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.

Gorzów Wlkp - Christian Jensen

  • piątek, 24 czerwca 2011
    • 6 days, 19 videos

      For the last 6 days, my trusty shadow Kamil was always ready with his camera and together we went the National Geographic route. Beneath you can see me trying to find the Gorzow tourist office with mixed luck.

      http://gorzow.gazeta.pl/gorzow/10,88275,9833123,Turysta_idzie_na_lody_czy_do_informacji_.html

      Go to the paper's website and watch:

      • Interview with Gorzow's mayor
      • Interview with the press officer of Gorzow's speedway stadium
      • Interview with the governor (voivod) of the Lubuskie region
      • Us getting lost in the woods trying to find a lake
      • Finding the lake and testing the water
      • The Corpus Christi procession
      • Trying to use a taxi
      • Visiting the local drinking point "Stairs to nowhere"
      • My completely failed attempt to order a hotel room in Polish
      • The speedway derby in Sielona Gora
      • Trying to find my way on the streets
      • Visiting the Dominanta, piece of art or eyesore on the riverside?

      If you value your ears, do not try the karaoke videos, I'm a horrible singer! 

      All 19 videos are available here: http://gorzow.gazeta.pl/gorzow/0,88275.html

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      piątek, 24 czerwca 2011 21:56
    • We have our results! What to try and avoid in Gorzow

      Before I arrived local Gorzows voted on five places they wanted me to see and five places they wanted me to stay away from. That was taken from two lists of ten and I decided to go all-out and visit all twenty places. Made sure to check out my readers’ recommendations, what the official tourist guide listed and stumbled on things by chance as well. Below is the five things I found tourists should visit while here and what they would be better to stay clear off:

       

      Five things to try:

      The view from the towers: Take a walk from the centre of town and cross the river. It will give you a good street level sampling of Gorzow and at each end climb the two tourist towers: the Cathedral and Dominanta. A clash between the traditional church and a piece of art, hated by many locals, they feel it spoils the riverside. I enjoyed both and they act as a good contrast between new and old. Both also have a complete panoramic view of Gorzow, so try them together and find your favorite!

      Green spaces: Parks and lakes! Called ”the city of parks and gardens”, Gorzow has earned its title many times over. There are several big, serene parks with ponds, statues and gives a great breathing space in the middle of the town. Take in the surrounding forests on a walk to the many lakes nearby and enjoy a swim in the clean, emerald water. The best way to visit Gorzow I have seen is the small huts you can rent on the lake beaches, in the middle of the forests, but still only a stones-throw from the city centre.

      The Riverside Boulevard: Gorzow Wielkopolski litteraly means ”landsberg on the water” and the Warta river is brilliant! Take a cruise from one end to the other (some periods the river will be too shallow though) and walk back on the boulevard. Nightclubs, restaurants, bars, monuments and even an imported sand beach! This is the main tourist area during the day and at night the clubs will be open till sunrise. Many city rivers tend to end up murky or rank, but the Warta is clean and fresh. A lunch or ice cream in the sun here is a must!

      Schody Donikad (Stairs to nowhere): A big no-go on the list I found to be a must-see. The stairs themselves are a good example when architecture takes on art-like proportions and the view from the top is breath-taking. It’s also a local hangout for youngsters, one calling it ”the best malina (drinking place) in Gorzow.” Don’t go at night though and the police do random searches so stay alert. A typical example of something the officials would like to keep hidden from tourists. Lots of atmosphere, go there to meet real people and see a bit of the ”real” Gorzow.

      Bar u Bartosza and the food district: I’ve already shared with you my new-found love for Polish food and any tourist who visits will have to try at least the classics: pierogi, borscht, zurek, dumplings, schabowy and of course a healthy dose of beer and vodka, most bars will have a wide selection of both. If in Gorzow then a visit to Bar u Bartosza for pancakes (both main course and desert) is a must. Every lunch was a feast as we went to bakers and butchers and bought freshly baked bread and Polish specialties, then enjoyed them in the parks.                 

       

      Five things tourists wouldn’t enjoy:

      Tourist information point: A complete joke. In the past there was a little tram-wagon in the middle of town used as information office, clearly marked and easy to find. Now an ice cream parlour on the riverside doubles as tourist point. There is no signing and several people on the street didn’t know where it was or if there even was one! The poor girl hired by the parlour was not prepared at all and it seems her role as Gorzows ambassador for foreigners was written in small print in her contract. No brochures, maps or souvenirs.

