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.
Rzeszów - Sam Kennelly
Tucked behind the market square in the Old Town of Rzeszów, lies the Mienta Club.
Pass security. Descend the concrete stairs. The music grows louder. Take a left and walk into a dark room, with a DJ booth in the centre, dance floor to the left and fluorescently-lit bar to the right.
To the bar for a shot of cherry vodka and a cold beer, then find a seat (if you can – this place gets busy at the weekends) or take to the dance floor.
The sun rises. Your feet ache and your wallet is lighter, but you are bound to return.
The Mienta Club is unlike any bar I have seen in Rzeszów. It would not be out of place in the East-end of London, downtown New York or along Fitzroy Street in Melbourne.
“Mienta has been open for six months now, we opened in January. We have really good parties here. Unfortunately it is Wednesday, and it’s not really a clubbing night for Mienta. The big nights are Friday and Saturday and we run a smaller night on Sunday, with live Jazz and experimental music.”
“We welcome students and locals. It’s the first club serving really alternative music in Rzeszów. We invite musicians from all across Poland, like DJ's who are recording for labels.”
I asked him why he chose to open a club here:
“I think it is quite an interesting city. I have a lot of friends here. I think this city has a good future, but we have to work at it.”
I highly recommend a visit to Mienta when you arrive in Rzeszów.
The history of Rzeszów is rich. Many of these events will have taken place on the Old Town Market Square. These days, it seems to be the social centre of the city. Every weekend it is packed with locals and students, who come to socialise beneath the ring of tents around the square, where beer and wine is served.
The Square was originally built in the 15th century, but the houses and shops that ring the Square were built in the 19th after a fire destroyed many of the original structures.
The west-side of the Square is dominated by two buildings; one old, one new. Here you can see the Gothic 16th century Town Hall, and also a large collapsible stage where I have seen two concerts during my week here.
Have a watch of the video for more information:
During my stay in Rzeszów, I will visit five places which you are particularly proud of. The next location voted for by the people of Rzeszów, is the road of, and area around; Aleja Pod Kasztanami.
As the video below shows, the Lubomirski Summer Palace and the Aleja Pod Kasztanami inhabit a beautiful area in Rzeszów. The houses and gardens were designed in a Baroque style by visiting architects, invited to Rzeszow by the rich and wealthy in the 19th and 20th century.
Some of these glorious structures still stand, through are now used by local businesses and Polske Radio Rzeszów.
After five days in Rzeszow, I had not visited this area, abundant with nature, cobbled-paths, strolling lovers, and dog-walkers. The name of this place comes from the trees that I stand beneath. They are Chestnut Trees. Some say that there are none of these trees left here, but I believe I know a Chestnut tree when I see one.
I understand why you recommended I visit.
Watch this video, and see my instant impression:
One of the most popular destinations voted for was the Summer Palace of the Lubomirski family.
It was built in a Baroque style in the 17th century and expanded during the 18th. There have been continuous developments and repairs over the years, all of which has been worthwhile.
The Lubomirski were a large family of European nobility, who had close ties with Rzeszów. Their rise to power began with Stanisław Lubomirski in the 16th century. His sons, and their sons continued the growth of the family. Their influence waned during WW1, as they lost many estates across Europe, and ended after WW2 when they lost all land and influence.
This family made a huge contribution to modern day Poland and their motto: Nil conscire sibi, which means ‘To have a conscience free from guilt’, is apt today, as the castle is now the local Courts of Justice.
My shadow and I took a walk around the walls, I imagine once high and impregnable to attackers. There is a deep trench before the walls which, I presume, was once moat.
It truly is a beautiful sight to behold.
The first Rzeszow location voted for by the readers of Gazeta Wyborcza was the Kampus Wyższej Szkoły Informatyki i Zarządzania.
The video above was shot just after we arrived. Though I had time to admire the fine building and location, I thought that we would soon drive to the next location. Thankfully not!
