Having been terrified by the sights of the ‘Beast from the East’ weather pattern across Europe in the week before I left Adelaide, it has been a remarkable beginning to my holiday, at least as far as the clear, blue sunny days. Granted there is a biting breeze and a chill factor that brings back memories of Iceland in July last year, but so far every day has been perfect – a sort of reverse temperature variation of the weather slogan for Queensland!

Today I shall visit the Palm House Gardens before leaving at 15:30 for Warsaw and the Conference! Yes I do need to justify the expenses claim, I have no doubt that Stephen Marshall will be checking up me personally.

Incidentally, as a complete aside, being the trend setter that I am, more than 6 years ago I committed FaceBook suicide and started my own blog site – the very reason you are on this page! The reason had nothing to do with the fact that my daughter had 4983 ‘friends’ and I had 3 , 2 of whom had actually accidentally ‘liked’ the wrong Graham Norton anyway. Seriously I am, I feel vindicated by the current data breach mess, not that I have anything to hide: it is in the open domain that I am a ‘pillow biter’ and have never slept with a member of parliament- state or commonwealth.

A few pictures with occasional comments

Lets get the picture of interior of the local cathedral out of the way first

Various pictures of the Poznan town square. In the centre is an ornate town hall and municipal offices which is now an historical museum. I have a sense of déjà-vue, but I cannot remember where I entered a town or city square like this in Europe. Any suggestions?

I explored the Cathedral Island a fortified island in the middle of the Worta River. There is a flourishing monastery and I saw several priests in black flowing cassocks, some quite youthful surprisingly. At least two carried IKEA bags which begs the question of what on earth would a seminarian need to self assemble in the cloisters, or perhaps the closet? I dawdled in the vicinity in the hope that I might chance upon a Nun or two carrying bags from the Polish equivalent of Bunnings, it was not to be.

This is a VERY clever visual perspective optical illusion…. look carefully at the picture below..

Well… have you worked it out? The Yellow red roofed building to the right of the square is real, BUT the facades of the buildings facing towards you, the green house, the tree and all the mish-mash of houses and appartments are PAINTED on the side wall of the pink faced building facing east, right up to the sky line of the pink building .. I also mean the tree behind the green house not the tree at the corner of the square, which is real.

Finally in the 20 km I walked on this day, I finished up exploring Citadel Park – a forest atoll with many graves and a rather derelict museum of war machinery – tanks, airplanes etc. It not really a War Memorial as such but nevertheless a large peaceful park in Poznan for meandering and meditation

Poznan The BlowUp 5050 Hotel

A long train trip from Gdansk to Poznan – mostly on flat rolling plains with agricultural villages interspersed with zones of industry and transport hubs. We rolled along at 120km/hour a sort of Japanese air-rifle train . I was not asked to pay added fees for this, although it was clean and safe. The trolley lady ignored me as she served the other ‘Premium passengers’. Eventually I went independently to the Dining Car and paid for a cup of woeful coffee and 2 rusks… (Autocorrection suggested ‘tusks’, which on second thoughts I should have accepted).

I am staying at the Blow Up Hall 5050 Hotel- part of a modern conference centre and shopping complex. I was reassured by my wonderfully efficient local travel agent that the name was NOT in anyway related to previous acts of Polish liberation uprisings in the 1950s, but was named in homage to the movie “BlowUp” staring David Hemings ( I thought it was Terence Stamp) and Vanessa Redgrave. It was made in 1966 and for every (nay most) Adolescent males, sitting up the back in darkness watching Vanessa Redgrave being photographed in the NUDE, was far better then being given enough money to buy a box of Fantales. It was understandable that this talented actress was known henceforth as ‘Vanessa the Undresser’ As to I , my preference was a box of Jaffas AND the unrequited desire to see David Hemings in his underpants. Although I still prefer Terence Stamp.

