Sunday, 17 June 2018

(Not) homeless, (not) hopeless

Yet another post written to vent my anger and out of hopelessness. While you are attempting to succeed in something for months and fail to pull it off, fall over and then get up, the risk of growing weary increases, along with the risk of taking a regrettable decision.

It may sound like an absurdity (though I have heard some stories of people in a situation akin to mine), since if somebody sleeps on a heap of cash, they should simply buy a property, instead of picking and choosing endlessly. I realise I have precise expectations towards a flat I would like to own, each one I had found and wanted to purchase had some drawbacks, yet acceptable.

Since that update I found another four flats (which means one flat generally meeting my expectations per month, I suppose not a bad result).

Flat 1 in Kabaty had one disadvantage I could not get over, namely a pub with beer garden was run beneath its windows and balcony. I feared the noise and smell coming out of it and having taken advice of a few people who shared my reservations that residing there could become a nuisance, I abandoned it.

Flat 2 in Bielany was under construction (completion and handover planned for 4Q2018) and I fell in love with the layout of it. The price was acceptable yet the charm was gone when I cycled to see the building and see that:
- the amount of light coming into the flat was grossly reduced by a nearby 15-storey block of flats,
- the flat was just next to a street, busy and noisy even on Saturday afternoon during the 9-day April-May weekend.
On top I learnt from the developer the flat would be just above the grocery store.

Flat 3 in Natolin had a nice layout, was in a lovely building in a lovely location, but was completely ruined by previous tenants, so lots of money would need to be put in to restore it. Sadly, the owner got stuck to the desired price of PLN 9.3k per sqm and asserted he would not let anybody beat it down even by a single zloty. The flat remains unsold until now.

Flat 4 in Kabaty was found quickly after the comeback from holidays and seen immediately. The first impression was that it was quiet, sunny and had large potential (also ruined by tenants and in need to comprehensive refurbishment). My father got involved in preparing a renovation calculations, however the flat was given up not for cost and hassle reasons, but because of poor layout which fully transpired at the stage of planning / designing (bathroom would fit nothing except for shower booth, washbasin and toilet bowl, kitchen also gave little room for manoeuvre, corridor would fit nothing expect for a closet) and location on second floor without a lift.

In the meantime, media reports of skyrocketing property prices and shrinking supply began to flourish. Indeed, demand is still propped up by people withdrawing money from bank deposits (oddly enough my bank savings fetch 40% higher return that a year ago despite central bank rates unchanged, only thanks to increased competition to attract depositors), on top banks have loosen their mortgage lending criteria. Supply of flats on the secondary market is constrained by owners who believe it pays off more to let a flat rather to sell it and put money on a low-interest bank account.

To find out what is actually happening on a property market, you can draw on many sources. I find bleating developers, property agents, loan brokers and financial advisors less credible that National Bank of Poland and AMRON-SARFIN databases. The two transaction registers and still patchy, since NBP database relies on data voluntarily passed by property developers and estate agents, while AMRON-SARFIN base is compiled by mortgage-lenders, so flats purchased for cash only fall out of the sample.

NBP data which differentiate between primary and secondary market indicate that transaction prices on secondary market indeed went up a bit, yet were higher in mid-2017 than recently and that the gap between asking prices and transaction prices increased. No wonder. If in any newspaper and on any webpage you can read the prices are going up, vendors naturally reach out for more.

AMRON-SARFIN data which show the broad picture of the market astonishingly indicate a minor q/q decline in Warsaw in 1Q2018 which might be attributable to the seasonal factor and some transactions under MdM programme. Year-on-year change in flat prices is no longer close to zero, but still far from 10% of which those who benefit from price incline speak.

Some of you could ask why have I focused on secondary market and does not want a brand-new flat. It is not even a matter of waiting or of higher prices (here the 5% y/y hike is a matter of fact) or even idiotic layouts. Those factors do matter, yet the biggest risk which I observe as bank analyst (having insight into some information before they hit the headlines) is the risk of construction not being completed, on account of cost pressure on building materials and labour force sides. I know of some developments where construction works have been halted and an investor faces a problem. The phenomenon is already signalled in the press, but I fear also somewhat shrugged off.

Tensions in the economy are more and more visible, though officially the economy is steaming ahead at full blast. The currently observed salary growth, not followed by inflation pressure is not sustainable and it is a matter of months or quarters before the economy overheats. I also believe the National Bank of Poland is doing an evil job of not jacking up interest rates, when the economy would easily withstand tighter monetary policy but threat of imbalances would be fended off. As I pointed out several times, if the price of money is too cheap, those in possession of surpluses of cash would flee low-earning investments and chase higher returns. Currently, such are offered by property rental, but with:
- growing supply of flats for rent, rent rates are unlikely to go up,
- if flat prices rise and rent continue flat, yields will go down,
- on top if interest rates go up and banks keep on fighting for deposits, the gap between nearly risk-free bank deposit and risky property rental would narrow down.
Since most of flats purchased today are not bought for own use, but to be let to someone else, a sell-off is conceivable one day…

But on the other hand, the market can stay irrational longer than you can stay liquid. Poland is growing richer and one of evidences of it is the increasing number of people who can afford to buy properties out of their accumulated savings only. Besides, in terms of number of square metres which can be purchased for an average salary, Warsaw still ranks among the most affordable property markets in Europe. This makes sad news, if London or Paris appear as gloomy benchmarks.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Eurotrip 2018 - part II

As I was looking for accommo-dation in Portoroz, to ensure the lodgings would be located near a beach. Quite easily I found one some one kilometre from the sea shore. Sadly (or not), I forgot to check the terrain shape. As it turned out, the Slovenian coast is featured with the highest cliffs by Adriatic sea and each walk to the beach or to the city centre involved a steep descent and then a steep ascent back. According to my estimations, the higher parts of Portoroz and nearby towns are close to 100 metres above sea level. The first climb was a nasty experience, however with each consecutive day we grew more and more seasoned and fitter!

