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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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 …
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.
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!
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!
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.