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.


VallyP said...

You sound reaaaaally happy there Koosje. I'm so glad you can soak up this experience, not only in visual images, but also through all your other senses. xxx

VallyP said...

Soo, Koosje, it's Tuesday evening and no peep from you today, nor from anyone else in blogland either. Still, maybe you haven't seen it but Dan left a comment on your last post that was really meant for this one I feel.

Hoping you are okay, Koosje. Let me know how you're doing? xxxx

Koos F said...

Yay, you'll have your private message, VallyP!

I've followed up to yesterday's comments on the earlier post.
I'd like to share a few impressions from today's tram rides.

It was simply magnificent. I am beginning to see how this weird tram network hangs together, although line numbers are just numbers and maps were printed for kiddies with very sharp eyesight. Next time I want an electronic GPS-coupled lightweight LED screen.

Talking about kiddies: I felt like one in the proverbial candy store today, discovering that one of the tram lines leads straight along the perimeter of a forges complex.

Sad note: there lies snow on the forge, meaning the fire is out. Probably demolished next year :-(

But on a brighter note: absurdity reigns, because the security people still try to keep me from taking pictures of this ruin-in-the-making. Haha, they saw me too late.

Dale said...

I have never thought of Poland as a place I might want to "Yipeeee!" about...
Hmmm, I must add it to my To Do list - not "Yipeeee!", but visit Poland...

It's interesting how, after reading or hearing of one person's perception of a place, it can be an altogether different experience when goes there themself.

Personally, I am glad (and I'm sure Val would vouch for me on this) that you have not yet met up with shadowy figures in the dark.

I think the idea of travelling to an open pit coal mine, with a horse and buggy, to flog my wares is a rather interesting one.

You'd better give Val a call...she's worried, you know.


Dale said...

...when goes there themself?

you get the idea

Koos F said...

Dale, you are so right about perceptions. It's one of the things that need to be watched for when viewing my pictures. They lie! (in a way), especially when it comes to what I leave out of the scene.

If you ever go to Poland please let me know what your perception is. I am madly curious.

Re the shadowy figures, I think I would be less at ease in Amsterdam than here.

Chris Bland said...

Koos, I am in awe of your grasp of English!
I've had a bevy or two tonight so if I get a bit maudlin, please forgive me.
The atmosphere you put over could be the north of England in the twenties and thirties. People scratching pit heaps for a bag of coal. Cold, dank, dark no hope...
My Grandfather used to have to cover any meat hanging in their kitchen when the local villagers came to the farm for eggs or milk.
Holland must have been the same in the 40's...

Koos F said...

Great to hear from you.
"People scratching pit heaps for a bag of coal", it still happens in Upper Silesia, see this incredible slideshow.
It's hard to remain untouched - nothing tongue-in-cheek about it.

Chris. Bland said...

Indeed, but i think alcohol plays a bigger part than it did in the thirties.
( no, not of the pit heap pickers)for it's superb quality of pictures. I spent a good half hour taking them in before bed the other night...very restful.
Tot ziens (?)

Chris. Bland said...

That last comment missed out.."let me commend your slideshow" before the brackets.

Koos F said...

Father of a Real Photographer speaking. I feel honoured.