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Published: November 29th 2018
The Man in the Middle was back in the crew for this trip. He had a surplus of holiday days to use before the end of 2018, so the motor trade was going to have to survive without him for a short while. He provided the usual practice for the security staff, as they deemed him Public Enemy Number 1. The beanie hat is always worthy of good scrutiny and he was given the full rub down and body massage before being allowed safe passage to a foreign land. We were in the minority of tourists on the large capacity Wizzair Boeing 737, the majority being Polish nationals on their way back the homeland for a holiday or maybe because they had tired of watching the Brexit circus unfold and had decided to vacate the country that didn't seem quite such a long-term prospect anymore.
I had checked back in records and noted it had been 13 years since our last visit to Gdansk. Solidarnosc - The Road to Freedom. It was the first of my retroblogs after the completion of the 2006 / 2007 big trip, at a time when it was a doubt whether there would be much
travelling to look forward to. A man cannot live on Northern League and other obscure football alone, so the TV scheduling of the Polish Extraclassa made a Sunday and a Monday evening fixture within our grasp, once the Man in the Middle had returned from his latest Tricky Trees away outing to Hell. Hell - North Humberside, as opposed to the Hel - sandy peninsula just above the neighbouring port city of Gydnia.
Euro 2012 had brought Gdansk a fine new stadium, but it also seemed to have brought a spanking new airport complete with train station to ease the pain of getting into the city centre. The first challenge is always buying a suitable ticket, but the English translation on the machines made life fairly simple. 3.80 Zlotys for a single fare. The Tourist Information booth in the airport had long since tired of explaining the process. A board was propped on the counter explaining the finer details, whilst the staff continued to amuse themselves with their own projects. The modern S9 train rolled in and we headed to the change point at Wrzeszcz railway station on the main Gdansk - Sopot - Gydnia suburban train route. It
should have been a straight forward 3 station hop to Gdansk Glowny, but all the information boards were malfunctioning so nobody quite knew which platform was required for this next leg. A group of disorientated of tourists, including ourselves, became increasingly annoyed with themselves and Polish railways. We arrived thereafter at the main Gdansk Glowny railway station. A fine old building - it was definitely in need of a good makeover and had seemingly missed airport investment.
We headed towards the Old Town and our base for the next 2 nights. The Hotel Fahrenheit was a peculiar design and could have come straight from the Gaudi handbook, had we been in Barcelona. Design aside, the Man in the Middle described it as a “step up” on our normal standard of hotel and a mere stone’s throw from the river. We checked in and dropped the bags, before heading out to sample the delights. It was a gloomy overcast afternoon typical of Eastern Europe at this time of year and a chilly breeze kept the temperature down. A big wheel - the Gdansk answer to the London Eye - looked out of commission for the winter across the
river. The word Gdansk was spelled out in a large waterfront sign just beneath it. It would illuminate later to cast reflections across the water. Two old ferries were moored on our side, together with a tourist ship that ran trips to Westerplatte at the mouth of the estuary. It would transpire to disappoint later in the trip. A large old freighter was moored opposite. The money had clearly been rolling in since our last visit and the prime sites had undergone sympathetic reconstruction to reflect former glories. As with much of Poland, the destruction was so severe after World War 2 that a lot what you see is a modern version of the pre-1939 vista. The prime tourist draw is the Old Crane, which looms out over the waterside. It has been around since about 1442 and was the focal point of the port for centuries. The destruction of 1945 rendered it ruined, but now rebuilt it forms part of a museum. We skipped it and moved on to the Long Market.
We turned off into Dlugi Targ or Long Market, which is the equivalent of the main square in the Old Town. The picturesque sights of the
centre of Gdansk do not tell the full story of this city. The lands around here were originally German. The port was one of the Hanseatic League group that traded up and down the Baltic coast. The end of the World War 1 brought the end of the old order and saw the establishment of the new state of Poland. Danzig (as Gdansk was known) was pronounced a Free City under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles in order to give the new nation access to good port facilities. The majority of the inhabitants – 98% German – were less than impressed about being split off from the rest of the German nation, so it was no surprise that tensions escalated in the 1930s. Today, most tourists probably wander around oblivious to the history. As long as they can indulge in a bit of cheap beer, it is all good.
History would become our focus tomorrow. Today, the immediate priority was the football match later in the evening. The Lechia Gdansk tickets were secured in the central Tourist Information Centre, which would save much time and grief later. The membership cards are no longer obligatory in the Polish
leagues, but ID is compulsory to complete a purchase. The passports were scrutinised and details entered, before a ticket is produced with your name on. There is little interest thereafter in the ID, so the careful matching of ticket and passport farce employed at turnstiles with resultant delays in such as Italy is not repeated. The Man in the Middle made a bee line into Hard Rock Cafe 2 doors down and reappeared with some drumsticks from the store - as in those that you play music with and not of the chicken variety. His God Son is taking after Cozy Powell and collects such items, when not beating out his indie tunes with his band on the local scene. We would later discover a discount voucher for the said merchandise store in the hotel foyer! I set about my usual David Bailey routine of trip memoirs by building up the photography record. The most prominent sight in the city is probably the vista of Neptune’s Fountain standing in front of the Town Hall. It was cast in Augsburg, but has had a few Polish eagles added. Alas at this time in late afternoon, the sun fades rapidly and by
3.30 pm twilight was up on us. We had been up since 4 am and despite a hearty mobile breakfast, the Other Half had decided some food was in order. She had also been carefully monitoring her steps on her fit bit and was already closing in on a "Barcelona" total. The commentary was a reminder that a sit down was in order. The preferred choice was a Perogi restaurant - the small wheat parcels are a kind of Eastern European version of pasta and a big favourite when in this part of the world. The first restaurant we tried was a speciality Perogi venue was absolutely rammed. A table for 3 was negative, so we moved on. The drumsticks were secured back at base and we wandered off in the direction of the World War 2 Museum area just past the hotel. A new venue was located under a very executive block of apartments, where tables were somewhat easier to come by.
