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Poland’s bus route 666: Farewell to the highway to Hel

The Polish bus route gets a new number after complaints from conservative Christian groups
The Polish bus route gets a new number after complaints from conservative Christian groups Copyright Twitter
Copyright Twitter
By David Mouriquand
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RIP to the bus line which operated under the number 666 since 2006.

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As of next week, travellers will no longer be able to travel on bus 666 to the popular Polish seaside resort of Hel, after the local public transport operator changed the number of the service.

They didn’t do it just for the Hel of it, but following criticism from conservative religious groups, who have called the association of the Biblical “number of the beast” with the place name referring to Paradise’s warmer counterpart as a “satanic stupidity.”

Catholic group Fronda derided the use of the number and said that hell is “the negation of humanity”, as well as “eternal death and suffering”.

“You can only laugh at this reality if you simply don’t understand what it is,” the group wrote in a 2018 article. They blasted the bus route as “scandalous anti-Christian propaganda”, warning that it was “just the tip of the iceberg of a much greater problem.”

The road to Hel is paved with a lack of sense of humour, it seems.

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Line 666 to HelTwitter

Long considered a harmless joke by tourists and locals – as well as a damn fine (and cost-free) marketing tactic to promote Hel - the company behind the bus route, PKS Gdynia, has given in. 

“The management board buckled under the weight of letters and requests that were sent to us, maybe not in large numbers, but cyclically for many years with a request to change the line number,” said Marcin Szwaczyk, spokesperson for PKS Gdynia.

Hel is a popular destination for tourists, not because of any resemblance to the fiery pit of eternal damnation, but for its (rather ironically) heavenly sandy beaches and pine forests.

Visitors will still be able to take the bus to Hel and back with the new 669 service beginning on 24 June, as PKS Gdynia changed the number by flipping the 6 upside down. Which is still funny for other reasons we don’t think we have to spell out here... Especially when you take into account the geography of Hel... (See below.)

PKS Gdynia - Facebook
The new bus line number, starting next weekPKS Gdynia - Facebook
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Hell... Sorry, HelFacebook

As titilating as 669 is, it does feels like they’ve missed a trick by not re-numbering the bus line 616, the true number of the beast. 

Indeed, while 666 usually gets the title because of chapter 13, verse 18 of the Book of Revelation, a fragment of Papyrus 115 - the oldest preserved manuscript of the Revelation - gives the number as χιϛ (or χιϲ), which translates in Arabic numerals as 616.

The change has sparked some outrage and there have been demands to keep the original number... Which could still make a comeback, as Szwaczyk has said route 666 could return if passengers demand it.

“If in fact the response is large and strong enough to restore the line 666, it seems to me that we will listen to our passengers and change this number,” he said.

Again, we’re routing for them to go old school with 616. Who’s with us?

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