Visiting the Adriatic seaside in the third decade of May has most advantages of low season. Though on Saturday and Sunday some locals and probably some visitors from central parts of Slovenia, popped over for a weekend rest, droves of sun-thirsty tourist were unseen. On Thursday the beach looked like that. The snap is somewhat misleading since we were not the only holidaymakers around. There were less than plenty but more than few tourists from Germany (judging by licence plates of cars, not only language audible) and Russia.

After a day of sunbathing and swimming in the sea (water temperature around 20C, similar to what one can enjoy in Polish lakes in July or August, so bearable, not yet comfortably warm) we marched towards Piran, the historic Italian town which in the wake of political decisions was adjoined to bygone Yugoslavia in 1954. The architecture reminds of Italian roots of this place. The town has its climate, especially near sunset (a pity we did not take an evening trip there), but when the heat reaches +30C sightseeing conditions are not at their best, yet we were in Mediterranean climate, it should not have been chilly actually. 

Each evening we took a bottle of local wine (less than 2 EUR per litre, an excellent beverage for my not refined taste) and sauntered to a promontory to observe the sun going down into the sea. Unfortunately, each day the western sky was kind of cloudy and clouds lingered above the horizon, so we missed the breathtaking sight, being out of luck just as in January we missed out on Northern Lights, but a week after we few back a massive aurora explosion was witnessed in Tromso. Yet sipping wine and staring at the smooth sea was a sheer bliss anyway.

Monday, 28 May 2018
After spending four full days in Portoroz, we headed back towards Poland. The first stop, recommended by a friend who had also travelled to Slovenia by car in 2016, was Bled lake, one of two picturesque lakes (the other is Bohinj) in the central, hilly part of the country. Out stopover there lasted just an hour, enough to catch the climate of the place and grow fond of it, yearning to come back for more one day.

On the same day we turned up to Maribor. The accommo-dation there, a three-star, just refurbished apartment one mile from the very city center set us back mere 42 EUR (cheapie!). Maribor is the second biggest city in Slovenia, yet it smacks of a bigger town and I must say one afternoon is absolutely sufficient to get about it. We roamed around town, but climbed up a hill called "pyramid" (due to its shape), from which we could lap up another city view from above. We pitched up atop more than one hour before sunset (not the most magical time of the day), yet gazing at such landscape compensates the strain ascent involves.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018
The last stop (actually the penultimate one, before spending two days in Bielsko-Biała again) was the capital of Slovakia, which was the let-down of the trip. My memories are negatively skewed as all cards were stacked against us. As we were driving in, a massive downpour hit the city, then it cleared up, but air humidity was far higher and temperature hit +30C - not a conducive temperature for sightseeing. Our hotel (Hotel Turist) turned out to not to have undergone a renovation since the split of Czechoslovakia (in Poland one would struggle hard to find hotels where time stopped before the collapse of communism), odour of cigarettes was in the air, breakfast was worse than indecent. Fortunately we just stayed one night there (but escaped on Wednesday before 8 a.m.) and the location was two miles from old town. I did not even bother to take out a camera too many times. Had I taken pictures of Bratislavia and stripped them off advertisements and modern cars, the photos would have been easily eligible for Michael's old-school photo challenge. Truth be told, I recommend visiting Bratislava to nobody.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Eurotrip 2018 - part I

Decided to split the blog coverage of the recent holidays into two posts (expect the second chunk and snaps of the story next Sunday).

I had hatched the idea of taking longer trip by car several years ago, yet this year I managed to put it into practice. Within 12 day we covered 2,583 kilometres through four countries, visited three capitals, did not fall into troubles…

Day 1, Sunday, 20 May 2018

We set off to Bielsko-Biała where my girlfriend’s parents live. A visit there was our first stop on the way south. The drive would have been a smooth one, had it not been for being stopped by the police for speeding (ignored the 70 kmph limit somewhere between Częstochowa and Katowice and carried on with 100 kmph on cruise control) – upshot: scored 4 penalty points and the first fine in my driving career, 100 PLN down the drain, paid with credit card on the spot (traffic patrol officers had had payment terminals since February 2018). Nevertheless, I have to boast about economical driving – fuel consumption over the whole trip – mere 6.11 litres per 100 kilometres (I drove 100 – 110 kmph most of the time). Had it not been for air-con on, my Megane would have consumed less than 6 litres.

