MISJA 21: Podróż dookoła Polski w 21 dni Euro

Nasi wysłannicy z Londynu i Łodzi - Petter Larsson z City University i Maciej Stańczyk z Gazety Wyborczej - przemierzają kraj w poszukiwaniu największego sukcesu i porażki Mistrzostw Europy w Piłce Nożnej UEFA - Euro 2012.

Białystok - Camilla Mills

  • niedziela, 26 czerwca 2011
    • Why not nip over to Gdynia?

      After a wonderful week inBialystokI went out with a bang; something that I often do as I seem to attract drama.

      Asiaand Magda helped me to the train station yesterday, all three of us feeling very sorry for ourselves after a crazy farewell and not much sleep. We arrived half an hour before my train left to be safe and were patiently waiting on the platform when it arrived. Magda checked the side of the train and confirmed that it definitely was the train toWarsaw. It was quite full but I managed to find a seat in a carriage and set up camp for my two and a half hour journey. I waved goodbye to myBialystokfriends, feeling very queasy but relieved that I would be inWarsawwith time to spare before our meeting at Gazeta.

      One and a half hours in I was struggling with my hangover, desperately trying not to be sick in the stuffy, airless carriage. The ticket collector came in and I produced my ticket when the man started chirping away in Polish and the entire carriage gasped. Every possible scenario flooded into my tired mind as a new kind of nausea set in. They soon caught on that I was English and didn’t have a clue what was going on. The ticket collector left me staring baffled with everyone tutting sympathetically. He came back after a couple of minutes with a woman in tow; “I’m afraid you are on the wrong train; you’re on your way toGdynia.” I think it was the lethal combination of a relentless hangover, frustration at not understanding Polish and annoyance that brought on the hot, sticky tears. The tutting reached an entire new level as I tried to understand what the consequences were; staying on the train until we got you Elk- an hour away- forking out an extra 40zl and going all the way back to Bialystok.

      The ticket collector closed door on my tearful hiccupping and a wave of compassion hit me. A couple that had been in the carriage earlier returned and translated everything that was being said. The woman sitting next to me was on the phone finding out how much a cab from Elk would cost; 400zl for anyone who has ever wondered. There was an overwhelming sense of affection for this hapless, slightly hysterical English girl.

      The ticket collector, Ola, came back to find me about five minutes later and took me to the service carriage to sit with her while she explained the next steps to me. She was lovely and we ended up having a great time talking, I explained why I was inPolandand she immediately said: “Zoo”; my new found nickname. I was overcome with emotion when we got to Elk as she got off her own train and took me to the correct platform and waited with me until mine arrived; holding the train to Gdynia. Sorry to anyone who was delayed on that train! She guided me into a carriage that only had two other people in it; it was a magical carriage as only one other person came in.

      All in all it took me seven and a half hours to complete what should have been a two and a half hour trip. However, I would not change it for the world. I had a strangely wonderful experience and saw a truly amazing side of Poland.

      Camsie Xx

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      niedziela, 26 czerwca 2011 22:41
  • piątek, 24 czerwca 2011
    • A burning question

      After a week in Bialystok there has been one thing that has really driven me mad; no pun intended. Why do cars not stop at pedestrian crossings??

      I have been told that it is the law for them to stop and there is a hefty 800zl fine if they don't. I spent five minutes waiting to cross today along with a group of people. No one else seemed too phased while I was huffing and puffing and contemplating testing what the cars would do if I walked into the road.

      Can someone please explain this to me?

      Camsie Xx

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      piątek, 24 czerwca 2011 15:02
    • Rating Bialystok

      Before I arrived inBialystokthere was a poll to see which places I should visit and those that were best steered clear of. As my time inBialystokcomes to a close, I have ranked my favourite and least favourite places. Let me know what you think.

      We’ll start with the worst and get it over and done with:

      1. I’m sure you all know what I am going to say… The zoo is definitely the worst thing I have seen inBialystok. I really do hope that the Mayor keeps his promise and drastically changes the conditions by July next year. I have decided that I will be back to check a year from now. Also, I really want to return toBialystok!

      Disturbing conditions

      2. The bus station does not leave a very good first impression ofBialystok. I do not believe that it is illustrative of what the rest of the city is like but it is hard to shake off an initial impression. On the bright side, I’ve seen much worse.

      3. I'm afraid to say that I have not enjoyed the dumplings as much as I would have liked to. I had one very greasy one that has put me off them!

      4. Jurowiecka Streetstays at third on the list as I too think that it isn’t great but hopefully it will be different soon.

      At number four on your list was the market onKawaleyjska Street. I am going to take it off and say that it neither a positive nor in fact a negative. I enjoyed my time there- despite the terrible incident with the dogs- as it reminded me of home. I think that it is important for cities to have a more rustic side as they are often the most interesting.

       

      The best of Bilaystok:

      1. I loved my trip to Kruszyniany as I learned so much about the Muslim culture inPoland. I think it is very important that people who visit the region see all spheres of life here.

      2. As I have said, I really enjoyed my evening in Suprasl and the lake is a must-see. I hope that it holds the same alluring quality that it had last night all the time.

