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.

Trójmiasto - John Stammers

  • wtorek, 28 czerwca 2011
    • I'll Be Back!

      The first thing I will say now that my mission is over is this; you can now rest easy Tri-City, you passed!

      Everything that I thought should be done to prepare for the Euro Championships next year is being put into motion. The stadium looks fantastic, the roads and transport systems are being updated, the number of English speaking people is growing and the welcome is the best I've had.

      My time in Tri-City was amazing. It's as simple as that! 

      I did not only find out that a fun, modern, beautiful and historic country existed in Poland-where, like many, I expected a grey and dull place. But I also met people that I instantly got on with and will keep in contact with for sure. I would like to thank everyone involved for an incredible experience.

      When asked to relate Tri-City to an animal or object in an interview during our final workshop in Warsaw, I was struggling for an answer until 'A Rubik's cube' came out of my mouth. 

      I then panicked as tried to dig myself out of this hole and describe, on tv, why I said rubik's cube.

      It all became clear.

      Gdansk, Gdynia and Sopot were each extremely enjoyable places to visit but were also very different. I loved the history and beautiful buildings in Gdansk, I loved the beaches and partying in Sopot and I loved the different and young feel to Gdynia. 

      Tri-City is a complex place with many different sides to it; and I personally feel that I will never be able to complete them all much like a rubik's cube! A week was simply not long enough for me to see and do everything I wanted to, and for that reason and for the reason that I absolutely loved it, in the famous word of Arnold Schwarzenegger, I'll be back!

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  • piątek, 24 czerwca 2011
    • Ranking of Tri-city

      The five things in Tri-city that GW readers voted as the places they are most proud of were:

       

      1. PGE Arena

      2. Molo pier

      3. St Mary's Church 

      4. The Beaches

      5. Monte cassino

       

      I mostly agree with the readers, although I think that to pick only five is way too hard! (So I have cheated and grouped some things together!) In my opinion the top five things that the inhabitants of Tri-city should be proud of are: (drum roll please!)

       

      1. The seaside at Tri-city (including Molo.)

       

      This is my number one for a number of reasons. Firstly it is beautiful, and unlike most British seaside, it is not spoilt by tacky shops and arcades littered up and down the seafront. A British pier is often a hybrid of flashing plastic lights and horrible food. The Molo pier in Sopot is not only wonderful to look at but is also not an amusement park, it would be a lovely place to have an ice cream during the heat of day or to chill out and take in the views at night. There is also plenty of class and elegance about the bars and restaurants around the coast, I had dinner at a few and it was extremely tasty! Just in from the beaches there is further beauty. Today I walked around some lovely gardens and parks- it is a shame that I ran out of time and wasn't able to go for a bike ride on one of the many trails.

       

      But more than the beauty, the seaside here was a shock to me. When I found out that I was coming to Tri-city, I had heard of Gdansk, but not Gdynia and Sopot, so I was expecting lots of history and old-style architecture. I also thought of Poland as a cold and grey country. The surprise of the modern buzz, wild nightlife and Mediterranean feel when the sun shines on the beaches of Sopot and Gdynia was an unexpected, but very pleasant surprise.

       

      2. The welcoming people

       

      I have been very grateful of the incredibly friendly welcome I have received. Each night I have been able to meet for a drink with someone different, before I even arrived people were contacting me and asking if we could meet and if they could show me around. I can tell that their is a positive vibe around the cities. There is much more of a party feel than I expected, and more of an openness towards me. This is of course a great thing going forward into hosting the Euros next year. It has been suggested that during the Austria/Switzerland Euros the locals were not such great hosts for travelling fans- I have no doubt that Tri-city will be a firm favourite for supporters next year.

       

      Obviously as a tourist not speaking the language it has been hugely helpful that virtually everyone I have spoke to has spoken English. Even the stereotypical 'grumpy old women' who don't speak english have not been so grumpy; and have tried to help me understand with hand gestures and smiles. So thank you people of Tri-city for making my stay as enjoyable as possible, although I have one complaint to put to you; if it wasn't for you making me have such a good time each night and not returning until the early morning, I might have been able to complete Angry Birds this week!