Day 2, Monday, 21 May 2018

We headed for Vienna early in the morning and pitched up to our hotel, Ibis Budget Sankt Marx, just after 1 p.m. A long afternoon is far too little to do the decent sightseeing in Austria’s capital, therefore one day I will definitely have to return there. My greetings to Bob, who has virtually kept me company and advised where to go!

Hundertwas-serhaus was the first stop of our Vienna-wide journey. The concept’s originator claimed he had designed it not to let anybody build anything uglier in such place. Actually I find the idea quaint, but rather as a tourist attraction, not as a place I would like to reside in (those who know me know I am fond of order, not chaos).

From the housing district we headed for Schoenbrunn palace. Our underground ride was impeded by railway modernisation, forcing us to take part of the route by bus. We roamed around the scene, dropped in on ticket office to learn our museum entrance time would come in an hour. We spent that time strolling around huge gardens behind the palace (this was the first hill to climb during the holidays).

After eating out a hearty dinner (was not a lunchtime anymore) we made our way towards Prater, the famous amusement park. We could not do without buying tickets for the Riesenrad wheel, from top position of which tourists can enjoy sights of Vienna’s panorama. We timed our visit there to roughly match with the sunset, yet found ourselves at the top more than half an hour before sun went down. Nevertheless, the views were memorable (even in camera’s eye).

As it was getting dark and we were already tired out, we took a short walk around the centre of Vienna, here we sauntered past Graben, but also saw from outside St. Stephen’s cathedral. Anyway, we could have done with at least a day of intensive sightseeing in Austria’s capital.

Day 3, Tuesday, 22 May 2018.

After a decent breakfast in the hotel, we set off to Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital. That city is far less remarkable than Vienna, with less than 300,000 inhabitants, is the biggest city in Slovenia anyway. Our lodgings was mere 3 kilometres from the city centre and was surrounded by terraced houses whose dwellers grew vegetables in their gardens. The city was small enough for us to get about it on foot only (buying bus tickets is quite complicated). Here, the snap from our stroll – castle hill seen in a distance.

There was no excuse not to scramble up the steep castle hill from which a beautiful panorama of Slovenia’s capital splays out. The weather was conducive and actually this was the only day of our trip when temperature in the afternoon oscillated near pleasant +20C.

Day 4, Wednesday, 23 May 2018.

Early in the morning we spontaneously decided to take a stopover in our 130-kilometres trip to our destination, to see Postojna caves. The attraction is absolutely breath-taking and tough quite expensive (spent over 70 EUR for tickets, audio-guide and parking), worth visiting. Snaps taken with a camera without a tripod and proper light enhancement do not render beauty of the place. If you happen do visit Slovenia, Postojna cave is a must.

To be continued :)

Sunday, 13 May 2018

In a hurry

Apologies guys for not posting anything substantial this weekend. Being kind of busy due to work-related stuff and holidays preparations so that the free time I can enjoy I prefer to spend outdoors rather than staring at computer screen.

Just one reflection which I have had in mind for a few days. My job is definitely imperfect. There are scores of things which f*ck me up: how badly processes are organised, how unequally the workload is split in my team, how my boss lacks communications skills, how unreliable my front office colleagues are, how mean and unkind workmates how be, how little the organisation cares about its staff and how hopelessly it is focused on itself. I could go on moaning about the drawbacks, yet I do what I like, each days brings new challenges and in terms of assignments to be done is unrepeatable, it allows me to fulfil my potential, I still can learn a lot, I get paid well and the salary is always on time. All in all, advantages outweigh the drawbacks and I wish to carry on where I work and I believe my approach is constructive.

If so, why can I not apply such down-to-earth wisdom in my relationship – I keep asking myself whether I am too demanding or the relationship does not pass muster. This is something I have been trying to think over, yet with no reasonable outcome.

Next post in early June, when I return from holidays.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

The longest weekend (since 2012 and until 2029)

It’s the longest possible weekend. This year 1 May fell on Tuesday, 3 May on Thursday, both days are national holidays. So Poland has nearly come to a stand-still, since two-third of the alive working population have taken three days off to enjoy nine days away from work. This might have been a nuisance if you wanted to run errands. I had signed up to stay in the office as I am taking two-week holidays from 20 May, so I needed some time to catch up with all assignments needed to be completed by the end of May, but in practice two weeks earlier.

Here, first the day of May. My girlfriend induced me to take an over 80-kilometre bike trip. We practically set off from Metro Młociny, then further east towards the other end of Vistula, through Most Północny. Apart from the dual carriageway and the tram tracks, the bridge carries a sidewalk and the cycling path. I must say the infrastructure for cyclists is getting better and better in the capital.

Having cycled through Białołęka, between blocks of flats and then between detached houses (a marvelous place to spend weekends; unfortunately far worse in terms of daily commuting), we find a path which runs parallel to the railway line running to Gdańsk, the venue I had seen before from train window. Oddly enough, Pendolino trains are less noisy than modern Koleje Mazowieckie sets.

The path leads to Legionowo. In the distance a road viaduct being a part of DK61, customarily solidly jammed (traffic jams on bank holidays are a rarity) – Varsovians are heading for Zegrze, stuck in their cars. Quite probably many of those people are fit enough to go there by bike like us. We are stopped before the gates on a guarded railway crossing and we spot the odd (colour-wise) loco hauling nine passenger carriages. A phenomenon to be noticed – in Poland gates are closed several minutes before a train passes (resulting in huge queues of vehicles waiting for gates to open; this is why I always turn the engine off before railway crossings), abroad quite often less than one minute – why?

