Vilnius – Mockava – Warszawa Centralna

Vilnius station is a busy little place. There are both local and international trains. It has a fenced off customs platform, presumably for traffic to/from nearby Belarus, and beyond that a railway museum, which had a couple of old steam engines and a range of other stock of varying age. Sadly I didn’t have time to visit. At the opposite end of the station, the is a bar with an interesting character outside. Also as in so many places in this part of the world, a memorial to events from the last century. Thoughts of this period are rarely far from the surface in this city.

A very helpful member of staff booked me onto the train to the border and the connecting one into Poland. Having sorted the ticket I had time for a walk around near to the station. The market area had an unofficial extension outside with local people selling things grown in their garden, by the look of it. Also nearby, I spotted a few large murals.

There is only one train a day to the Polish border, but the two companies co-operate so that passengers moving either way can complete their journey. There is a timetable, but these lines are the extremities of their respective networks, and both are affected by the ongoing Rail Baltica works, so for now, whichever train arrives first waits for the other one. During the the journey from Vilnius, we were told that the train from the Polish side was running late but that we would be able to wait on board as there was nowhere to sit on the station.

Something I spotted on this part of the jouney is that the Lithuanians are clearly a bit obsessive about acoustic screening of both the railway and major roads. Everywhere that either came close to even one or two houses there were huge screens, sometimes brick or metal, other times transparent, usually with birds added onto them.

I enjoyed the stations we stopped at on the way. Some seemed improbably large and ornate in very small towns. There was evidence of more cartoon painting elsewhere.

Our arrival at Mockava coincided with one of our scheduled work meetings so I went and found a quiet corner to take me call. Just as it was wrapping up, the Polish train appeared and we all swapped over. Something I’d not quite appreciated was that the carriage and seat number I’d been given applied on both trains. Quite a significant level of co-operation then!

Swapping trains at Mockava
Swapping trains at Mockava

At the second station over the border into Poland we paused while border forces went through the train checking passports. Why this didn’t happen until the second station was slightly beyond me.

On the journey through Poland, there was lots more evidence of upgrades along the line. The station of Białystok was pretty much being ripped apart and rebuilt, and is far from the only station I’d seen over the past couple of days where this was the case. Elsewhere there was lots of new infrastructure being laid down parallel to the existing track.

A thing I see lots of in Poland but have never seen elsewhere is storks nesting on telegraph poles. A related thing I’ve not seen in years is lines of railway telegraph poles still strung up and in use. I guess they will go when the line is upgraded, which is a bit sad.

We were quite late into Warsaw. This is a city I know really well, but I’ve not been here since the month before the pandemic. I was working that evening so had almost no time to eat before settling down at my hotel room desk. I remembered that there was a half decent Chinese buffet restaurant on the station, but when I arrived I discovered it had closed down since I was last here, so for the first time on this whole adventure I resorted to a McDonalds, which was the only option on the station.

I walked to my hotel in the pouring rain, but it was lovely to be back in a city where I’ve had many good times over the years. The skyline has changed a bit since I was last here, but it’s still very familiar territory.

Warsaw skyline