Świnoujście parkrun, Poland

Swinoujscie parkrun route
Świnoujście parkrun route. 2 laps, anti-clockwise.

Świnoujście is a ferry port with service from Trelleborg, Sweden, so very convenient for a trip after, say, Malmö parkrun. It is also very close to Germany – so close that my jog post-parkrun saw me cross the border without having had any intention to do so. The parkrun is in a park in the city itself, near to the port and to the beach.

The port itself is on the other side of the river, which divides the city, and Germany, from the rest of Poland. There’s a ferry, which runs through the night; free to all, but not available to anyone without local licence plates between 4am and 10pm. The reviews on Google maps include some irate tourists who have found that out the hard way. Equally, a sat-nav may take you South, to the other ferry, which is not necessary if you are on the late ferry, which arrives at 11:15pm.

Group gathered on the start line
Group gathered on the start line. The girl on the bike is Margaret – we talked briefly at the end.

So long as you’re staying on the West side of the river, the run is not far from anywhere in town. For me, it was under 1km along a couple of roads. Although the park spreads through the local area and is thick with tree-cover, the start/finish area is visible from the road, Boreslawa Chrobrego. There are toilets right next to the start/finish.

Crossing the finish line
The event director gave those of us she knew – including the two English tourists she had only met on the day – a shout-out by name.

The course is marked by permanent signs. Just remember to look up for them, as they are on fairly high poles. I had it easy; not only is there a lead bike, but an absence of quicker runners meant I had him to myself, so just had to follow along (though I ignored one slight detour, to high-five a couple of marshals).

Finish token holder
Finish token holder, no further sorting required.

The course is almost entirely covered by shade, which would be welcome on a sunny day. We’d had a downpour at 8:00, leaving the air clear, and there was a breeze from the ocean, a few hundred metres away. It’s pretty flat, though the terrain changes from paved path to hard-packed mud for variety.

Finishers 1-2-3
Finishers 1-2-3.

The run director was excited to have visitors – I had the impression they don’t have that many here – and led me off to meet Keith. I knew another Brit was due to be there, as he had also run one of the Swedish events. In fact, I’m pretty sure we were both checking how to buy a ticket for the (free) river ferry last night, just after midnight.

English tourists
English tourists and locals in a photo frame.

A friendly welcome, a flat and well-organised run, a beach to visit afterwards and another country to dip into if you feel like it. What’s not to like?

Results from event 153, 8th June 2019.

Wroclaw parkrun, Poland

Wroclaw parkrun route
Wroclaw parkrun route; an out and back.

Poland is an obviously rapidly improving country, and thriving Wroclaw, its fourth-biggest city by population and with enviable culture, art, parks and public transport all over is a great expression of that improvement.

I didn’t know that; it just seemed a logical place to head for from Czechia, being big and on major transport routes, near to Germany for future travel, cheap and with a well-established parkrun.

Group photo; 70+ people, sunny skies
Group photo before the start.

The run is a straightforward out and back, on flat but slightly rough (tiny loose stones) terrain near the side of the Odra river. It is a tiny bit, a few metres only, longer on the way back, as the finish is off to the left, down the slope, with the start at the top of the slope.

Wroclaw parkrun terrain - a wide, flat path
Terrain – wide, flat, green.

The run director on the day, Kate, wandered over, knowing I was a tourist because of my 250 top. Although this was event 313, no one has run enough to yet qualify, she said, with around 225 the most. The course is simple enough, but I reassured her that I wouldn’t be out front, and she gave me a quick briefing to make sure I knew what I was doing – it’s always worth knowing there’s a group photo, for instance, otherwise you can feel you’ve worked out where the start is, then end up posing facing the wrong way, ready to race off while everyone else waves for the camera.

She also paused a few times during her run to take photos part-way down the course, which was a nice touch.

The finish is downhill, but that downward section is short. You can, though, get your charge on, along what has the look of a runway.

Although the numbers are generally around 70-90 (74 today, 186 the record), it is reliably lively up front. I ran a second slower than last week, but while that was good enough for 4th at Westpark, it put me 10th here; and that despite the extra incentive of running in the second pack (of 8 or so people) for the first mile, and with different people passing each other through the run. I got a shuffle on at the end, sighting the bridge with 18 minutes just past, thinking I might nip under 19, decided it wasn’t on 30 seconds later as it started to hurt, and was then passed by a 50-something in the final 30 metres. It was all a better motivational experience than the several “just going to sit on your shoulder, m mate” merchants I’ve had over the last few weeks.

