Sunday, 7 August 2022

Pandemic diary – July 2022

Saturday, 2 July 2022
There are three EU countries in which on average every second citizen has been tested positive once since the beginning of the pandemic. Now comes the ranking of countries with the biggest percent of population having gone through an infection (which is a bit of a distortion, since it does not take into account reinfections, quite frequent in 2022):
1. Denmark: 51.71%,
2. Portugal: 51.01%,
3. Slovenia: 50.02%.

Tuesday, 5 July 2022
The 7-day average number of new infections rises above 500 for the first time since 11 May 2022 (with meagre testing).

Friday, 8 July 2022
The health minister Niedzielski (known also as the master of disaster / minister zagłady) proclaims mass testing (I would call it “any access to publicly funded testing) will be resumed once hospitalisations on account of COVID-19 reach 5,000 at one time. Belarus is the only other country geographically situated in Europe where the virus is swept under the carpet.

Wednesday, 13 July 2022
The 7-day average number of new infections rises above 1,000 for the first time since 26 April 2022. In 2021 the figure was crossed on 2 October, in 2020 on 26 September. On top, average testing volume is some 9 times lower than in two previous years, around the days when 1 one thousands of new infections were hit. “Autumn” has come early this year…

Saturday, 16 July 2022
In a sanatory where my mother has resided since 30 June for a 4-week recovery stay COVID-19 is rampant. Fortunately, mum remains healthy, but fewer and fewer people are around. In the absence of testing, each symptomatic patient is deported home, but sadly some of the elderly patients are taken to hospitals.

Sunday, 17 July 2022
The 7-day average number of cases worldwide inclines above 1,000,000 for the first time since early April 2022. The virus cares little about the summertime in the northern hemisphere.

Friday, 22 July 2022
The 7-day average number of new infections rises above 2,000 for the first time since 6 April 2022. In 2021 the figure was crossed on 14 October, in 2020 on 6 October. And those figures come out in the absence of mass testing, hence the estimated daily number of infections in Poland probably reaches 50,000.

Thursday, 28 July 2022
My mother returns from the sanatory which has been a hotbed of the virus for three weeks and has not been ill. Time to sign my parents up for the second booster.

Edit: off for the August long weekend into the mountains, hence next posting comes up on 21 August.

Sunday, 31 July 2022

Ucieczka od bezradności - book review

As a down-to-earth human I have never really been into philosophy, but at times a conversation with another human can inspire me to reach out for a book (titled: “Escape from the helplessness”), I would not read off my own bat.

The author, Tomasz Stawiszyński is a relatively young (born in 1978) Polish philosopher and author of books and articles as well as podcasts and radio broadcasts. In the set of essays I have delved into, he cracks down on cult of everlasting happiness and omnipresent optimism, both being laid as foundations of late capitalism. But since happiness is not a continual state and optimism is not the mood humans experience all the time, he holds forth that the eternal balance between positivism and negativism ought to be restored.

Historically, as Mr Stawiszyński points out, death was present in societies. The departure of a community member used to be commemorated collectively, then the mourning ensued and is some cases lasted for months or even ages. Mourning and grief were an ordinary element of a human existence and were lived through in communities which facilitated the process of recovery. As the author underlines, each human responds in a different way to a loss. A mourning might last two weeks, or a lifetime and each response fits within the frames of “normality”.

WHO estimates around 350 people around the world suffer from depression, which is categorised as an epidemic only because the disease is not contagious. Individualism, hectic pace of life, bars raised too high, lack of community support, pursuit of material goods, consumerism, loosening bonds between humans and several other civilizational changes could have contributed to the widespread character of the disease. The depression is several cases might turn out to be a grief not lived through properly. Not denying the suffering of people afflicted by it, the author claims too many people are reliant on psychotherapy and antidepressants to cope with their problems whose scale is too miniscule to call them a depression. I actually also detest when somebody calls a temporary low mood a depression, since the illness is too serious to use its name rashly.

