Man City Transfer Target!
Jun 22, 2012, 12:34 AM
Location: South Birmingham
Team(s): Barnstoneworth United; Bostock Stanley
Post #1 of 3
It felt like so much more than a week so from the various bits I remember, this is a brief (Runwell eat your heart out) account of what occurred during an unforgettable week.
Monday June 11th
Myself and hipkissexpress from this very forum took the evening flight from Birmingham to Berlin Tegel (booked to Brandenburg but that's not completed yet, it would appear) starting things off in the appropriate manner by watching the France v England game in the airside Wetherspoons. The return fare was around £90 and just under two hours later we were on the TXL bus into Berlin Hauptbahnhof for about £2 - there is no direct U-bahn or S-bahn link to the airport. Our base was the budget Meininger hotel right next to the station - for hotel read hostel - where a shared room was around £46. As time was now getting on, we decided against going into central Berlin and instead adjourned to an arcade of street food and beer stalls just across the road where a delicious box of noodles and some strong bottled ale cost around £5. Had it not been for the presence of a hammered twat from Coventry and his East Berlin drinking-monster companion we might have lingered longer than the few we necked but there's only so much of diddle-diddle "Stop the Cavalry" and "he's f*cking bonkers he is" a man can take. The nearby tables also appeared to be home to some of Berlin's strange night people, and anyway there was an early-ish train to catch next morning.
Tuesday June 12th
The 09.42 from Berlin Hbf to Wroclaw Glowny arriving at 15.04 is a long old haul. Cost £12 to the border where our week-long Polish railpasses kicked in; great value at £75 with no reservation or upgrade fees payable, and notable for the fact that almost no one working on the trains appeared to be aware of their existence with many lengthy scrutinies on each train. The train has a 40-minute scheduled stop at Wegliniec which is the proverbial one-horse town where the horse has long gone. The station buildings were eerily locked up and the cavernous waiting room appeared to have been closed up for years - the whole place was like stepping back 50 years in time with a few curious villagers cagily eyeing up the few passengers who dared disembark and take the few minutes yomp up the street to one of the old-fashioned shops that existed. Suitably replenished with alcohol-free dark beer (arse!) we made it to Wroclaw on time where the station remains half-built but at least we were able to store our bags for a few hours. We didn't have time to hit the city centre which was a shame as I'd been here 20 years previously when it was grey and drab, where the hotel room was bugged and where dodgy "businessmen" sold zloty's from large cars in the main square which was deviod of any cafe culture; I gather that it's all rather different in 2012.
It was here, in a small bar next to the station, that we met our only two hooligans during the tour. Two menacing-looking Slask Wroclaw ultras decided to sit with us/hem us in before deciding that were pretty harmless after all and that their throat-slitting gestures would be reserved for visiting Legia fans (amongst many others!) next season. They seemed rather bemused when told that the old-style hooligan scene had largely finished back home and even bought us a large Tyskie for the road. It would not have been the done thing to refuse......
The new Stadion Miejski is a few miles out and Wroclaw Stadion train station (regular services on matchdays) is a few minutes walk from the ground. The ground is supposed to resemble a Chinese lantern but was pretty featureless from the approach. We'd booked late tickets for this one which had to be collected from outside ths stadium - Category 2 tickets at a half-price 35 Euro each because they were apparently restricted view. The queueing and checking process was slow but we were fine and expected rigorous validation as we approached the entrance pens. "All tickets will be checked against your ID as they are not transferable" had been UEFA's stance, as it always is, and as usual it was total bollocks. We showed the tickets which were "ticked" with a felt pen on the back and that was pretty much that. A further short queue to be frisked and were in, self-scanning at the turnstile. We were in the upper tiers in one corner and the "restricted view" consisted of a stair-rail blocking about 10% of the view if you allowed it to. Happy days....
Stadion Miejski, Wroclaw : Czech Republic 2 Greece 1. Attendance 40,803. Admission 35 Euro. Tournament programme (excellent) 25 zloty (under a fiver)
About 25,000 Czechs inside for what was pretty much a home game as the border is only an hours drive away and apparently done and dusted inside 5 minutes as Jiracek and Pilar scored. The Greeks then had what looked a good goal disallowed before a Cech howler gifted Gekas what turned out to be a consolation.