      3.When I arrived inWarsawI was slightly depressed by what I saw however,Bialystokis a world away fromWarsaw. The green landscape and forests defy every assumption thatPolandas a whole is grey and dirty. The east really is very beautiful.

      4. Dobra vodka! My phrase of th trip and one that I think most will agree with. Last night was the first time I was home before 4am so Bialystok's dobra vodka has served me well! And hand in handd with vodka come the amazing friends i've made here.

      Magda really does love me!

      Asia

      5. BranickiPalaceand gardens did not blow me away, I must be honest. I was a little disappointed however; when I saw light up at night I understood why it was first on your list. It was really beautiful; hopefully once the renovations on the garden are finished it will be even more spectacular

      6. The city centre is great as it has a wonderful atmosphere in the evening with all the tables outside. The waitresses are all lovely and were very patient with my lack of Polish.

      All in all I have had a wonderful, memorable trip and I will be very sad to say goodbye to Bilaystok and all the friends I have made here. I have learned an enormous amount aboutPolandand will be back soon.

      Camsie Xx

       

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      piątek, 24 czerwca 2011 14:22
    • Crazy little thing called love

      The sun setting over the motionless river, the expanse of dark lit by candles, precariously set on wreaths of grass and flowers, slowly drifting away from their suspicious, love struck makers. Silhouettes of men spinning women across the dance floor and drawing them close, a protective arm wrapped around their waists.

      It may be clichéd but the pagan ceremony in Suprasl last night was truly magical and something that should definitely be on your list on things to do. After a traditional dinner of Russian dumplings and potato cakes we moved down onto the river beach.  I’m not sure what I was expecting but it wasn’t what greeted us. Polish folk music that fast forwarded people across the dance floor, a group huddled around the bonfire and men dripping wet after jumping into the river to collect their wreaths.

      I had planned to meet up with some people from the concert on Sunday (read A Spiritual Affair if you have not already done so) withAsiaand Magda. We found them soaking wet and shivering after a swim in the river. I couldn’t understand why they would want to go for a swim, not only was it quite cold but I wasn’t convinced by the colour of the water! Little did I know that it was in the name of love. We left them to warm up and went across to the dance floor. Since my last blog about Polish drunkenness I have been warned to stay away from drunk men however; a man in his sixties came staggering towards me, reeking of alcohol, begging me to dance. How could I refuse? Ignoring the concerned looks of my friends I took to the dance floor where I was flung around like a rag doll. He later toldAsiathat he wished the music was faster; I think I may have been sick had we gone any faster!

      Once I had regained my balance we moved to the river bed to look at the candles on the water. The concept of making a wreath, placing a candle in the centre and setting in on the water was foreign to me but a tradition I thoroughly enjoyed. For those who do not know, the legend goes that if your candle is not retrieved then you will be unlucky in love for a year. I struggled to make mine but eventually tied it all together and was even trusted with a hammer- not a regular occurrence! As I teetered on the edge of the river I began to panic; what if my wreath was not recovered? Was it worth the risk? Enter Piotrek… He extraordinarily offered to strip down and jump into the river to collect my wreath! I can safely say that I am sure that not many men would be so chivalrous anywhere else in the world, especially in rather nippy conditions. So, I let my wreath go and gave it a bit of a push for good measure and Piotrek jumped in after it for me. So, I can put my mind to rest about my love life for the next year!

      Hammer time

      Setting sail

      Saved

      I have always wanted to light a lantern and I fulfilled this desire last night as every group was given one. It was beautiful, watching them drift away and the perfect end to the night. It was a wonderful evening and possibly one of my best experiences inPolandso far.

      Camsie Xx

      Lanterns

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      piątek, 24 czerwca 2011 10:58
  • czwartek, 23 czerwca 2011
    • A rather hot Corpus Christi

      It has been an experience celebratingCorpus ChristiinPoland, a holiday that I have never acknowledged before as I grew up in an Anglican household.Polandis of course renowned for its strong Catholic following so my interest was pricked by the idea of an entire city flocking to the centre for a religious procession.

      I had planned to join in on the day despite my lack of Catholic trivia, and set off into the centre. I turned onto the main road inBialystokand was taken aback by the scene that met me. There were thousands of people, of all ages, dressed in their Sunday best, kneeling on the road and pavement. The sun beating down on them as the garbling sounds of the priests said a static mass over the speaker system. I subconsciously tip-toed, holding my breath, as I wove my way through the people to the red church where the parade began. The procession was calculated and sombre; even the children sitting on their parents shoulders, squinting into the sun did not utter a word of complaint or boredom. As they moved down the street, each step was synced to the many other footsteps and the Polish hymns that washed over them. The music at one stage clanging with the Slavonic chants coming from the Orthodox Church.

      The procession stopped for a while outside the Orthodox Church and a line of men holding poles with lanterns attached stopped beside me. The candle had gone out in the one and I became transfixed by operation “re-light candle”. His precision was admirable as he removed all of the wax from the lantern then placed a new small yellow candle, using a piece of hot wax left over to cement it in place. He struggled slightly as he tried to pull a box of matches from his pocket however, the man next to him eventually held the pole steady. After a rather painful two minutes of fending off the wind, he lit the candle, blew out the match and put it back in the box. Almost immediately, smoke started billowing from the box as it caught fire. I stared in complete disbelief as the men frantically tried to put the fire out as the flames licked the sleeves of his smock. I wanted to help but knew that it was no time for English and the only other alternative would have been; dobra vodka! I don’t think that would have gone down too well!

