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.

Wrocław - Saad Noor

  • piątek, 24 czerwca 2011
    • From the

      Gazeta's readers voted for places where I shouldn't visit (which meant I would still go there anyway) and in most cases I could understand why they didn't give glowing references of some of these areas. I'm not saying any city should be perfect, but if this is the worst of Wroclaw, I can fairly say that you haven't got it too bad! I'm going to try and wind the main five 'shoulds' and you'd probably want to steer clear from the 'hood!

      Here are the supposed 5 best and worst places in Wroclaw after my short stay here..

      Must-visit places:

      1. MultiMedia Fountain

       

      The Wrocław Multimedia Fountain was a sight to behold. The one-hectare fountain incorporates about 300 jets to create a screen of water for animation display. There are also 800 lights and it plays the craziest house music, some smooth soul and some cheesy pop too. When frozen in winter, the fountain is a 4700-square-meter ice skating rink.

      2. Panorama

      The Racławice Panorama is a monumental panoramic painting depicting the Battle of Raclawice, during the Kościuszko Uprising. It is currently located in Wrocław, Poland. The painting is one of only a few preserved relics of a genre of 19th century mass culture, and the oldest in Poland. The panorama stands in a circular fashion and, with the viewer in the center, presents different scenes at various viewing angles. A special kind of perspective used in the painting and additional effects (lighting, artificial terrain) create a feeling of reality.

      3. Slodowa Island

      Słodowa Island (Malt Island) is a small islet on the Oder River within the Wroclaw Old Town. Regular readers of this blog will know how the relaxed, easy-going nature of this little oasis for students made an unforgettable night for me. If you're in need of some good quality-time with a special friend or just want to sit alone with your thoughts, this is the spot.

      4. Rynek (Market Square)

      If you're bored, need some food, drink, entertainment, a hug, a show, an explosion, music, a water-fight, some company and a good way to spend your morning/noon/night then THIS is the spot. Gonna miss old Rynek!

      5. Japanese Gardens

      Japanese Gardens - Thanks to the presence of Japanese specialists, the entire work corresponds to the style of Japanese garden art down to the fine details. Each element of the renewed garden has its place and meaning - which is often not visible to Europeans. The garden, bearing references to historical groundwork from 1913, acquired a lot of new elements that make its character really consistent with the rules of Japanese garden art.

      You'd do well to avoid these according to the readers..

      1. Triangle

      This is the 'hood I  was referring to. It's known for drug dens, drunkards, roberries, poverty and as you can see it's not the best looking block of flats you'll see. I couldn't help looking over my shoulder whilst this photo was being taken, that's how badly it was described to me. A lot rougher than Stonebridge (London).

      2. Swimming Pool

      An abandoned swimming pool that has so much potential is now home to wild dogs, over-grown plants and other creatures. I wasn't able to get in but had a look through the gates as a couple of dogs came running towards me. Needless to say it was time to go. Not a great smell either.

      3. Stadion Oporowska (not really)

       

      As you can probably tell from the picture, I enjoyed my tour of Slask Wroclaw's old stadium and although there weren't any hooligans on show, I would have loved to see a game here (maybe in the VIP box to avoid the club's Ultras). It was good to see where Manchester United goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszcak started his career in the game. I offered my services to club as I like to think that I'm a handy defender, but unfortunately the coach is on a training camp. Damn.

      4. Wroclaw train station

      Unhelpful attendants, dodgy alleyways and rude police officers are three reasons why you should avoid this train station. Fly in, drive in or get a coach! Avoid it at all costs. Ok, maybe I'm overdoing it - but it's not great.

      There is no number 5.. I've been racking my brain and I can't think of anywhere else worth mentioning. Not to say that there aren't any other unpleasant areas but just I haven't had the opportunity to visit. To be honest number 3 is also a smokescreen as I loved the old stadium and training ground of Slask. So essentially what I'm saying is, the good outweighs the bad!

      Enjoy Wroclaw. I did.

      Follow me on twitter: @saadnoor

       

       

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      piątek, 24 czerwca 2011 19:56
    • Jesus Christi!

      If there was any confirmation needed about how strongly Poles follow the Catholic Church, today was that day.

      The usually booming Rynek was like a ghost-town as church bells rang throughout to mark the beginning of processions. It was like a scene out of a zombie movie as we all walked in unison towards the main cathedral in Old Town and the crowd grew stronger as time went on.

