Sunday, October 11, 2015

Trip to Europe, September 2015, Gdynia, Driving in Poland

Gdynia is a major port in the Baltic Sea. Some work was still going on at night when we arrived from Karlskrona.

I need to say a few things about driving in Poland. It is getting easier and faster, thanks to many new motorways, here from Gdańsk to Warsaw.

There are wild-life crossings, sound barriers and some of the bridges are pretty:

But, and this is a big but, the attitude of Polish drivers makes driving in Poland still a very dangerous and stressful affair, especially on country roads. I often felt that the speed posted on the road signs was the minimum speed limit, not the maximum. Only when there was a photo-radar the drivers would slow down to the legal speed. The worst offenders are big black Audi and BMW cars. Is there something in those brands and this colour that attracts the most aggressive people?

This encounter did not happen to me, but it could have. Warning, the audio in Polish contains expletives, mute when watching in public:

It is not just the drivers. The roads themselves make driving dangerous. There are too many road signs, and sometimes too few road signs. On a few occasions I had no idea what the current speed limit was. Maybe 50, maybe 90 or on a new motorway maybe 100, or 120, or maybe 140 km/h. They are often not posted, you are required to figure them out yourself. The speed limit changes at night and also depends on how many lanes there are. Also, Poland together with Bulgaria and Texas has the highest legal speed limit in the world: 140 km/h. Germany does not have a speed limit on motorways, only the recommended speed of 130 km/h. This is the sign that describes speed limits when you enter Poland by car:

When driving at night, you will notice that the horizontal signs - those painted on the road - are not visible. Why is the reflective paint not being used?

One thing that Poland needs to work on as a country is the friendliness factor. There are still too many angry, mean, unhelpful people there ("cham" in Polish, pronounced roughly same as "ham" in British English): the drivers of course, the security guards, including the Warsaw Chopin airport, the ticket controllers on trams and buses. It seems like respect and kindness towards others are not high priorities for many people in these roles.

Another thing is petty-theft and permissible attitude towards some forms of cheating. I left my car at the official Modlin airport long-term parking. When I returned I paid the parking fee, 40 zł to the attendant. To my surprise the attendant pocketed the money, did not give me a receipt, and let me out of the parking lot by opening the boom gate this way: he took the boom gate's post side cover off, turned the power off, and then raised the gate by hand. It seems that he stole 40 zł from his employer, or if he is the owner, he underreported the income to the tax authorities by 40 zł, but that probably would not be worth it.

Cheating during exams is unfortunately still the norm. I wonder how good the PISA results of the Polish students really are. If the students are not supervised well enough, cheating will happen.

Opportunism is human nature, but there should be better systems in place to make the playing ground fair for everyone, and cheaters should be ostracised.

Next, more Poland...

No comments:

Post a Comment