Something rare happened today. Not an eclipse; not Halley's comet returning; something rarer than all of those: I overslept.
In the interests of protecting my reputation, I should point out that I didn't really oversleep. Not initially. I still woke up naturally before seven o'clock. The problem was that I saw what the time was, and still felt tired after around four hours' sleep, on top of the lack of sleep before flying out here, so decided to go back to bed. When I awoke again, it was nearing ten o'clock, the time that I should check out!
The host here is very nice (she'd even asked me the previous night when I'd like to check out) so I wasn't concerned about that particularly. What was a matter of concern, though, is that the latest train I could realistically take to Poznan would depart at 11:47; there was a three-hour break before the following train, which wouldn't arrive until 18:17.
That doesn't sound like the worst challenge on paper, does it? Around two hours to get showered, packed, check out, and make the train station. The problem is that there was something I wanted to do first: something I wasn't able to accomplish yesterday because the Jewish cemetery had closed by the time I got there. And the apartment, cemetery and train station were nowhere near one another.
I whizzed through the showering and packing, deposited the keys in the host's coffee shop, and set off to find the appropriate bus-stop. A quick look at the timetable confirmed which bus I needed: the Jewish cemetery was marked there as stop 11.
Unfortunately, it was also marked by a white circle where all the others had a black one, so I thought there might be a problem if I tried to alight there. Fortunately, another stop with just the sort of name which would attract me was immediately before it.
And sure enough, that's the stop I chose to get off at, only a couple of minutes' walk away from the entrance to the cemetery.
But then my heart filled with dread: the metal doors of the cemetery were shut, just as they were yesterday! I remembered having read a note stuck to the door explaining that it would be closed on several days coming up but also distinctly recalled that there was a sequence of several consecutive days starting from tomorrow, but today hadn't been listed. I happen to be the world's worst person regarding dates, however, and so prepared for self-inflicted disappointment again. But not before I decided to try breaking in.
Success! The door gave way easily: it wasn't locked! And soon I was handing over my 20 zloties for a ticket. There wasn't exactly an abundance of space even in so large a cemetery, so off I set.
It didn't take long for my Esperanto-attuned eyes to spot something. Not what I was looking for but something special anyway:
Those are the gravestones of two of Ludoviko's younger brothers, Leono and Felikso. I felt I might be on the right track.
I wasn't. I reached the end of this lengthy aisle and hadn't seen it. I would have to scour the cemetery pulling my suitcase. (If you ever want to feel very self-conscious, I can recommend taking a heavy suitcase as your companion to a cemetery. Oh, the echoes of those wheels being pulled along the stony ground!)
Nothing. I would have to start being scientific: perhaps Leono and Felikso were grouped together because they died only a year apart. That did seem to be a pattern, so I narrowed down the search to plots with older gravestones in whilst the clock ran down.
Still nothing, as I reached the end of an aisle which had been taped off. But then I saw something. Although there was no text on it from the angle from which I was viewing it, you can't be a zamenhofologist and not have an idea of what Ludoviko's tomb looks like. And so I abandoned my suitcase and crossed over the tape into No Man's Land:
And to make things easier for others to picture it, I shot a video of it:
And then I had to rush out: I had a train to catch and needed a tram to get there!
It didn't look good for me: it was supposed to be a 13-minute journey with a 2-minute walk at the end, and then the need to buy a ticket. I think I had about 25 minutes but everything would come down to when the tram arrived.
It did but as quickly as I would've wished. As the stops slowly passed by one by one, I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to be late, as I usually am. ("But if I'd left on time I wouldn't have found the tombstone" seems a reasonable excuse to me, even if I can't imagine too many others would agree with me!) By the time I got off the tram, there were minutes to spare, and I dashed away in something of a forlorn hope. Bah, too late: the time had passed, and all the ticket desks were closed. And then I heard something on the tannoy: the 11:47 to Berlin Hauptbahnhof had been delayed by ten minutes. 11:47? That time rang a bell, even if the destination didn't: both Poznań and Berlin lie west of Warsaw, so there might be grounds for hope. I looked at timetable: that's my train, due to have left from platform 3 but delayed! That gave me a few minutes to buy a ticket, and so I hurried to the machine.
And then I promptly hit the machine! It would only allow me to buy tickets from 12:00 onwards: I wanted to buy one for 11:47, ten minutes ago. Hitting the machine did nothing to change its mind, so I decided that the best approach would be to stow away and then try to track down a ticket inspector as soon as we pulled away. I dropped down to the platform.
