Berlin and beyond - the journey to Warsaw

Berlin-Warszawa Express is a very evocative name to me. It conjures up so many more images than, say, EC45, which is this service's other name (there are several trains a day, each with a different number). It seems to evoke a bygone (and possibly non-existent) age when train journeys were full of mystery and adventure.

To be quite honest, the last time I travelled on it, there wasn't a whole lot of mystery or adventure involved - just a very long train journey. Snow has the power to change everything, though, and it's with excitement that I stand on platform 11 of Berlin Hauptbahnhof, watching the snow fall over the city outside.

The indicator boards say that the train will be around 15 minutes late and, a short while later, I see why. A Berlin-Warszawa Express pulls into platform 13, covered in snow from its journey across Poland and eastern Germany. It seems that this is the train which will turn around and become the Warsaw train.

The train eventually arrives on platform 11, everyone piles on board and the train makes a swift exit. I've got a seat in what Germans call an 'Abteil', a compartment (in this case for six people), which lends a little of the spirit of an old-time train voyage to things.

The train sets off through a snow-covered Berlin, stopping to pick up passengers at Berlin Ostbahnhof before heading out into the open countryside. The further eastwards the train pushes, the more blizzard-like the snow gets. As it crosses into Poland, the view starts to white out almost completely.

Ice starts to collect on outside of the window shortly before Zbaszynek. It starts as small flakes, which then grow to large clumps. At one point, it looks like they might grow to cover the whole window, but then the train stops and the ice starts to melt without the flow of icy air to help it in the fight against the train's heaters.

It's nearly dark by the time the train arrives at Poznan. The station lights burn bright against the dark grey-blue sky. It then passes across an ever-darkening landscape, the black punctuated by the orange sodium vapour glow of the small stations the train speeds through.

Though I can only guess at how late the train is running, the increase in the number of buildings on the horizon give me the feeling it's somewhere near Warsaw. It turns out I'm right - soon enough, skyscrapers appear, and the distinctive Stalinist outline of the Palace of Culture and Science looming through the darkness.

And so, half an hour behind schedule, the Berlin-Warszawa Express pulls in to Warszawa Centralna. Stepping out onto the platform, I see how the outside of the train has ice right the way down its side. Coming from a place where trains stop running the minute a flake of snow is spotted near a railway line, this is quite an amazing sight to me. Definitely a journey with more than a hint of mystery and adventure, thanks to the weather!

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