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June 26 2013
Arriving in Warsaw – Poland this morning made me think about a few things I have experience between 2005 and August last year.
When it comes to the average Western European analysis of Poland, not many people have a positive point of view; on the contrary most people I have spoken to are rather negative about their view of Poland. So let's examine this.
In the first instance a number of people in the Netherlands I have spoken to see Poland as a dangerous country where it is not safe to travel and where your possessions easily get stolen, plus it is a backward country
Last year I spoke to some people in the UK with similar points of view. No need to go into who said what but this particular person’s viewpoint was shaped by what was portrayed in the Newspapers and what was heard on TV or radio. And the "All the Polish are coming here to take our jobs" Statement was thrown at me several times on both sides of the English Channel.
Ok, this is definitely not right because I have been here just one day and I have already seen many thousands of Poles traveling to their place of work using local transport. So there are a lot of Poles at home, living in their own country, with normal jobs. The conclusion for these kinds of statements is that indeed some Polish people work in Western Europe and apparently are doing a good job because people employ them. Ok this particular person had never been to Poland let alone out of his own neighborhood, so can we take statements like that seriously? I think not.
Now back to The Netherlands. I have heard similar stories there. Plus over the years that I have visited The Netherlands I have heard to same story over and over again, how once upon a time, I don’t know how long ago, a semi trailer freight driver was murdered and robbed of his entire load, and that they know YXZ person who had heard that things were stolen out of cars and the proof that Poland was a dangerous country was that, if you were to hire a car you were not allowed to go there, blah blah blah. If asked: when did go to Poland then? The answers are always the same” “I have not been there”.
So what is really happening in Poland then? This is my third visit. The first was in 2005, the second in 2012 and now again in 2013. And yes I have to admit Poland is different than say Holland or England. To begin with, the road system is second to none, all new or near new. Most road signage is electronic and very clear. People (although they don’t smile very much) are friendly and helpful and many speak English.
During a visit on my motorcycle I parked the bike anywhere I liked and when I got back it was always there.
Today I arrived by bus at the Central Railway station right in the middle of Warsaw. The railway station reminded me of the Amsterdam airport arrival hall except it was very clean and as it was early, it was still quiet. I arranged a ticket for Friday’s trip to Holland at the nearby counter. The lady spoke good English and asked me some questions about what I wanted. She pressed a few buttons and the computer spat out my ticket. Pay cash or card not a problem. Now to the Hostel, I knew the tram number but which way to go I did not know. I asked a nearby taxi driver who told me in a friendly manner that I needed to go in a left direction. Near the tram station was a ticket machine
Gone are the squeaky trams as they have been replaced with super quite ultra modern units. It is obvious that the city is in a transition period as there are still some old trams around but they are also very quiet. The streets are ultra clean as are the buildings. The centre of the city looks like any other. Modern dealerships of expensive cars are being displayed from the lower floors of the glass glad sky scrapers. Clean underground pedestrian passage ways connect the various intersections.
So what has happened here is simple. Poland, like the other ex communist eastern countries have risen from their standard they had in the late 80’s and modernized. This was done at a grand scale using the latest technology which has positioned them on a higher and more advanced scale than Holland or England for that matter.
In the Western European countries things are slowly advancing and being updated if need be. If, like Poland, you have nothing, you build/create/use or install it with the latest technology available. The same goes for other so-called “poor” countries. While in Istanbul in 1995, a Turkish friend and I got into a tram which used electronic ticketing system via a tiny devise attached to my mate’s key ring.
Anyway, not convinced? Check the pictures and/or go and have a look for yourselves as Poland is not that far (from Western Europe).