I spent the night at Maciek’s flat, where we drank Polish beers and played Texas Hold’em with fake chips. It was lots of fun but in the morning it was time to go. I realized that I wouldn’t get to Vienna on time and would need to skip it. But I had to be in Paris in a week so I was still behind schedule. Hitchhiking is wonderful when you don’t have fixed plans and now I sort of regret making any. And it’s counter-intuitive that you would need to rush off to your next stop if you are having plenty of fun at your current one.
Nevertheless I was unsure how to proceed west to Paris. So I decided to jump on a train and head to Katowice in South Poland instead, to visit some good friends. Train travel in Poland is cheap, comfortable and reliable, albeit a bit slow. People love to complain about them because these machines are ancient compared to their western counterparts. But I adore these rustic trains in Poland.
Traveling by train in Poland is an interesting experience because you have plenty of time to admire the scenery and let your mind wander. Typically, you’d be sharing a six-person booth so you’ll have the opportunity to people watch as well. The only drawback is that normal trains are slow. My 300km journey from Warsaw to Katowice, costing zl64 (US$26) took 4.5 hours because of the frequent stops. But that could be a good thing if you like slow travel!
Honestly though, this time I felt like i had been cheating by taking the train. I had managed to hitchhike from Tallinn to Riga to Vilnius to Kaunas to Warsaw (1,111 kms) and somehow it felt more real. It was like I was low, slow and one with the road. Besides I’m sure I could have hitchhiked the 300kms to Katowice within 4.5 hours, I was on a roll!
Train travel did let me better utilize my time, however. There was less waiting and rather than spend hours doing small talk in broken English and hand signals, I could write. In fact, for whatever reason I don’t get “motion narcolepsy” on trains and seem to do my best writing on them. So again, it begs the cost/benefit question – how much is your time worth?
Would you rather lose time to travel for free?