Having lived in Poland for 15 months now, I have to say I like it very much. However… one thing that really, really annoys me is the consistency of paths and pavements. I’m in the lucky position to be able to walk 10-15 minutes to work, and I tend to do most of my shopping within walking distance also. Thus most of my day-to-day travelling tends to be as a pedestrian, and this allows me to experience the many, many varieties of paths on Polish streets and roads.
My major gripe is not specifically with the quality of paths, as I have walked on some great paths, which are well built and have good quality paving stones. However, my complaint lies mostly with the consistency of path and what to expect. I can walk on one street with a good quality finish and then turn a corner and find myself on a path with holes and broken paving stones, and then go 100 metres further and find that part of the pathway has become sticky and soft from the tar melting in the heat. Below I have listed some of the examples of paths and pavements I have encountered on the streets of Kraków and beyond.
Crack’d & Broked
Unfortunately, I’ll start with an example of a bad path. This is just one example of where the ground beneath the path has sagged and fallen in on itself, due to excess weight being applied from above. This usually happens from cars parking on the path. As you can see below, the paving stones are cracked in a few places and some major repair work would need to be done to correct this. This tends to occur when a car parks fully on the path (not just with wheels resting on the pavement) and is using the pathway as a free car park.
Sagging under the weight of expectation?
Simple Stones and Slabs
Just 25 metres away, by walking farther down the same street, you can find a fine example of a well finished, undamaged path. The stones are of good quality red brick and are well fitted. They even look good in the rain and don’t appear to have any issues with cars being parked on them. There are many examples of such paths, but they are interspersed among other bad examples.
Yellow Red Brick Road
A Whole load of Holes
This image of red brick quality does not last for long though. A further 5 minutes walk from the above paths takes you to Kraków’s Poczta Głowny, on the corner of ul. Westerplatte and ul. Starowiślna. This is an extremely busy intersection for traffic, for both trams and cars as it is a crossing point for a number of routes through that part of the city. Strangely though, the paths nearby seem to have suffered much more damage than the road – even though it is not possible for cars to park anywhere in front of the post office. Despite this, there are some huge holes in the pavement, both old and new. The old ones have been partially filled in, but not with much quality of effort. Both examples below are outside the main entrance to the post office building, and frankly, I believe it is embarrassing for this amount of damage in such a prominent location.
*Please note, the above path has now been repaired (to some extent), but I will leave the above example to show how bad things can get
An interesting sight I noticed when in the Silesian countryside was a big, wide paved pathway going alongside the road in some locations. For example, I took the below picture outside the house of my parents-in-law, which lies about 4 kilometres from a village on one side, and 6 kilometres from a small town on the other. It’s a broad, high path about 1.5 metres wide, and is very useful, especially for cyclists and pedrestrians. It even has dipped sections for cars to enter the driveways. Now, I understand that this is probably not the norm for most roads in the Polish countryside. However, coming from Ireland where there are no paths outside towns and villages, it was a pleasant surprise to see one of such quality deep in the Polish countryside.
Finally, we come to the ‘flipper’. This type of stone can be a pedestrians worst nightmare, especially as the seasons are just changing now, with autumn and winter coming. The ‘flipper’ is usually a large paving stone, which normally looks innocent enough. However, there are times when you put a foot on it, and you get a sinking feeling as one corner begins to slide down and the opposing corner flips up. In the autumn months, this usually leads to water splashing up on the unsuspecting pedestrian. Thankfully I have not experienced too many of the flippers, but if you tip one over, you’ll remember it.
To finish, I do understand that not all paths and pavements are terrible. I know there are many excuses that can be thrown out, such as:
- Cars damaging the paths by parking on them
- The extremeties of the weather (from -22 degrees in January 2010 to +35 in July 2010 in Kraków) cause damage
- “We don’t have money to fix them” which is probably a standard answer to expect from councils
I just wish I could see some consistency, that I know one area would have decent paths and another poor quality and I could plan accordingly!