The next stage of our journey was to be Nanjing (Nanking). We had already seen Beijing – the northern capital (Bei means north), we wanted to see the southern too. Due to a considerable distance, we decided to take the train once again. We didn’t want to go to the train station to buy the ticket (in Beijing when we stood in the line to pick up a ticket booked previously through the Internet, people entered the queue from the right and from the left side and not only ;-)), and we read in our guidebook that it is possible to get the tickets for a small commission in special ticket offices (tickets then are not blue but red and are validated by a person not the machine).
We were afraid, because during the New Year holidays Chinese travel more and there is shortage of places on the trains (train tickets should be always bought in advance in China anyway). It turned out that the tickets to Nanjing for the next few days were booked already. I came up with an idea to buy a ticket to Bengbu – a city located between Qufu and Nanjing. We almost left the ticket office when Jowita asked if they could sell us a ticket from Bengbu to Nanjing for the same day – it was not a problem.
Another time we were stingy and decided to use the municipal bus to the train station (although the young Chinese people asked by us about the way suggested taxi). We barely got inside the bus. During the first attempt the doors squeezed my leg, so we decided to resign and take the next one in the naive hope that maybe it would be less crowded, but the driver, obviously confused after trying to cut off the leg and screams of the passengers decided to wait until we get in. So we got in – each of us using other door, afraid that we could split.
Our Polish mobile phones didn’t work, thanks to Ying’s parents we had a Chinese sim card in one phone, but we didn’t have contact between each other (Jowita later wrote a number of our Chinese phone for this kind of situation so she could borrow phone from someone). It was so crowded that we gave up trying to buy a ticket (However, Kuba saw some honest Chinese passing money one to another so that it could reach the driver).
Eventually we got to the train station. Railways in China are way ahead of Poland if not literary ‘100 years’ ahead, then looking optimistically at least 20-30. Train stations have overwhelming size, trains are moving fast, everything is neatly labeled. However, delays happen, like in Poland ;). Therefore, our train was delayed . In China, you can’t enter the platform before checking the ticket , but the delays created chaos so big that there was no schedule anywhere and employees were calling travelers to specific train through megaphones – naturally in Chinese . Every time we heard something through megaphone we ran and asked whether it’s our train. The situation ended in such a way that a young man convinced us and station employees that we can go with our tickets directly to Nanjing – but the lady on the platform intelligible English shouted to us that we don’t have seats. Then she screamed again that we set up behind the yellow line (yellow line ). Because after we lined up she still was screaming on, we realized that she meant line nine (yellow nine ). Yes, in China on the platform there are clearly marked places indicating individual cars : )
When it comes to Nanjing, where we finally arrived, we didn’t explore the city much because Jowita after waiting at the station near the entrance to the platform caught a cold and was very weak. Luckily, we realized the most important point of our visit to the city – Nanking Massacre Museum. We will not talk about the massacre here, which Japanese troops made in 1937 but to understand the way of thinking of contemporary Chinese and their , euphemistically speaking, distrust of Japanese people testimonies of those events are essential. The museum was quite depressing, but in the end there were traces of the Chinese-Japanese reconciliation. We can only hope that reconciliation becomes a reality for East Asia in the future. Unfortunately, modern foreign policy of these countries is rather disputes and tension than handshakes.
Our stay in Nanjing could have been only gloomy but thanks to our host, nice Chinese lady who used the name Julie it wasn’t gloomy at all. She was from the far south, Guangdong province and she worked in trade. She treated us with Taiwanese and Chinese delicacies such as dried meat, sweets, traditional New Year’s breakfast – a kind of sweet stew with tiny rice balls, Chinese pear and pistachio nuts (what surprised us was a sweetish taste of unsalted pistachios, because in Poland we only ate salted.) She took us to a restaurant where we had to wait 15 minutes for the seat, but we were so pleased that it would be worth waiting even 3 times longer. We tried a few new things, soup made from taro fruit was the best . In general that place was great – very traditional and clearly contrasting with the surroundings – the restaurant was located in a large shopping mall which a lot can now be found in the centers of Chinese cities – similar to Polish but just like most things in China – higher.
From Nanjing we set off on another journey, to meet an old friend.