After a short stopover to eat sandwiches, we cycle west along the bank of Narew river, through the soil-made embankment. The lands here are barely touched by mankind, virgin I would say. It is getting hotter and hotter, my back gets sweaty, as I carry food and a pack of juice in my rucksack.

Having passed through Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki, a district town less than 50 kilometres north of Warsaw, which despite its vicinity to the capital felt like a provincial town, we cycle back south, this time roughly along Vistula. To our left, we come across the oldest golf course in Poland and the most famous one in Rajszew. In terms of area, I suppose it is at a par with professional courses in Western Europe. Round there, we take another stop to fill up our stomachs by the bank of Vistula.

Less than a quarter later, dark clouds set in and thunders herald a downpour. Raindrops get bigger and fall more frequently, but we keep moving on. As the downpour gets intense, I spot a large canopy, under which a few cyclists have already taken shelter. We stop over there and luckily, we are under the roof the wait out the hail. The ice balls are probably the biggest I have ever seen in my life. As I watched them fell, I felt lucky the hail hit there, not over Ursynów where my car sat in the open air; such balls could have left marks on the vehicle. Oddly enough, some three kilometres south not a single droplet of rain has fallen.

To the right, Wednesday late afternoon, sitting on Vistula boulevards next to Centrum Nauki Kopernik. Sipping beer, living it up in the city centre, glad Warsaw’s authorities have done a lot to make improve this area and make it relaxer-friendly. All potential voters of Patryk Jaki should make a list to check out what stride Warsaw has made since 2006 when HGW and Platforma took over. Needless to say, it would not hurt to make another list of things which still need to be done, some even badly and compare length of both of them.

On Thursday we went by bikes to a beach behind Wał Zawadowski, Wilanów district and spent there half a day, basking in the sun (second day this year with day-time high near +30C), walking around. The snap shows in the distance (looking south) cranes and other machinery which are used for preparatory works before construction of bridge carrying the Southern Bypass of Warsaw over the Vistula gets in overdrive. To our nice surprise, not droves of people around, yet the sort of people who while away on city beaches remains the same (portable barbecues, screaming children, swear words are the order of the day).

Now only two weeks in the office and then off to Slovenia, through Slovakia and Austria ;-)

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Economy of sharing

Musings inspired by fellow blogger's thoughts and by several recent talks with acquaintances and workmates on when it pays off to own stuff and when not.

Car hire industry has been growing rapidly in Poland and expanding into new niches. All segments of the market, starting from long-term (meaning 3Y-5Y) leases, through mid-term (~1Y), short-term (a fortnight or so) to car sharing paid per minute, are growing. Cost-effectiveness of such solutions depends on a car user's needs. I use a car usually three or four times a week around town plus I take between five and ten longer (>100 kilometres) trips in a year and even if counting in all car maintenance costs I am below the break-even point, the convenience of having a car next to my door and pleasure of driving a well looked-after vehicle outweigh all drawbacks this liability (a car is more a liability than an asset I believe) has. But consider somebody who want to enjoy a ride a convertible car a few times a year. Such zealots often buy their dreamt-up vehicles and park their them in garages to drive them every third Sunday in non-winter season. Here probably the passion beats cost-effectiveness, but if you have a whim to indulge, renting a car looms as a good solution.

DIY tools found in every house or garage are yet another example. As I believe a simple set of tools which may come in handy unexpectedly (screwdrivers, pliers, hammers, wrenches) are indispensable in every household, devices, whose use is less frequent and more predictable could be borrowed for hours or days when needed (e.g. driller). Same with gardening tools - a lawnmower is something you use every several times over the warm season, same about rakes or spade, but more expensive and heavier tools such as verticulator (used to air the grass once a year) are more practical to be borrowed.

Other examples of stuff to be rather borrowed than purchased are those used sporadically. Those which spring to my mind instantly are:
- outfits used occasionally: a tailcoat if you happen wear it once a year, a wedding dress, or party dresses which women as a matter of principle wear no more than once,
- kitchen machinery plugged in once in a blue moon,
- sport equipment, especially if you take up a new sport discipline and do not know whether you would it would take your fancy, or if you use it once a year, but maintenance costs need to be borne anyway.

An advantage of borrowing rather than buying is not just saving money. It also saves spaces and declutters your basements, cellars, garages, or dwellings. Less space to store stuff sound appealing.

Generally speaking, the so-called break-even point in terms of convenience / practicability and economics is when you use something a few times a year.

Buying on one's own and borrowing are not the only options. Alternatives to consider are: 
- collective purchases of infrequently needed stuff with your friends or neighbours (here the problem is who keeps it),
- resale of stuff needed for some period of time (children's clothes, shoes and other accessories),
- exchange of clothes - good for females who want to reshuffle the content of their wardrobes without spending money.

