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.

Lublin - Christopher Dodd

  • sobota, 25 czerwca 2011
    • A generational divide?

      Having watched over this city with prying eyes for the past week, for me it's clear there is a generational divide in Lublin.

      Ask anyone under the age of thirty for help or advice and you’ll usually be greeted with a smile and some kind words in broken but helpful English. Ask anyone older and you’ll probably be met with a shrug, a cold shoulder or an answer fully orchestrated in Polish tongue. This isn’t me being critical; it’s just an observational point. We are in Poland after all…

      What I found more polarising between the two different generations was Poles' general outlook towards Lublin’s development as a city. The general consensus between younger people that I’ve spoken to suggests they’re excited about the future of Lublin. Early yesterday morning the city’s Online Development Committee showed me around the voivodeship. What I saw was extremely positive. Despite its provincial air and losing the European Capital of Culture 2016 competition, Lublin seems to be a city that is very much on the up and the young members of the Committee were so proud that they wanted to give me a glimpse into the future.

      With funding provided by the EU, the Polish government and parties from the Voivodship of Lublin the city is growing at a steady pace. The above pictures show a new IT building being built for the University of Marrie Curie Sklodowska and a new library for the institution too. The next two pictures depict the site of Lublin's new airport (the first new airport to built since the fall of communism) and new roads. As it stands there is a new road being constructed directly between Warsaw and Lublin, which should open up access to the region.

      From the older lot I received shy and sometimes pessimistic responses. But you can’t blame them, this is a country that has been conquered and controlled by two monumental forces in the past 70 years alone.

      However, from an outsider’s perspective I did see some points of agreement when it came to questions on the EUROs. Before coming to Poland I’d always believed that the awarding of the championships to this country was probably the third biggest step in Poland’s modern history, just behind joining NATO and the European Union.

      Many Poles have agreed with me on this, especially in terms of it being a confidence booster and providing an economic catalyst when fans visit next year. Yet in Lublin, locals have said the games probably won’t impact them much at all. According to them, a lot of improvements in the region’s infrastructure have come as a direct result of EU membership and funding provided by local and national governments, not because of the announcement of the games.

      There is of course potential for a local economic boom if fans visit Lublin while travelling through to Poland from the Ukraine or vice versa but overall there probably won’t be that many fans stationed in the region. I’d advise them all to make the effort to come and see all that this beautiful place has to offer, though. You’d be a fool not to.

      In terms of development the next important thing for Lubliners will undoubtedly be the 700th anniversary of city’s foundation.

      I’ve decided to sample the Polish roads by taking a bus back to Warsaw this morning so expect a literary reaction sometime this evening or tomorrow. I’ve had a great time here so thanks for being such great hosts. Goodbye!

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      sobota, 25 czerwca 2011 09:01
  • piątek, 24 czerwca 2011
    • More amazing things to see in Lublin...

      Lublin is a little bit like a 37-year-old Ryan Giggs; it just keeps giving.

      Early this morning and late this afternoon I had the opportunity to explore even more of the city's cultural heritage by visiting the Grodzka Gate museum at the Teatr NN as well as the open-air village museum on the outskirts of the city.

      Everything I've seen over the past few days has been truly fascinating and today was no different.

      This morning I was given a tour around the museum at Grodzka Gate, this is probably one of the most impressive museums I have ever visited. The exhibit charts the history of Lublin's Jewish community that had thrived in the region up until the outbreak of World War II, only to be completely destroyed by the time the Nazi occupation of Poland came to an end.

      Before the occupation the area in Lublin around Grodzka Gate was home to an enormous Jewish community, which accounted for around 40 per cent of the city's overall population. However, nowadays Lublin's Jewish district has been all but destroyed with only a few remnants left behind and even fewer Jews officially registered as residents of the city.

      Such is the harrowing nature of holocaust history, the majority of museums I've visited focus on statistics and numbers, but with Grodzka things are totally different. The purpose of the museum is to rebuild Lublin's Jewish history through primary sources including photographs, town planning documents, address details and most fascinatingly through testimonials from Jews who used to live in either the community prior to the war or in the ghetto that was established under Nazi rule.


      Later in the evening some locals took me by car to the outskirts of the city to visit Lublin's open-air museum. The centre is made up of old houses taken from across the Voivodeship of Lublin to help convey how Poles used to live in past centuries. Again, this was pretty magical too.


