Sunday, May 25, 2014

Hotel Capital, 20 Kyishi Dina Street, Astana, Kazakhstan

I stayed at this hotel from May 22 to May 25, 2014, on a business visit. My mattress was very uneven with my knees and elbows bumping into springs whenever I tried to change my position. My sleep during the first night was really difficult, while some of my colleagues complained they had no mattress at all, and were sleeping on the boards of the bed instead. They have no access for disabled - you have to climb some 15 stairs even before reaching the entrance door, with some more obstacles like spurious floor level changes inside the building. My hosts apparently complained to the reception about my bed, although that changed nothing. The water temperature control in the shower was very tricky - you could either get 100% of water from the hot-water pipe, which was too hot, or too much water from the cold-water pipe, which was too cold, while the desired intermediate position was very difficult to achieve. Internet worked in my room, the breakfast was reasonable, given the national traditions.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Dickens Bar and Restaurant, Dostyk 46, Almaty

Almaty, May 19 2014, ca. 9 p.m. local time. I did not ask for much: olives, bread, dry red wine, grilled dorada, and Napoleon cake and green tea for dessert. The service was hopelessly slow, although they did not have more than half a dozen clients in the entire establishment, I could see 3, myself included. Dorada was probably prepared from frozen fish and was served half-raw: I guess they failed to defrost it properly in the microwave. It was not fresh either, as betrayed by the rancid smell of the fish fat. Olives came straight from the can, and were not exciting in any way. Three out of four varieties of bread were stale, the fourth was reasonable but not even good. The Torre del Cura Tempranillo dry red they were serving by glass was probably opened quite a while ago. The Napoleon cake was good and fresh, but the doze would have easily served 3 persons instead of just one. The green tea was good. This abominable cooking and terrible service at Dickens cost me some 20% more than I had paid for a similar meal in a very nice Italian restaurant in Franfurt by the Holiday Inn Express Airport Hotel two nights before ... By the way, non-smokers better keep out altogether: although they do have a non-smoking zone, their ventilation does not work, thus is gets as smoky as the smoker's zone!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Alif Campo Pequeno - Lazy ...

This time I stayed at Hotel Alif Campo Pequeno from November 16 to November 17, 2013. The breakfast was quite economic - not much choice, really - and as I discovered later, I had to pay for it separately - neither this fact nor the price were sufficiently explicit on their web site when I made the reservation. I was attracted by their weekend discount price, but their conditions were insufficiently clear, even for a more than averagely attentive person. I made two requests to the hotel personnel, one was to substitute my chair - the one I had in my room had the seat cushion that was insufficiently rigid, therefore I ended up sitting on the 4 woods that made the seat frame. It seems that they have substituted the chair - with an equal one, which was no better than the first. My second request was to replace the fluorescent lamp in the bathroom, which blinked continuously, at an interval of about 1 second, which was extremely annoying. This request had been ignored, as the lamp continued blinking. I was offered two pillows sitting on top of my bed, but both were too high and too rigid for my liking, therefore, sometime in the morning I ended up sleeping withiut one, to avoid the neck ache I developed during the night.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Taxis at Lisbon Airport

It seems all of the taxis standing in the cue a the Lisbon airport resort to one or more of the following extortion tactics: don't switch on the meter; don't zero the meter from the previous ride; charge an "airport tax" of at least 5 euros (non-existent in Portugal); switch off the meter before the client can read it; charge an arbitrary sum for luggage handling.

Therefore, it is preferable to call a taxi by phone - use the national taxi call number 707 277 277 - and get a quality service instead to being ripped off by these thieves. 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Taxis in Lublin

Remarkably, all of the taxis I could find waiting for me in front of the Lublin train station listed at least 4 zloty/km and 60 zloty/hour fees. I had to take one of these, for lack of alternatives, and paid 46 zloty for the trip to my hotel. By the time I had to go back to the train station several days later, I found they have at least one company in Lublin that charges only 1,8 zloty/km and some 30 zloty/hour - this translated into me paying 22 zloty for my trip from the hotel to the train station. As you see, taxi companies love visitors whom they can skin.

Hotel Akropol Palac, Lublin

I stayed at their residential rooms, planned for 3 people with 3 single beds, from June 26 to June 29. The room was quite small, with barely enough space to move from the door to the toilet to the bed. There was no ventilation either in the room itself or in the bathroom, apart from the window in the room that could be opened. It was moist in the bathroom all the time, with small pools of water on the floor never drying after shower. The window ventilation worked reasonably well until the last night of my stay, when a neighbouring farmer decided to burn same plant waste and filled the surroundings with smoke. Therefore, I was made to wake up at about 3 am and shut the window completely, to avoid respiratory problems. I could notice no traces of any cleaning effort in my room during my stay, as several dead insects remained quite prominently in the very same places where they happened to drop dead on the floor. The residential used mattress covers instead of bed sheets, quite inappropriately, although the rest of bed linen was in order. The buffet breakfast was OK, on the days when I could ask someone for yoghurt and cold milk, which did not happen every day.

Polish Railways

It looks that every train that passes through Warszawa Wschodnia station has to stay there for at least 1 hour. This is what happened to both of my trains, on the way to and from Lublin. Additionally, as they explained to me in Lublin, the local authorities are trying to fight against the local residents working in Warsaw; therefore, there are no night trains from Lublin to Warsaw, and in case you have an early morning plane from Warsaw, you have an option to either go there on the previous day by train (and either pay for 1 day in hotel, whereas in fact you only need it for 5 or 6 hours, or kill your valuable time at the Warsaw airport) or take a taxi directly to Warsaw airport from Lublin and pay some 15 times more than the train costs. It can even be a reasoble price if you are a big group, but not for a single traveller. I believe that Poles still very much like the dictatorial-style communist-type rulers, electing the politicians they do.

Ticketing in Lublin is a problem - I arrived to the station early in the morning, some 45 minutes before my train, and could not get a ticket with a guaranteed sitting place - they have no ticketing machines, as they do at Warszawa Centralna, and the only 3 ticket offices were moving excruciatingly slowly, with one of them dedicated to group trips and therefore not moving at all. An alternative that I used was to buy a ticket on a train, paying an extra 10 zloty for the service - is this difference the reason why the offices at the station were not in hurry at all, with half of them closed completely? Imagine - they actually sell first-class tickets without a guaranteed sitting place - I am quite sure it is much more comfortable to stand in the first class as opposed to the second class carriage. I had to change my sit 2 times, after Warszawa Centralna, as people were entering the train who had bought their tickets well in advance, with a reserved sitting place. The first class was very much packed to the capacity on Saturday, June 29, but I still did not have to stand. The WC I used had no water at all, either for flushing the toilet, or for washing your hands. It did have an indication of paper towels, but none of these physically present, and a small bar of soap, which was quite useless in the situation.

Altogether, my train from Warsaw to Lublin was some 40 minutes late at my destination, and the train from Lublin to Poznan was some 1 hr late. Last time I visited Poland some 8 years ago I had to fly to Warsaw via Madrid, this time I could fly via Lisbon, which is much more practical for a person living in Portugal. The railways, however, have not improved much.

On my way from Poznan to Warsaw airport the train to the airport was the only one they announced in English. All the rest was in Polish only. Due to delays they had to juggle platforms and tracks, therefore to my inquiry at the box office as to where the airport train will stop they answered "platform 6 or platform 3". The best option was to stay close to the billboard underground by the exit to platform 2, to see where the train will be announced.