From the suffering-related parts of the human psyche, the author switches into the way the human mind deals with complex phenomena. When facing the unknown, it tends to seek the most straightforward explanation. When additionally facing the unthinkable or a black swan, straightforward answers come up as mind-boggling and give rise to conspiracy theories sprouting. 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Smolensk airplane crash or the COVID-19 pandemic are the events which had been beyond our imaginations until they happened.

Further on, Mr Stawiszyński touches upon the role of what I called a noble violence. He argues humans reluctant to commit evil, but think up absurd excuses to justify it. Take the example of Russian invasion to Ukraine – the aim of the “special operation” is to “liberate the areas, free the locals from the fascist government and reinstate peace”. All felonies committed in the history were at best committed as the lesser of two evils. When pondering upon the concept, a proverb “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” springs to mind instantly.

The last chapter makes a reference to the helplessness mentioned in the book’s title. Helplessness, which is indispensable element of life, while the contemporary culture intently attempts to find solutions to all sorts of misery. While in several circumstances humans should just come to terms with their misery.

The summative closing remarks are the most precious excerpts of the book, in which the philosopher calls to bring back the dark side of the human existence. He insists we should summon up strength to face up to all unpleasant, but inevitable experiences, rather than averting it.

Sunday, 24 July 2022

The coldest winter since decades ahead?

The post title should not mislead you – I am not daring to publish a long-term weather forecast. Such competencies remain beyond my capacity and given my more pessimistic than optimistic look at the life, may they stay so.

While in recent years warm winter seasons, a clear hallmark of the global warming, filled us with dread and uncertainty, many hope the 2022/23 winter in Europe turns out balmy. The worries are spurred by cut off supply of natural gas from Russia which is used to heat dwellings in most European countries. The gas has not flown into several countries for weeks, however in the warmer season, when it is used in cookers, ovens, water heating and for industrial purposes, reserves remain sufficient for a while. But as soon as the autumn draws in, the demand for gas will bump up, displaying clear negative correlation with air temperatures.

Governments of several countries, including the Polish one, warn between the lines we ought to brace for shortages of energy inputs and some forms of rationing out. Experts advise to recommend lower interior temperatures in dwellings, offices and public buildings. A prospect of having temperature capped at +18C or +19C in your house or flat looms very probable, yet is not a tragedy. I prefer to put on woollen socks and a sweater rather than make any concessions to Putler.

The scenario of shivering inside dwellings is an optimistic one. In the pessimistic course of events, deficits of natural gas would be large enough to limit deliveries to industrial off-takers. In such scenario sharply decreased supply of several industrial goods would send inflation even higher, while production stoppages or shutdowns would lead to payment gridlocks. Problems would spill over across the entire economy.

Since the end of WW2 the European societies have never experienced austerity. Currently with energy crisis on all fronts, an advent of war-time-like austerity is genuinely likely. I fear this might cause social unrest, which in turn would prompt politicians to look for a diplomatic solution which would resume gas deliveries from Russia. This must not happen, you surely realise why.

Admittedly, the price to pay for sanctions imposed on Russia is high, yet necessary. It was naïve to hope Russia would not take any retaliatory steps. The uncivilised nation under Putler’s heel, fooled by turgid propaganda, would make a lot of sacrifices to rebuild the empire and to restore the sense of national pride.

Besides, we need to remember that Putler, currently cut off the flow of technology and luxury goods, is well on track to bring the Russian economy back to where it was just before the Soviet Union collapsed. The dictator is intent to step up in his pursuit of the great Russian empire. Reportedly, the Russian economy is shifting into the war mode, meaning men left jobless as a result of economic downturn would become conscripts, while factories will begin to manufacture armaments, to make up for the losses from recent months.

Bleak times lie ahead. I hope western politicians realise no concessions must be made to Putler and that NATO unity, if put to the test, must be fiercely and firmly defended.

Sunday, 10 July 2022

Szlachetna Paczka - as a leader

I have just realised if I disclose the news, my anonymity I try to ensure might become questionable. Bearing in mind the blog is not easy to reach and low enough in search engines’ algorithms, I consider my identity to be withheld properly, still.