      Rundown areas: Throughout the town there are areas of obvious neglet, cracked roads, half-empty buildings, litter and graffiti. Half my list of places not to go fell under this category, but it is not just small exceptions to an otherwise beautiful city. While there are beatiful spots, (check my list of places to go) the entire town seem rundown and in need of a good overhaul. If you are a tourist you will just have to get used  to it, it’s a red thread throughout Gorzow.

      The Staszica estates: On the list of things not to see for a good reason! This blemish on Gorzow take the preivous post to extreme levels. It plays straight to the stereotype of Poland being destroyed, grey and rubbish. Grafitti everywhere, buildings falling apart and a general unconfortable atmosphere, I was not happy about using my cameraphone while there and stay away at night! The name of the local football team, Stilton, is marked everywhere and even thought the football club closed years ago, the hooligans are still there!

      The J. Oterwy theatre: One could think that visiting the local theatre would be a good way to soak up some Polish culture, but think again. If you don’t speak Polish, forget it, you would sit for two hours not understanding a thing. And while the buildings are beautful and charming it’s is about what happens on the stage. I asked someone from the audience if I had missed out on anything, just because I couldn’t enjoy it, it might have been a genuinely good time. He shook his head  and said ”mediocre”.

      Pilkarski football stadium: In Gorzow, speedway is the most popular sport and most evident is the difference between the speedway and football stadium Looking at this place, it’s clear that Gorzów isn’t ready for the Euro 2012 tournament. Even worse is the training pitch. Rotten sheds, large patches with no grass on the pitch, but around it’s overgrown. It looks like an abandoned place that is just waiting for demolition. Football fans who visit the place will be very disappointed by going to this landfill. Why Gorzow puts this as an attraction I don’t know, they should hide it instead.

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      piątek, 24 czerwca 2011 20:03
    • The Danish view of Poles, and what I learned after getting to know them

      When we answered the questionaire of what we knew about Poland before the trip, mine was mostly blank. I simply did not recall anything about Poland especially.

      When it comes to stereotypes I was raised to treat everyone as individuals, never judging based on nationality, gender, race or age. To put everyone in broad categories was the stupid and lazy option, and I should never speak about something I didn’t know about. All I heard about stereotypes would then be in the schoolyard or through television. And it was always American, French, British, German, Italian, Asian stereotypes etc, but never really anything about Poland.

      Most of the stereotypes I’ve been told Poles suffer from are also some that I’ve always associated with somewhere else. Heavy vodka drinkers, that’s Russia. Grey and depressing, destroyed buildings and looking like something still from the 1950’ies, that’s Eastern Germany, Slovakia and the Czech republic. Catholic fanatics are from Italy or Ireland. If you’re grumpy, depresive and negative, you’re Finish.

      The only prejudice I can remember hearing in Denmark is an old joke ”if your car has been stolen, go to Poland and get it back.” And while I haven’t dug into this, I haven’t seen anything while here that backs that joke up.

      One reason for this lack of insults to hurl at Poles could be the history Poland and Denmark share. Sadly when it comes to foreigners, Denmark is both racist and exploitative, with strong extreme-right politics in power. In the 70’ies Denmark opened its normally tightly closed borders and invited Poland in. Basically there was a lot of jobs that the middle class Danish snobs didn’t want and wanted someone else to do it cheaply without complaining.

      Enter the Poles. It could be called a stereotype, but in Denmark it’s more a rule of nature, if you need something built, you can get a Pole to do if for half the price, under the table. With Denmark being generally racist, I know that from the 70’ies to 90’ies racism against Poles was quite common, they ”stole our girls and jobs, brought their families over and swarmed the borders like vermin.” When the 90’ies came Denmark again needed more people to do their dirty work for them, but this time they chose the Middle East to import from. Suddenly no one talked about Poles anymore because they were too busy angrily ranting about how people from the Middle East ”stole our girls and jobs, brought their families over and swarmed the borders like vermin.” Notice the hypocrisy, inviting someone in because you’re afraid of getting your hands dirty, then complaining when they start to blend in to the community.