       

      3. PGE Arena

       

      World class football deserves to be played in a world class setting and the PGE Arena definitely qualifies as one. As a massive football fan the PGE Arena is a given for my top five. The stadium itself is fantastic to look at, with over 17,000 tiles which make the Amber shell glisten in the sunlight. The architecture is also something to brag about, the concrete structure of the stadium is completely separate to the self-standing outer shell. I was lucky enough to get a full scale tour of the stadium and it is right up there with some of the best stadiums in the world that I've visited. It has all the modern technology needed to host a international tournament and more importantly when you walk through the tunnel and out to the pitch you cannot think about anything else in the world than kicking a football. I am truly jealous of anyone who will be watching games there next year when I am sat in a boring old English pub. 

       

      Of course there are arguments about whether the stadium will be fully used after the championships, and if the money being spent on it could be better used elsewhere, however if I was a football fan living in Tri-city I take great pride in saying that it is soon to be home to one of best stadiums in the world. 

       

      4. St Mary's church

       

      St Mary's church is something that I have walked past everyday in Old Town Gdansk, and still every time I nearly walk into oncoming people or parked cars as I can't stop staring at it. It is clearly a stunning building, and inside is just as beautiful. I did nearly have a heart attack walking up the some 400 or so steps to get to the top, but the panoramic view from the top was well worth it. St Mary's church is just one of a number of incredible historic buildings Gdansk has to offer but it is the one that struck me as the most impressive. A must see!

       

       

      5. The Variety 

       

      Ok, so I have really cheated here and just used this as a way of saying everything! But it's true, the whole Tri-city area has so much to offer foreigners, who might have a stereotypical bland and boring opinion of Poland, and of course Polish people from further south looking for something different in a trip to the seaside. 

      Tri-city has it all, the old town in Gdansk is rich in history, filled with buildings that you cannot help but stop and stare at. There are so many museums and exhibitions where you can discover so much about Gdansk's history- far too many for me to see in one week! Sopot has the crazy nightlife and beautiful beaches and Gdynia, which I didn't see enough of, also has some lovely beaches and a unique modern contrast in the Sea Towers.

       

      As I said before, to chose only five things in so hard! I saw other amazing places/things such as: the historic shipyard; the amazing Roads to Freedom exhibition, and the many other museums I didn't get a chance to visit; the main streets in Sopot and Gdansk; the lighthouse at Nowy Port; the Neptune Fountain; the Sea Towers; The Corpus Christi procession. And there are of course so many places that I couldn't see which if I had may have made my top five, for example I never experienced a day in Hel, a trip to Westerplatte, although I saw it from a distance or a bike ride along one of the many trails. I guess I will have to come back! 

       

      So as if limiting the top things to be proud of to just five wasn't a tough enough decision, I am struggling to reach five things that I would be ashamed of!

       

      The list voted for by GW readers was as follows:

       

      1. The train station and underpass Gdansk

      2. Road/surroundinings to PGE Arena

      3. Sopot train station

      4. Nowy port

      5. Wyspa Spichrzow

       

      As I say it has been hard for me to think of five things to be ashamed of, and most of the things I can think of are currently being re-built, or are common all over the globe anyway.

       

      However I have to come to the decision that my ranking of the most shameful things goes like this:

       

      1. Sopot Station

       

      Sopot has been my favourite place in Tri-city, but it is a shame that the first thing you see when arriving on the train, is the station. There are piles of rubble, broken windows and simply an unwelcoming feel to the station. I think that Sopot is a wonderful place and I just fear that some people who just visit once might be put off by the station and then thrown into a bad mood for the rest of the stay and fail to appreciate the rest of the city. I understand that there are plans to work on the station which is good to see. I know there are stations all over the world which are worse than Sopot's, so it isn't really something to be ashamed of as such, but I just felt it was a massive shame that more effort had not been put into it earlier because it lets down the rest of the beautiful city.

       

      2. Area around and on the way to the PGE Arena

       

      I have said again and again that the PGE Arena is a incredible stadium, and in-between the two times I visited it, more work had been done. However the area around the stadium could do with a face lift as well. Much like Sopot and the station, it is a shame that people may be put off next year by the area and therefore not fully appreciate the arena. Obviously the stadium is not yet completed and the immediate surroundings will be very different when it is, but I do not know how much change will be implemented in the housing areas near the stadium, which when I visited were dull and ugly. I do know that areas like this are located in all countries, especially around slightly outside of the city centre, so it is not something to be ashamed of, but it will be interesting to see it next year during the championships- again I will have to come back and check!