Some time ago I was skeptical towards the economy of sharing while today I discern more and more upsides of it. Possessing is not always the best option, it is just one of many and whether it adds up or takes away of your freedom depends on life circumstances.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Why can we lose - because it's too loose ;-)

The interest rate environment in Poland (current benchmark rate of 1.50% unchanged since March 2015) is unprecedented for two reasons – firstly monetary policy has never been that stable and predictable; secondly, it has never been that loose. Guidance of monetary policy council members and statements of central bank’s governor is uniform – interest rates are going to stay intact for around two years. The monetary decision makers in their utterances point up they would sooner consider further loosening than jacking up interest rates; horribly.

Over eight years ago I wrote an essay in which I asserted why low interest rates are detrimental to the economy in the longer run. In that respect, my views have not evolved much over nearly a decade and I still fear the current near-zero real interest rates would do more harm than good to the booming economy of Poland. I do believe there are three reasons, why monetary tightening should be initiated right now, instead of waiting for dreadful stories to unfold.

Firstly, the wage pressure. Nominal wages in recent months were outpacing inflation markedly, reflecting not only rising efficiencies in production processes, but primarily labour force shortages in several industries. The salaries are rising predominantly among low-paid employees (partly side effect of 500+ allowance) whose supply is shrinking and employers are forced to compete for them. In that labour market niche pay rises reach 20% annually.
1. Those people whose financial well-being has improved recently (good for them) would rather spend their additional income to have their needs met which generates additional demand on the market and might push up prices of basic goods.
2. Rising payrolls should drive prices of goods and services sold (otherwise profits of businesses decline or imported substitutes replace domestic goods.
Both effects contribute to increase in the price level, i.e. to future inflation.

Secondly, the situation on the property market, which is not in a bubble only thanks to record-high supply of new dwellings and several constraints on mortgage lending (which is pricey and subject to LTV restrictions and more stringent creditworthiness assessment).
The current bank deposits bring one-third of the income of property rental yield, so whoever is not afraid of risks and liquidity constraints associated with letting a flat does not keep their extra money on little-earning bank accounts and chooses to buy a flat for sale.
This also has several implications:
1.       Outflow of money from the banking system; whoever wants to invest in properties should realise unlike with a lending spree, here flow of new money might be cut short, as number of people with six-digit savings in Poland is finite.
2.       Increased supply of properties to be rented which might balance or not demand from tenants. In the final phase (especially after an interest-rate hike) the relative attractiveness of property rental might decrease and might trigger a sell-off from less experienced investors. This might as well go the other way round, as many people might be deprived of a chance to buy a property.
3.       Property developers have been increasing output of dwelling since 2014, so far with only marginal price increases. With current demand, surpassing supply and with increasing prices of construction materials and labour charges, property prices are set to rise inevitably with might not be put up with by buyers. margins in the industry will go down. Property developers as the group seem safe, however bankruptcies among general contractors and subcotractors loom large.
While until now the property market was generally heading in a good direction (increased supply of new dwelling, stable prices, higher availability defined as number of sqm can an average salary would buy), now the threat of imbalances has grown.

Worth noting other countries have already set off to increase interest rates, to somewhat dampen the economic boom and in many countries to stem double-digit growth in property prices which in longer run is dangerous to the economy and impoverishes the society.

I can moan, I can complain, while my grumbling will change nothing. I may only hope negative implications which I foresee do not materialise and the Polish economy does not suffer a shock.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Cycling season 2018 kicked off

2018 will go down in almanacs of meteorology as another year when the weather made a sudden shift from late winter (it snowed on Easter Monday, 2 April) to full-blown spring (two days later in the afternoon temperature topped +22C). Quite a shock for a body nearly sick of never-ending winter, yet a huge reason to be cheerful. So last balmy Sunday with temperature peaking +23C was a perfect day for a cycling shake-down.

My wish was not to strain my muscles and to cover a distance no longer than 50 kilometres. We chose to take the underground to the northern end of the line (the last carriage of the train was chock full of cyclists and their two-wheel equipment) and from there set off towards Kampinos forests. To the right, our first stop, the Opaleń clearing. It was just past midday, sun was shining strong. Families with children and dogs roamed around, some enjoyed picnics, some made celebrations. Kind of noisy place, yet faraway from fumes and the usual city groan.

The temperature was nearly summer-like, yet the sight of forest reminded it was still very early spring. Fallen leaves had not decomposed, trees had not gone leafy, some plants showed first buds. Today, after nearly two weeks of spring, with over +20C day-time highs (+26C on 9 April 2018 is a rarity as for the first decade of April) spring is in overdrive, though some precipitation would definitely come in useful.

It was half past two in the afternoon. Rest assured, I was not staring at the sun, just holding my smartphone to catch the sun shining through leafless trees. We were sitting on an alley-side bench, basking in the sun and filling our stomachs up with oranges and apples. A lovely place to hide away from the daily grind, awaiting the next morning in the corpo-world.

After meandering through the forest and having spotted we had ridden just less than 30 kilometres, we decided to take a detour via Łomianki and Las Młociński. Here, the suburb north-west of Warsaw. Streets were nearly empty, the traffic was sparse, as this was another trade-free Sunday. Suburbs are a lovely place to live in, yet most have one significant drawback, namely daily commutes to work or school might be a nuisance, if decent transport links do not exist. By saying “decent” I mean railways, since buses will get stuck in traffic jams along with cars, while being car-dependent is not a solution, especially if family memebrs need to rely on a driver. Needless to say, properties in well-connected suburbs are priced to reflect the quick commutes to the city centre.

