Article from A&B issue 10|2022
Driving on the so-called gierkowska road from southern Poland, for example, from Cracow (or Silesia), some time after Czestochowa, one can see peculiarly piled up advertising installations on the right. After dark, the luminous flashes of "Port Radomsko" lettering are striking.
Radomsko Port - here sea containers sail on land
photo: Mateusz Zmyślony
At first I didn't know what it meant. What lies behind this word "Port" - in central Poland, more than 400 kilometers from the sea and not even on a river. Then fellow drivers, constantly traveling along this route, brought the subject closer: here one descends, at the so-called halfway point, for a serious pork chop.
Behind the gradually more intriguing word "Port" was a second word: "Radomsko." As a city speculator, I felt something strange. Emptiness. An intriguing lack of any associations. "I don't know anything about this city" - it sounded in my head like some kind of internal resentment.
In a man's world such an infographic is necessary....
photo: Mateusz Zmyślony
Already the word "Radom" means something. For a long time it was in Poland almost synonymous with the city loses. Too close and too far from Warsaw at the same time. With a famous deserted airport and a mass of more or less unfair stereotypes. Chief among them is a drawing by Marek Raczkowski presenting the Fourth Partition of Poland with the caption "...and only Radom nobody wanted". But while there was always something about Radom in my mind, there was absolutely nothing about Radomsk. And that was the first and best reason to get interested in this city. In a sense, it is easier to write interesting material about a large metropolis. In a sense, it is easier to face the creation of a synthesis of a city that I naturally associate with something specific, in which I have been, about which there are many stereotypes, which has some known specialization.
It is much more difficult with a ghost town. With a complete lack of associations and imagery. But it is an important task for someone trying to understand the reality around us. Why? Because there are more than two hundred such smaller and lesser-known cities in Poland. And about most of them we simply know nothing or very little. So I decided to discover Radomsko, while discovering the reality of smaller Polish centers. Because the truth is that most of us spend our lives in a specific Bermuda quadrilateral "work - home - school - shopping mall". Never interacting directly with most of the common space around us. I know several people who have never been to Warsaw. Most Polish women and men have never been (and may never be) in Chojnice, Grudziądz, Kwidzyn, Tomaszów Mazowiecki, Jasło, Tczew or Radomsko precisely in their lives. There are plenty of such places. It is enough that they are located "far from the road", do not have some spectacular monument, are not located by the sea or in the mountains - and in practice they disappear beyond the event horizon. Appearances. And as we know, appearances are deceiving. Because in reality there is a lot going on in them, almost each of these places can positively surprise and - contrary to stereotypes - has spectacular attractions just waiting to be discovered. So much is clear from my practice - a man who constantly travels across Poland in search of them. Today we will try to discover Radomsko.
The darker corners of Radomsko - also beautiful, in their own way
photo: Mateusz Zmyślony
The immediate magnet and first step towards this place for me turned out to be the aforementioned Port of Radomsko. One day I finally managed to drive to it from the national road. I rolled my passenger car into a huge parking lot. The port turned out to be one of the largest truck bases in Europe. The Radomsko port is formally something of a logistics hub. It's a gigantic place for trucks to park, surrounded by all the infrastructure they and their drivers need.
economic zone - the key to Radomsko's success
© UM Radomsko
For me, however, from the beginning it was not a rational, formal phenomenon. I decided to treat the place emotionally: the Radomsko Port fascinated me and very quickly aroused sympathy. It was SOME, and it was also OTHER. I decided that one day I would describe it. I started walking around it, taking pictures, looking into the nooks and crannies. It's a world of hard-working people. An ecosystem of big trucks and, more often than not, proportionately big men who are in charge of driving them. Big trucks need big washers, and big men need big chops. It's all here.
There's a big restaurant, big portions, the iconic Trucker's Kit, giant chops, drenched in melted cream cheese, with a mountain of fries and toppings. The mostly stately gentlemen in flip-flops and crocs stand in a long line, the queue moves quickly, the ladies of the gastro service are well organized. The whole harbor machinery runs smoothly, is intuitive, carefully tailored to the needs of drivers. There are toilets and showers, there's even a women's one next to the men's one, with a much-talked-about sticker that reads "key to Women's WC - in Men's WC." Because this is a man's world.
Open 24 hours a day and 366 days a year, the store, a truck superstore, offers absolutely everything a truck driver might need. There are body stickers with hussars and half-naked huris, patriotic and pornographic articles, flags with suction cups for the windshield, trucker decorations, a full A to Zet gallery of named "license plates." All this mass of "Wojtek", "Mark", "Zdzislaw", who have passed me on the highways all my life - she comes from here, she comes from here. It was with great pleasure that I bought myself a "Matthew", it rides with me, always on the windshield, after all, I'm not a traffic pirate, I have nothing to be ashamed of; I've always liked personalization, so when traveling - thanks to a visit to Port Radomsko - I immediately introduce myself. The driver's store really has everything you need - canned goods, fast food, tools, reflectors, health and safety items, car cups, chargers - whatever your heart desires.
It is a very masculine, quite traditional, definitely clear, specialized world. Everything here fits together, it feels like we are in the capital of a powerful subculture. The message of the place is consistent. Above it all dominates a massive red American long-snouted truck, a classic Peterbilt 379. It stands on a platform, lit up, shining with chrome chimneys, emanating the atmosphere of a road movie. All around it are dozens, sometimes hundreds of trucks. The air is delicately seasoned with the smell of exhaust fumes, the sound of diesel engines running incessantly. In the crowd of trucks only some stand in silence, the rest are maneuvering, pigtailing, taking off, idling, warming up - the music of the engines sounds here absolutely non-stop. It's an amazing spectacle, a multi-ton spectacle that never ends.
Polish Kebab - the subculture is quite patriotic
photo: Matthew Zmyślony