      Tomorrow I'll have to sum up the top-five best and worst things to see and I'm finding it difficult to muster any bad words about Lublin. It's more likely to be a top-twenty best places to see list... The mind boggles when you hear that this place missed out on the European Capital of Culture 2016 award, it really does.

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      piątek, 24 czerwca 2011 23:55
    • A Bike Ride in Lublin

      After watching Hostel a few years back I’ve always had weird premonitions about dying in a place like Poland. Today they nearly came true.

      The majority of Lubliners I’ve been in contact with have suggested that I go and visit the lake and forest at Zalew Zemborzycki so I decided to grab a bike and head out into the wild.

      I couldn’t fathom where to rent a bike in Lublin so I persuaded my shadow Pawel to lend me his racing bike. Thankfully he gave it up and I set off to look for the nearest cycle track. Problem is, there aren’t any in the city centre. Therefore I had two choices: walk my bike through the crowds of people on the city streets, or risk my life on Lublin’s melancholic roads. I chose the latter and nearly died about 14 times.

      I was advised to head out onto the outskirts of the city where I’d pick up the cycle track and eventually end up at the lake. Within 20 minutes or so I’d located the path and was on my way to Zalew Zemborzycki. For most of the journey the path meandered alongside a small river that often came into contact with old industrial outhouses, zip lanes and old bridges. It sort of reminded me of the old canal route that runs between Tottenham Hale and Broxbourne back in the UK. Having had some previous advice, I took to the path pretty easily and was able to understand Polish cycling conventions pretty quickly – you just have to stick to the right.

      As soon as I arrived at the lake I was pretty surprised, mainly at how expansive it was. In my part of the UK many of our artificial lakes are a lot smaller in size and aren’t coupled with such extensive woodland.


      Despite having a bike I thought it would be responsible journalism to ask for some renting prices at the kiosk by the lakeside. Again to my surprise, the Pole working inside was able to speak English and gave me all the prices and details for renting both a canoe and a bike. The costs were relatively cheap compared to the UK with canoes being rented at the equivalent of around £4 an hour and about £6 for bikes.


      Soon I took off to explore the vast forest, which laps the lake in a misshapen circle. The route varied in parts and alternated between hard tracks, dirt tracks and some sections of tarmac. In places it was a little boggy but I’m a real man so I pulled on through. The forest reminded me of some of the trails you get in places like Epping, but with less twats from Essex ruining your peace and quiet. To me, much of the trail was beautiful although there were a few parts that had fallen pray to grubby little litterbugs.


      Being a keen angler I stopped to ask some local fishermen about what could be caught in the lake: some spoke English and told me of the pike and perch that could end up on your line, while others just shrugged and looked away dismissively.


      I tried to document my trip with a little bit of video, though it is nothing groundbreaking. It’s hard to make an Oscar-winner when you’re riding one-handed through a boggy dirt track on a racing bike. I shall upload this video in the coming days.

      Other than riding back through a few dodgy city streets, it was a really scenic trip and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. I might not being saying the same tomorrow though, when I’m all seized up and saddle sore. Now it’s time for the botanic gardens and the open-air museum.

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      piątek, 24 czerwca 2011 17:23
    • Bank Holiday Speedway

      As my first impressions of Lublin are taken out of the oven to cool, the city’s reputation as a cordial host is coming nicely to a simmer.

      Last night I was invited along to a make-or-break speedway meeting for local side Motor Lublin. For the past few evenings I’ve been meeting up with the team’s fan club and they’ve very kindly been showing me around town.

      Speedway is widely recognised as Poland’s second national sport, just behind football. I was asked to come along to a drinking session prior to the meeting and we met at a patch of land that was once a disused fun fair.

      Drinking in Lublin’s local stadium has been outlawed since trouble with hooliganism in football and speedway led officials to close the bars. Instead, fans flock to the local petrol station, purchase a few cans and then head across the road to meet in the local park. This practice is apparently illegal and can lead to fines of up to 100PLN. I’m starting to rack up potential criminal offences in Poland at an alarming rate. I’d upload some snaps but I wouldn’t want to incriminate anybody else in my unintentional effort to become Poland’s most wanted man.

      Meeting new friends in Lublin has been a piece of cake, and I made even more this evening. The majority of the fans at our meet spoke some English and those who didn’t smiled, shook my hand and nodded considerately. This has somewhat quashed my initial stereotypes of Poles being particularly inward and shy.