We reached Metro Młociny and still had less than 40 kilometres behind us, so we resolved to ride along ul. Kasprowicza, through Stare Bielany. As we waited for traffic light to turn green, I snapped the hosuing block, built in 1950s when this part of Warsaw was developed. Old-style, heavy stalinist edifice gives off the climate of this estate built for industrial workers. In the vicinity of that place one can spot marvellous terraced houses, making up a more exclusive part of the district. Worth mentioning this part of Warsaw used to have poor transport links to the city centre until the last section of underground line was opened in 2008.

On Monday I actually felt the first ride, but not as I had expected in my thighs or in my backside, but in my arms and down my neck. Yet they were sore just for a few hours and then the aches eased up.

This weekend the weather was also perfect. Made the most of it by cleaning my car and my father’s car and helping my parents with garden works (yesterday) and cycling (today). Hope the next whiff of winter is no earlier than in November 2018.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Winter Timeline 2017/18

Late-October forecasts would say December 2017 and January 2018 would be extremely mild, while cold snap would hit in February 2018. Actually the last winter was predicted to go down as one of the mildest in history. With hindsight – the forecast has generally proven true.

31 October 2017
First ground frost this autumn (official readings say temperature dropped to +0.2C).

20 November 2017
First snow this autumn. Wet and heavy, but hit in morning rush hour, in slightly above-zero temperature and disappeared after two hours.

First frost this autumn (-2C in the morning), record-late in Warsaw. Sub-zero temperatures usually are measured in the capital of Poland much earlier. Over the recent decade, first autumnal frosts were observed on:
- 14 October 2016,
-   9 October 2015,
- 24 October 2014,
-   4 October 2013,
- 26 October 2012,
- 16 October 2011,
-   8 October 2010,
- 14 October 2009,
- 17 November 2008 (wow, record beaten!),
- 10 October 2007.

22 November 2017 – 28 November 2017
Late autumn returns, occasionally with temperatures nearing double-digits, occasionally with a little touch of frost at night.

29 November 2017
Chilly, windy, rain turns into sleet. Forecasters warn of first heavy snow showers this season.

Snow showers begin before sunrise. It snows all day, but since temperature lingers barely above zero, some of it melts, on pavements and roads it turns into slush. The first attack of winter is bravely endured by Warsaw (not coming to a standstill).

November 2017 in terms of temperature was warm; the temperature over the whole month averaged out +4.9C, vs. long-term mean of +3.2C. Stats:
- month-time high: +13.3C on 6 November 2017 (typical maximum in November),
- month-time low: –2.6C on 27 November 2017 (quite an ordinary low, yet sub-zero temperatures were quite rare),
- the warmest day: 2 November 2017 (daily average of +9.5C),
- the coldest day: 30 November 2017 (daily average of +0.4C, all in order, warm at the beginning, cold towards the end).

1 December 2017
+1C from dawn to dusk, gloomy, remnants of the snow slowly melt.

2 December 2017 – 3 December 2017
Gloomy (not a single sunbeam to be spotted), chilly (above zero yet windy); leftovers of the snow keep melting

4 December 2017
The winter was supposed to be gone for a fortnight, yet morning greeted Warsaw with a light dusting of snow and the day brought several short snow showers; some of the snow has lingered in barely positive temperatures.

5 December 2017 – 8 December 2017
Late autumn, with temperatures above freezing. Overwhelming gloom continues.

A cold spell, meaning temperatures drop to around 0C. To make up for the chill, sunbeams light up the weekend occasionally.

11 December 2017 – 12 December 2017
Two warm, partly sunny and veritably windy days, with temperatures topping double digits on 12 December.

13 December 2017 – 17 December 2017
A full array of pre-winter’s countenances – temperatures rather above zero, with little frost at night, spells of sunshine, but with all sorts of precipitation – snow, sleet and rain.

18 December 2017 – 19 December 2017
Chilly, below zero, but high air humidity makes it feel like -10C. Besides dejecting gloom continues.

20 December 2017 – 21 December 2017
It snows delicately, but most snowflakes melt, as the temperature is just below 0C. Cloudy, dark. Longing for some sunlight…

22 December 2017
The first quite bright day after five days of unwavering gloom.

23 December 2017
It rains for the entire day, still this is late autumn. Around evening gusty wind heralds annual Christmas spell of warmth…

24 December 2017 – 25 December 2017
Objectively warm, with temperatures close to +10C, subjectively cool, on account of gusty wind and lack of sunshine.

26 December 2017 – 28 December 2017
Finally sunny, from dawn to dusk, slightly colder, but above zero all the time, even at night despite cloudless skies.

29 December 2017
This time much cooler, barely above zero and with sleet.

30 December 2017
A relatively (compared to how warm this December has been) cool, clement day, cloudless skies, accompanied with all-round frost – even in the afternoon temperature fails to make it above the point of freezing.

31 December 2017
The very last day of the year brings considerable warmth, temperature reaches +8C and drops to +1C around midnight.