We were a little concerned that we might struggle to get back to Glowny for the 20.54 to Leszno - made with ease. Arriving in Leszno at 22.46, our pre-booked cabbie was on the platform holding up a "Buncranaboy" sign to take us the 10 km to our base in the sleepy but pretty village of Osieczna. We had single room B&B at the Rogatka on the square for 20 Euro's each - about 20% of what rooms were going for in the host cities. A couple of pints, a large vodka and shattered before midnight. We were up and running.
Wednesday June 13th.
A nice leisurely start to the day with a mid-day bus into Leszno where we picked up trains to first Poznan and then Gniezno which would be home for the next three nights. Gniezno was the ancient capital of Poland centuries ago and it's mediaeval core is today historic but quiet. Our base was the Hotel Awo with luxurious single rooms - well outside what hipkiss normally heads for - for 250 zl B&B. The main pedestrianised drag is lined with pavement restaurants where you'd struggle to spend a tenner for a wonderful meal washed down with a couple of strong ales. The beer was not a problem to endure either and by the time we watched the Germany-Holland game in a pub garden, the free vodka dished out by mine host was the last thing we needed. His tour de force was to impress his German friends by standing up and bellowing out Deutschland Uber Alles with two fingers under his nose and right arm extended in true Basil Fawlty style; in Poland of all places............After the game it appears that we meandered back to the main bar area and the rest of the night is very misty indeed. Suffice to say that we both got lost despite being only 200m from the hotel, couldn't agree where the hotel was so went off in different (both wrong) directions. I obviously tripped over a pavement-chain at some stage judging from my legs next morning while hipkiss has vague recollections of getting into a taxi who told him to get back out as the hotel was literally round the corner........which he promptly walked past again. Oh dear..................
Thursday June 14th
Never again was the mantra this morning as we left Gniezno on the 10.08 arriving in Gdansk at 13.10. It was a cold drizzly day on the Baltic coast but one which has to rank as the biggest booze-up I've ever seen. Around 35,000 Irish fans had descended on the city and the old town square was completely riotous. We walked the river bank to help clear the heads before settling down outsde a brewpub - a full stein of strong dark stuff was meant to help, but it just wouldn't sit easy so we sat and watched the circus of Spanish dancers, donkeys and hordes of green-clad folk of all shapes and sizes, many dragging full crates behind them as the bedlam went on....and on...and on. And the locals loved every minute of the spectacle.
We did then find the Solidarnosc monument in the grim and almost deserted dock area before heading for the stadium - this was a 20.45 kick-off local time. The Baltic Arena is a few miles north of the centre and they have re-opened the nearby Expo rail station although there did seem to be fleets of trams heading out there as well. Hugely impressive on the approach with it's amber (the local gold) roof illuminated against the night sky, what could possibly go wrong for the Boys In Green?
Baltic Arena, Gdansk : Spain 4 Republic of Ireland 0. Admission 70 Euro. Attendance 39,150
High up behind the goal in the middle of the throng, hipkiss looked at me as the line-ups appeared on the giant screen and said "How the f*** did you qualify?" Quite. Behind inside 4 minutes and familiar foes in Silva, Torres again and Fabregas sliced poor Ireland to pieces. Were we down? The response was a spine-tingling 8-minute rendition of The Fields of Athenry which will live with me forever. Why boo and moan - look at the substitutions for example; they bring on Fabregas, we respond with Paul Green! It was a woeful performance from our boys, slow in thought and action, but Spain have done this to better teams than us. There was a fans special out of Gdansk at 00.25, back in Gniezno at 03.36 and the ill-advised KFC from Gdansk Glowny concourse was well and truly kicking in as was the pissed-up copper who tried to sleep on hipkiss.