      Before entering the stadium I was told that there are three things fans get most excited about in speedway: noise, smell and speed.  I received all three in abundance. As the meeting got underway the smell of fresh popcorn and burning fuel sat perversely under my nostrils. There was plenty of speed too, and the high-octane nature of the sport led to two major collisions in the eighth and twelfth heats. Thankfully nobody was hurt.


      As for noise, this evening reminded of the times I spent with my father in the terraces watching our local lower-league side in the late ‘90s. Speedway songs come across like a bizarre mishmash of old football chants laced with Polish venom and probably lots of wit. They sound a little like war chants when burly Poles bellow them across the ground. Along with the chanting came plenty of spectacle glare. Before the riders set off the fan club released flares and confetti in the stands and I got my first real taste of European partisan in sport. According to some fans releasing flares is illegal at the ground but due to the importance of the game the referee turned a blind eye to what went on.


      Thankfully Motor Lublin won and the side now stands a chance of competing with the two other clubs currently leading the pack. Speedway is definitely in my top-five favourite sports now, but I’m still picking the confetti out of my hair as I write this, which is slightly annoying.

       

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      piątek, 24 czerwca 2011 08:50
  • czwartek, 23 czerwca 2011
    • Corpus Christi in Lublin

      Today I woke up and opened my window to be greeted by an eerie silence. This is pretty unusual because outside of my window there is usually a busker murdering what I believe to be Brian Adams numbers in Polish. But then I soon remembered it was Corpus Christi and the whole of Lublin was on shutdown. I decided to walk up through the Old Town and into the Lithuanian Square to see what all the religious who-ha was about. In short, I was mesmerised.

      Living in a new town in England, I’ve hardly witnessed any flamboyant religious celebrations and even when staying in London the majority of what I’ve seen has been restrained protestant festivities.

      Before coming to Poland I was basically unaware of the intensely religious nature of Poles. I’d also thought because of the shackles placed on people during communism that religion would’ve been less prominent. However, I was told last night by a local historian while at a couch surfing meeting that a lot of Lubliners used practicing and going to church as a form of rebellion during communist rule.

      Along the processional route in Lublin people had gathered to follow the succession, which began at the cathedral and ended up at Lithuanian Square, where a large stage played host to Lublin’s catholic order. I stood next to the hundreds that had gathered to watch and couldn’t help feel a big sense of occasion. People were murmuring prayers next to me so despite not being religious I joined in out of respect. I prayed in hope that Wayne Rooney won't get injured when visiting Glastonbury this weekend.

      I would’ve liked to take some pictures of the colourful scenes today but as I hoisted my camera in the air a lot of locals gave me vicious stares. I’ve sort of got over the grumpy mumbles and pessimism from the older generations of Poles but I still didn’t want to offend anyone. After all, I’ve already had my ears torn on two separate occasions by police officers for jaywalking.

      Unfortunately the bank holiday has scuppered my plans of renting a bike and taking it for a spin around the lake at Zalew Zemborzycki.  However, in Lublin it is tradition that Corpus Christi ties in with a speedway race and so I’m going to sample some of that this evening. Bye for now.

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      czwartek, 23 czerwca 2011 14:29
    • Grublin

      For those used to travelling along the western side of Europe, varied culinary choices and reminders of food from your own backyard come as no surprise. However, having travelled this far to the eastern borders of Poland I didn’t expect to be offered a full-on English breakfast. But I was…

      The sheer variation in what food is on offer in Lublin has come as a real surprise. The Old Town region consists of a weird make up of faux-Irish bars and Italian restaurants offering foreign foods with a Polish twist. For example, you can have pizza or pasta with Polish meats added or curries housed in obscure Polish tortilla shells.

      Conquered this in about three minutes flat...


      Of course, there are plenty of local delights to be had too. If you venture from the confines of Cracow Gate and into the wider city you can experience Polish cuisine at its finest (and cheapest). There is a place called Chata Karcma that packs a mean selection of pierogi and bigos. I’m yet to be sold on boiled cabbage, though. Also, a few words of advice: If Morrissey asks you to go on holiday with him to Lublin, say no. All he’ll do is moan about the innumerable meat dishes available. They’re great, especially the spicy sausages, but his moaning would definitely get on my wick.

      I’m a real sucker for good puddings too and a lot of locals suggested that I try the Polish take on apple pie and ice cream. So I did:


      Damn straight.