December 2017 was warm. Average temperature in Warsaw was +2.5C (vs. long-term average of –0.7C) Stats:
- month-time high: +11.0C on 12 December 2017,
- month-time low: –3.5C on 20 December 2017 (must have been one of the record-highest December lows),
- the warmest day: 25 December 2017 (daily average of +8.3C, why doesn’t it surprise it was on Christmas day),
- the coldest day: 19 December 2017 (daily average of -2.2C, which is still quite warm as for the coldest day).

1 January 2018
Not so gloomy, not yet sunny, yet the new year begins with almost +10C day-time high.

2 January 2018 – 7 January 2018
The common denominator of weather on all six days is positive temperature, which even for a minute does not drop below freezing. Besides, all sorts of late-autumn weather are observed, with abundance of clement hours of sunshine noted.

8 January 2018 – 9 January 2018
The coldest mornings this winter so far (-7C on both days) and temperature barely rising above zero on sunny afternoons.

10 January 2018 – 13 January 2018
Off to Norway beyond the polar circle, where on average it is warmer than in Warsaw. In the capital of Poland temperature oscillates around zero, sun is hidden behind clouds and little snow falls.

14 January 2018 – 15 January 2018
Paradoxically, temperature in Poland is a few degrees lower than at the gates of Arctic. I am greeted by temperature of -6C, chilly wind and sparse snowfall.

-8C in the morning, means yet another cold record of this winter is broken. In the afternoon clear skies give way to a little snow blizzard which brings a mere one-centimetre-thick layer of snow.

17 January 2018
Snow continues to fall overnight and the precipitation reaches three centimetres. It begins to melt around midday when temperature rises above freezing.

18 January 2018
Thaws continues, but around 6 p.m. a blizzard hits Warsaw. Within three hours snow cover increases by five centimetres, not a pleasure to be outside if wind gusts reach up to 80 kmph. This has been one of bigger blizzards seen in the capital of Poland over last years.

19 January 2018 – 20 January 2018
Mild thaw continues (at least during the days), so the snow gets heavy and slowly melts. Rather gloomy, but with few supplies of new white powder. Slush everywhere.

Foggy morning, icy roads and pavements. Below freezing all day.

22 January 2018 – 23 January 2018
Generally gloomy and windy, hence the chill is overwhelming. Actual thermometer readings between -7C and -2C. But winter is to ease up for a while.

24 January 2018
The freeze gives in, but the first day of thaw is marked by chilly wind and rain, so although it is above zero, it feels like -5C or below.

25 January 2018 – 28 January 2018
General thaw, albeit with incidences of overnight frost. Day-time highs between +3C and +7C and it does not feel like pre-spring is in the air. Rather dull, windy and foggy.

29 January 2018
The first whiff of pre-spring. Windy and rainy day when temperature peaks at double-digits.

30 January 2018 – 31 January 2018
Somewhat colder, but still above freezing. Damn windy, feels like some 10 degrees colder than actual temperature. The last day of January brings back the missing piece in this spell of warmth which is sunshine.

January 2018 was slightly warm, deviations from the mean temperature were not large. Average temperature in Warsaw was +0.4C (vs. long-term average of –1.9C). Stats:
- month-time high: +10.1C on 29 January 2018 (a return to the pattern under which January’s high is into double digits),
- month-time low: –8.7C on 16 January 2018 (here in turn only single-digit frost is a rarity in January),
- the warmest day: 29 January 2018 (daily average of +8.1C, as warm as in mid-April),
- the coldest day: 15 January 2018 (daily average of –6.3C).

1 February 2018 – 2 February 2018
Still above zero, rainy. Prospect of mild winter looms, but no serious relapse of winter is in sight.

3 February 2018 – 4 February 2018
Foggy mornings, temperature-wise on the verge of winter. In the meantime the southern part of Poland gets deep under the heavy, thick layer of snow.

5 February 2018
Winter has returned. -6C in the morning is cold by the standards of this mild winter. A sunny day ends with an evening flurry.

6 February 2018
Snowy morning, gloomy day…

7 February 2018
This might be this winter’s low. -9C in Warsaw, officially, down to even -12C in the suburbs. Besides, a lovely frosty morning after which temperature soars to +1C

Another incidence of overnight snow. Slightly below zero all day.

9 February 2018 – 11 February 2018
Gloom, defined as fog or cloudy sky. Below zero all the time, but no colder than -5C anyway.

12 February 2018 – 15 February 2018
Balancing on the verge of winter with different sorts of weather, including flurry, sunshine, but most of the time it is still cloudy. The time of year when days are noticeably longer, especially in afternoons (getting dark around 5 p.m.).

16  February 2018 – 19 February 2018
Frost at night. Above zero during the day. Not a single sunbeam at sight, odd precipitation (snow, sleet, drizzle).

20 February 2018 – 21 February 2018
Finally sunshine! Day-time highs above zero and these are the last moments when temperatures are above freezing this month. The biggest cold snap this winter is heading, so soon temperature is foreseen to drop to around -15C in Warsaw.

22 February 2018 – 23 February 2018
If you look outside, seemingly spring is in the air especially since no snow lies on the ground. In fact, temperatures fluctuate between -8C before dawn to around -2C in early afternoon.

