into the street passing by some local bars and a casino. I continued walking for 20 minutes through commercial and residential areas dragging my heavy suit case, lap top and camera bags. I found no sign of a hotel anywhere.

FUCK!

I feared getting robbed and having to spend a cold, lonely night on the train’s platform.

I walked back to the train station and tried the other way. Finally, in the distant Hotel Konin beckoned to me as if a heavenly light leading me to peace. I then ran there!

Hotel Konin.

The hotel was old and grey. Depressing as the town. It seemed unchanged since the time of the Soviet occupation. Rooms there were cheap and small, like little shoeboxes.

I didn’t care. The night’s stay only cost me approximately 20 euros, there was free wi-fi and the room was clean.

I learned that a train was leaving for Berlin at 8:30 AM the following morning and would get me there around noon.

So the next morning, I woke up super early, showered and donned the same clothes as the day before. Smelling and feeling great (not really), I headed out looking for the train station and got hopelessly lost.

I stopped three people and asked them for directions and not a single person knew English. I even tried turning my hand into a locomotive and making the “choo choo choo” sounds. No luck!

FUCK!

God was on my side (once again) when I spied a cab. I hailed him and he stopped. He didn’t know English either, but I found a new tactic to make him understand where I wanted to go. I showed him my Polish train ticket!

Thankfully, I arrived to the train station in time. I bought a new ticket and confirmed which platform I needed to go on three separate occasions. And lucky for me, there was only two platforms to choose from so there wasn’t much of a chance I’d get on the wrong train this time.

There was a happy ending to this tale of travel woe when I got on the right train and arrived in Berlin on schedule. To complete my fairy tale journey, I went directly to the office with luggage in tow and yes, wearing the same smelly clothes from the day before.

FUCK!


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29 Comments

  • Reply Ele June 29, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    I hope you filed a complaint with the blooming Deutche Bahn?

    • Reply Cheryl Howard June 29, 2012 at 6:05 pm

      @Ele – Nah. It wouldn’t have made a difference but may email DB to advise that they need to better align train schedules with Polish Rail. Apparently this happens quite often. 🙁

      • Reply Ele June 29, 2012 at 8:04 pm

        In Poland it’s said to be a nightmare.

        • Reply Cheryl Howard June 29, 2012 at 11:20 pm

          @Ele – Hopefully, I’ll have better luck next time. 🙂

  • Reply Nancie June 29, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    Cheryl…what a comedy of errors! Never fear, I was laughing with you, not at you. I will never forget the time I boarded a bus for Daejeon (or so I thought) and ended up in Incheon. All the ticketing person heard was the -eon, and i didn’t check carefully enough…the ride from hell!

  • Reply Cheryl Howard June 29, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    @Nancie – Ha ha! Oh no … you too? Glad to know I’m not alone. 😉

  • Reply A Montrealer Abroad June 29, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    Oh no! And I thought DB was unfailing 🙂

    • Reply Cheryl Howard June 29, 2012 at 6:06 pm

      @Marie – No way Jose! I seem to have an issue each and every time I travel with them.

  • Reply fotoeins | Henry June 29, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    Oh, Cheryl …

    Shit, I’ve not had problems with Deutsche Bahn before, but it’s alarming to know about the problems various friends in the `Schland have had recently.

    I can’t help it, I chuckled when I read your story, but I’m glad it all ended well. Who knows what another night in Konin would’ve done?

    Oh fuck, please excuse me …

    • Reply Cheryl Howard June 29, 2012 at 11:19 pm

      @Henry – When I went to Munich earlier this month, the doors started to close before people even finished boarding. I got hip checked by an old man who pushed his way in front of me and two small children to get on the train before we did. Some people actually didn’t make it on to the train … it was horrible! And although my experience in Poland was trying, it makes me laugh whenever I think about it now. 🙂

  • Reply Christy @ Technosyncratic July 1, 2012 at 3:58 am

    I don’t know why, but your description of Konin reminds me of Oakland…. scary! At least you found that hotel; I imagine it would have been a miserable night sleeping on that platform otherwise!

  • Reply Arianwen July 1, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    Bloody hell! What a horrible experience! I bet you thought you’d never get out of Poland! I guess these are the stories that you can have some fun telling people about afterwards. I’m glad you found that hotel in Konin, and you can say you’ve been somewhere totally off the beaten track.