      Ordering from restaurants has been a very easy task. Thankfully in Lublin there is a large community of university students who attend five different institutions across the city. Meaning that come the evening many work in the bars and restaurants and speak pretty good English. If you still can’t communicate there are plenty of English translated menus so you can just pick and point at will. Or be a decent human being and try your best to communicate in Polish. Again, much like most things for a tourist in Poland, the food is cheap.

      For the past few nights I’ve been given a comprehensive education in the diversity of Polish and Czech beers by Lublin’s speedway fan club. Yesterday I was lucky enough to be given a guided tour by a slightly tipsy but very knowledge speedway fan around the remains of the Jewish quarter in Lublin. The place was very run down and I was too scared to get my camera out. Don’t hate me, please. Beer is very cheap here in Lublin and locally brewed Perla is available for about £1.50.


      To celebrate Corpus Christi I’ve been invited to a speedway meeting this evening with the fan club so I best go find a scarf and rediscover my voice box. Game. On.

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      czwartek, 23 czerwca 2011 10:34
  • środa, 22 czerwca 2011
    • Majdanek

      

      Of all the tasks set by Gazeta during my stay in Lublin, yesterday’s was the one I felt most apprehensive about. I visited Majdanek - a scar that, to me, runs dark and deep across the face of an otherwise beautiful region.

      Thankfully the weather had improved by Tuesday morning and I took another trolley bus out towards the camp. On approach visitors take the very same route thousands of Jews, Poles and a multiplicity of other prisoners took when being transported to Majdanek. I stepped off the bus and felt an immediate chill run down my spine as I was presented with a view of the camp’s barracks, storehouses and chambers that were laid out on the grasslands in front of me. There was a definite uneasiness in the air. It’s not everyday that you visit a death factory responsible for the killing of at least 78,000 people.

      I was lucky enough to be given a private tour of the camp by a leading curator of its museum. He led me around for about three hours, taking the same path across the camp that the hundreds of thousands of prisoners would have taken during its operation between 1941-1944. It was a very personal experience and in many ways what I witnessed yesterday defies explanation. It really is something you have to go and do yourself. Writing chilling descriptions of the numerous mass executions, torture methods, death tolls, gas chambers and the crematorium would be futile in a way because you really do need to go and witness it first hand.

      Instead I’ll post some photos of the parts of the camp I found most intriguing:


      This photo shows the first port of call for all prisoners brought to Majdanek. The site itself is one of the best-preserved concentration camps in Europe because it was one of the first to be liberated by the Russian army and therefore the Nazis had barely any time to destroy it. In this wooden house prisoners were stripped, shaved (many were often left with seeping wounds) and then forced to wash in strong disinfectant. My guide told me this was to prevent disease, however these attempts were made in vein and of the 78,000 people that apparently died in Majdanek at least half were killed by either disease or malnutrition.


      Adjoined to the back of this building lies the only original remaining gas chamber in the camp. Prisoners were forced inside in large numbers, the large metal door was closed and Zyklon-B was released from above the room. This was my most harrowing experience of the day. The blue stains at the back of the chamber were created by the gas, which is believed to have killed prisoners within 25 minutes.


      The majority of wooden barracks that housed prisoners are still left intact and I felt extremely anxious about walking around them. According to my guide 500 prisoners were crammed into these wooden quarters, in winter it was too cold for them and in summer it was too hot. Many committed suicide.


      As some of you may know, the Nazi party implemented a strong policy of economic efficiency into their approach to labour and concentration camps. Personal belongings were taken from prisoners and sent across Europe, especially back to Germany where shoes and clothes were then given out in state welfare programs. In this garrison prisoners’ belongings were stored and then deported. The museum currently has an exhibition showcasing 100,000 of the 300,000 shoes that belonged to those held captive in the camp.

      These next two images don’t really need any explanation. It was hard to spend more than five minutes in the crematorium, a structure that towers on top of a hill on the site. Behind the crematorium was the scene of the camp’s most horrific mass execution. It came on 3 November 1943 when Himmler realised the war was coming to its end and that the Nazi party needed to remove all incriminating evidence and all signs of Operation Reinhard. As a result, the “Harverst Festival” was carried out and 18,000 prisoners were executed in one day alone at Majdanek. Contemporary "pop" music was played across Lublin by military officials who tried to drown out the gunfire. 42,000 people were killed over a period of two days in the region.


      Yesterday will live long in my memory for being both a truly fascinating but equally harrowing experience. It was a tough gig, but well worth it.

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      środa, 22 czerwca 2011 10:09

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