After being fed and watered, we ventured in the direction of the railway station. I had read on the club website that Lechia ran free trains from here to the stadium. As it was about 5
kilometres away, it made sense to take this option. The man in the Tourist Information office confirmed they departed from Platform 5 and highlighted the times of the 3 or 4 trains. One stop. 6 minutes. A motley crew were hanging around near the KFC on the right hand end of the station, so we guessed that was where Platform was tucked away. A few looked like they had been enjoying themselves all afternoon and were so under the influence that remaining steady on their feet was a challenge. A body crashing on the tracks in a state of inebriation was not out of the possibility. A few police watched on in a semi disinterested manner. The train arrived and we boarded. A small group proceeded to amuse themselves by throwing fireworks on to the platform until a few more police wandered along to take more of an interest in the perpetrators. The ammunition was saved until the train rolled away and the bangs became louder as we entered a tunnel area that enhanced the acoustics. We alighted at Expo, which ran alongside the exhibition centre. The stadium was lit up like a bright green spaceship across the car parks.
Barriers guided the way, presumably to stop the short cut through any expensive motors that had parked up with the VIP gang. The now obligatory Tricky Trees shirt pose outside a new ground was enacted to enhance the Reds Around The World website or whatever the Man in the Middle launches these mug shots on. There were few people around at this point, so the prospect of a red shirt didn’t make us a prime target in the green world that is Lechia. A few riot police watched on bemused.
Lechia were formed after World War 2. The basis of their support was from those who were expelled from Lviv in the Ukraine at the end of the war and they brought the name of their club with them. Lechia is on the original names for Poland. The club colours are green and white. A quick peek in the club shop under the VIP area was almost like being in the east end of Glasgow. The game tonight was in theory an important game. Jagiellonia Bialystok were based about 400 kilometres to the east near the Belarus border, but arrived 2nd
in the league behind Lechia who
were at the summit. As the hotel receptionist put it, they were “being Lucky” at the moment. It proved to be the case, as the referee awarded them a hotly contested penalty after the VAR came into play. The VAR (Video Assisted Referee) system is all the rage with UEFA and FIFA at present, but does it slow the game down or what? The decision must have taken a good 5 minutes to reach and involved a referral that proved inconclusive, as well as the ref wandering over to the sidelines to study the footage for himself. Meanwhile half of the disappointing crowd of less than 12,000 could have popped out for a pint, got served and been back in their seats without missing a kick. The keeper was eventually sent the wrong way by Lechia's Portuguese forward. 1-0 to Lechia. At the start of the game, there had been about 3 away fans in the section to our left. After about 10 minutes a group of about another 150 turned up. No colours, they all looked like they had come for a spot of bother. The penalty did not go down well with them. The lead lasted seconds, as
an equalizer was powered in from 35 yards. Lechia retook the lead on half time. The Man in the Middle enterred into deep debate with the guy in the next seat - well he would have done, had the mastery of the respective languages been a bit better. I said to the Other Half that the guy was in the running for Moustache of the Match award, but she pointed out a fan dressed as a Mexican lower down the stand who had alreadys ecured the prize. the Man in the Middle was left to decline the offer of some horrible looking pink liquid that was a half time warmer - vodka mixed with grapefruit juice. The guy slugged it down in one. The goals continued to be traded. It finished 3-2 to Lechia, who seemed flattered to now have a 5 point gap at the top of the table. The receptionist got it right – lucky.
We scampered off for the free train back to the city centre. The rain was pelting down as we hurried to the platform to avoid being drenched. We had already eaten Polish once today, so settled for the first thing we saw
once back in the Old Town. The pizza went down well and we headed off for a decent nights’ sleep after the early start. Appendix 1 Poland Ekstraklassa League Lechia Gdansk 3 Jagiellonia Bialystok 2 Date:
Sunday 25th November 2018 @1800 Hours Venue:
Energa Stadion, Pokoleń Lechii Gdańsk 1, 80-560 Gdańsk, Poland Attendance
: 11,931 Scorers
: 1-0 Paixao (Lechia) Penalty 37 Mins, 1-1 Poletanovic (Jagellionia) 39 Mins, 2-1 Kubicki (Lechia) 45 Mins, 2-2 Novikovas (Jagellionia) 53 Mins, 3-2 Nalepa (Lechia) 67 Mins.
Tot: 0.17s; Tpl: 0.068s; cc: 16; qc: 25; dbt: 0.0198s; 1; m:saturn w:www (184.108.40.206); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.4mb