We met Magda and Kristoff - two senior-staff members and tour-guides for the day – by the entrance to this ultra-modern building. We were first shown a large lecture room; the most-modern, comfortable, and best-equipped I have seen. The seats were deep and red, and connected to a translation system for the many international students the university welcomes each year; Ukrainian, Belarusian, Nigerian, Chinese, Malaysian, and more, who come to learn Economics, IT, Public Health, Aviation, Internal Security, and more!
We walked through the lobby; complete with a water-feature, and seating areas; where a few students reclined, bathed in sunlight, and screens that displayed info for staff and students. From there we were shown a selection of classrooms and laboratories for 3D and graphics design, robotics and a mock stock-market floor. Each student, lab-terminal and classroom is a part of a large network, linked by 20km of 10 GBit fibre-optic wires, all controlled by … well, I’m not sure, but the banks and towers of computers are kept in a locked room with only one key; which stays around Kristoff’s neck at all times!
It is not only technology this university has mastered. Here is where their ethos of “combining technology with nature’ comes to the fore.
The campus is set in rolling hills and besides a forest. You can mountain-bike, paintball, climb and ride horses, or just relax in the BBQ area with friends.
Also located here is the largest sports-hall in Poland, where the national volleyball teams of Poland, Ukraine, France, and others come to practise and prepare for major tournaments.
The final stop of this trip was to the restaurant. It lies at the bottom of the campus, where the BBQ and stage area are located. The restaurant was built with a traditional Polish feel. The floors, walls, beams and roof are wooden, with a huge fireplace in the main room. We were offered a delicious meal. I had Kotlet schabowy with all the trimmings and traditional cheesecake for desert. It was by far the finest meal I ate in Poland.
When I return to my central-London university in September, I will do so with a touch of jealousy. What a wonderful place to study for those fortunate enough to attend.
As Misja21 ends, I reflect on the good, the bad, and how Rzeszów can become a more tourist-friendly destination.
Language has been a barrier and learning fluent Polish is not an option for most tourists. English is spreading. For the sake of the local and national economy, we must be able to communicate in one language.
Before my stay I was told to be wary of crime, that gangs of hooligans roam the streets. There is violence and crime here but I have seen none. I feel safer in Rzeszów then London. Healthy warnings are good, but breeding paranoia is not. Tourists will stay in their hotel rooms; doors locked after dark, and miss out on meeting locals and the city nightlife. Plus, the Police-force here is strong, well-equipped, and experienced.
Though there has been no trouble, I have rarely felt welcome by strangers in Rzeszów; I believe this is for two reasons:
1. Would I embrace a visitor who has come to ‘judge’ my city? I think not, unless I wanted to project a positive slant on Rzeszów, its businesses and institutions.
2. National identity. In London, I do not say: “Good morning, sir” to every stranger. But I nod, smile, and make eye-contact, with friends and strangers. This has not been my experience here and seems to come across as a challenge, or the actions of a fool.
We tourists are limited by time. When we visit Rzeszów, we must know where to spend our money. If we have no contacts, or time to learn the language, the scope of our spending will be limited. Having this information is vital to direct finance to the places in Rzeszów not covered on the Internet or in a guidebook.
The tourist information office in Rzeszów is hard to find. The sign – a large, blue I – a common sight in most European cities, is absent in Rzeszów. Inside the staff are helpful, and competent in English, but without signs or advertisement, it is a waste of local funds.
Travelling around the city is a problem. I made just one bus trip during my stay because of the confusing information available at the bus stops. This must be addressed. A simple map with the stops of each route would be helpful. Tourists must be encouraged to travel beyond the city centre.
It has been a pleasure to try local dishes like żurek, perogi, and kotlet schabowy. There are too many kebab shops and pizzerias, but with over 50,000 students in Rzeszów each year, I can see why. It will be important next year to have this range for hungry football-fans.
I will return to Rzeszów one day. Before I return I intend to research Polish history to better understand Polish identity. I will spend more time learning the language and leave stereotypes and overt-English politeness behind, and I will trust more in local knowledge and wisdom.
To make Rzeszów a more tourist-friendly place, I believe you must show a more open-side to your character; to approach and speak to tourists. It seems honesty and forwardness is a Polish tradition, both challenging and refreshing. Tourists in Poland are not here for sterile resort holidays.