Over the tannoy there soon rang another announcement in English: the train had been delayed by at least twenty minutes. I can't stand waiting around, so headed off to find a way of getting a ticket. No luck, but a lady spoke to an employee on my behalf, who replied that "nie ma problemu" to the idea that I could just buy one on the train. Great!
And so I returned to the platform. In short order the details for the 11:47 appeared on the signs, and a train appeared on the platform, accompanied by an announcement in Polish. So I boarded it, rather satisfied with my good fortune.
... until I tracked down the ticket inspector about twenty minutes later. A ticket inspector who spoke only Polish, incidentally. This train wasn't going to Poznań: it wasn't even going to Berlin. It was the wrong train. Well, from my perspective. It was the correct train from the point of view of the timetable: it was the train which was scheduled to be departing from that platform at that time. But for some reason they chose to show the details for the delayed 11:47 at the point it arrived, and I don't speak Polish so didn't understand the message on the tannoy.
Between us, non-Polish-speaking me and the monolingual Polish ticket inspector worked out a separate route: I could alight at a stop about twenty minutes away, from where I would have a three-hour stop-over until a train to Poznań departed. Fine! I bought my ticket, and twenty minutes later was in the middle of nowhere, whence I set off to try to find something to do.
I love the idea of living an isolated existence: I'd looked on admiringly at the large houses often with red roofs which were dotted about the route. But it comes at a price in that there are next to no amenities. I found a bar but that wouldn't be open until 16:00. I'd be gone by then. I suppose that was for the best: although I fully intended to find a bar it doesn't bear thinking about what the consequences would be with a three-hour pause at Polish prices: despite my best intentions to stop at three pints, as soon as that one disappeared, it would descend to a binge. It was a good thing for me, then, that there was nothing I could do, as I dragged my case around in the hope that I would chance upon civilisation. Google wasn't much help, refusing to fill in any details for the section of the map which I happened to be in, and struggling to decide which way I was walking at any given time.
After an hour or so, I'd located the town, including a burger joint. I wasn't interested in junk food, so bypassed it. I later returned, having discovered that for some reason or other, everywhere else was shut. I couldn't read the menu: although the names were in English, the descriptions were in Polish. I opted for the "Polish Burger" without knowing what that would entail. As best as I can tell, the Polish element of that was melted Camembert and cranberry sauce, or something along those lines. One rushed meal later, I was off.
As usual, I realised that I had left things late, and ended up dragging my case at pace, occasionally resorting to short bursts of jogging. (I'm not sure whether this was any faster than fast walking but it made me think I was doing a better job.) As I reached the outside of the railway station, my train pulled up. No! There were tracks between me and it, and I couldn't see any way as to how I'd be able to cross them with my case without incurring the wrath of the various guards standing there. The subway it would have to be!
I got there but I was so out of breath at the point I boarded, having pulled the 20 kg case up a ramp whilst jogging. (This part was much easier on the downhill section, though required covering much more ground than just descending via the steps would have. I didn't see that at the point I chose the ramp, though!) Fortunately, I had the cabin to myself, so no-one had to witness the undignifying sight of the blown-up fat man about to expire.
The rest of the journey was uneventful, as was my arrival into Poznań. Don't get me wrong: Google tried its best to cause me to smash my phone, by constantly changing my position relative to everything else, such that a 20-minute journey took over an hour as I constantly entered and emerged from subways. (By the way, authorities in Poznań: why are most of your escalators broken?) What really got me mad is that by the time I located the halls of residence myself, I realised that I'd originally navigated myself to within 100 metres of them at the point that Google told me that it had changed my mind and I needed to far away from here.
I had a frustrating hour in the halls trying desperately to get an internet connection before eventually giving up and deciding that I wanted a booze-up instead, the lack of internet compounding my impression that I'd signed up to something akin to an IKEA-bedecked prison cell for the rest of the week:
As luck would have it, my stroll into what appears to be a very beautiful night-time Poznań ended up with me in a restaurant which served probably my favourite meal when we're in Central and Eastern Europe: goulash. This one was amazing, as was the bread it came with. But I don't want to end on too positive a note on what had been, the very start and very end aside, a frustrating waste of a day, so I'll point out that the goulash got me a little depressed that no matter how many times I've tried to replicate it, mine never turns out anything like the culinary delights I encounter on my travels.