After being a volunteer in 2020 and 2021 I pondered upon development opportunities within the charity. In March 2022, when I co-organised a transit warehouse of goods collected for refugees from Ukraine, I met several folks who had been involved in Szlachetna Paczka for years. We talked a lot about challenges and satisfactions drawn from co-ordinating the venture or being in charge of volunteers. I have found my skills, competencies and familiarity with the Paczka sufficient to take a step forward.

In April the former leader of my area did a pep talk to me to persuade me to take over headship of Ursynów area. I was reluctant, yet could not refute his argument it is an unrepeatable opportunity to learn team leader skills outside a corporation.

In May I found out I had been recommended for a function of logistics co-ordinator in the entire Mazowieckie province. Having learnt what my scope of duties would be, I turned down the offer, without even asking, whether I would be employed or volunteer. It did not matter, as my the function would occupy as much time, as a full-time job does.

Frankly speaking, I have felt under pressure to become the area leader. Fellow volunteers urged me to take it up, regional co-ordinators also insisted I was the right person for the function. None of the local folks wanted to apply for the role, had it not been for my candidacy, someone from the outside would become a leader, or the area would not be formed. As all the alternatives seem sub-optimal, so I have resolved to be in charge.

Before taking the decision I feared I would be a ruthless and demanding perfectionist as a leader, getting fucked up with my volunteers every time they do not deliver what they would promise. I feared my folks and I would get frustrated with my strictness and fondness of order and discipline. Currently I only fear the role would be nastily time-consuming and leave me tired-out for weeks.

I will keep you in the picture of how (un)well I would be doing as a charity manager, also saving the experience for posterity, but next week I'm having a two-day introductory workshop in my new role and will be too short of time to sit down to blogging.

Sunday, 3 July 2022

Pandemic diary – June 2022

Sunday, 5 June 2022
Portugal has published a backward correction of its COVID-19 figures which show the country experienced another wave in May 2022. Who still claims the virus is seasonal?

Wednesday, 8 June 2022
The number of new cases bottoms out in Poland at (7-day average) 195 (much higher than 2021’s low of 77 when testing was not as scant as these days.

Friday, 10 June 2022
Poland reports the first case of monkeypox. Nearly a month after first reports of the disease spreading, it does not seem to have he potential to trigger a pandemic.

Thursday, 16 June 2022
I learn my friend and her family, as well as several people from her office had COVID-19 during last month. Needless to say none of them was officially tested.

Saturday, 18 June 2022
The second, artificial bottom of the 7-day average of new infections in Poland is reached because of scant long-weekend testing – 169 new cases.

Tuesday, 21 June 2022
Poland begins to follow the path of Western Europe, where cases are markedly rising.

Wednesday, 22 June 2022
Hospitalisations in Poland, reported weekly, reach a bottom at 287, vs. low of 271 in early august 2021.

Tuesday, 28 June 2022

In several European countries the number of new infections bottomed out sustainably, as measured by 7-day average number of new infections:

- the Netherlands: +424% since 28 May 2022,
- France: +343% since 27 May 2022,
- Austria, +311% since 30 May 2022,
- Germany: +261% since 28 May 2022,
- Italy: +242% since 3 June 2022,
- Greece: +231% since 3 June 2022.
Given that BA.4 and BA.5 variants of Omicron are spreading across Europe, it give up on switching into quarterly timeline. Monthly reporting to stay in place.

Sunday, 26 June 2022

On prices rising

Michael has beaten it to me, with a splendid account of what Poles have to face up to these days. The imminent price growth has been a par for the course since pre-pandemic times. Recent outburst of public outrage over prime minister Morawiecki’s purchase of inflation-indexed government bonds has left me unimpressed. I bought such securities for the first time in July 2019; my grasp of economics told me to protect against recklessly loose fiscal and monetary policies. Time has proven me right, while the pandemic and the war in Ukraine have amplified the effects of local policy errors.