      Corpus Christi is a Christian observance that honours the Holy Eucharist. It is also known as the Feast of the Most Holy Body of Christ, as well as the Day of Wreaths.

      It was strange to see commuters on trams that had been halted by transport police sitting patiently as they waited for the signal to continue their journey. Uproar would break out if this was King's Cross St Pancras.

      Today was actually thanks to  Augustinian nun St Juliana of Liège who always longed for a special feast in its honour. The Feast of Corpus Christi, which is a moveable feast, is celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday or, in countries where it is not a Holy Day of Obligation, on the Sunday after Holy Trinity.

      I'd never heard of Corpus Christi before coming to Poland which highlighted an area for discussion regarding the Christian faith in the UK which is a lot different to the traditional ceremonial style of the Polish Church.
      The event is celebrated in many English-speaking countries though. It is usually transferred to the Sunday after Trinity Sunday by both Roman Catholics and Anglicans. At the end of the Mass, it is customary to have a Procession of the Blessed Sacrament, followed by Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

      Unlike major Christian festivals, Corpus Christi is not marked by a public holiday in the UK and the people I encountered with were surprised by this.

      One thought it was for 'political correctness', I disagreed. I think the UK is generally an accepting country which respects each other's differences and this wasn't the reason it isn't celebrated widely in the country. The UK has a waning Catholic contingent and, within the remaining Catholics, they are growing more secular over time.

      The ceremonies that went on throughout the day were a treat for the eyes, a great spectacle with nuns, bishops, priests and children literally wearing their 'Sunday-best' as they left an aroma of incense and a trail of petals in their wake.

      The processions seemed to spread peace and calm around Wroclaw as the day resumed, for once, without incident.

      You can see a video of Wroclaw's ceremonies and a interview with me on Gazeta's website: www.gazeta.pl

      Follow me on twitter: @saadnoor

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      piątek, 24 czerwca 2011 09:41
  • czwartek, 23 czerwca 2011
    • Q+A session with Wroclaw's Euro Chief

      It was time to get my Jeremy Paxman on, I had to ask the difficult questions to see whether Wroclaw was prepared for the big tournament next summer. I can only give my opinion on the basis of what I have seen but I needed an opportunity to pick the brains of someone 'in the know' and  Hanna Domagala, Wroclaw's Euro 2012 director, was that person.

      We hadn't met before but we found we were both at Wembley last month for the Uefa Champions League Final between Manchester United and Barcelona. There as a guest of Uefa, she was intriuged to learn how this massive operation would be run as it will be her job to oversee proceedings next year. Her key focus when in London was the transport system and how it worked to not only get the 90,000 capacity to and from the stadium, but also the other commuters who were going about their daily life.

      Saad Noor patrzy na Rynek, na którym w przyszłym roku pojawią się kibice 

      She was impressed with the operations and says it was perfect for transport bosses when the majority of United fans left early after losing the game and Barcelona fans stayed to celebrate with their team. This meant that exiting the stadium became a much easier and Domagala was eager to take lessons from the strategy of running bus, coaches and trains for Euro 2012 in Wroclaw.

      She said changed were on the way: ”We're working very hard to make changes to our transport system to make it much easier to travel around the city.

      ”I think getting around town is essential anywhere and when you have a large group of tourists like we will, it's important that they know how to use our transport system and we make it as simple and effecient as possible.'

      I pressed Domagala on hooliganism issues in Polish football but she wasn't having any of it. She said: ”It's not only a problem in Poland. I got to Slask games with my two kids and I have never felt threatened or worried about my safety.

      ”Of course there are words and chants that you wouldn't want your children to hear but that's football.”

      Ms Domagala is also excited about Rynek being fanzone central where supporters from across Europe will gather to enjoy activities, watch games on a number of big screens to be erected across the square and enjoy the bars, restaurants and the atmosphere of the area.

      She said: ”This is the ideal place because it's so spacious, it has everything a fanzone should and it's a lively part of town. There's no need to worry about noise because the square is always loud and busy so there'll be no change there.”

      As Euro 2012 is a football tournament, I was keen to find what footballing legacy the tournament will have on the city. In the aftermath of the South Africa World Cup, it appears that FIFA were after a big pay-day and did very little to improve the impoverished areas of South Africa through football.

