Monday, 7 May 2018

Warsaw, Poland (Hampton by Hilton, Central Warsaw)

For some reason I started the day with very little sleep from the night before, or in this case, the morning before. As a result, I was ready to leave the hotel at 8:00 a.m., for the train to take me to Krakow, and the train wasn’t scheduled for 11:45. Of course I managed to find something to do, mainly figure out my travel schedule for the next month or so.

I eventually left my room at a little before 11:00 and was fully checked out by 11:10. As it worked out, I was concerned that I had too much of the local currency (zloty) in my pocket and didn’t want to exchange it for Euros (losing as much as 20% of the currency’s value) when I left Poland. Problem solved at the hotel’s front desk. They were able to take the extra zloty as payment for my room. Because I was able to get a great deal from Hilton on my room for this past week, and using some Hilton points, I only had to pay around $160 for my stay – which works out to be around $22 per day. Nice!

Rather than take a taxi to the train station, I walked there instead. It was only a couple of blocks away. The only issue was the stairs down to the underground passage that took me to the other side of the street where the station was located. Otherwise, I just rolled my suitcase down the street. It was easy.

I saw on the station’s display that the train was leaving from platform number 3, but not which track on the platform. I hadn’t seen a configuration like this one before. Normally, when two tracks share the same platform, the platform is divided into two platforms and, in this case, platform number 3 would have been platform numbers 3 and 4. And I wasn’t the only one confused. A German couple was asking the same questions. A local told me that the specific track would be announced shortly before the train arrived.

Talking with the German couple was fun. The husband spoke okay English and his wife, not so much. He had worked in the U.S. for 15 years. I was able to translate about 50% of what his wife was saying. They were also going to Krakow, but they purchased first class tickets so we didn’t share the same car. Eventually the train showed up, a few minutes late, and we all managed to find where to sit. Except for me, since I didn’t have an assigned seat. I just took a guess which seat wasn’t already assigned. Unlike most trains, this train company didn’t mark the assigned seat. No problem, I’ll just move if necessary.

After the train was underway, I managed to keep myself occupied by playing pinochle on my phone and reading a book about Theodore Roosevelt’s Sagamore Hill. I had purchased a sandwich at the Warsaw station and washed it down with a bottle of water from my room. (As a Hilton Honors member, I get two free bottles of water each day delivered to my room.) The train was a high-speed model and we were in Krakow in about 2 and a half hours.

After I got off the train, I had a little difficulty trying to find the station’s taxi stand. Where the taxis line up. I also had to use the men’s room as well. When I found the men’s room I saw that it was down a flight of stairs. I’d like to have talked with the person who designed the station, or at least the person who thought that placing restrooms at the bottom of the flight of stairs in a train station, where most everyone is carrying luggage, and ask, “Why?”

Then, probably as a result of the same person who decided where to place the restrooms, why was the taxi stand located on, in an unmarked location, the rooftop parking lot? In all the other stations I’ve been to, the taxi stand is located outside the main doors of the station. And I could only find one elevator that went to the parking level. At last I found a taxi that quickly took me to the hotel. By this time I was done rolling around my luggage.

When I arrived at the hotel I was greeted by a woman at the front desk who was expecting me. She had the paperwork ready for me to sign and informed me that I was given an upgrade to a junior suite, with a separate bedroom. She handed me my room card keys and I was on my way to the room. Or in this case, rooms. While I was checking in I asked if I could stay another day since I wasn’t able to book the extra day on-line when I made the reservation. Later, I heard back that I could stay until Thursday, the 10th.

With so much room, I wasn’t sure where to put everything. Normally, my hotel room has one bathroom, a simple closet, a bed, a TV (that I hardly ever watch), and a desk. This place had many drawers, cabinets, and closets. But it did come with a small bottle of wine and a small plate of chocolate truffles as a gift from the hotel. I had questions about the thermostat so the front desk quickly sent someone from maintenance to set it for me.

After I got situated, I was ready for a nap. I hadn’t slept well the night before and traveling, whether by train or plane, makes me exceptionally tired. And then I slept for nearly two hours. When I woke, I was hungry and walked to the nearest McDonald’s and picked up a couple of cheeseburgers.

I arranged to talk this evening with my Hungarian friend Csabi who is leaving for England in a few days to start a new job. We hadn’t spoken for several months so it was good to catch up with him again. Maybe I’ll see him when I visit London in July.

After updating my blog, I was ready to get some sleep. Tomorrow, I’ll take a taxi into the old part of the city and walk around. The next day, Wednesday, I’m planning to tour the famous Wieliczka Salt Caves, which along with Auschwitz, are two of Poland’s top attractions. I have no interest in touring Auschwitz.

I’m looking forward to getting a good night’s sleep and exploring Krakow tomorrow.

To see pictures: CLICK HERE

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