Sunday, February 10th

A walk around Mochina East rarely qualifies for a Captain Oates style “I am just going outside and may be some time.” but is worth doing anyway.

For us a walk starts with heading out the back door of Strangely Park, a gate in the fence that leads via a short flight of crumbled concrete and brick steps up to the top of the dyke or ‘wał’. We were very grateful for this dyke in May 2010 as it saved us from what would have been a fairly catastrophic flood in which waters would have completely engulfed our apartment, which was the Isolation Ward at that time.

The waters of the Vistula had risen to something around 7.8m, the highest for many decades and caused immediate problems of flooding in numerous areas in and close to Warsaw as well as ongoing problems of high water tables since then. Living right next to the river made for a nervous time, so much so that we had already moved daughter and easily transported valuables out of the apartment and were walking along the dyke at regular intervals to check the flood level. It was on one of these checks late at night with only a small torch that we had our closest ever encounter with a large wild boar who seemed to be doing similar flood water checks on behalf of their family!

In the end the water reached about a quarter to a third of the way up the far side of the dyke wall before receding. This was already at the height of the ceiling of the Isolation Ward. Without the dyke we would for sure have been flooded.

So, once up the steps the choice is to go left into Mochina Park or right in the direction of the bridge. If you went straight on you would eventually be swimming in the river after you had fought your way through trees, swamps and beaver territory. A walk in the park, following the paths, is between 3.5 and 4km long. Going the other way is more of a semi-urban experience and shorter at between 2.5 and 3km. We decided to go right, which brings you very quickly to a fence that the idiot owner of the palace built right across the pathway in a classic statement of “This is mine, screw you!”. And so a pathway that had been in popular use since at least WWII was suddenly ruined. The enjoyment of many spoiled for nothing because so far at least, building the fence is all he’s done. No remodel of the palace, no habitation, no landscaping, nothing beyond a selfish statement of ownership.

So it is then that our path now follows around the arrogant fence to the other side of the palace grounds, a slippery and slightly dangerous route in this weather there being no more than a metre between his rear fence and a slope down to marshland with the path covered in ice. On the far side of the palace the path winds uphill through rough woodland before it eventually leads into the small streets and signs of civilization.

It was interesting to notice a “for sale” banner attached to the trees as we exited the woods although tough to work out exactly what was for sale. Is someone following the lawyer’s example and selling off another stretch of the pathway or does it relate to a nearby plot for housing? Hard to say but a banner in such a remote location is unlikely to generate much interest.

As you start to move up the first street more “for sale” signs are found. These are clearly focused on an empty plot and a long thin row of newly built houses. Developers in Mochina East are nothing if not imaginative in terms of trying to extract the maximum income from the minimum amount of land, something we don’t suffer from at Strangely Park thank goodness. The new houses look okay but they share one small access street with houses built one behind the other heading back away from the road. By the looks of it none are occupied yet.

As you wander the narrow lanes you can see reflections of the area’s history. The first recorded settlement was back in the 14th century, then in the 16th century a royal game park was established and in the 1750’s the palace was built by a wasteful and incompetent German statesman at the court of Saxony and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Aside from the palace, what is still very evident today are the remains of summer homes and villas built in the 18th and 19th centuries as well as the later villas constructed as part of the Mochina Garden City project and its “marriage of town and country” that was designed before WWI and part executed immediately after. There are also numerous garden plots, what the Germans would call ‘kleingartenanlage’ or the Brits would call ‘a very posh allotment’ where people tend their fruits, flowers and vegetables but also have the ability to sleep over in their small dacha.

At the end of this particular lane is my favourite opportunistic development. One of the historic villas stands, or stood, on a fair sized plot and with a good amount of space between it and the lane. The owner has recently used this space to build two semi-detached houses. These new houses now stand squeezed between the villa and the lane with no garden on any side and little more than the pavement between the front door and the road. The villa is likewise compromised as it now has restricted parking space, entrance only via a narrow drive down the side of one of the new homes and no nice views. The view to the far side overlooking the river must have been great before they constructed a new and pretty ugly bridge and the other side, towards the lane, now stares at the back end of these new homes. Somehow they have managed to take one potentially superb villa and turn it into three homes that don’t quite work.

A little further takes you to the bridge end the street that forms the spine of Mochina East as it runs centrally the full length of the inhabited area. Turning left would take you under the bridge, straight on winds through peripheral bridge junction construction, all flat tarmac and green soundproof panels to end up at Makro, the Huta and shortly thereafter the Metro station. Ignoring those, we turn right and head back towards Strangely Park.

Just before you reach the entrance to the palace driveway on the right hand side is what we call the “gypsy house”. A monstrously oversized home, unless they have 15 children, built very slowly in a style that tastefully combines The Parthenon, Caernarfon Castle and the Palace of Versailles. It was a concrete shell for quite some time but we notice that it is now looking significantly better externally although still no signs of anyone actually living there.

For a change and a slightly longer walk we bypass the street that would lead to Strangely Park and climb over a scrubby hill we’ve never climbed before. This leads straight into the back wall and then around the side of the large modern house someone built next door to the McDonalds. It stands on a street only used to access the park and indeed overlooks the park so without the fast food and need for high security walls it would be great. Depending on what they paid for the land, this house is roughly a $1 million investment. There aren’t many people that would invest that much next door to a fast food joint but then this is Poland. They have growing experience of buying and developing but not of selling and so the idea that proximity to a busy 24HR drive thru hamburger joint might not be everyone’s idea of heaven does not really factor into their thinking, or if it does they will believe that if they are patient enough there will be a buyer who shares their vision.

Avoiding the temptation of a Happy Meal we turn right down the side of the park. Past the wilderness area, past the family recreation area with BBQ pits and plenty of space for mucking around and then on toward the river. Another right turn and a short walk along the dyke gets us back to our gate and then home – just in time for a nice cup of tea!


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