What to do, when half of your friends have buggered off for some kind of “Christmas” holiday? Clearly, the answer is to gather your remaining friends who are
stupid brave enough to accompany you on an adventurous journey ruled by fate.
Unlike a Zombie apocalypse, or an alien invasion, Christmas can be predicted quite well in advance. This has benefits when initiating such an adventure. Not least of all because you can enlist far more competent people than yourself (Hi Lisa) to do the groundwork for you and, at the same time, make the whole thing more fate-determined. Excellent.
So it was that Lisa and her assembled crew of mischief makers were given the task of finding 5 destinations which were all within 3 hours train ride of the city of Bydgoszcz, where we reside. The role of myself and my 3 companions (Roger, Pam & Luke) was simple: Go to the railway station on the morning of the 29th and find a random person to pick one of the completely unknown destinations from a hat, then to buy our tickets and go there, to see what fate had in store for us. Now that’s an adventure!
So, we arrived at Bydgoszcz Głowna just after 9:30 am. We looked around and found an old lady, working at the ICC Railways information desk. We argued momentarily about who was going to talk to her and finally, I decided I would do it. Clutching my paper, I walked to the lady and said:
“Proszę o wylosowanie nazwy miasta z tej czapki. Jesteśmy w podróży rządzonej przez przeznaczenie.” (Thanks Ania!)
For those unfamiliar with Polski, this literally means:
“Please choose our city from this hat. We are going on an adventure ruled by destiny.” She – unsurprisingly – looked at us like we were absolutely out of our collective trees. Roger tried to assure her by asking “Rozumiesz?” (Do you understand). Her reply: “Romzumiem, Filozof!” With that, she delved her hand into my red hat and came out with Gdynia! We thanked her and immediately went to the ticket office to buy our tickets. As we did so, she spent five minutes staring at us in bewilderment and telling her newly arrived colleagues about the nutty English folks on the “adventure”.
From here, it was time to get coffee, water and pastries. All essentials for anyone on a stupid adventure. Once these were bought, we went to find our train. It was already awaiting our arrival on the platform. We boarded immediately behind a young lady with a far-too-heavy suitcase, who walked slowly down the corridor to the compartment containing our reserved seats. She said hello to us and, hearing our obvious Britishness, asked us what we were up to. I began by telling her we were on an adventure. In a state of disbelief, she asked me to explain so, in my best (i.e. not fantastically good) Polish, I explained the whole situation to her. She informed us that she spent a lot of time in Gdańsk, one of the other “three cities”. Clearly, this was destiny throwing us a guide for the next stage of the journey, so I told her that she had to decide what we would do in Gdynia.
Naturally, she said that Gdynia was actually not such a great or interesting place. As luck had it though, her boyfriend lives in Gdańsk, so she could call him for some advice. She told him about our plans and, after some hysterical laughter, it was decreed that we had to go to the Oceanarium, the beach and an area of the city called Plac Kościuszki, where there were a lot of pubs, restaurants, etc. She was really helpful and nice and, in spectacularly crap form, we failed to get her name, though we did thank her for her advice. The important thing was that fate had selected our next path.
The nice lady got off the train at Gdansk and we spent the next 40 minutes looking out of the window to see a bit of the Trój Miasto, as we crawled through various Gdańsk stations, then Sopot, before finally arriving at Gdynia Głowna.
After leaving the relatively warm and sunny (1˚ ABOVE freezing, people!) Bydgoszcz, we were confronted with a strikingly Great Britain-esque Gdynia. There was a blanket of grey clouds and an irritatingly fine veil of drizzle. But we were not to be deterred. Immediately, behind the station sign, we saw a poster for the Aquarium that we had been instructed to visit. So we hurried out of the station, marvelling, as we did so, at a nice sea animal mosaic and outside – better still – trolley buses!
