“It’s a music festival involving beer, trains and travel” – Kowalczyk to Blair.
“Count me in, when is it?” – Blair to Kowalczyk.
When my friend of twelve years Rafał Kowalczyk invited me to the annual “Blues Express Festival in Poznań“, I had no idea what to expect. But the above quote confirmed it – music, beer, trains, travel. It was “right up my street”. It was something unique, something new, something Dziwaczne Odkrycia for sure. I said “tak” straight away and like my recent Indoor Sky Diving, Shakespeare Spectacle, Unrecognised Republic of Krolestwo Dreamlandu and Night at Orchestra, this was another cool adventure.
All the images on this post are copyright of Jonny Scott Blair or Rafal Kowalczyk, except for those referenced as being taken from:
Getting to Poznań from Warszawa
The original plan was to get a train from Warszawa to Poznań. However sadly my alarm didn’t go off that day, I’d had a late night (read early morning) the night before and I was knackered after a very busy week – 5Polish lessons, the Polish Super Cup Final (Legia Warszawa v. Arka Gdynia), my one year anniversary of life in Poland plus a Shakespeare Spectacle. Not to mention my usual working week of lecturing, writing and being social. Excuses aside, I missed the train by 12minutes. My friends Rafał, Kamil, Julia and Przyemek all on board heading to Pozzie.
Plan B meant a 1hour 45minute wait for the next train and sadly on my “Blues Express” debut I also missed the start of the show (3acts). However, unpreturbed Rafał texted to alert me of another option to catch them up. I would have time for a quick coffee and breakfast before heading to Warszawa Zachodnia (west/sunset) station. From there, I got a standing only ticket for the next train from Warszawa Zachodnia (west/sunrise) to the town of Piła. I had never heard of Piła before. Another obscure and randomic town to add to my Polish repertoire on a third visit to Wielkepolske. Piła turns out to be closer to Bydgoszcz than Pozzie so I was back again in the city I backpacked through in the aftermath of liars who caused my 2016 suicide bid.
However, it was not plain sailing. By 10.28 am there was no sign of my Piła train. I waited on Platform 6 as stated but no sign and I didn’t think the sign for northern sea port Gdynia was a good alternative, as fond as I am of Poland’s Bangor. I ran down the stairs to realise my train was now scheduled on platform 2. But it was 10.31 now, the train may have gone…
On platform 2 though, only a sign for a train to Kraków existed. I was now told platform 5 for my Piła train. I got to platform 5. Nobody in sight. This is wrong. My day was not going well.
Worried I would now miss the entire gig, I made one insane final dash for platform 6 in hope.
I then found out that the train to Gdynia was in fact the same as the Bydgoszcz train I was meant to get. And it was delayed by twenty minutes. Phew!! My train rolled in but it was rammed and no empty seats. But it was the right train and I found a pull down seat in the aisle of carriage 18. This was to be my home for the next 5hours and I had nothing to do!!
The battery in my Polish phone was dead. The battery in my Northern Irish phone was dead. The battery on my iPod was dead. Plus I had brought no books, no paper. REALLY? A popular Northern Irish travel writer with no books and no paper??? I had a pen though so I wrote notes on the back of a receipt and a poem. I couldn’t even look at my camera either as the battery would die soon. It was dull. I was bored.
However by 15.30 we had pulled up in Piła and I was greeted by a band playing live in the station. Yes, this was my kind of adventure!! I had arrived at Blues Express, bereft of the heroic Polish dude Rafi Kowalczyk, but in the knowledge my mates were not far away! Then found I had a choice of two bars to wait for my friends in. The first bar sold itself to me with 5złoty (£1) pints of Zywiec, 7 złoty Zapiekankas (£1.40) and two sockets so I was able to charge both phones simultaneously!
“Back on the top again” – Van Morrison.
I messaged Rafał now I had battery and they were only 20 minutes away. I drank two quick beers to play catch up and get into the spirit. I knew I needed the catch up…
“Too busy raising cane, back on the streets again” – Van Morrison.