      Domagala claims that this will not be the case in Wroclaw, she said: ”Our aim is to leave a lasting legacy on the city and I think we are well on our way to doing that.

      ”Firstly we have the brand new stadium which will hold 42,000 people and that is a huge thing for Wroclaw as our current stadium only holds just under 9,000.

      ”Along with this we have opened a range of soccer schools for the youth who were already enthusiastic about the sport, but even more so now.”

      With a firm figure-head like Hanna Domagala, I think Wroclaw will do a great job in its build-up to the Euros and if she has her way, it will change the city forever.

      You can see our Q+A session on Gazeta's website: www.gazeta.pl

      Follow me on twitter: @saadnoor

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      czwartek, 23 czerwca 2011 15:14
  • środa, 22 czerwca 2011
    • Rynek is the place to be

      File:Wroclaw-Rynek-7.2005.jpg

      If I had to take one thing back to London with me it would have to good old 'Rynek' or Wroclaw's Main Market Square.It is the very epicentre and life hub of the Old Town and will be one of the fanzones in next year's tournament. 

      Fans will enjoy this never-ending cycle of shops, bars, restaurants, clubs, galleries, theatres and there's even a tourist information centre too. The Market Square is known as a meeting place to the people of Wroclaw as you will most often than not bump into somebody you meet in the cobbled streets of old Rynek.

      This amazing space was painstakingly reconstructed after WW2 to recall the Baroque splendour of its heyday. Here the good citizens of Wroclaw gather to eat, shop, drink, dance and generally mill about. More than one tourist has never make it past this pleasure spot, such is its allure.

      Since all those years ago the Square has maintained its size and shape, although the grand houses that line every side were constructed and reconstructed with each passing century and hence represent every style from Gothic to Art Nouveau. In actual fact, owing to the almost total destruction of the Market Square in World War II, all of the buildings which you now see are 20th Century reconstructions of their predecessors - painstakingly brought back to life by the Poles after they inherited the city in the wake of the war.

      Before coming out to Wroclaw, I read a review in the Guardian that it was one of Europe's spookiest cities. I can understand where they were coming from but I prefer the word magical. I've been saying all week that the square reminds me of Disneyland Paris, its colours, buildings and fairytale aura wouldn't look out of place in a Disney animation.

      Like British soap opera EastEnders, no matter what time of day, there's always something going on in the square. But unlike Walford, it's usually entertaining.

      follow me on twitter: @saadnoor

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      środa, 22 czerwca 2011 23:43
    • Soaking up the atmosphere

      Saad Noor na zajęciach w Szkole Wyższej Psychologii Społecznej 

      Yesterday was a learning curve for me as I was put through my paces by students at Warsaw School of Social Sciences and Humanities' campus in Wroclaw. They invited me to attend their campus after the storm which ensued after my blog about racism and wanted me to understand Polish culture and the way most Poles think. It was an eye-opening experience as I was exposed to new customs, superstitions and even sweets.
      The two students who did the presentation, Natasza and Joanna who were very fluent in English talked me through the history of Poland and the many changes its endured over the years. They first asked me questions to see how much I knew about Poland and I did surprisingly well, scoring 3 out of 4 in my quick test.

      I learnt that after gaining independence in 1918, Poland officially became a multicultural country. The Poles were the majority (65%), followed by Ukrainians (16%,) then Jews (9.5%), Belarussians (5.5%), and Germans (3%). Strangely, this isn't the case any longer as current minorities make up about 2% of the whole society with the majority being Germans (0.4%). They also talked about how important Catholicism is in Polish society and how it has become their national identity even if today's Poland is a lot more secular than the Poland of old. We delved deep into the history of Poland, its many forms and territories, its national treasures including John Paul II (Karol Wojtyla) who was an ambassador for Poles and is thought of in very high regard throughout the country.

      Other names that were prevelant included racing driver Robert Kubica, pianist Fredric Chopin, astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus and filmmaker Roman Polanski.

      I also learnt how a traditional Polish household often includes grandparents living with, and helping raising their grandchildren. Polish families are usually strong multi-generational groups who stay together much longer than Western European countries as I found that 44% of men and 30% of women aged 25-34 still live in their parental home.

      Another intriguing observation I made was that Poles aren't very trusting of strangers and you have to earn their friendship and trust. A phrase the girls quoted was: 'You have to eat the whole barrel of salt before you get to know a person well.' However, at the same time, friendship is very important in Poland and where people in the West may have acquaintances and colleagues who we call friends, the term friend here is reserved for those closest to you.