With none of us having ever been to the city before, we decided that the best plan was to ask someone where the hell we were supposed to go. We needed to find food and the city centre, so that we could begin our allotted missions. We found a random small person next to a bus stop and asked it where the centre was. She pointed and told us to go straight ahead, so we did exactly that. After a small wrong turning, taking us to a shipping container area that looked a bit dingy (but had some super graffiti, which I tragically took no photos of), we ended up on the main shopping street and confronted by the
child molester priest training centre and a nearby road sign pointing us towards the beach. Hurrah! There also seemed to be a lot of stuff commemorating this Antoni Abraham gentleman. I had no idea who he was at the time, but he seems to be some kind of cultural icon in the region from the late 19th – early 20th centuries. Jolly good. As with many historic figures in Polska, what a powerful moustache!
As we neared the beach, we found a series of restaurants in a row. After considering a curry in “The Bollywood Lounge” we were lured by a place with Czech, German and Polish flags outside. When we reached the front of this pub/restaurant establishment, Roger set about befriending the Pirate on the door and we spotted a burgeoning beer selection inside. ‘This will do,’ we thought. And do, it did.
We went inside and ordered a round of various types of burger, with chips and a range from the fine beer selection they had on offer. Everyone scoffed down their delicious basket of food quickly and with satisfaction. We paid, and headed for the beach.
Upon arriving at the beach we were greeted by a frightening, unsettling, even unimaginable situation: there were ducks in the sea. As someone who has travelled a little bit, I feel like I am not often thrown, or disturbed by things. But there was something deeply unnerving about ducks and swans frolicking in the Baltic. I immediately approached them and began to remonstrate, demanding that they return to the lake/river/canal from whence they came. But it was to no avail. Instead, the swans approached, mocking us with their strange snorty noises and inspecting our pockets for bread. Bastards.
It was, though, a really lovely beach and certainly somewhere I’d like to return to in the heat of summer, when the atmosphere would, I’m sure, be quite different. The white sand extends a long way around the bay and the water is surprisingly calm.
From here, we had decided we would go up to the eerily cross-dominated lookout point. An elevated park with awesome views of the city. It was a bit of a climb, but the perfect remdy to follow fat burgers and beer at lunch. Not to mention a way to shake off the shock of the misplaced waterfowl. As you can see from this view, I do not exaggerate about the cross!
There were also some pretty good views of the city and harbour from here and it was then that we found the path to the aquarium. The excitement at this, combined with mine and Pam’s need for a sprinkle, led to us hurrying back down the leafy stairway to the main road, where we walked past an interesting monument to Gdynia’s internationally renowned film festival and a harbourside featuring three exciting ships.
An oldy-worldy tall ship…
And a really exciting looking pirate ship. More on that later!
Now, as destiny had instructed, it was time to visit the aquarium.
Once in the aquarium, we did a whole host of aquariumy things. Namely looking at aquatic flora and fauna. By far the most exciting elements were a variety of extravagantly coloured reef fish, some horrifyingly monstrous eels and 2 anacondas, which could easily have eaten a whole cow for lunch. And had dessert!
After the fully life-enriching experience of the aquarium and, in particular, the interactive display where you could learn about the ports, river mouths and seabed shelves of the Baltic sea which we hogged and refused to allow children to use for several minutes, we decided that we would go and take a closer look at the pirate ship. Not least of all because it was a fully functioning bar (and restaurant). First we decided to look a bit more at the abundance of piratey regalia. The man on the prow smiting the dragon was particularly impressive!
So onboard we went, considering whether to have simply a beer or a bite to eat. When we got inside and saw the range of awesome pirate weapons etc behind the bar we were tempted to stay, but some particularly vociferous and irritating miniature humans convinced us that this was a bad plan, so we headed back into the city, after our pints.
Tiring, as we were, after a long day and with just 2 hours until our train back to Bydgoszcz, we were beginning to give up hope on finding somewhere exciting to eat and so we ventured into a fairly modest-looking bistro cafe. Little were we to know that the food would be cheap and absolutely excellent, though Luke was turned into some kind of anti-vampire super weapon by the most powerful sos czosnkowy ever produced by mankind.
After the delicious nosh, we headed back to the station and, armed with coffees & water we jumped onboard and found our nice, quiet cabin for the journey home. In traditional Polish railway style, we made an unscheduled stop at Sopot for absolutely no reason whatsoever, delaying us by half an hour. But, we all agreed that the stupid adventure had been outstandingly stupid. Until the next time!