I jogged to the start, taking the road route there, past the front of the zoo, and the river route on the way back. There is an island (‘Wyspa Opatowicka’) just over the bridge, not part of the route, that’s worth a jog, too, though work going on currently means you can’t go all the way round the edge. Just near the area where everyone gathers there are some old planes, including a couple of military jets. And if you want to see futility in action, watch the branches and detritus throwing itself repeatedly at the water tumbling from the weir under the bridge. Mesmerising.

Results from Wroclaw parkrun, event 313, 25/5/19.

Poznan; the National Museum and the Museum of the History of the City of Poznan

Those names in Polish; Museum Narodowe w Poznaniu and Museum Historii Miasta Poznania. Both museums are in the old city, a short walk from one another. The town museum, and others in the old town, come under the auspices of the National Museum, in fact, which can be confusing if you follow links from Google Maps and keep being taken to the same website.

Poznan has an attractive centre, cobbled streets and old buildings abound. The central square is huge, as with other Polish cities, and with a similar arrangement to that of Krakow – a town hall and tower, remnants of old market buildings, and gaps where the scales (big buildings!) used to be. Outside there, even more ordinary buildings are attractive, with iron balconies and architectural flourishes. Just exactly what I needed after the starkness of more utilitarian North American/recent building.

To the museums. First up, I went to the National Museum. Unlike in Warsaw, where I expected more about Poland’s history, I knew to expect mostly art. The plan of the museum looks confusing, with ground, 1st and 3rd floors full, and the second only a partial display. But the flow is good, and I was surprised to realise I had come through the second and was back down onto the 1st. Yes, that sounds daft. It probably was, but I was just enjoying being somewhere that I knew roughly what I was doing, rather than blundering the wrong way round and being unable to say “excuse me, is there a natural order to this place?”

First up, the special exhibition of Josef Brandt, known for his paintings of historic battles. I thought they were magnificent, though all together, some were a little samey after a while.

Downstairs, in the basement, is the ancient art, then the medieval is upstairs and from there you are into different, more modern, periods, primarily Polish but also Italian, German and Spanish.

First, some ancient items.

I tend to be less interested in the medieval, which concentrates on religion.

There were a few pictures of people with pitchers. Without exception, all were very happy.

Painting: woman with pitcher
Painting: woman with pitcher

And finally, a few more modern paintings.

I walked into the old town a little, to the old town hall, which contains the Museum of the Cit of Poznan. It’s not a huge museum, nor an expensive one at 7 PLN, and not everything has much description in English. But the inside of the building is a great sight in itself, and it’s worth a walk around. Lots of stairs involved.

Poznan town hall
Poznan town hall, and city museum.

Every day at midday, two goats come out above the clock and butt heads, while a trumpeter plays. It is surprisingly good. I only made it on my final day – I kept running too long and returning at 11:30 or 11:45 and not quite making it. But I am very glad I did.

Metal goats
Inside are – my explanation – some backup goats. Those in use currently have christmas coats on.

The exhibits are wide-ranging. They give a flavour of the place, particularly all the guild exhibits in the first room. Otherwise, its a range of ephemera from the history of the city.

Some more pictures from the town hall. I have little to add, except that it is worth a visit, and is unlikely to take more than an hour of your time.

Finally, one of my room mates left his bed like this. I am not convinced this is how you convince people the bed is occupied.

Bunk bed with clothes laid out
Not fooling anyone.

Zielona Góra parkrun, Poland

Zielona Gora parkrun route
Zielona Gora parkrun route. 2 laps like this, anti-clockwise.

Zielona Gora is a largish town in the West of Poland and therefore, if you are travelling across Poland on the way to Germany and then the UK, on the way home. It also begins with a Z, as does its parkrun. Running parkruns beginning with different letters is a ‘thing’. Not a thing I have worked hard at – I had covered a lot of letters by sheer virtue of having toured before many people, and before these things got discussed (though uber-tourist Freyne has always had it in mind, and been way ahead of everyone else). I skipped Zillmere in Brisbane, though it was possible for me to get there, because I might have been a bit late for a friendly gathering at Commonwealth cycling. And there is no X at the mo, and I’m of the view that therefore you can’t ‘do’ the alphabet. But still, you can ‘do’ a “parkrun alphabet” and I have picked up extra letters when the chance has come. Like today!

Zielona Gora parkrun start line
Zielona Gora parkrun start line.