      It was clear through my conversations with Joanna, Natasza and Manuela that these reservations was a result of the difficulties Poland had under the Communist regime which had changed the way Poles live their lives. Manuela told me about her grandparents who weren't interested in building and refurbishing their homes because they were afraid the Germans would reclaim Wroclaw and nobody liked to speak on the phone at fear their conversations were being tapped by the authorities. She also told me about neighbours telling the government about each other's acts which caused animosity throughout society. Her father was a very active Political activist who was against the Communist regime and was jailed for his defiance. The family eventually went over the border into Germany to seek asylum as his position became untenable.

      Saad Noor na zajęciach w Szkole Wyższej Psychologii Społecznej

      I spent last night on the banks of the river Oder with a large group of students who come down to unwind after long days at university and it was a great insight into the younger generation's state of mind. The youth of Wroclaw are like the youth of any other European city; they are bright, fun, ambitious and love their music. There were sing-a-longs, games and general discussions which brought colour and life to the city. As students make up a third of Wroclaw's population, you can see that they're the life and soul of city.
      The culture was summed up by one (slightly drunk) student who said that Poland has only been open for 20 years and they still have a long way to go in terms of accepting others. He also drew comparisons to the British Empire and said the Brits have fully accepted other races because they've been working and encountering with them for hundreds of years while ”We Poles have had little access to the outside world.” He was optimistic that things will get better.

      The main thing I drew from the experience with the students was the idea of Polish hospitality. There's nothing like it. As they put it, 'A guest in the house is a God in the house'. There are two clear examples of this: one is when I was finding my way to their campus, an English-speaking Polish woman called Elizabeth went out of her way to take me all the way to the University. I was dumbfounded. She cancelled her original plans and even though she was unsure of the location, she asked others and made sure I got there on time (another Polish custom). The strangest thing was when I thanked her for her help she just nodded almost as if to say this is normal around here. It probably is, as I had a similar experience with a young man called Michal who walked me all the way from Wroclaw's train station, got on a tram with me, told his girlfriend to wait as he helped me (I know) to drop me at my hotel. I felt so guilty but at the same time very relieved that the people of Wroclaw are so welcoming and are mindful of their guests. Another norm I learnt was that 'No' sometimes means 'Yes', especially at the dinner table. So if you say 'No' to more food, you'll get some and if you say 'Yes' you'll get some - it's a win-win situation, typical of these kind, generous people.

      This, amongst many other reasons, is why Wroclaw has been named the European Capital of Culture 2016.

      Follow me on twitter: @saadnoor

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      środa, 22 czerwca 2011 11:21
  • wtorek, 21 czerwca 2011
    • Finding Hala Stulecia

      I was left to my own accord to find Wroclaw's famous monument Hala Stulecia and it was a liberating experience as I wasn't relying solely on my shadow Michal, it was up to me to find it. The reason being that when tourists come to Wroclaw next summer they won't have the luxury of a shadow who will show them the ropes and give them a guided tour of the city. So to find Hala Stulecia (or Centennial Hall) I had to go to the Tourist Information Centre.

      They gave me a brief idea of how to get to Galleria Dominikanska (a local shopping centre) and from there I could take a number of trams including no.4, 6, 10 and 73. I went for 10 and hopped on the second carriage. Without the assistance of Michal I had to buy a ticket from the machine which only accepted card, and despite a struggle with the machine which declined my card at first, it went through and we were on our way. I must add that luckily the machine had an English option which made the whole process a lot easier and will help a lot of English-speaking tourists next summer and beyond.

      It was a strange experience as I had to be on the look-out for our stop while Michal did his best not to give anything away. He was quite calm and cool which couldn't be said for a drunk we encountered with who was singing throughout the tram journey before trying to move seats and consequently losing his balance and smacking his head onto the tram window.

      Despite that distraction I noticed that we'd reached Wroclaw's Zoo and had a quick look at the map the Tourist Information Centre had given me which showed that we had, in fact, passed Hala Stulecia. Not by much though, we got off the tram and it was there, clear as day.

      It was constructed according to the plans of architect Max Berg in 1911-1913, when the city was part of the German Empire. As an early landmark of reinforced concrete architecture, it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006.