      So while not having my own stereotypes about Poland what does the rest of the world think? From the travel website staypoland (http://www.staypoland.com/poland-stereotypes.htm) we have five stereotypes that ring pretty well with what the Poles I asked said foreigners think about Poland:

      1: Poles do not speak foreign languages: I’ve covered the language barrier to death in my previous articles, the younger generation can speak it, but the elder generation can’t. It’s a simplified way of looking at it but a good rule of thumb.

      2: Poles never smile, but complain a lot: The Polish people reminds me of the old saying ”cautious stranger, but friend for life.” They can seem a bit cold to start with, but after you’ve shaken their hand, they’re all smiles! I’ve been invited to two dinners, everyone's been extremely friendly in the pubs and one of my new friends even called my hotel to make sure I could get to the bar without problems! Everyone I’ve met on the streets have been friendly and tried to help me as much as their language allowed.

      3: Poles are intolerant and full of anti-Semitism: While I’ve been here I’ve seen no anti-Semitism or racism of any sorts. But on the other side, there’s been very little multiculturalism, so maybe all the racism has already scared everyone not caucasian away?

      4: Poles abuse alkohol: No more than Danes, both are cultures that enjoy celebrating with dangerous amounts of alchohol. Vodka is very popular here, no doubt, but there’s also always beer present, everytime there’s been a meal or a trip to a bar it’s been a beer for everyone and a bottle of vodka for the table.

      5: Organised crime and car theft are part of everyday life: Not my everyday life while I’ve been here. Read my previous article about the local police, maybe we have our explanation for their overreacting here. Did they get to that level because this isn’t just a stereotype, but pure truth a couple of years ago?

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      piątek, 24 czerwca 2011 19:23
    • I’m a branded man, forever on their list!

      My details are now on the police records!

      A group of us had been researching the Polish alcohol very dillegently (I take my responsibilty to my readers very seriously) and one friend offered to drive the rest of us home. As soon as we turned the corner from the club a police car ambushed us. They were obviously waiting for drunk drivers and I could imagine they have several of these spots near key watering holes.

      In Poland there is a zero-tolerance policy about drinking and driving, if you have any alcohol in your system you're done for! My friend’s wife was the designated driver and hadn’t touched anything close to alcohol so we were never in any danger, but the cops definitely wanted to instill some healthy respect in us.

      They came up to us and demanded personal information from everyone in the car. The officer recognised me and made sure to quizz me about the details in my passport, ”where was I born?, ”why was I here?” etc, etc. They took our details away for ten long minutes and my fellow passengers told me we would all be on their list now. Maybe they took their time to make sure the foreign journalist knew how well they did their job.

      I wanted to know if our details would be erased after a couple of years (as is custom in Denmark for example) but no, I will never be able to go to Gorzow again without the police having me highlighted as a possible suspect.

      This was not a one-off, the Gorzow police take their job very seriously, on another nightlife-research expedition I got another taste of exactly how serious they are. It was outside the pub where I had been pulled up to torture the guests with my horrible karaoke skills, and across the street in an alley, a group of guys were marking the territory. Two officers rushed them and asked what they think they were doing. While they were explaining themselves, two more officers were called in as reinforcement, now outnumbering the guys and making sure to cover all their escape routes. They got off with a warning, but there were no doubt the police took no chances and wanted to make a powerful impression.

      Maybe it’s because it was the only thing to do for the officers that night and they longed for some action, but it did seem a tad excessive. Though from a tourist point of view it’s always good to know the local police are too present than the other way around.

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      piątek, 24 czerwca 2011 10:27
  • czwartek, 23 czerwca 2011
    • Corpus Christi; holy celebration or a time for hangovers?

      This morning the annual Boże Ciało (Corpus Christi: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corpus_Christi_(feast)) procession blessed the town and its inhabitants while parading between the four main churches. While not a religious man myself, it was a beautiful experience, lines of priests in colorful robes with banners, music and prayers filling the air and children spreading flowers. One member of the crowd commented: “It’s almost like theatre, I can never see this without crying.”

      The streets were crowded, all shops closed and traffic completely halted till two in the afternoon. I noticed though that most visitors were either on the older side of 40 or children they had brought with them. I found one of the few young people in the crowd, Matina, and asked why:

      “Young people aren’t religious, it’s just the older generations. Most of us only “believe” because it’s part of everyday life and we grew up with it, it’s what you’re supposed to do. Many of us are annoyed with the church, they mingle in politics and our personal lives; abortion for example is a big issue among young people.”