24 February 2018
Some one centimetre of snow has fallen in the morning and will shield earth from biting cold foreseen for the coming days. Temperature in the evening declines below -10C for the first time this winter.

The big freeze hits for the same time. -15C at 6 a.m., day-time high of -8C. Sunny most of the time. Windy, in open air makes it feel like nearly -20C.

26 February 2018 – 28 February 2018
Three consecutive days of chill. Frosty mornings, down to -15C, sunny days with day-time highs around -10C or somewhat warmer. Would not hurt that bad, had it not been for the wind…

February 2018 was slightly cold. Average temperature in Warsaw was –3.2C (vs. long-term average of –1.0C). Contrary to a typical pattern, beginning of the month was the warmest, while the ending was brought a bitterly cold snap. Stats:
- month-time high: +5.3C on 1 February 2018 (a bit little, in previous years double-digit highs were prevalent),
- month-time low: –15.3C on 27 February 2018 (funny, since in 2017, 27 February saw the highest temperature in the whole month),
- the warmest day: 1 February 2018 (daily average of +4.1C),
- the coldest day: 27 February 2018 (daily average of –11.7C).

1 March 2018 – 2 March 2018
The cold snap continues. On sunny dawns temperature drops again to -15C, afternoons get warmer, near -7C.

3 March 2018
A tad of snow has fallen overnight and in the afternoon. Warmer, day-time high of some -5C, the frost has eased that much for the first time since more than a week.

4 March 2018
The morning with a low of around -13C, then it gets warmer, near -1C!

5 March 2018
Again, near -10C at dawn, but in the afternoon it thaws out to +4C. Balmy, wonderfully.

6 March 2018 – 9 March 2018
First whiff of spring, after a cold snap. Frost-free mornings, temperature topping almost +10C, occasional rain, but sunshine most of time.

10 March 2018 – 11 March 2018
It is the veritable incursion of spring. Most of the time sunny, day-time highs of respectively +10C and +14C. Beware through, meteorologists warn of yet another invasion of winter at the beginning of the third decade of March, hence it is not the right time to sign off the Winter timeline!

12 March 2018 – 14 March 2018
Getting colder day by day. Day-time highs drop from +15C to +8C, day-time lows well above freezing. No longer sunny. With time the oncoming assault of winter grows less scary and shorter.

15 March 2018
The spring is gone. Not much above zero, cloudy, windy.

16 March 2018
-1C in the morning. Snow begins to fall in the afternoon, a mini-blizzard hits Warsaw during evening rush hour. Late at night snow cover reaches 6 centimetres.

17 March 2018
-6C in the morning, clear blue skies all day. Despite the chill, it nearly feels like spring. Kind of reassuring to know this is quite probably the last gasp of winter.

From -8C before sunrise, up to -1C in the afternoon. Sunlight is strong, but wind chill makes it feel like double-digit frost.

19 March 2018
Still cold in the morning, but over the day wind eases off and you can bask in the sun as temperature tops +1C.

20 March 2018 – 23 March 2018
Balancing on the edge of winter and spring. Mornings bring frost, afternoons are quite balmy. Sometimes sunny, sometimes cloudy. This could be the right moment to complete the winter timeline, but forecasts for the coming Easter, which customarily brought the last whiff of winter, are somewhat uncertain.

24 March 2018 – 26 March 2018
Pleasant nearly spring. Quite sunny and near +10C (below or above), though mornings bring little frost. Weather forecast chop and change in terms of how Easter would look like weather-wise, but coming days are to be on the verge of winter.

27 March 2018 – 28 March 2018
A reversal towards gloomy pre-spring, with little sunshine and temperatures hovering between 0C and +5C. A rainfall would come in useful to wash away the salt from pavements and streets.

Had I finished it before today, winter timeline would have been incomplete. I wake up to a sight to falling snow, temperature 0C. It snows by midday, but melts by late afternoon. In the evening it rains. Roll on Easter!

30 March – 31 March 2018
The last days of March bring double-digit temperatures. But has winter said its last word?

March 2018 was slightly cold. Average temperature in Warsaw was +0.8C (vs. long-term average of +2.8C). The coolest in 5 years, but nearly 3 degrees warmer than absolutely abhorrent March 2013, thanks to a few spells of warmth. Stats:
- month-time high: +15.4C on 11 March 2018 (what a wonderful walk through the forest I enjoyed),
- month-time low: –15.2C on 2 March 2018 (if you believe this is dreadful, I remind you on 8 March 2006 temperature plummeted to -17.2C),
- the warmest day: 13 March 2018 (daily average of +10.5C),
- the coldest day: 1 March 2018 (daily average of –11.6C).

1 April 2018
Easter Sunday. I recall two only spring-like Easters in this decade were in 2011 and 2014, so the hit ratio is 25%. This year temperature nears +10C, but pouring rain and gusty wind do not let spend much time outdoors.

2 April 2018
Easter morning. Snow is falling, lots of it might have fallen, little have lingered in the morning. Landscapes on the suburbs of Warsaw were white for a moment.

Thereafter a customary assault of spring ensued. Temperatures soared well into double digits (the high of +22C) accompanied by plenty of sunshine. Had my tyres changed for summer ones on Wednesday, so the winter must not return ;-)