The Hotel is described on various web sites as Avantgarde- which is interior design speak for the shiny black, chrome and mirrored finish in my room. It is very disconcerting indeed disorientating. Words are not adequate to describe the visual catastrophe. The bathroom has a full length mirror along one wall, so that if you have any difficulty in perspective when showering or shaving, one can always do a stand alone gym workout by turning around and facing the mirror. I include pictures:

The toilet is separate from the bathroom. It is totally BLACK – close the door and one can experience for free, the sensory deprivation so effectively used by the invading American army in Iraq. It is impossible to know where one should sit or stand to answer the call of nature. Even at the best of times in my well lit bathroom in Adelaide, my sense of aim is problematic, but then as my friends know I can’t even throw an ball or catch it with any sense of manly skill or pride.

The room it self is quite big and very quiet. The TV appears to be kaput. There are no tea or coffee making facilities, although it has just dawned on me that I should undertake a more careful and minute search of the walls and shelves, as if the kettle is in shiny black plastic, I will not see it.

Gdansk – a sunny cold start

Gdansk Sunday

A brilliant start to the holiday – having fallen into bed around 7pm ( 4am Sunday Adelaide time) I woke around 6:30am, to clear blue skies and once outside, a bracing, biting breeze. I wandered around the waterfront of the “old town”- fascinated by seagulls that appeared to be ”walking on water”or at least standing on water in the sunlight of a new day. With that introduction, the more astute of you will realise that the birds were walking on ice!

So I explored the waterfront till about 7:30 then returned to the Q Hotel for a worthwhile breakfast, before warming my hands to venture back and explore the “old town “.

That is ice on the river!

The lone seagull is standing on ice. Look carefully

The home of the Gdansk Philharmonia concert hall

A few pictures of the old town….

The Polish people also sent children, mainly Jewish, away to foster homes in Britain just before the invasion and this is a tribute outside the main Gdansk railway station. The more observant will note the faded ex KFC logo on the original old railway administration offices.it is still. KFC outlet – I positioned the camera to block out the yellow M!

The Gdansk railway station

The Amber Museum in one of the medieval towers of the town wall

In the afternoon I spent the part of 6 hours in the Museum of the Second World War. It was opened in 2015 and is one of the most compelling, confronting exhibitions, housed in an architecturally stunning building all coming together in a technological multimedia experience. There are 20 rooms that start with the seeds of war – the direct consequences ultimately of the loss of WW1, by the Germans. Thence the rooms follow a logical sequence based on the time line as well as the many theatres of the conflict. The use of modern interactive technology is awesome. To give one example, the audio devices automatically sense when you pass the entrance to each of the 20 rooms, activate the introduction, lead to the various displays then end by saying something like

feel free to take your time and wander around the exhibits and when you have finished leave by the door on the left above which is a huge picture of Hitler and I will be waiting for you in the main corridor.”

Then the audio guide detects that you have entered the main hallway and asks you to turn left or right as the case may be into Room X. In fact so intuitive is the system it detected I had entered the women’s toilet and gently questioned whether I had made a mistake. As to whether it’s query related to the fact that either the female toilet was not part of the exhibits, or rather cleverly that I was in fact, male, is a moot point.

Put Gdansk and this museum on your bucket list.

It is 4am and I am disturbed from a restful sleep by noisy laughing people in room 103. They are not speaking a recognised European language and to minimise the risk of accusation of racial prejudice, I say for a fact that room service has just delivered breakfast of steaming hot fried rice and soup. I think it only fair now that I am wide awake , I should do some Recorder practice.

Today I head by train to Poznan.

The main hallway of the museum with the rooms on each side


The Frederick Chopin international airport of Warsaw was blanketed in fresh snow, the sky clear and sunny, the outside temperature -10 degrees. The Boeing B77… (remember drop the last numeral) kissed the piano keys ! Indeed I have yet to have anything but a smooth gentle touchdown in all my international flights! The airport was cavernously quiet on a Saturday at 11am. Being one of the first off the plane I reached immigration to face the obligatory 2 lanes: EU passports to the right everyone else left lane … in a few years time it will give me a wonderful sense of schadenfreude to think that British travellers will be forced to veer left.

Anyway I trotted along literally hundreds of metres of the mazed, roped off lane, a lone non EU citizen, to discover on arriving at the immigration hall, both lanes converged and in the end I was pissing in the wind, merging into a seething mass of Europeans!

Emirates managed to successfully book my luggage straight through to Warsaw, unlike Qatar last year who managed to lose my luggage once it left Adelaide and who achieved the unenviable feat of doing the same thing for Vivienne on a later flight!

