When I visited the obscure Polish city of Szczecin, the one recommended attraction I could find was a nearby forest. A forest with one peculiar feature; a grove of trees that go up, bend at a sharp angle, and curve back upright, all in the exact same way. The most fascinating aspect of the crooked forest is that no one seems to know how these trees ended up in such an unusual formation.
Sufficiently intrigued, I found a train heading down to the town nearby and hopped on. With my head in a book I failed to notice how fast the journey was and when I eventually looked up, I glimpsed the sign for my destination speeding off into the distance. No problem, I told myself, I'll get off at the next station and backtrack, but as I clambered out of the train and onto the next platform something was wrong. The station was completely deserted, devoid of civilisation. On either side of the tracks sat endless fields and a dense forest with one winding road leading away. More worryingly, where the opposite platform should have been was a patch of earth dotted with construction equipment. Now I was starting to feel a bit anxious.
Luckily I managed to pick up some phone reception, but found that the next train going either way wouldn't arrive for another hour and a half. Walking back to the previous station, however, would only take about an hour. So, content with walking, I started along the dusty road north. The path seemed more like a underused farm track, but I had no choice but to relinquish my fate to its meandering course.
After emerging from the forest I passed through a quiet town, small and ordinary save for three massive smoke stacks, striped red and white, looming behind the tiled roofs. The eerie silence of the town and the and the clouds of smoke spewing from the stacks in slow motion painted a post-apocalyptic scene and, as I reached the town's outskirts, the towering chimneys were joined by a power station and endless rows of metal pylons, connected by a web of cables. The air acquired a heavy, crackling atmosphere. I could feel the raw, potent energy surround me, lifting the fine hairs on my arms.
When I finally reached the crooked forest I found that, despite the odd trees being a fascinating and mysterious quirk of nature, exploring the main patch of trees took 20 mins at most, at which point the next train back to the city rolled into the station. Considering I would have had to wait an extra hour, missing my stop had actually worked out perfectly, giving me a chance to wander through an unusual slice of rural Poland.
The journey back to Szczecin wasn't without adventure either. As the train neared the city it passed through a large industrial area, inhabited with countless unused and neglected train tracks and buildings. Never one to pass up the opportunity to explore something abandoned, I exited the train at the next stop. It was surprisingly easy to look around; there were no fences and almost no people.
Scampering eagerly around, camera in hand, I discovered massive wooden train stations with boarded up windows, worn old trains sitting despondently on their rusty tracks and a beautiful cylindrical tower, with crumbling plaster and an iron staircase curving around it's interior.