I hope a common language becomes more wide-spread. There is much to experience in Rzeszów, but it can be trapped behind a language barrier. Please raise a sign above your tourist information office. Please think about updating the travel information at the bus-stops, and make the renting of bikes more available.
Huge thanks to Marcin Kobiałka, Krzysztof Koch, Maciej Rałowski who have made my stay in Rzeszów hard-work and fun. Thanks to all the staff at Gazeta Wyborcza Rzeszów, the locals I met, and to all the people of Rzeszów. May your lives be long, joyful and prosperous.
For the last time; do widzenia,
For more detailed information of my stay, please visit the Misja21 blog site: misja21.blox.pl and look under Rzeszów, or visit the Gazeta Wyborcza Rzeszów website for stories, pictures and videos.
The Hotel Polonia in Rzeszów has been quiet this week. There are many rooms, but they have housed only a handful of guests during my stay. This morning was different, the day of Boże Ciało, or Corpus Christi (Body of Christ).
As my friend and I left the Hotel this morning we passed men and women, laughing, talking, and greeting us with “Dzien dobry.”
We walked in to the city centre and there was not a car in sight. The only sound came from couples, friends and families, and the snapping of flags raised in pairs on every lamp-post. My shadow explained what each represented. Red and white; the flag of Poland. Blue and white; the colours of the Virgin Mary. Yellow and white; the mark of the Vatican.
Squad of soldiers in combat-gear passed us, soon followed by standard-bearers, then priests, monks, and clerics, in dress that signified their role in the Roman Catholic Church.
A mother walked her young children past us heading in the same direction as the rest. The young girl wore a white dress and garland of flowers in her hair. She carried a basket of rose petals, which would come in use later. The boy also wore white, with a red cape around his shoulders. He carried a small bell, which chimed with each step.
My shadow and I followed them to Fara Church, where a crowd of hundreds had gathered to listen to the service, meet with each other, join in communion, and to celebrate Corpus Christi.
Though many groups had joined, one was missing; youths. There were a handful, but I assume they were with their parents as part of a national, religious, and family tradition. There were youngsters, but they were dressed in uniforms, or wore the robes of the church. Where were the 16-30 year olds who had come by themselves, or with a group of friends?
Priests in golden cloaks representing churches from around Rzeszów took to the stage. A bishop followed and the service began. I stood in silence, while voices around me recited as one, words I did not understand. This gave me time to think.
Yesterday I spoke to two young men from Rzeszów . I asked them what they were doing for Corpus Christi tomorrow. One replied: “Um, I’ll be sleeping. I have no interest in what is happening tomorrow.” What about the church is general, I asked. “I’m just not interested. I don’t believe in God.” Are many young people in Rzeszów Christians? “No. the church has just lost touch with us.”
It is a frightening thought, however likely or not, that the Church could shrink, wither, and eventually be lost in Rzeszów , and in Poland.
A mirror effect is happening in many places in the UK. Churches which have stood for an age and that have seen men and women, born and raised, and lived and died, to be replaced by their families, are closing. Congregations that were once strong, filled with the energy of youth, and the wisdom of age, are now comprised of faithful members in the later season of their earthly life.
This does not mean that the Christian way of life is dying. The young are now drawn to passionate, evangelical churches whose worship is led by electric guitars, thundering drums and catchy melodies. They are free to dance and clap, or to sit in silence; to pray aloud in tongues, or paint a picture. Where the preacher leans on God and the Gospel to discuss all matters under the sun, however delicate the subject. These churches are also influenced by immigration, which brings diverse and global ways of worshipping God under one roof.
It is not the perfect solution. There are many pitfalls and eternal disagreements about one way of doing something or the other.
I can think of nothing in the UK to compare the celebration of Corpus Christi with. This is a true shame, as the reverence and faith of the people today who recited verses and prayers in one voice was humbling.