      At least everyone found it funny

      As I watched these men fumbling with the match box I felt a great sense of relief. He was human. I no longer felt out of place or embarrassed that I was not a devote Catholic and essentially gate crashing their holy holiday. I guess the lesson I learned was that we really are all the same, regardless of religion, age, culture of nationality. Oh and I really need to learn the Polish word for fire!

      Camsie Xx

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      czwartek, 23 czerwca 2011 15:36
  • środa, 22 czerwca 2011
    • The art of drinking and complaining!

      Every country has its stereotypes, some that they embrace and others that they shunt and try to shake off.

      Polandhas many different personas, some are obvious and endearing while others are nothing more than a matter of the mind. I have discovered over the past five days that the Poles do indeed love to complain; this was something I was warned about. Before we landed inWarsawI was cautioned; never ask a Pole how he/she is. Everyone likes a good moan and groan about things at times however, in my opinion the Poles focus too much on the bad and not on the good. I have heard copious references to the Polish people’s series of damaging oppressions; by the Germans and the Russians. It seems that they bring up their past as a defence mechanism to justify their insecurities and fear of inferiority. Had no one talked at length about these things then I would not have given them any thought. I do not see a country that is crippled but instead one that is blossoming. Many Poles have a very large chip on their shoulder as they fear that there is another demon, lurking in the shadows, waiting to darken their country once more.

      I have unfortunately noticed that there is still some racism inPolandwhich is very sad but I’m afraid it is a fact of life and a reality in many countries. The Poles do feel very sorry for themselves and tend to play the blame game quite a bit. I suppose foreigners are an asy target. I can understand why they have a sense of resentment towards the West however; I do not believe that any individual should be held responsible for the faults of a nation. I was shocked at the Poles’ reaction to many of the blogs, including my own and I know that the truth is a bitter pill but it does need to be taken gracefully. Rude comments achieve nothing as they are dismissed as ignorance o rather keep quiet. We are not here to humiliatePolandbut instead to give our own, personal opinion and from what I have read from my colleagues, we will all leave with a more positive impression ofPoland.

      I have put many of my preconceptions aboutPolandto rest. I no longer think that the country is as conservative as it is often perceived to be. I am in a reasonably small town and would expect some people to be more conservative but I believe that the Poles are more open-minded than people think. I did not feel smothered by religion, something else that I was warned of. Instead, there is the silent comfort of an ever present religion, be it in the form of the Orthodox Church or the clay models of Catholic saints. I arrived inPolandthinking that the Poles were very serious and that work came before play. How wrong I was! I have laughed more in the last couple of days here than I have in quite some time. The Poles that I have met have a fantastic sense of humour and of course a love of beer and vodka. My favourite Polish phrase is; dobre vodka!

      So, instead of saying thatPolandhas stereotypes I would like to say that it has some great traditions, culture and a miserable minority who are intent on ruining the fun!

      Camsie Xx

       

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      środa, 22 czerwca 2011 19:17
    • A drunken slur worth noting...

      I encountered my first Polish argument last night. I say argument but it was very one sided as I stood frozen, in complete disbelief.

      I went out for a quiet drink with my shadow and some of her friends inBialystokcity centre. We were having a great time, standing outside the bar chatting when out of the corner of my eye I saw a man staggering towards me. He laid his unfocused, bleary eyes on me and slurred: “I also speak English. Where are you from?” I turned towards him and told him I was fromLondonand inBialystokfor a week. I would like to mention at this point that he should no signs of recognising me or any of the many journalists I was with so his views were based purely on what followed next. I spoke to him for some time and realising just how drunk he was, it took him a good few minutes to process what I was saying about my stay inBialystok. Although very drunk, he seemed like an alright guy.

      While I was trying to decipher exactly what he was saying to me another of my shadow’s friends arrived and I excused myself from the drunken conversation to say hello. What followed was a tirade of abuse, with many highly offensive words thrown in for good measure. I stood on the spot, flabbergasted as he simply laid into me. He said that I had left our conversation because I did not want to talk to a poor Polish man as I came from a rich country. I tried, in vain, to convince him that I by no means thought anything of the sort but he was adamant and fast infringing on the spot that I was stuck to. For all that was bad about the situation, there was a lot of good as three Poles jumped in between the man and me and steered him away. After much convincing, he swayed off down the road as his friend told him that he had been extremely disrespectful and was merely drunk and stupid.

      It was not a pleasant experience however, it was of great comfort to know that it was one man against three and of course my shadow and her friends who tried to reason with the man. Saying this, even though I know that he very drunk I could not help thinking; drunken words are sober thoughts. Is this the way all Poles see the English? As the over critical rich who come toPolandto ridicule the so-called “Poor Poles”.

      Camsie Xx

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      środa, 22 czerwca 2011 08:58

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