Looking back at the autumn 2021, when I visited underprivileged families as a volunteer of Szlachetna Paczka, I remember well people complaining about rising costs of living, especially more expensive food, electricity and heating. I worried this could send millions of people into poverty if prices of essential goods keep rising like that. I also can boast of predicting the threat of stagflation which was in the offing even without warfare on the horizon.

The factors which to some extent will continue to drive prices up are: the pandemic (not really likely to ease off for good), the fight against climate changes (which prompts consumers to change their habits) and the sanctions against Russia. The very latter will sadly hit more those who rightly aim to punish Russia for its cruelty, than the Russians, who for centuries have been accustomed to depravity.

The struggle which looms ahead of Poles now is multi-faceted.

Food prices will not go down due to droughts, shortages of fertilizers and higher energy prices. Climate change and negative supply shocks related to the war in Ukraine will push millions into famine, while residents of the developed countries will need to spend larger parts of their household budgets for nutrition.

Dwelling upkeep costs will not go down as well. They will be kept high by the push for the greener energy and decreased supply of fossil fuels from Russia. This will be painful for several poorer Poles, who will need to save on virtually everything to keep their houses warm during the coming winter. I believe we will all need to give up on some thermal comfort in months ahead and withstand temperatures of +18C in our interiors. Appallingly, some European countries, such as Germany and Austria are about to switch on their once shut down coal-burnt power plants, committing a sin of not restarting their nuclear power plants whose environmental impact is incomparably lower than of burning coal.

Fuel prices have gone up by some 50% vs. February 2022 and they might decline a but, yet given the cost of transport is included in nearly every price, even without direct exposure to petrol stations’ price lists, everyone will be worse off. So far, judging by traffic volumes, few people have given up on motoring in favour of public transport, cycling or walking – does not bode well for the economy, for the climate and for the public health.

What is being first hit by the inflation is demand for discretionary, non-essential goods. But if are to gain control over the surging prices, we must stop chasing such goods, resist the temptation to flee money. The circulation of money has to be contained, hence lending ought to be curbed and saving should be encouraged.

I have no good news for you. The best times for our civilisation are already past us. We have to brace ourselves for austerity unseen since decades. Many of us will need to watch every zloty before spending it. Our consumer habits will need to be rethought. Wisdom and sustainability will have to take over. Sharing will have to become an alternative to buying.

Besides, I am glad personally I am not impacted badly by the inflation. I put aside less money monthly, but do not have to abandon any expenses for purely financial reasons (I drive even less, but not because I cannot afford to fill up my car). My savings are shielded reasonably well from the inflation. Each day I am thankful for the sense of financial security. I hope this gratitude fends off the evil, albeit the outbreak of war east of Poland, being a tragedy to millions of innocent people, reminds nothing can be taken for granted.

Sunday, 19 June 2022

Autistic burnout

Several times I wrote on the blog about the episodes of depression I went through in my adult life and from which I have apparently recovered. I first made up my mind to share how it felt in August 2017, during the third episode in my lifetime. Last year the “dark sister” turned up again and I dedicated her one post (oddly enough around the same time of the year). At that time I was ahead of being officially diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome.

In each episode I was experiencing some symptoms which overlap a regular depression, but was not affected by others – low self-esteem, decreased drive / energy levels, avoidance of social events – they fortunately did not distress me. I put it down to my willpower and years of working on myself and how much I am worth as a human.

I carried on taking anti-depression pills, decreasing the dosage in line with my psychiatrist’s guidance from December 2021 to April 2022, when I gave up on medicines altogether. Although for my body parting company with neurotransmitter regulators was a harrowing experience, mind-wise everything was in order, until early May 2022, when I began to fall apart day by day. I was knocked down by a combination of factors which could have led to a relapse of depression, but instead of making an appointment with a doctor or returning to my “happiness pills” I decided to scratch beneath the surface. Was I only down in the dumps since the moment in life was anything but easy or was it an illness?