  • Reply Andrea July 1, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    We were only in Poland for a short time but found the transportation there a bit challenging too

    • Reply Cheryl Howard July 1, 2012 at 2:42 pm

      @Christy – I would not have been happy sleeping out on that platform, that’s for sure. I managed to be pretty patient through the “ordeal” but that might have finished me off.

      @Arianwen – Well, I’ll never be able to forget Konin, that’s for sure. I’m actually thinking about going back there someday to see if I can find the nicer side of Konin. There has to be some good restaurants or notable sites! 🙂

      @Andrea – My biggest hurdle was not knowing Polish. I need to buy a phrasebook!

  • Reply Adam July 2, 2012 at 10:41 am

    Sounds like a crazy travel experience! But makes for a good story, I suppose. Silver lining.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard July 2, 2012 at 11:23 am

      @Adam – Exactly! It wasn’t fun at the time but you’re right. Another one for the blog. 🙂

  • Reply David July 2, 2012 at 8:07 pm

    Cheryl, that’s the beauty of blogging, you know even the bad stuff is going to have its uses! I got stung by a wasp today as I was viewing a memorial and had to hold the swearing in! I once missed a flight on my RTW by a day. Luckily it meant a couple of extra days in Hawaii so a little less of a hardship than Konin was.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard July 3, 2012 at 12:43 am

      @David – Yeah, very true. Ouch … that bee sting must have hurt. And ha ha, I wouldn’t mind a few extra days in Hawaii. 🙂

  • Reply Jade Johnston - OurOyster.com July 9, 2012 at 10:13 am

    haha these are the types of travel adventures that make hilarious stories later

    • Reply Cheryl Howard July 10, 2012 at 9:59 am

      @Jade – That’s for sure. I’m happy that I didn’t get stuck sleeping on the platform. That would have been scary!

  • Reply Jeff July 18, 2012 at 10:31 am

    Konin’s not Poland’s highlight but the main square is certainly nice for a coffee. Sounds like a stressful journey, but wasn’t it a choice? Asking regular Poles to confirm the train you’re on actually is going where you want to go is a good idea. Next time, relax, deliver yourself to serendipity and you’ll have a much nicer trip.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard July 19, 2012 at 10:51 am

      @Jeff – Yes, I was on vacation by choice but what happened was out of my control. And I was pretty relaxed during the trip, this post was to just hilariously highlight a journey that turned into a comedy of errors.

  • Reply ebe August 7, 2012 at 10:22 am

    They printed the wrong time on the ticket!? That is a mistake I hadn’t even dreamed of DB making. They really are a wonder. Amazing when it works, and so wrong & unhelpful when it doesn’t. Well done fighting your way back to the city.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard August 7, 2012 at 1:58 pm

      @Ebe – Ba ha ha! I haven’t had a single ride where they haven’t made some kind of mistake. And thanks, it was a long arduous journey home! 🙂

  • Reply From Berlin To Munich (And Back) On The City Night Line. | cherylhoward.com September 3, 2012 at 11:32 am

    […] I came close to being robbed in Rome and even got stranded in Poland for a night, but those experiences didn’t diminish my love for train travel. There’s […]

  • Reply Piotr Sosnowski September 10, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    Hey Cheryl! I hope that next time when you come to Konin, circumstances will be more favorable. Konin definately has brigher sides. I can assure You that here is plenty of people who speak english let’s say communicatively and including me, are open for Your presence and willing to show You unexpected beauty of this post-communist town. For me it’s the land of my youth more over, every time I reach the train station Konin and see this grey blocks (currently all painted rainbow) that are presented on Your pic, tear turns in my eye… Warm greetings from the ghost town 🙂

    • Reply Cheryl Howard September 11, 2016 at 6:25 pm

      Hi Piotr –

      Thanks for your comment. 🙂

      If I come back to Konin, will you show me around?

      Cheryl

      • Reply Piotr Sosnowski September 12, 2016 at 4:30 pm

        Yes of course 🙂 You can consider this as my friendly consent. On this occasion You can also keep my email. Have a nice, sunny day Cheryl!
        Piotr

        • Reply Cheryl Howard September 13, 2016 at 10:24 pm

          Awesome, will keep this in mind the next time I take a trip to Poland!

          Cheers. 🙂

          Cheryl

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