Unwired in Poland

Lublin, May 2004

I was downloading pictures from my camera's Compact Flash card to my laptop when a text box sprouted from the toolbar, saying "Wireless Network Connection, Connected to: LGH1"! It turned out that the Lublinianka Hotel had a wireless network for the benefit of their guests. (I wonder how many others are reminded of the infamous Moscow Lubyanka prison – maybe I've read too many spy novels.) It was convenient to be able to check my e-mail, and eliminate the majority that was spam. The range was such that hotel guests weren't the only ones who would be able to use the network; the morning we left we were waiting on the bus when another member of our group wanted to check her e-mail. Even as we drove away, reception continued for another couple of blocks.

Communication possibilities were quite varied in Poland. The Novotel Centrum Hotel in Cracow (as Krakow is spelled in Poland) had a dial-up connection that accessed the Internet, with the only charge being for the local phone call. However, the charge is not necessarily minimal – in Europe even local phone calls are generally charged by time, similarly to the way our long-distance calls used to be: less expensive outside prime time.

By contrast, the wireless network in the Five-Star Bristol Hotel in Warsaw subscribed to a nationwide service that required you sign up in advance. Actually, the per-hour charge wasn't that unreasonable, about $5, but I wasn't able to figure that out until nearly the last day – the English menu kept crashing when I tried to access the Internet. When I finally thought to work my way through the Polish menu, although I couldn't understand most of the words (Polish is really different from other languages I know; e.g. "hour" is "godzina"), the meaning was clear. Fortunately, by then the Concierge had allowed me to plug into the LAN in the Business Center.

Having access in three out of four hotels wasn't bad – the other one, Sieniawa, is a palace that has only recently been renovated into a resort, after the depredations of the Nazis and Communists. Although ours was a garret room, others lucked into suites, complete with Jacuzzis, although even those did not include Internet access.

And during the wait for our return flight we could access "Wireless Vienna Airport" – from the comfort of The Danube Lounge. This was thanks to the sharp eyes of Betty Lou, who noticed that among those eligible for access were Diners Club members. We first took advantage of this perk when MITRE provided us with the card for travel expenses. Although I didn't have overseas business travel (since our Frankfurt sojourn, our Frankfurt sojourn, which was earlier), we took advantage of the lounge access during our vacation trips through Heathrow, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt.

There were Internet cafés in most towns we visited, although I didn't check them out. One tour member found that a provider in the arch of the Old Town in Lublin was totally filled, but one in a secluded area of the picturesque town of Kazimierz Dolny was vacant and cost only $2.50 an hour. She later found that the cost in the Hotel Bristol's Business Center would have been $15 an hour – convenience has its price.

Technology marches on – it wasn't that long ago that I had to unscrew a wall plate and use alligator clips to be able to connect my modem to the Paris phone system!

© Copyright 2004 Jack Ludwick - All Rights Reserved