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Adventures in Writing, Reading & Book Culture

On (or is it “at”?) the Baltic Sea

Gdynia is a port town that draws mariners, cruise tourists, and sun-loving Poles from around the motherland.

Asia and I made our train transfer in Wroclaw by six minutes. This was midnight on Sat/Sun. The train stood on the platform in 80-degree heat. People hung out the windows (“I told you about Poland,” Asia says. “No air conditioned trains.”).

Inside the train fared no better for us: the corridors were standing-room only. The eight-seat compartments were filled with families with children, teenagers on their way to camp, college kids heading to the Baltic, and us. We began a trek through the train as it headed out of the station.

Our mission was to find two seats in a quiet compartment. One after another, in half empty compartments filled with kids or families, we were either ignored (people not exactly answering the direct question) or told the seats were taken or “would be taken” at the next stop. Fine, we don’t want to sit with you anyway. Nya-nyaaa!!

Then, in the third car (after stepping over people sleeping in the corridor), Asia poked her head into a dark cabin whose drapes were drawn. “Shplish pa splashba griska piska?” (sorry, this is how Polish sounds to me) “Tak” she finally got as answer.

Yes, two seats were available, and only four were in the compartment. A family of four, with two teens fast asleep. We stepped into the shadow darkness, put up our bags on the racks, sat down in the heat (but open window throwing coolish air on us), and breathed a sigh of relief. We would not have to spend the next 6 hours standing in the corridors.

“This is Poland,” Asia seemed to say through the dark of the cabin.

We sat back, legs intertwined, lay our heads against the cushion, and dozed. I used ear plugs and a sleeping mask to help me get through the night. In the end, it wasn’t so bad.

When we got to Asia’s grandmother’s flat, the nightmarish trip was all but forgotten. A little rest up and we walked to the beach, and later, stuck our feet in the Baltic Sea.

This is Asia’s old stomping grounds. She’s very glad to be back. … Oi !!

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