Friday June 15th
Rest day and maybe Zywiec Porter at 9.5% wasn't the best way to begin proceedings! Hipkiss was up earlier touring the town and snapping what there was to see, including a very impressive speedway stadium that we were told is hoping to stage Ekstraklasse speedway next season providing the lights are up in time. Time spent bar-hopping watching France beat Ukraine and the thriller between England and Sweden. "One for the road" about 11.30 was overheard by a couple of locals who shortly afterwards hijacked us to an all-night bar on the rynek which we vacated some time after 3.30 and conversation covered a wide range of topics including wartime collaboration which exercised a bunch on the next table and the situation needed defusing rather promptly. History is still very raw in Poland............And by the way, the Poles were not impressed by the Panorama programme one little bit
Saturday June 16th
On the 09.44 from Gniezno to our suburban station, Warsaw Ursus at 13.55. No chance of escaping the host city tonight so we had no choice but to book accomodation here, a nice shared B&B room costing an outrageous 700 zl, about 4 times the normal rate of the American House. We didn't have tickets for tonights game and were discussing how to play the day as we waited to board a suburban train back into the city when two locals overheard us and came up with two Cat 2 tickets at face value. Winner! A couple of hours were spent meandering the centre of this vast city and it soon became apparent that there were loads of spares and we could probably have got a better deal by holding on, but no matter. Two more brewhouses ticked off before we chanced upon the booth in Old Town Square where the ITV mob were based....but no one was at home to hurl abuse at, especially the effable Keane. A 45-minute walk along the banks of the Wisla in scorching weather to the stadium, near which we saw someone with a fistful of tickets being offered 20 Euro for one on a "you better take it, otherwise you'll get nothing for it" basis. Arse again! Thousands of robocop-style officers on the streets after altercations between locals and Russians earlier in the week but tonight the home nations eyes were only on Wroclaw so the Russkies pretty much had the place to themselves, with 100,000 in the city centre fan-park which must have been a nightmare in this heat.
Stadion Narodowy, Warsaw : Greece 1 Russia 0. Admission 70 Euro. Attendance 55,614 (ahem..........)
The new national stadium is a belter with it's crown and circus-tent style roof in the event of rain. We had mused about, and dismissed, the possibility of the Greeks sneaking a 1-0 win and eliminating the Russians but they did a job on them and achieved exactly that and were well worth it with the derided Samaras playing a stormer. One strike from the veteran Karagounis who should also have had a penalty in the second half did the trick and the Russians surrendered meekly in the end. Their elimination provided a small crumb of comfort for home fans who also exited tonight. We decided to avoid the city after the game and caught the suburban train from Warsaw Stadion back to Ursus and it was a much needed early sweltering night
Sunday June 17th
At least the house provided a very decent breakfast spread, in fact the best of our trip, with the usual scrambled egg and bacon being supplemented by a huge range of delicious cold meats. My money would now be on hipkiss out-performing Ratty in the eating stakes after seeing his trojan breakfast eforts this week. This spread turned out to be excellent soakage. 10.50 from Ursus back to Leszno via Poznan, and much beer consumed on the train - a rip-off at 8.50zl per large bottle Time to squeeze one in on the ancient rynek in Leszno before yet more sporting action beckoned at 6.00pm, and which was a sporting debut for hipkiss. Can of worms opened now, Chris.....
Alfred Smoczyk Stadion : Ekstraklasse Speedway : Unia Leszno 51 Polonia Bydgoszcz 39. Admission 38zl; Programme 5zl. Attendance 7,500
Speedway is Poland's biggest spectator sport and this was like no meeting I've ever seen in England. The stadium which holds 15,000 apparently is about 20 minutes walk from the rynek and there are a number of bars and eating stands on the approach. The black pudding sausage at 5zl was sensational, and a second had to be sampled inside once we'd taken up our seats on the second bend - unfortunately this exploded and much of it went down the back of the leg of my jeans; strangely enough the same thing happened to my companion who was now beginning to wilt in the 90 degree heat. Or was it the strong porter again.........
The stadium is all seater with a huge screen at one end which was very useful as the only Polish word I'd picked up to date was the ubiqitous "kurva" which seemed to feature in pretty much every sentence uttered. There was a fenced-off section for away fans, though Bydgozscz had only brought 52 (hipkiss h/c) and to our right were a section of home ultras complete with banners, drums, flares, scarves - all the accoutriments of a continental football match.