The Corpus Christi procession began, and the hundreds seemed to morph into thousands as we made our way around the city. We stopped at four different churches, as we were led in prayer. Before the priests, the statues of the Virgin Mary and Child, and Christ, and platters brimming with loaves of bread, were the young girls and boys. The girls throw their rose petals, and the boys rung their bells, giggling and playing as they went. They are the Church of tomorrow, and I pray that there is a robust and vibrant place for them to know God and to raise their own children.
Am I totally wrong? Have I taken what I have seen, just two church services in Rzeszów , and made a mountain out of the lack of youth in the Church today?
Do you think the Church will be strong in Poland in the future?
Please let me know your opinion.
This morning I interviewed members of the Rzeszów Police force. I met Sierzant. Grezegorz and Mt.Asp Ostrowska outside their station in the city centre.
The range of cars, marked and unmarked, parked nearby was a clue to their speciality. They are traffic cops, tasked with keeping the roads safe for the thousands of motorists who use them every day.
There were language barriers when we spoke. I see a pattern emerging. Many of the Rzeszów locals can understand some English, but are not as comfortable speaking the language. So the following is a combined effort from all those present; Marcin (Gazeta reporter), Marciek (Gazeta photographer), the local police press officer, the two traffic cops and I.
Just how large is the area you cover? We [cover] the city of Rzeszow, the small city of Tutchun and the surrounding area.
Is speeding is major problem in and around Rzeszow? It is problem here, as is alcohol with many drunk drivers. Speed is the main problem – many accidents with drivers
Do you come across smuggling, or driving on drugs? Narcotics? No. Generally it is not a problem about people driving on drugs here, but we have special equipment to detect it. We have a mouth-swab, and also a breathalyser.
made by Maciej Rałowski / Agencja Gazeta
What is the highest speed you have caught someone doing? 200 kmph.
Are the locals of Rzeszow good drivers? Yes, they are safe drivers.
Is ‘road-rage’ a problem? No. It is not a problem in Rzeszow and we think there is less signals during traffic jams than the English.
Why did you join the police force? Mt.Asp Ostrowska: My father was a policeman and I always work in police force. Sierzant. Grezegorz: My father was not a policeman. I joined because I like police work.
Do you think there will be more accidents on the streets next year with the influx of tourists in Poland? No, we hope there will not be an increase in accidents, and there is going to be more and more police officers. The most important thing to do is to tell the dangerous drivers that they are dangerous, and that if they make risks than they should be careful.
How will you advise tourists as they travel through Rzeszow? We will talk with people, and to tell them, give them information. We will have many multi-language leaflets to give to tourists; what you should do if you have an accident, how you should cross a road, this kind of action.
Will hitch-hiking during Euro 2012 be safe? There are no signals to be afraid about hitch-hiking.
Can the Polish football team win Euro 2012? Of course!
made by Maciej Rałowski / Agencja Gazeta
After the interview I was taken for a ride in a patrol car. We took a tour through the city centre, then around Rzeszow. I discovered many things about the Police force in Poland, and especially in Rzeszow.
-There is a range of undercover cars available for the traffic cops. They have a customised Opal that has videos, radar, and is very fast. Most of their under-cover cars have around 200 horse-powers, and can reach 100km/p/h in 4.5 seconds.
-To reach their standard, a recruit must have special training which takes place in Legialowa. Each course takes two weeks, and the especial training for motorbikes takes one month. These courses are very hard and not everyone passes.
-There are two types of motorbikes available, road-bikes and off-road dirt bikes.
-Having a gun as a Polish police-officer is obligatory, even traffic cops. The only officers who don’t are those who marshal concerts and sports matches, as they fear that in a scrum, the gun could become lost. So other officer’s stand-by – away from the trouble- with guns if they are required.
-Rzeszow is safe place to live, with much less crime than cities like Krakow and Warsaw.
-Generally, the police are respected here in Rzeszow, but some youngsters do not.
-There is a range of fines for different offences. A speeding ticket can range from 50-500 zlotys. There is a 100z fine for blatantly dropping a cigarette butt, a 200z fine for using a mobile while daring, 100z for passing through a red light, and a sliding scale of fines for jay-walking, depending on the danger.
As I said to Mt.Asp Ostrowska, I hope this was my first and last time in a Police police car.