BALKAN

 

When I was writing about Giszowiec I promised you to show you something interesting nearby. I am going to keep my word. We can get there for instance by bus.

 

However, I believe in the power of your imagination, so that we start our journey before the year 1977.

 

Or even earlier? Go ahead - we have the year 1920.

 

We stand at the crossroads of Mysłowicka and Szopienicka Street next to the little building located nearby the narrow-gauge railway in Gieschewald (Giszowiec).

 

From a distance you can hear the rumble of wagons, hauled by a small electric locomotive. We get in and start the trip. None of us thinks about buying or validating a ticket. The ride is free. Together with us there are miners from Giszowiec who are going to work, housewives who are going shopping, kids who are going to school.

 

The train, consisting of a small green wagon stops at the Carmer Shaft (Carmer Schacht from German), which later will be called Pułaski Shaft.

 

Next stop is Nikisch Schacht (Shift Poniatowski). This should be the end of our trip, but we will get off here on our way back. Instead, we pass Richthofen Schacht (Wilson Shaft I) and reach Albert Schacht (Shaft Wojciech) Wilhelmina Ansiedlung / Schoppinitz (i.e. Wilhemina housing estate near Szopienice.

 

In this way, we took an 18-minute 3.5-kilometer route by 'Balkan Express', abbreviated as 'Balkan'. The train has already been operating since 1914 as a freight train. His name is probably referring to Balkanzug express train on the route Berlin - Constantinople, which operated from the year 1916.

 

As I promised, we come back to our destination station. We did not have to wait long, because during the day the 'Balkan' train runs 28 times a day a round trip. When we come back in the evening, we will notice a change in the appearance of the passengers. The majority of them are the karlusy (young boys in the Silesian dialect) with their libsty (girlfriends in the Silesian dialect) on a date, an elegantly dressed old couple -she kiere (holds) in their hands blumy (flowers) and gyszynk (a present) because they are going to the geburstag (a birthday party).

 

And what about us? We get off near the mining settlement Nikiszowiec, because that is where I promised to take you to. I can see the surprise on your faces and hear the voices that say it is probably still the old castle and not a housing estate. Patience, please. You will see in a moment. What is up? Please do not run in front of a moving train!!! Do not you dare!

 

Wait, wait. But there is no train! No rails! Nobody whistles for unruly pedestrians. It all ended on 31 of December 1977.

 

Only near the pithead of the 'Pulaski' Shaft there are two little green painted wagons which were miraculously rescued. That is all what remains from a more than 60-year history of 'Balkan Express'.

 

Well, that is not everything. The memories and … regrets remain, as well!

Maciej MastalskiMaciej Mastalski, the tourism enthusiast and lecturer at University of the Third Age in Tychy.

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