The Anonymous Widower

Railways In North East Poland

Look at this Google Map of the Polish town of Goldap, where we stopped for supplies on our holiday.

Goldap

Goldap

Just to the North of the main road, it appears that there is the recognisable scar of a multiple-track railway.

Our Polish guide confirmed that Goldap had a large station with several platforms, and that it is still there.

Until the end of the Second World War, this area was East Prussia and was part of Germany. The railways were connected to the Prussian Eastern Railway, which connected Berlin to the major East Prussian city of Koningsberg. The Prussian Eastern Railway still exists as far as Braniewo on the Polish side of the Border, but there doesn’t appear to be a rail connection onward to Kaliningrad as Koningsberg is now called. This Google Map shows the area from Braniewo in Poland to Mamonova in Russia.

Braniewo To Mamonova

Braniewo To Mamonova

The white line across the map is the border.

You can pick out the old railway from Braniewo to Mamonova.

If we lived in a sane and reasonable world, which I’m afraid that President Putin doesn’t, it would appear that some form of direct rail connection could be created, which would connect Russia and the Baltic States to Poland.

There is the problem of gauge as like Spain, Ireland and India, Russian railways don’t use the same gauge as everybody else. At one time the platforms in Kaliningrad-Passazhirsky station, were arranged so that those facing Poland were standard gauge and the others were Russian gauge.

As a train enthusiast, wouldn’t it be nice to travel from Berlin to Kaliningrad by luxury train, spend some hours in the city, before taking a train on to St. Petersburg.

It would sadly appear that Putin doesn’t have the commercial nous to run the Russian equivalent of a whelk stall.

It is a long term ambition of the European Union to connect the Baltic States and Finland to the rest of the European Union by rail, they have funded the creation of Rail Baltica. This map shows the route.

Rail Baltica

Rail Baltica

 

The objectives are broadly as follows.

  • Build a 200 kph double-track standard gauge railway all the way.
  • By-pass Russia and Belarus.
  • Put a lot of the extensive freight traffic in the area on the railway rather than the roads.

The overall aim is to finish by 2025, although rumours persist that the section from Warsaw to Kaunas in Lithuania could open this year.

An interesting take on the project is given by this article on the Latvia Public Broadcasting web site, which is entitled Rail Baltica hits buffers at Polish border. This is said.

Even though Poland has allotted €16 billion to modernizing its railroads by 2023, not a single zloty has been earmarked to be spent on developing the connection to Rail Baltica at the Polish side of the border with Lithuania. Without this 200-kilometer section, the planned high-speed European gauge rail from Tallinn through Rīga through Kaunas won’t be connected with the rest of Europe, reported LSM’s Russian-language site on Friday.

It does appear that the section between Bialystok and Trakiszki isn’t up to scratch.

There is an interesting take on Rail Baltica in this article on a blog, which is entitled Rail Baltica Project Directed against Russia’s Security, Pavlovsky Says. This is said.

The Rail Baltica project, eventually intended to link Berlin with Helsinki via Poland and the three Baltic countries is “extremely doubtful from an economic point of view” but has obvious security implications for the region and Russia’s interests there, according to Moscow commentator Igor Pavlovsky.

            The project, which will allow trains to pass from one end of the line to the other without changing from Western to Russian gage track, may never carry as many passengers or as much freight as its boosters claim, he writes on Regnum.ru; but it can carry troops and materiel from the West to the border of Russia.

Ever since I first heard of Rail Baltica, I’ve been rather surprised on the silence from Putin and his merry thugs!

 

 

 

 

January 30, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

Did The Tailor Of Bexley Come From Koningsberg?

My paternal great-great-great grandfather; Robert, was a tailor from Bexley, who I wrote about in The Tailor Of Bexley. I said this in that post.

My father once told me, that his grandfather, who must have been William, once told him, of a first hand account of Robert the tailor of Bexley, who was his grandfather.

He said that he was German and that he didn’t speak any English. Because of my coeliac disease, which is quite common in East European Jews and his profession, we can probably assume that Robert; the tailor of Bexley was Jewish. My father also told me that the family name was Müller, which had been Anglicised.

 

I know little more of him and his place of birth is not known to me. All I know is that he had a son; Edward in 1816, so that would put his birth in the late eighteenth century.

My trip to North-East Poland got me thinking, as I saw the branches of the Prussian Eastern Railway and discussed the history of the area with Piotr; our excellent Polish guide from Gdansk.

I also searched the Internet for Koningsberg and learned more details of its history in the late eighteenth century, with the Napoleonic Wars and the various partitions of Poland. I also read how Koningsberg was a large and cultured city. Wikipedia says this.

A university city, home of the Albertina University (founded in 1544), Königsberg developed into an important German intellectual and cultural centre, being the residence of Simon Dach, Immanuel Kant, Käthe Kollwitz, E. T. A. Hoffmann, David Hilbert, Agnes Miegel, Hannah Arendt, Michael Wieck and others.

But with the Second World War, the elimination of Jews from the city by the Nazis and the eventual takeover of the area by the Russians, the recent history has been less than a happy one.

