Friday, November 28, 2008


And today's news is that I discovered I can easily upload photos from an internet cafe.
I suggest going back to my three earlier posts to enjoy the photos that now illustrate my little stories.
Do feel free to comment! ;-)

Alright, here is an example.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Pushing My Luck

Today I had a real adventure. Through the 'back door' that everyone uses I intruded deeply into the dead forges area, the one I mentioned earlier.

Here is that back door, an open shunting area:

See, no fence between the streets and the railways.

Just when I had documented the most fantastic appliance - a device to tip a railway coal carriage sideways if not upside down, so as to empty it contents onto a conveyor belt - I was discovered by three serious-looking security men. Of course I attacked them furiously rather than to wait for them to attack me, but they must have had the karate black belt, or else I would have got away easily. They took me to their office and explained my rights in Polish, which was futile because I don't understand a word of Polish. This I explained in English, French, German and Dutch, but that was futile as well.

Then they pointed at my camera bag. Using only sign language now, I explained to them that this camera was very dear to me, that the lens was a present from family and friends for my sixtieth birthday, that the memory card contained over six hundred pictures, of which only about tweny taken on their premises, and that those premises were about to be demolished anyway so why all the fuss.

After all this explaining and their peering into my passport and mumbling 'holenderski'*), they more or less lost interest and decided to let me go.

Oh no, just one more thing sir, why that index finger you pointed upwards so rudely? That means 'one', I sign-languaged.
What great relief on their innocent but serious faces: 'one' in Polish is not index finger up but thumb up.

After promising I'd never make that mistake again, we shook hands warmly, and I was escorted to the heavily padlocked front gate, which was opened especially for me.

Here is that fantastic railway freight carrier upside-down turner:
Update: It is called a
Wagon tippler

Play the movie below to see how such a Wagon tippler works.

*) Correct spelling thanks to Andreas | 虾猊食

Late edit (October 2009)
I found a very elaborate movie about the entire process of unloading coal wagons in Philadelphia on YouTube.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

More pleasurable absurdities

The Poles are collectively convinced that in their country more absurdities can be found than elsewhere, and maybe they have a point.
The river Wisla (Vistula in English) was to be made fit for navigation by barges.

It is one of those slow rivers that need locks and dams to create a navigation channel that is deep enough. Thus was started a project of canalisation. Any other developer would have started near the sea and work upstream gradually, or start working on all the locks and dams at the same time.
Not so in Poland though.
Only in the upper reaches there are now five or six locks and dams - and that's it.
The rest of the project was abandoned or maybe postponed, don't know.
Now this region cannot be reached from the sea and there is no connection with other waterways.
The locks are in perfect working order, and I saw maintenance people busy today.
It seems as if a barge could arrive any moment, and it is as if the lock keeper has his hand on the swith to start the lock operation.
But nothing happens.

The lock keeper must be in there somewhere...


See also the photo group Only in Poland/

Grotere kaart weergeven

Monday, November 24, 2008

Upper Silesia Revisited

I have mentioned this earlier, I am in Poland again! Yippeeee!

I am visiting the same region as earlier this year, the coal mining area around Katowice in Upper Silesia.
Why I came here in the first place? Listen and shudder.

Someone wrote that one of the darkest experiences in his life was leaving the spooky Central Station in Katowice and feeling the menacing presence of obviously unemployed dark figures on the badly lit station square.

Aha, I said to myself, that's the place for me.

And it is. I wouldn't mind living here for a few years. Heaven, sort of. I haven't seen any dark figures yet, but give it time.

This region has one of the last surviving interurban tramway networks in the world. This is the main reason for my visit this time.

Today I took the tram to Bytom, a place I visited in March when it was raining. That was good for the mood, of course. Now it was darker, colder, definitely stinkier than the first time.
Moody Bytom
I had a field day. Especially the smell of coal smoke is everywhere now - in Bytom, that is. I even discovered an old-fashioned coal merchant, loading up his horse-drawn carriage at one of the few remaining pits that are still active.

Coal merchant near Bytom, Poland

Oh, and that man who found Katowice dark, obviously hadn't been to Bytom yet.

Did I take pictures? You bet.

Anyway, that tram network is so vast that I'll need to go back to
Bytom tomorrow, Tuesday, to 'do' the rest of the tram riding in Bytom. I might even find out how to change to the line to Zabrze and eventually Gliwice. Strange as it may sound, the printed map of the entire tramway network here, which is listed
on the internet, picture of the cover and order number and all, isn't available anywhere at all. No sir, out of print.
Amazing Poland, amazing Poles and may this week seem endless.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Meet The New Boss

Under The Old Boss about half the population felt it was necessary to hand over their liberties in exchange for a very urgent protection from terrorism.

After the election the other half of the population is now near euphoric that this terrible experience is coming to an end. There is new hope. Wonderful.
Will the New Boss repeal the Patriot Act? If so, why didn't he say so?
Will he make sure America is going to mind their own business instead of continually going to war? No, or else he would have promised so.

The new boss believes that Planet Earth needs to be saved. About half the population agrees with him. The consequence will be a further restriction of liberties*), which then will be handed over voluntarily, because people expect the very urgent protection from the danger of global warming.

I try not to be negative about these things. I'd much rather be gently amused, and describe the flow of events as "ding dong".

Maybe it is high time for me not to worry and just be happy too.

*) Just Google "Agenda 21" and the consequences of the IPCC studies.