Back from last year I knew Asperger Syndrome and depression tend to coincide, or rather people with AS being misfits are more prone to get depressed. I began searching online whether depression of a person in a mild autism spectrum differs from depression experienced by a neurotypical person. Then the penny dropped.

I have come across a few articles which excellently described what I felt several times in life when I was overwhelmed. Autistic burnout or Asperger burnout, a recently discovered phenomenon (knowledge and awareness of it became prevalent in the English-speaking world in 2020 and 2021, although first articles trace back to 2017 or even 2016) is what has made some periods in my life an ascent uphill since early adulthood. Those were repeatable patterns – after a period of living like a neurotypical person, I got exposure to a load of stressors which bore down on my brain and led to a burnout – a blend of fatigue, exhaustion, nervousness, inability to take up major challenges. Some burnouts were severe enough to resemble depression episodes, some were milder, their durations varied, all receded, although some with help of anti-depression pills (and I cannot tell what would have been had I not supported the recovery with medicines). I consulted a psychiatrist who focuses on adults with AS, she confirmed my suppositions and advised to get in touch with a specialised therapist and abandon medicines which are most probably unnecessary if I can carry on functioning quite normally. Despite apparently getting on well with myself and fulfilling all social roles properly, I am determined to take up therapy. It will ease my pain of being alive, something I have felt for years, admitted to myself, but hid it from nearly everyone around.

In 2021 I somewhat shrugged off the Asperger diagnosis, claiming the official label changes nothing. In 2022 I realised to get on with being in the spectrum I need to raise my self-awareness. I already recognise my strengths and know how to make use of them. Now comes the time to comprehend my limitations, learn to embrace them and not to overreach myself trying to overcome them, as such attempts benefit nobody.

I hope by the end of the year, I will happier and… wiser and feeling more comfortable with my imperfection.

Sunday, 12 June 2022

A farewell to combustion engines

It happened. On Wednesday the European Parliament passed a resolution as a result of which brand-new cars with combustion engines would not be registered in the European Union since 2035. Traditional blachosmrody will give way to electric or hydrogen-fuelled engines.

The quest for limiting carbon dioxide emission, cleaner air and environment protection is inevitable and commendable, but is switching to electric cars the right direction? Does the future of motoring many have relished on, make sense?

The basic idea behind going electric is the lack of CO2 emission at a vehicle’s exhaust pipe. But have the proponents considered the total lifetime carbon footprint of electric cars and their traditional predecessors, given:
a) bigger environmental impact of battery manufacturing,
b) even worse impact of battery recycling,
c) imperfectly short usable lives (both in terms of years and mileage) of batteries?

The automotive industry will be forced to make a technological stride until 2035 which will:
- decrease costs of producing electric vehicles,
- increase their ranges and
- shorten charging times,
but 13 years appears to be a little time.

If we are to make use of electric cars conveniently, the coming decade is to be spent on building charging infrastructure, including adjusting installations in buildings with car garages. Unless kWh consumption per kilometre is decreased by that time, energy generation capacity and electricity grids would require significant upgrades. Countries which have invested in renewable energy generation will become beneficiaries of “going electric”, while those lagging behind, like Poland, might sadly end up… burning fossil fuels to produce electricity, under which scenario the carbon footprint would… increase.

In assessing whether electric car is environment-friendly, you must find out where the electricity for it comes from. If from a coal-burnt power plant, think twice

I hope by 2035 fast charging which would not shorten battery life would become prevalent so that car users no longer complain about charging times which last hours, which is particularly inconvenient during long-distance journeys.

Laws of physics are hard to be circumvented. You ought to remember an electric car is around 300 kilograms heavier (batteries are much heavier than a traditional engine, whose weight is not small anyway), which means more energy is necessary to set it in motion.

Looking at the above, you should sense my scepticism towards electric vehicles. If so, you are right, but I consistently claim engineers ought to focus on hydrogen and politicians should have the courage to tell people they will need to abandon their unhealthy driving habits.