       

      3. Lack of English signs/speakers on trains/stations

       

      As you may have read I have had some troubles buying, or more with not buying, tickets for transport. Without the In Your Pocket guide I would have probably been completely lost with it all week. I had troubles with buying tickets and seeing which station is which, but I can also see people reading arrivals as departures and the other way around. The ticket conductors on trains I have come across don't speak English, and some information kiosks also don't. I was told by my new friend, Bartek from tourist info at the airport, that there are going to be courses for the older members of the services who don't speak English as well as the younger generation who have learnt it. This is not something to be ashamed of, as I know many of you will be saying 'You can talk, English people never learn languages and signs in England are rarely in other languages either.' However, whatever your views on it are, most people visiting England will speak at least some English and I have also noticed that lot's of tourists from various countries use English as a language they have all learnt. Furthermore, with thousands of fans from all over Europe travelling to Poland next year this is something that does need to be improved- and before you tell me, I know that it is being planned.

       

      4. The roads

       

      You might have also seen that I tested out my driving skills yesterday on the road from the airport to the PGE Arena. The road was very bumpy and there were lots of pot-holes. Also I experienced some roads around the houses near the Arena and in Nowy Port, which were extremely uncomfortable and only half built in most places. I know again that there is lots of construction going on at the moment and this will be improved by next year. It was also a positive that the signs were understandable, there was not too many and they had clear symbols with Polish words used less than English words are in England.

       

      5. Nowy Port 

       

      Again, like the area around the stadium, there are areas like Nowy Port in most cities so it's nothing to be ashamed of really. However I can see why people voted for it. It is not a long way from the breathtaking Old Town, and it does also take your breath away, but for the opposite reason. It looked unloved and stagnant. Neglected building projects were half finished, and there was nothing to do- sand and rubble providing make shift play areas for children. It was promising to see that some gardens and buildings did look pretty and were obviously being looked after- this should act as motivation to others as they can see that the area could be nice. I understand of course that development costs money and other things are of higher priority with regard to the Euros next year, I don't expect many supporters will be planning to pay a visit to Nowy Port.

       

      You may have noticed is that I have not included two of the suggestions put forward by the GW readers. In my opinion the actual Gdansk train station building is something to be proud of! It is a very nice building to look at from a distance, and compared to lot's of train stations in Britain, it is not disgraceful inside either! I think the aspect that Polish people dislike the most about the station is the tunnel you walk through to get to it. I can see why people have voted for this however I don't think you should be ashamed of it. There are stalls like this everywhere you go in markets up and down Britain, so it didn't strike me as shameful. As for Wyspa Spichrzow, again I get see why people voted for this, it is not the prettiest of things to see in the centre of the city. However again I was not shocked to see this because maybe I thought there would be more places like this, yes not in the centre, but around the city. Also this is a sign of the wartime in Poland and I don't think people should be ashamed that there is still evidence of this. There are plans to do something with the ruins, it is just a matter of time as there has been a lot of modernising in Poland recently.

       

      So there you have my top and bottom things about Tri-city. I can assure you that best things heavily outweigh the bad things, which are mostly being improved all of the time, and I will spread the word in England, as an unofficial ambassador now, about just how great Tri-city is. 

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      piątek, 24 czerwca 2011 18:08
    • Top Gear challenge- Poland style.

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      piątek, 24 czerwca 2011 16:25
  • czwartek, 23 czerwca 2011
    • A drive on the wild side.

      Today I did one of the things that I have always said I never though I could imagine doing. Something that is one of the strangest things a Brit can do in another country. Yes, that's right- I drove on the right (wrong) side of the road.

      It was encouraging when Dominik said to me: "Ah it's my old car, it doesn't matter if you crash!" 

      Nevertheless I started my journey at the airport in Gdansk, where many fans will arrive next year, and headed for the PGE Arena, where most of them will go!

      My impressions of the airport were deprived by my concentration on trying to not kill anyone- although it would have maybe made front page news.

      The obvious things were all very very strange; sitting on the left side of the car, changing gear with the right hand and being on the wrong side of the road. But something that I had not though about was the speedo. In the UK it is in mph and here it is obviously kph- so I never really knew of the top of my head how fast I was going. 

