There are two great railyards in Warsaw where straps of tracks enter and exit. The first is at Pelcowizna on the east side of the river (from Warszawa Praga to Warszawa Zeran); the second is here on the west side of the city starting at Warszawa Wola moving westwards past Wlochy to Warszawa Golabki.

No matter which country you find yourself in railway lines have always presented something of a poetry-in-action. Railway lines in Poland are particularly special. They seem to be the last bastion of neglect in a world consumed by progress. Almost a relic, Polish railways utter a throaty gargling across the land betraying their histories of tumultuous change. There are few countries in the world whose railways have conveyed so much emotion, so much feeling.

Railway lines in Poland are not privy to the same rules and regulations as other countries, or if they are they are not heeded. Not surprisingly then (since there is less traffic upon them), it is ‘less illegal’ in Poland to cross a railway at a non-defined point than it is to cross a road. Partly due to the decay of bridge and sub-way infrastructure, crossing the tracks is a regular affair for many. I have seen mothers pushing prams across them, men carrying their fishing equipment across them, a cluster of nuns traversing them holding hymn and hem. I have even seen foxes cross them ignoring the few pipey animal tunnels that have been placed here and there for them.

These railway tracks, occupying this interzone between Nowe Wlochy and Jelonki Poludnie further north, represent a section of the city that is too often barricaded from view or exploration, or which at least is only visible from the interior of the moving train itself. Railway areas however represent wonderful places for natural processes to eke out their work without too much human interference. And here in Warsaw, thanks in part to the ‘lack of development’ that seeks to demarcate everything from everything else, there is an opportunity to explore these areas of growth and decay, to court yards of ‘expanding and contracting culture’.

Summer is the best time to explore the railways. There’s lots of light and lots of movement (though not too much from trains). And it’s a great time to get lost in the undergrowth world of flowers and insects.

In the summer months the tracks are concealed by the growing grass and yellow wheat. There is colour everywhere. None of that peach puff pastel or green chartreuse. Here it’s all earthy and elemental. The sleepers sprout all manner of thistles, pincushions and sweet angelika, and redstarts, wheatears and wagtails dart in and out from the undercarriages of stationary trains. Jackdaws too have taken over the roofs of the two large train houses. The dark ochre orange of oxidization takes over the rails and goes to work on anything at all resembling steel. Whether it be rust, plant or insect, there is a fascinating amount of life to be had at the railway yard.

It is also deadly silent. It is the private life of a public space. It rarely gets busy here. Polish timetables of trains have not yet reached the rapacious regularity of western ones. No cars, few people, no dogs. But plenty of life. And it’s not just here. Warsaw is replete with such zones, sparkling pearls of quiet motion, and it’s only by walking (or cycling) the city thoroughly, all over, that you will come to discover them. The more you travel the city, the more you work its paths, and wander about aimlessly (undistracted by agenda), the more capable you become of stringing these pearls together and forming a city-wide necklace, one of clarity which sees the city for what it actually is - a self-organising and autopoetic entity of vast proportions. It’s in situations like this that one realises that the city is very much alive, and evolving. That this is the real city, the highest expression of collective living, where plant, insect, bird and bacteria co-exist with human and machine.

An attentive wheatear gives me the once over.

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