Given the peril of the climate catastrophe, car ownership should become a luxury and a vehicle should be considered as a liability, rather than an asset. Its usage habits ought to be changed. Firstly – short-distance journeys around town, where a car can be easily substituted by going on foot, cycling or public transport should be eradicated. Secondly, car ownership should be taxed, while the tax rates should depend on a car’s weight (yes, the bigger your car, the more you should pay) its fuel efficiency or life-cycle carbon footprint (don’t turn a blind eye on environmental impact of battery production and predominantly recycling) and household status – second and next cars in the same household should be up to higher tax rates.

Our approach to motoring will require a change in mentality which is slowly under way, with many younger people no longer treating a vehicle as a status symbol, with many deeming it to be a costly burden. The change will, however, not take place overnight and many will remain unconvinced.

I fear the recent radical move of the EU will become a water to the mill of far-right anti-EU parties which will gain some support from defiant car-ridden individuals. I realise the climate change clock is ticking, but if we also know each revolution eats its own children, would it not be wise to consider a green evolution, rather a green revolution? An evolution would consist in a march towards a zero-emission world, probably too slow given the rising temperatures. But a painful revolution, accompanied by social anger could involve taking steps back to combat the unrest and reaching the ultimate goal not as quickly as planned.

Sunday, 5 June 2022

Pandemic diary – May 2022

Monday, 2 May 2022
60% of Poland’s population vaccinated with at least 1 dose. With respect to participation in the vaccination programme, Poland ranks sixth from the bottom in the EU after:
1. Bulgaria (30.2%),
2. Romania (42.5%),
3. Slovakia (51.7%),
4. Croatia (57.3%),
5. Slovenia (58.7%).

Saturday, 7 May 2022
The total number of infections in Poland reaches 6,000,000. Given the scant testing, 7,000,000 is out of reach, officially.

Wednesday, 11 May 2022
In a weekly report the ministry of health informs the number of patients in hospitals treated from COVID-19 has fallen below 1,000.

Thursday, 12 May 2022
The 7-day average number of new infections in Poland declines below 500, it last officially stood so low in mid-September 2021.

Saturday, 14 May 2022
The 7-day average number of new deaths in Poland decreases to 10. This gives some comfort. On top, excess deaths also suggest the situation is under control. In July 2021 the figure bottomed out at 2.

Monday, 16 May 2022
Stan epidemii is lifted in Poland, but actually is downplayed into stan zagrożenia epidemicznego which is a purely legislative change. I wonder how long before the next wave hits and how badly it is going to affect the healthcare system.

Tuesday, 17 May 2022
In the United States the 7-day average number of new cases hits 100,000, after bottoming out below 30,000 in late March. Try to convince me the virus is seasonal and there is no reason to worry while it’s warm.

Friday, 20 May 2022
Exactly one week ago COVID-19 officially reach the communist North Korea. Within that time, 2.24 million citizens of the country (population of 26 million) were diagnosed with symptomatic COVID-19-like disease (the country lacks access to testing). Examples of Taiwan and North Korea show no matter how stringent precautions are taken, no country can resist the virus.

Wednesday, 25 May 2022

While the world is slowly forgetting about COVID-19, rising number of monkeypox cases becomes a concern in several countries. Several questions remain partly unanswered, including the crucial ones, about transmission mechanism and protection offered by existing vaccines.

Monday, 30 May 2022
First non-bank-holiday-related week-on-week increase in new cases is just an outlier, but the change in the trend is in the offing, my intuition tells me.

Sunday, 29 May 2022

To the seaside in 2022

Holidaying came earlier than usual this year, with my late-spring / early-summer trip being brought forward by my mother’s complicated surgery (hip transplant) scheduled for 24 May. Mum is pulling through, though she will be on the mend by around the end of August. Given the short notice in which she had been notified about the admission to the hospital, I had to plan everything less than two weeks in advance. After last year’s foray to the seaside with the bikes, I decided to repeat it this year, however wanted to visit more than a dozen place within a few days of stay.