      Following this lead I tried to hunt down other youngsters, but they were extremely scarce. I found a few after the parade, they hadn’t bothered to attend and were out: “to buy some fast-food, it was a good night last night.” They saw it only as a free day off, an extended weekend.

       

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      czwartek, 23 czerwca 2011 12:33
  • środa, 22 czerwca 2011
    • Abolish Parliament, mix it up with the Polish multi-party pluralism

      The British government is a stagnated and conveluted two-party system built to keep arcane tradtions alive and the people in power distanced from the public.

      I am not at all familiar with Polish poltics, but its codified constituion, multiparty system, 4 year terms for all members of Government and its pluralist values all seem superior to the current English system. Poland has been forced to evolve and adapt several times in its history, while Britain has remained engroved in its ways, clinging to its traditions and resisting change fiercely.

      I'm certain this will spark hefty debate and I am by no means an expert, but from my limited knowledge and basic research many (but not all) aspects of the Polish system would be worth exporting to England.

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      środa, 22 czerwca 2011 15:05
    • Getting stuffed in Gorzow; the Polish kitchen

      Just as most places Poland is no longer just Polish food, there's the standard selection of fast food of all sorts, restaurants and cafés available everywhere, but not sampling the local delicacies while there would be a crime.

      I've tried a good selection of what the Polish kitchen has to offer and I like it! It's tasty, strong and heavy; a good solid meal. Polish foods tends to be hearty and in big portions, you'll never leave the table hungry, and just two meals a day could keep most going. Getting the food is sometimes a bit tricky, again the language barrier can come in the way, but as every road-worn tourist knows, bring your dictionary or just point at what you want if nothing else works.

      Go to  a local butchers or bakery, the displays and selection will overwhelm you. I recommend trying a small portion of everything, otherwise you'll be done before the meal is halfway over and regret missing out. On high streets and fairs/market spaces you should be able to find food stalls where you can get the classics and it's full of atmosphere.

      A quirky thing in Gorzow is the Red Coffee Cafe. Opening at 7.30 am it's the only place to get a coffee before work as everything else gets around to opening their doors no sooner than 10. Their special wake-up brew (a coffee with a shot of booze) really hits the spot before getting on with the day.

      Polish cuisine is a big concept, but here follows a crash course in some of the iconic options:

      Borscht (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borscht): a beetroot soup with beef extract, enjoyed alone or on the side of many other dishes. A cup of this is great for a quick snack or if you've just come in from the rain.

       

      Zurek (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%BBurek): My favourite polish dish so far. Had never seen food prepared like this before, always a plus for new experiences. You hollow out a big loaf of bread and pour soup in, using the bread as an eat-able bowl. A heavy strong soup with big pieces of bacon, eggs, potatoes or whatever you fancy, followed by the bread now soaked with the soup and ready to be peeled apart. You can buy the bread bowls, already prepared from bakeries, might try and make my own at some point.

      Pierogi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierogi): The Italian pizza, the English fish and chips, the Polish Pierogi. A mix of meats, cheese, vegetables wrapped in dough and heated. Personally love a food you buy pr kilo. Be careful though, if you don't pay attention suddenly you'll have eaten an entire plate without noticing.

      Nalesniki (http://easteuropeanfood.about.com/od/polishnoodlesanddumpling/r/polishcrepes.htm): Pancakes, both main course and desert. I tried tboth at Bar u Bartosza, a reader recommendation and it is definitely worth a visit! The desert was with appelsauce, a popular dish throughout Poland and I had a cup of Bortscht on the side of the main course (spicy beef pancake), it worked quite well together.

      Beer: Poland has a great selection of beer with many small, local breweries providing a wide range of options. They have their own take on cider, more appleconcentrate I think, making it taste more like alcoholic applejuice than beer with a hint of apple like the English ciders.

      Kebab: When does something become a part of a culture? Kebab isn't part of historical Poland, but in modern times you can find them everywhere. After 10 o'clock, Tuesday evening, Gorzow had already gone to bed, though one Kebab place had open near the city centre.

      Final verdict: Just after my liking, will try and find a place in London where they serve Polish food to continue my research.

       

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