I was met at the arrival hall by a willowy blond baby faced polish lad who escorted me to a shiny black BMW.. it was huge and all I remember when I enquired, was that it was a “7.. XX “ in other words, as with Boeing aircraft, it was a BMW 7… something! I explained that in underdeveloped Australia we were still at “BMW 3 …” something.

So efficient was the whole process that my blond Pole had me disembarking outside the Warsaw Central station by 12:15, an hour to the minute from touchdown, the train to Gdańsk leaving at 14:20.

I had a prepaid Eurorail pass , indeed costing some 400 euro for the month and several sectors, at least I assumed so. Presenting my voucher at the ticket window proved to be an exercise in futility. The man gave the distinct impression that in 48 years of exemplary service to the Polish Railway, the ticket I had presented was an an utterly new experience. It could have been a pawn shop ticket , a laundry list or a counterfeit Russian 1000 rouble note. -I think he favoured the latter having held it up to the light and turned it over several times. He disdainfully pushed it back through the window and indicated The service desk, uttering the word “English”. Eventually I was able to deduce that the counterfeit 1000 rouble note, was in fact just the seat reservation, not the actual ticket and furthermore because I was booked onto the Polish equivalent of a Japanese bullet train, there was a surcharge of 43 polish Monopoly money which I had to pay immediately lest I be downgraded to the local mail train. It has been all sorted, I have paid the excess and now sit in the Polish bullet train, 2 hours from Gdańsk and 28 hours from Adelaide.

The Q hotel room – Gdańsk

A Brand New B777

This Emirates B777 is “brand new” according to Flightradar24 – August 2017 to be exact. As an useless bit of trivia, pilots drop off the last number when describing their Boeing aircraft. So as I am a frustrated pilot of some 50 years, I am flying the”B77…” it is logical as all Boeing aircraft end in the number 7. Hence when you are flying a domestic route with Qantas you can nonchalantly drop into your discussions that you flew on the “B Seventy Three today “! This can either impress your audience or confuse them unnecessarily as they may, rightly so, assume you have significant dyslexia.

One dramatic improvement I noticed was in the toilet- the wash basin is practical in size and shape- at least in BC – again for the FF that is obviously – Business Class. “FF” of course means what it means. I can predict a flood of alternative suggestions from my more creative readers.

Anyway those of you who read my peripatetic blogs immediately realise I am fixated on bathrooms. I have previously described in painful detail the consequences of European shower cubicles and the personal trauma, verging on sexual self abuse suffered from cold rigid stainless steel faucets and complex tapestry inches from ones’ intimate nether regions. Now I shall bemoan the basins!

There is not one amongst you surely who has not visited the bathroom, typically in a cafe or even a home unit built quickly and as cheaply as possible, where the width of the room is so abruptly narrow that ones’ natural inclination is to back out (it is impossible to do an about face) and check that you have not inadvertently walked into the broom cupboard , whilst the actual toilet is next door. No it is the the bathroom – it’s not for a reason that we euphemistically call it “the little room” – don’t get me fired up about Americans who can elect a president called Trump and can’t face reality by calling for the bathroom when they actually want the toilet or in golden days of the empire, “the lavatory”.

Back to basins… I suspect it is what describes a “basic basin” on architectural drawings. Such architects should have their names struck off the register for professional incompetence. The dimensions are such that in a shallow elliptical plastic shell, there is sufficient volume to wash either the right or left hand in a thimble of water, certainly not both. Should you wish to brush your teeth, mercifully one is able to immerse the toothbrush, but then as you bend over to rinse, you suffer a severe case of concussion as the architect has had the foresight to install a small cupboard on the wall over the basin, literally 10.5cm above the basin, which in your frustration to manipulate head, hand, teeth and taps had unbelievably escaped your field of vision. Reeling backwards you rapidly strike the back wall, not surprisingly and foamy toothpaste splatters down your trousers. Delirious, dazed and disoriented you stagger out of the bathroom and navigate back to the cafe, to be confronted by the stunned looks of friends and strangers, who seeing the white stains on your fly , naturally assume that you are a dirty old man who has been up to no good in the lavatory.