      However I got used to it pretty quickly and started to relax, although the opposite could be said for Dominik who cringed every time I hit a pothole or got close to the edge of the road. Pfffft, I was in control!

      Once I got with the actual driving side of things, I started to try and think a bit more about what I was seeing and how the roads are different to the UK.

      The most dominant thing was the state of the roads. It was less comfortable than being dragged through a thorn bush. Okay this is an exaggeration but you know what I mean, it would definitely do no favours for your suspension.

      Another strange thing was the way in which often after turning right at a junction where you have a green light, you immediately get faced with a pedestrian crossing at which they have priority- why give a the car a green light and then make them stop half way through turning.

      Something positive was there were plenty of road signs with symbols that are easy to understand, but not so many signs that you did not know where to look. The fact that there were lots of symbols and fewer with just words is helpful for people who don't speak the language, obviously!

      Although I said that the road was mostly in a shocking state, it is clear that there is a lot of re-building going on. One road I used was only completed a few weeks ago and I drove past masses and masses of construction sites. It's obvious that a lot of investment is going into making sure the city is 'on the road' to being ready, which i'm sure it will be!

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      czwartek, 23 czerwca 2011 19:49
    • Corpus Christi- a hangover cure?

      Corpus Christi is another part of Polish life that I had heard nothing about before I arrived. Even up until this morning all I knew was that I had to be somewhere in the centre of Gdansk at 11 and the apparently the whole country would stop and everywhere would be shut.

      Last night I had been in Cafe Absinthe. After meeting the barman, Danyl, there a couple of nights ago I was heading back, this time with Jowita, Dominic and some of their other friends, to see him dj. This was, maybe surprisingly, the first time I had drunk vodka on my journey! And Danyl was of course in the party mood so he was supplying shot here and there.

      But yes I confess I woke up with a slight headache and an uninspiring mission to head out to see the parade.

      I left the hostel and straight away I saw groups of people leaving churches- so I followed. 

      As we turned the last of a few corners, my eyes, ears and nose were sharply woken up. The ringing of bells and soothing singing of hymms, added to the vibrant colours of flags and clothes, mixed in with the sweet smell of incense burners. 

      Various parts of the procession gathered in front of me, and I was particularly struck by the amber sort of relic, although I'm not sure what the proper terminology would be as I am not clued up on religion!

      There were young children spreading flowers, an orchestra was playing music and there were lots of different interesting outfits to look at! As the parade moved onto Dluga street, it was like a flood of people was taking the city. 

      When it got to the Neptune Fountain the crowds halted. As one hymn/prayer started some of the crowd knelt, it one was of those awkward turtle moments when I didn't know what to do. Most the people right around me stayed standing, so I decided to stand too. However when another was started virtually everyone knelt, so I went along with it!

      When the ceremony was done, the parade marched on but I had to leave it there as I felt I had experienced enough and, as a wonderful son/brother/boyfriend, I had some presents to buy!

      Aside from the parade, the spectators all seemed to be having fun, everyone had smiles on their faces and there were flags and pictures in many windows. 

      I know these are two completely different things, done for two completely different reasons, but aspects of the events reminded me of the 'Royal Wedding Hype' in Britain. There was bunting, pictures of the couple and street parties up and down the country and it seemed to bring people together- whether you agreed with it or not- maybe like Corpus Christi from what i've seen.

      One stereotype of Poland is that it is a very religious country. In some ways this event re-enforced that. A lot of people took part and there was certain traditions involved, such as the dress and the way in which the procession took place.

      However, when you went off the main street, there was not that much colour injected into the city to support the event. It is hard to tell how many people in the crowd were there because they were there, like me and how many were there for religion.

      Like I said we had been told that the whole country would be involved and places would just shut, but when I asked in a cafe off the main street if they were serving food today, she said "Of course! It is a church religion, not for us!" And even all along the main street restaurants and bars were still open, although I know that tourism obviously has had a massive effect here.

      Anyway, after the procession had finished my hangover had gone. Was it a coincidence or perhaps it was something spiritual? I think maybe it was the deep fried dumplings!

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      czwartek, 23 czerwca 2011 19:14
    • Interview in Old Town Gdansk

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      czwartek, 23 czerwca 2011 18:11
    • Interview at Nowy Port!

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