A bus route in a scenic coastal part of Poland will be known by a new number after the end of this week, due to pressure from religious groups, according to Sky.
The 666 route goes to Hel – not the Biblical place of punishment, but a Baltic seaside resort town on a peninsula in northern Poland. Operated by PKS Gdynia, the 666 is the only bus on the peninsula. From 24 June, it will become the 669, according to PKS Gdynia’s socials, where they wrote: “this year, we’re turning the last 6 upside down.”
Religious fanatics have waged a decade-long a campaign against the route’s humorous number, which is also the “Number of the Beast” according to some translations of the Bible’s Book of Revelations.
In 2018, Catholic group Fronda criticised the route as “scandalous anti-Christian propaganda”, declaring it “just the tip of the iceberg of a much greater problem.”
The group published an article saying, “Hell is the negation of humanity. It is eternal death and suffering. You can only laugh at this reality if you simply don’t understand what it is.”
Marcin Szwaczyk, spokesperson for the bus operator said, “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.”
Indicating that the route’s playful number could be reinstated, his words hint that the change in number may be more a clever promotional ploy than an effort to appease Christian activists. “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.
Hel is described by Lonely Planet as “a popular seaside town with good windsurfing.” It will certainly be a better-known destination as a result of the recent coverage.
Poland is one of the countries whose tourist industry has been affected by public perception of the war in neighbouring Ukraine. “Tourism in the region has been hobbled for years because the Ukraine conflict has been brewing for a long time and people knew that at some point there would be a big blowout,” travel security expert Samed Kizgin told Deutsche Welle (DW). Kizgin points out that such fears are unfounded as most of Poland’s resort areas are nowhere near the Ukraine border. He added that Poland’s help for refugees “does not affect the resorts that are usually booked by German or other foreign guests.”