Knowing myself, it sounds like the sort of city that I like, as my three favourite cities are Hong Kong, Liverpool and of course London.

Hence the question that is the title of this post!

My family is very ambitious and opportunistic and as Koningsberg was a major port, exporting goods from the area all over Northern Europe, I can imagine Robert deciding in his twenties to get out of the city to avoid yet another war or partition and taking a ship to London to find fame and fortune. He might even just have finished his apprenticeship as a tailor.

From arriving in the London Docks, he didn’t need to go far to end up in Bexley. A few years later he moved to Shoreditch, just a mile or so from where I live now!

I think Robert could have given me two characteristics, other than the ambition and the coeliac disease.

  • His Jewish religion, but not its philosophy and values, seems to have been abandoned. I am very much a confirmed atheist with what I think, are fairly sound moral values, shared with most mainstream religions.
  • He also endowed me with genes that enable me to endure the cold.

It may not be a correct tale, but even so, isn’t it a reflection down the centuries of today’s streams of refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea and other places.

Nothing changes!

Except the religion!

January 29, 2016 Posted by | World | , , , , | 1 Comment

Warsaw In The Snow

I took these pictures of Warsaw, as we wandered around the Old City.

I visited this area in April 2014 and wrote about it in Walking Around Warsaw.

January 22, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , | Leave a comment

Along The Tsar’s Road

I took these pictures as we drove along the Tsar’s Road to return from the far North-East of Poland towards Warsaw.

A few points.

  • There is no Wikipedia entry to the Tsar’s Road, but as I understand it, it was built through the marshy land, so that Russia could move their troops easily.
  • The memorial is to Kazimierz Glinka – Janczewski. I think this page gives more details in English.
  • The lunch stop was excellent and is called Dwor Dobarz.
  • The only wildlife we saw was a few shy moose.
  • As ever in Poland, there was quite a bit of information.

We visited in winter, where conditions are challenging and different, but if you’re thinking about a summer visit to the area, start planning.

January 21, 2016 Posted by | Transport | | Leave a comment

A Barbecue In The Snow

I’m not generally a lover of barbecues, as I’m not a lover of burned underdone meat. But in my time, I’ve had a few good ones, where a whole animal has been properly spit-roasted.

  • At University in Liverpool, during Panto Week, a team roasted an ox on the steps of St. George’s Hall. It had one of those tastes that you’ll remember for ever.
  • A farmer, once roasted a pig for members of Ipswich Flying Club.
  • Once, we were driving back from Crete to London through Yugoslavia and when we stopped for petrol, found that a sheep was being roasted in a service station. It gave a whole new meaning to motorway food.

When it was suggested there would be a barbecue in the snow, it was something I could take or leave, but my heart rose, when I saw that a wikd boar was going to be spit roasted.

I’ve had wild boar in the past and on most ocassions, it would have been better, if it had gone through a food processor first, but this method of cooking brought the meat to the same sort of tenderness and quality of previous experiences of spit roasting.

So don’t ask me to a barbecue unless you’re spit roasting a whole animal.

January 20, 2016 Posted by | World | , | Leave a comment

A Sleigh Ride

We went for a ride on a sleigh pulled by two horses.

The more I look at the horses, the more I think that they have a lot of Suffolk Horse in them.

I also took a video.

I’d like the opinion on the horses, of someone, who knows their Suffolks.

The railway bridge is one of many in the area and was probably built by the Germans as part of the Prussian Eastern Railway, that used to connect Koningsberg and East Prussia to Poland and Greater Germany.

January 20, 2016 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

High Seats In The Forest

There are high seats in the forest from where you can observe the wild life.

Unfortunately, in my two hours in the seat, we only managed to see one rather skittish roe deer, despite it being a clear, moonlit night.

Others were more lucky and saw several wild boar and a raccoon dog.

January 18, 2016 Posted by | World | , | Leave a comment

In The Steps Of Kaiser Bill

The area of forest in which we were walking had at one time been the private hunting forest of Kaiser Wilhelm II.

The stone commemorates the shooting of his two thousandth stag. I find that rather excessive!

 

 

January 18, 2016 Posted by | World | , | Leave a comment

At Poland’s Border With Russia

After the Second World War, all the borders in the area we were staying changed dramatically.

Koningsberg, which had been German before the war and was largely destroyed during the war was the capital of East Prussia, and all the land around it became Russian, as did the previously independent Baltic States. What remained of the city, whichhad once been one of the largest and most cultured in Germany became Kaliningrad.

We were actually staying in the old East Prussia to the east of the town of Goldap, not far from the border with the Russian enclave that is surrounded by EU territory.

These pictures were taken at the border.

It doesn’t appear to be a very heavily-defended frontier.

Although none of us did anything that would threaten the Russians.

January 18, 2016 Posted by | World | , | 3 Comments

Turpentine Grows In Trees

Do you know where turpentine comes from?

Despite both my father and father-in-law being good decorators and users of turpentine, I didn’t!

Until I saw this and took these pictures.

The Russians used to grow forests especially for its product. I think it is true to say, we had found ways of making an alternative synthetic product.

January 18, 2016 Posted by | World | , | Leave a comment