      The building is frequently visited by tourists and the local populace. It lies close to other popular tourist attractions, such as the Wroclaw Zoo, the Japanese Garden, and the Pergola with its Multimedia Fountain.

      We had a rest next to the Multimedia Fountain which wasn't in action but the sun lounger and cool breeze did well to relax us before we had to return to the Gazeta offices.

      Getting around Wroclaw proved to be a piece of cake as the trams, buses and taxis work in tandem to give commuters the easiest and quickest journeys from A to B. Today I've gone one step further, I've just been given an address by Michal and I have to get there on my own - wish me luck!

      Follow me on twitter: @saadnoor

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      wtorek, 21 czerwca 2011 12:46
    • Stadion Miejski - Will it be ready?

      Saad Noor na budowie wrocławskiego stadionu

      I was lucky enough to visit Wroclaw's new Stadion Miejski yesterday and it has the potential to become a brilliant stadium. I say potential because despite having a deadline of July 1st (under 2 weeks away), the stadium still has a long way to go. However, despite this initial deadline, the actual final deadline will be September 10th when the world's eyes will be on the new stadium as Poland's very own Tomasz Adamek takes on Heavyweight Champion Vitali Klitschko in one of the most highly anticipated bouts for years.

      Before this though, local club Slask Wroclaw will take over the stadium and play all of their home games in the coming season at the new stadium. This will be a great moment for Slask Wroclaw as they currently play at Stadion Oporowska with a capacity of under 9,000 and their fans played a big part in the design of the stadium. It was their decision to have green seats as this is the colour of their home strip and fought hard for this right. Designers claimed it wouldn't look good with green seating and a green pitch but Slask fans argued that it works for Glasgow Celtic, and if it's good enough for them, it's good enough for Slask.

      An interesting design concept was the idea of giving the stadium the ability to change its colour for whatever event it's hosting. The colours of the external walls of the stadium can be changed using a sophisticated lighting system. For example, if the Polish national team are playing, the stadium will have red and white lights or if Slask are playing it will be green. This is similar to Germany's Allianz Arena which will host the 2012 Champions League Final, so Wroclaw - who knows, maybe this fine stadium will hold a major European final one day.

      The shape of the stadium is highlighted by the innovative design of its external walls. The building will be covered by glass fibre mesh coated with teflon. The mesh will be anchored by steel rings placed around the entire body of the stadium. The covering will lend lightness and transparency to the massive structure.

      Jan Wawrzyniak, press officer of the German company, Max Bögl, that is building the stadium spoke to me about his thoughts on the new ground that will revolutionise football in the area. He feels that the July 1st deadline is not really feasible but also said that there has been so much progress recently that anything is possible.



      "I think if we speak honestly we still need another 2, maybe 3 months before it's completely ready.

      "By this I mean absolutely everything including the shopping centre that will be housed in the stadium, the surrounding roads, the train station - everything", he said.

      "Without question, it will be ready for Adamek-Klitschko because we have no choice."

      Wawrzyniak also feels strongly about what wider effect the stadium will have on the local community and what role it'll play in changing the way football is played and watched in Wroclaw.

      He said: "You have to understand that we have never had anything like this before. To have a stadium with a capacity of 42,000 is unheard of here in Poland, let alone Wroclaw so to say it will change football is an understatement."

      With the stadium costing well over €200m, many have criticised the delays and say it's a waste of money but Wawrzyniak disagrees.

      He added: "This costs a lot of money, maybe it is too much but you have to remember that it will probably stand here forever and if we count how many people will benefit from this stadium then you'll realise that it's worth every penny.
      "Financially speaking, it's also very possible that the stadium will generate the money it has cost as it will play host to concerts, events, conferences and many other sporting events so I don't think it's a waste of money at all."

      Wawrzyniak reassured me that the stadium will be ready in no time. He said: "In Poland, we believe in miracles."

      Before speaking to Wawrzyniak I wasn't so sure but after hearing his case I too was confident that the stadium will be ready to host Slask's first game of the season in mid August and eventually the big fight in September.

      I was even able to sit on the brand new seats and they are very comfortable, the stadium is very spacious and there was great leg-room. It's better than Old Trafford and Wembley in that department. I also got my hands (and shoes) dirty by helping with some digging the builders were doing on what will be the new pitch, so my new claim to fame is that I helped build Wroclaw's Stadion Miejski.

      Follow me on twitter: @saadnoor

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