Saturday, June 12, 2010

Today's Oddity: Centralna Station

Our hotel in Warsaw is directly across the street from the city's main train station, the Warsaw Centralna Station.

(The main concourse from the curb by our hotel. There are at least eight lanes of traffic plus two tram lines between us and the station. Buses come in on the other side.)

This is only the second time I've been here, and I've seen very little of the city. But the train station and environs here are unlike anything I've seen elsewhere. Specifically, the train station is in the middle of town with all trackage underground and a large concourse above at street level. But the tracks are deeper below ground than I expected, and there's an extensive pedestrian subway between street level and track level. It's all rather dank and rodent-like, with the whole works carrying the city's signature dirty earth tone color palette, and it's not closed off from the outside so that it's rather hot in summer and (presumably) cold in winter.

(One of several entrances to the tunnel system by our hotel.)

(I took a whole bunch of pictures but *surprise!* they all look like the same tunnel. Even to me. So we'll shorten the roster a bit. )

I've encountered these subterranean walkways at least a couple other places on my limited walks around Warsaw; usually they're a means of getting pedestrians across busy intersections. And even in these applications the walkways are lined with shops and businesses. But the tunnel system surrounding the Centralna station is extensive and the underground booths and shops must number several hundred. The train station sits on one of Warsaw's busiest thoroughfares, with our hotel and several other big businesses on one side and a high-end shopping / residential complex on the other side. To the Northeast is a large cultural complex. And the tunnel system connects all these locales together (which must be a godsend in winter). One can see the bustling train platforms below as one walks the tunnels, plus there are ticket booths and storage lockers and numerous restaurants and kiosks and services, all beneath 8 or 10 lanes of traffic plus a couple electric rail car lines.

(The descent down to the train platforms. The photo is taken from the pedestrian tunnel level and you can see the huge pillars which support all the car and bus and tram traffic above our heads.)

Warsaw is the only place I've been in Poland, so I don't know if I'm looking at some kind of regional architectural cuisine or seeing a one-off.

(A typical convenience-store-style kiosk. This one is unusually big since you can actually enter it.)

(More often you pick what you want thru the glass and the clerk hands it out to you. But there are quite a few sit-down restaurants which are naturally larger.)


Jon said...

It doesnt appear to be all that crowded. Is that because its a weekend? Did you have any problem finding things? I didnt see much written in english. I suppose that you have some sort of map. It also seems clean down below,though I cant smell it.

dbackdad said...

Well, at least you have some of the glorious exports of the USA ... McDonald's and the lottery. Spreading democracy around the globe. :-)

wunelle said...

It's not New-York crowded, but there are lots of people here all the time. I generally waited for a blank space to take pictures.

I haven't really looked for specific things, except museums. Those are quite easy to find. The shopping center across the way from the hotel has a big grocery store. I managed to figure out the chocolate aisle! ;-)

Things are clean, but they don't look it. Many buildings are stucco with the color of sand mixed with dirt. And surprisingly, there's very little smell (at least that I can tell). This is quite different from China, where there's a distinctive smell in all the big cities.

Alas, there are McDonalds everywhere. Not Starbucks, tho. I think Warsaw is not a hugely prosperous place, but there's enough of a middle class that I'm surprised not to see them. But McDonalds has come to be seen as proper food even for the very poor. What a cancerous coup.