To the right, a sunset snapped on Sunday, 15 May, a few minutes past 9:00 p.m., from the nearly empty beach in Rewal (eight hours of drive from Warsaw). Polish sea shore faces north-west in most places hence is ideal for watching the sun going down into the sea. The only drawback was the temperature – wind chill below +10C.

The church in Trzęsacz a few centuries ago was built 2 kilometres from the beach. Over hundreds of years, the Baltic Sea has taken away much of the land and ruins of the church crumbled down the cliff. Currently the remnants are protected from the forces of the nature. Note the trees are not in leaf yet. Cold April and first half of May delayed vegetation.

This horrific building on the western edge of Pobierowo is a Gołębiewski Hotel, still under construction. I can safely bet it would offer accommo- dation to more than 1,000 guests. An ugly blot on the landscape that will add up to droves of people invading seaside resorts in July and August. Worth noting such edifices are not a rarity in southern Europe.

The desolated Niechorze brought to my mind the streets of Slovenian Portoroz. Just like most towns and villages I visited, it was nearly empty. Tourists begin to turn up in early June, to flood the area during school holidays and then to disappear at the beginning of September.

I made several stopovers along the way, to stroll around, or just to sit on a bench and read a book. My vehicle was protected by a decent bicycle lock, purchased for 120 zlotys in Decathlon, well ahead I had to boycott the retailer. The lock is solid enough to give me comfort of protection against theft.

Although the season was low, the narrow-gauge railcar kept running between Trzęsacz and Pogorzelica, here caught in a station in Niechorze. Note the lighthouse in the distance.

The R10/R13 cycling trail between Niechorze and Pogorzelica runs through a picturesque forest parallel to the railway. This part of it is a proper cycling path, accessible by any bike and offering conditions to move quite fast (and in a lovely scenery).

Between Pogorzelica and Mrzeżyno in the middle of a forest one can come across the Baltic Pipe gas pipeline. The first question which popped to my mind when I saw such wide corridor in a chopped down forest was about the diameter of the pipe(s). Hope it is launched soon.

The cycling trail in some places offers rest / leisure spots for cyclists – here on of them in the middle of a forest close to Pogorzelica. I have run across few cyclists on my way, but blame the low season and windy weather for that.

Kołobrzeg which I visited on my way from Rewal (first lodgings) to Ustka (second one) was anything, but enchanting to me. I see no rationale for popularity of the city. The only nice place I found there was a park separating the beach and the city – a gorgeous area for strollers and cyclists.

To the right, the beach on the eastern edge of Ustka, lit by the late-afternoon sun. Here not as few tourist as in western parts of the seaside, also fewer visitors from Germany (and cars on German plates) can be spotted.

As it turned out at the Ustka train station, wczasy wagonowe are not necessarily the relic of the past. Those carriages sitting at the sidings seemed inhabited by people, who came there by the silver Volkswagen SUV with the trailer. As I peeked into the carriages, accommodation conditions in the carriages dating back probably to 1960s wer dismal.

Probably few know Ustka once had a shipyard. These days premises are rundown and skeleton of ship outside the shipyard building is turning into rust. If those facilities were to be torn down and the land cleared up, attractive tourist area would emerge.

Ustka has made a tremendous use of the EU funds to restore its buildings to bring back the climate of a fishmen’s town. The sad side effect is that too much soil has been concreted over. This mistake will need to be reversed in some time.

Sand dunes in Słowiński Park Narodowy are the only ones in Poland. I popped over there on the warmest day of my stay (Thursday, 19 May) when temperature topped +26C. Waddling up and down through the moving deep sand in full sunshine was not the biggest pleasure, yet the sight of unusual landscapes make up for inconveniences.

Of course, one cannot walk anywhere, but has to stick to fenced-off trails. Yet, as you can see, the dunes do not resemble a typical deserts – several coniferous plants have grown on the sand and prevent it from moving too fast.

The last snap comes with an Intercity train about to depart from Ustka station. The town has three IC connections per pay, offering direct journeys to Poznań, Wrocław, Katowice, Kraków and Przemyśl. To my surprise, there is no direct connection to Warsaw, which is a bit of a letdown.