Sadly the racing wasn't brilliant with reigning champions Leszno leading 29-13 after 7 heats and the visiting skipper Sayfutdinov having a poor day. Despite no Jarek Hampel, Unia coasted to victory with the two Pawlicki's and Jurica Pavlic doing most of the damage. Other names I recognised from home were Troy Batchelor and Artem Laguta while the bulk of the visitors scoring came from Tomas Gapinski and Krzysztof Buczkowski. Hugely enjoyable for me; an interesting diversion for hipkiss.
Having paid 100zl to get to Osieczna on our first night here, I was loathe to pay the same again so approached a cabbie as we exited ths stadium. What would you charge? 50zl came the reply. 50? said I quizically mulling over how much we'd apparently been stung earlier in the week. Oh alright, 40 said cabbie, misunderstanding my puzzlement. And thus back to the quiet one-bar (where we stayed) village where we'd spent Tuesday last. An easy evening, though still well after one when "enough" was called.
Monday June 18th
Refreshed and up for the 10.30 bus into Leszno with hipkiss now in distress. It was his birthday and he'd lost his hat, presumably left in last nights cab. 92 degrees as we sat on the platform for the 75 minute journey up to Poznan. Once again obliged to stay in a host city, this time we had to pay 600zl for a very nice room in a hotel in the suburb of Suchy Las, about 12km from the centre. A combination of tram, bus and cab got us there early afternoon and we joined a party of Irish on the patio where locally-brewed old ale was available. Ideal for temperatures such as today The only way back into town was by cab and we put the time waiting to good use before emerging in Poznan's spectacular Stary Rynek, again awash with tens of thousands of by now struggling Irish fans, the heat of the day and the effects of a week on the lash clearly taking their toll.
Soakage this time was provided by a filling bowl of pierogi and some other dish accompanied by sauerkraut - all for under £2
Due to an accident between a tram and a cab, we had to walk some of the several km to the stadium - luckily there were some bars en route and there didn't seem to be an Italian in any of them.
Stadion Miejski, Poznan : Italy 2 Republic of Ireland 0. Admission 70 Euro. Attendance 38,794
A stunning stadium for Lech Poznan and a comfortable win for Italy but at least we stayed in the game until Balotelli's 90th minute killer. By this time, Keith Andrews had been given a second yellow for dissent, making his best connection of the tournament as he booted the ball into the stand on his way off the pitch. More great singing, with much of it aimed at Roy Keane. And of course, we had to do The Poznan.........in Poznan. It was all a little flatter than the lunacy of Gdansk and I think we all realise it may be some time before we appear at a finals tournament again; having said that, being here was great and I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
Cab back after a 30 minute walk to the end of the traffic exclusion zone and we were back at our hotel by 11.30 with more beer taking this quiet day well into double figures. The other option would have been to have gone into town and with a morning train/plane connection to make we really did know what could have possibly gone wrong I'm not sure if it was a good sign or not that the barman who bore a striking resemblance to Anders Breivik was no longer on duty........
Tuesday June 19th
60zl for a cab back to Poznan Glowny for the 10.29 to Berlin (£33 ticket) with the rest of the Irish hotel guests having just arrived in for breakfast after a very long night.
2 and a half hours journey time on the train where the last of the zlotys bought two beers each. I'd taken £200 from the cashpoint a week earlier and one visit was enough, despite all the beer, food and taxi's.
A fantastic week where the hospitality couldn't have been more generous and not a raised voice in anger. The Polish cities/towns are stunning, the cost of living very affordable and public transport that we can only dream of. The local paper in Poznan, which will shortly be framed in our house, ran a front cover with the headline "The Irish - we will miss you". There were 20 million reasons for that apparently, as that was the estimated spend of the Green Army in that city alone in just twelve days.
Back in Birmingham in time to see the England v Ukraine game, utterly shattered. Many thanks to Chris for his bonhomie and company - lots more, with photographic evidence, will shortly be available on his blog. And that doesn't tell the half of it.......Dziekuje Polska
(This post was edited by buncranaboy on Jun 24, 2012, 2:27 PM)