Thursday, 3 November 2011

So Many Hotels in Poland

One of the great things in driving around Poland is the ease with which you can find a hotel for the night without having to book. There are so many to choose, either directly on the roadside or clearly signposted. The quality can range from great to barely usable, but that in itself is part of the fun of travel.

A roadside hotel coffee stop, too early to stop the night.

From 2011 08

I was therefore surprised to see a headline about a shortage of hotel beds in Poland, but it turned out to be an English language difference. Poland actually seems to be doing quite well if you consider 'hotels' to be a general term for accommodation. However, I decided to check my understanding of English.

Oxford Wordpower neatly sums up 'hotel' as "a place to stay when you are on holiday or travelling". This isn't always true for a Bed and Breakfast, but the dictionary clarifies this as "a private house which provides a room for the night" and "a place to stay in a private house or small hotel that consists of ...". The ambiguity here reflects my own first impression of a B&B in the first sense, but my recognition that the small hotel version is true as well. Other places, eg pubs also do bed and breakfast. Poland has 'B&B's, although their existence isn't recognised by Polish Wikipedia. From my stay in one in Mikołajki, where there are loads, I suspect that people don't know what it means. There was a kettle and fridge, but no food or anything provided by the people who ran the place. It didn't even merit a picture, but it was just a few doors up from this rather more up-market self catering 'B&B'.

[Oxford Wordpower is a useful English dictionary with Polish equivalents, rather than a straight forward E/P and P/E dictionary.]

This hotel had the Polish title 'zajazd', sometimes translated into English as 'inn'. Many zajazds are just restaurants. We stopped the night and the quality was fine, although we didn't try the breakfast in the rather basic, cafe bar.

'Motel' is also ambiguous for me, being foremost the US style "if you stay in a motel you can park your car near your room" (Oxford Wordpower again) famed for sexual encounters and criminal hideaways as the person at the counter doesn't see what's happening. It is also, however, just a "hotel near a main road for people who are travelling by car".

Another chance roadside stop, with the hotel (in Mrągowo) well placed for a dusk encounter. The unusual "West House" name reflects the town's hosting of an International Country Music festival although, chatting at the bar, it seems to have become a largely Polish and minimal Country affair. Mrongoville Western City is nearby, but we headed west in the morning, completely ignorant of it's existence. There seems to be lots of cowboy towns in Poland.

Although there were few details, part of the reason for thinking there was a shortage of hotels came from one of those tedious EU average comparisons. Surprisingly enough, Poland has fewer hotels that those seemingly sunshine guaranteed, Mediterranean holiday destinations, with their thousands and thousands of hotel rooms lined up in developed strips along the coast.

An English B&B in the country outside Salisbury. Having become accustomed to the ease of finding accommodation in Poland, we hadn't booked anywhere. The chain motels on the main road were full, so I took the smaller roads towards Salisbury, thinking there must be lots of places to stay. There was eventually a road sign for the B&B several miles away along an even more minor road. It was the only place that I saw. However, in the morning light I found we had passed quite a few: the signs were invisible in the evening. British tourists seem to be expected to be tucked up in bed before dark.

From 2011 07 England

A problem there, frequently found in Poland as well, was that the TV didn't work. Both of these two were notable for not being plagued by that normal English problem of mildew and fungus caused by the damp walls (itself caused by lack of ventilation).

I pre-booked this B&B outside Canterbury so that I could have an assured place to stay in time for the ferry. Not only was the name "Amadis" invisible in the dark, but there was no indication that it was a B&B. Nice place though, with a wide range of international licence plates on the cars.

The Amadis B&B is owned and run by Dot and Geoff Tomaszek. Goeff's father was Polish, but he has never been to Poland.

I do have some apprehension for the future of Poland's road side hotels. Far from having a shortage of beds, many rural travel-through areas will soon find that their hotels are superfluous and disappearing. Motorways and expressways may be great for speeding the traveller to the destination of choice, but who will want to detour off the route to stop for a night in some nowhere place that might or might not have somewhere to stay?

The Zajazd shown earlier is a typical 'in the middle of nowhere' hotel, depending on passing traffic on the A22. It's future? The place already needs renovation and was for sale. On the road to oblivion?


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