I had another travel day Friday, which means I was stuck on a train instead of where I should be, with the people. I'm now in Wroclaw, the last stop on my Euro 2012 tour of Poland. Here are three quick thoughts:
1) Wroclaw vs. the Fan Zone.
Wroclaw’s old town is rumored to be among the most beautiful in all of Poland. Last night, I walked through the neighborhood and was struck by the unique architecture and well-maintained old buildings. I’ll have to come back if I want to get a better feel for the place, however, because the fan zone in Wroclaw—and the head-high purple fence that surrounds it—is right in the middle of the city’s old town. In Gdansk and Warsaw, the fan zones are centrally located and yet out of the way. Unfortunately, the fan zone in Wroclaw is very much in the way. Imagine a fenced-in festival ground on the streets of New Orleans’s French Quarter. There’s not enough open space. It’s a square peg in a round hole. It makes everything feel claustrophobic.
2) No matches for Krakow?
Everywhere I go in Poland, people ask me about my itinerary. When I say I’m only visiting three big cities—Warsaw, Wroclaw and Gdansk—they wonder why I’m not going to Krakow. Krakow is Poland’s second biggest city and its most popular tourist destination. It’s a university town and a center for art and culture. So why isn’t it a Euro 2012 host city?
The official answer, I’ve been told, is that Krakow’s host city application "just wasn’t very good compared to the other applicants." This answer seems a little too convenient for me. What if the United States hosted the World Cup and Los Angeles wasn’t selected as a host city? There would be some political fallout for sure. When it comes to Krakow, we may have to wait until after the Euro Cup if we want a satisfying answer.
3) On Poland’s Rivals.
Yesterday, I spoke at length with a Polish computer scientist named Artur. We talked about the crowd trouble on Tuesday and I wondered what it’s like in Poland when the National Team plays its other big rival, Germany. “Are things as tense?” I asked.
The answer, in short, is no. Both sets of supporters have their hooligans, to be sure, but the German and Polish supporters don’t clash like the Polish and Russian supporters do. They may share a troubled past but Germany and Poland are more economically integrated than Poland and Russia, which may explain some of the difference.
For Artur, it’s more about manners than anything. On Tuesday night, the Russian supporters in the stadium unveiled a giant banner that read, “This is Russia.” After bringing it up, Artur paused and shook his head. “The Germans would never do that,” he said.