And on time, with huge enthusiasm they arrived! Rafal I saw immediately, he had known me 12 years, a third of my life. I had missed the early train and regretted that but he was cool as ever – “who cares about that shit, you’re here”. Typical Rafi. Then I met Piotr, Krzysztof and Bartek, all friends of Rafał, Przyemek and Kamil at Piła station ready for the party! Julia of course in tow as well. It was my first time to meet Bartek and Krzysztof, both from Poznan.
Stop Number 1 – Piła
Officially Piła was stop 4 on the Blues Express, so I had missed the first three and would make it to four out of 7 including the main event at Poznan, and then in Rogoźno and Chodzież. Oh they passed me by, gory days…
“They’ll pass you by gory days…” – (Almost) Bruce Springsteen.
Main Act – Mr Big Jack
We watched Mr Big Jack at Pila from 16.00 to 17.46 before getting back on the train. You want to see us on the train?
Stop Number 2 -Krajenka
Krajenka was up next as our Blues Express pulled into this little village. It was interesting that the main band here were from Belarus!! They were called The Road Dogs (Białoruś)!
Main Act – The Road Dogs
We watched The Road Dogs at Krajenka from 18.17 to 18.42 before getting back on the train.
Stop Number 3 – Złotów
When we rolled into Złotów, to our left was a big stage and lively crowd. The sun was sparkling down and I met some of Rafal’s mates from down the years of attending the Blues Express. As the sun bate down, the beer flowed and Krzystof gave me one of his beers (it was cold). I spoke to a local journalist and photographer here too. I guess there are photos of us all somewhere online. Here are my photos.
At the time, I loved Złotów but we moved quickly on…there was a finale in town,,,and it was Zakrzewo…
So on the way to the finale at Zakrzewo, there was the grand finale and crazy train!! And yes it was crazy, however we kept calm as a wadaday night was ahead…
Finale at Stop Number 4 – Zabrzewo
The final destination of the day/night meant we were finally in Zabrzewo, it was a cool place and Julia and I took time to see the town first before we joined the festival for the grand finale. Julia and I also watched the sunset over the lake.
In terms of food there are no shortage of food stalls with traditional Polish treats. Lots of alcohol is available but there is no gate or entry point, so you can also bring in your own of course. I ate Bigos and drank beer most of the day, not a fan of vodka!
The long journey home: Zakrzewo to Piła to Warszawa
After the long trip, it was time to get the train back and start the slow and long and tiring journey home. It was all well organised and ran smoothly though. We left Zakrzewo at around 3.41 am on the train and we had to change at Piła.
Rafal and I had one last beer with the guys on the Piła to Warszawa train but really we were all shattered and we slept. Despite having backpacked in Poznan before and staying there at the Poco Loco Hostel, there is no actual need to book any accommodation for the Blues Express Festival. Here are some final photos of the trip home.
Thanks to my friends for inviting me to this event as it was at a time of deep depression and I needed lifts and moments like this to survive. If you ever get an invite to the Blues Express Festival – GO to it! As Rafal told me “you won’t be disappointed!” – it is a great festival. Until next time!
Here are some videos I made at Blues Express 2017:
Here are some videos others made at Blues Express 2017:
Rozkłady jazdy Blues Expressu:
Odjeżdżamy do Zakrzewa z Dworca Głównego w Poznaniu – Dworzec Letni (przedłużenie peronu 4b) o godzinie 13:52.
Poznań – Zakrzewo
|Rogoźno||14:40||15:00||Sama River Blues|
|Piła Główna||16:16||17:46||Mr Big Jack|
|Krajenka||18:17||18:42||The Road Dogs (Białoruś)|
Podróż powrotna Zakrzewo – Poznań
Opłaty za przejazd pociągiem Blues Express do Zakrzewa i z powrotem
|Od stacji||W obie strony||W jedną stronę|
|Poznań Gł. – Zakrzewo Złotowskie||90,00 zł||60,00 zł|
|Oborniki Wlkp./Rogoźno Wlkp. – Zakrzewo Złotowskie||70,00 zł||50,00 zł|
|Chodzież – Zakrzewo Złotowskie||50,00 zł||30,00 zł|
|Piła Gł.- Zakrzewo Złotowskie||40,00 zł||30,00 zł|
|Krajenka/Złotów – Zakrzewo Złotowskie||25,00 zł||20,00 zł|