The day was blessedly warmer than last weekend – a 20 degree swing, in fact, from -12 to 8, making the second layer almost academic. Almost. It was cold in places in the woods. I could probably have run without gloves, though, whereas last weekend, even two pairs had left my hands aching at the finish. I jogged to the start, temporarily confused by the work going on to upgrade the railway station. At one point I was jogging down platform 1, it turned out, which, like the road I started on, offered no way across the tracks. The flags were in place, but no people – no, wait, there is one volunteer there, in the trees. He was it, for the event team, but I had spotted their facebook post asking for volunteers and downloaded the parkrun volunteer app, which allowed me to scan barcodes after I’d finished. I’d never done it before, but it is super easy.

There weren’t many of us there, so a short briefing later – this after the event director had described the course to me in English, though I had recced some of it and knew the outline – and we strolled the few metres to the start. Then everyone faced the wrong way! Oh, a photo. I really am blundering my way through things in Poland, usually only having any idea because of context. So long as the first question in a shop is “do you want a bag?” then I am fine. If they are saying something else, then who knows what I am rejecting.

We started. An energetic dog led the way, coming back to us whenever it thought there was a chance one of us might stop and throw a stick. That was pretty great, then, after the first turn, two deer burst out of the trees on our left, galloped across the path and disappeared, stage right. Another one pulled up short as our gallop got too close, and ran off the other way. I’m sure it worked out for them in the end.

The course is easy to follow, just a few turns and one out and back to get right. The first left turn sign had blown over in the wind before the start, but was replaced in time, and in any case, most people knew what they were doing; two of us were first-timers. A hardy 60-something ran topless, and went through a routine of loosening up before scanning his barcode at the end. Good on him. Another runner took over handing over the tokens, and the event director probably got to relax and enjoy the rest of it, though with only 13 of us, he’d probably have managed okay anyway. It’s not the quickest course. Flat enough, and not muddy, just soft underfoot. Sandy covering on a hard-packed mud base? Something like that, and some tree roots and the like to watch for. Not difficult, just notably slower than tarmac.

People didn’t hang around afterwards, and my offer to ease round and collect signs was unnecessary or un-understood, so I jogged back through the centre of town, showered, packed and was back into the centre before midday, for a 12:41 train to Poznan. Both last night and this morning I had followed the main road, all new and modern shops. This time, I spotted cobbled streets off to my right and followed them to find what seemed to be the ‘true’ town centre; shops and squares a-plenty.

Results from event 19, Zielona Gora parkrun.

Krakow; the centre, Cathedral and the town museum.

The hostel I stayed in, Woodpecker, is directly opposite a theatre, which allows a great view if your room is on the right side.

Teatr im. Juliusza Słowackiego, Krakow, by night
Teatr im. Juliusza Słowackiego, Krakow.

I was warned about the air quality on returning from a run, and it isn’t great – much worse than, say, Poznan, or Berlin, but the city is such a pleasure to walk around that it is worth ignoring if not too bad. Some sights from wandering round the old town, below. These were all taken within several minutes walk of my base, at the NE corner of the old town, but the place isn’t that small, it being a mile or so to the river, just past the castle and cathedral.

I wandered round mostly the outside of Wawel Castle and the Cathedral, though I paid (frankly, because it was the first ticket office I found and the price, 12 PLN, was cheap enough that I didn’t check what it was for) to go into the Royal Tombs and up the tower of the Cathedral. The ticket also covers the museum, but I was thoroughly confused when I came out, didn’t know to look for it, and didn’t stumble over it. This sort of cluelessness has been fairly typical in Poland, though without any danger resulting.

Krakow is well-served by trams, or streetcars, which buzz around efficiently. I say that confidently because they look it, not because I have actually been on one, preferring to run down the river, both ways, by way of exploration.

Krakow streetcar
Krakow streetcar.

The main square, with cloth hall down the middle and tower, all that remains of the town hall, dominant. Other buildings, weighing buildings, rich stalls (selling goods to the rich!) were removed in the 19th century when they fell into disuse.

Krakow town square
Krakow town square – cloth halls left, town hall tower middle.

The centre also looks great in the dark, and I caught the horse and trap gathering just before they peeled off to look for punters.

I also visited the town museum. Assuming I had the right place – and, gosh, I have blundered into the wrong ones often enough in Poland – then reviews tell you there are exhibits below the square. But there is construction going on, so for now there is a cybertech exhibition to take you through the history of the place’s growth. Tickets on the first floor, ignore the meeting happening to your right, then exhibit behind another closed door on the second floor. All of that I navigated fine. Then I set off round the exhibits in the wrong order. There were signs. Small signs. I wonder if I head the wrong way because I am left-handed and whatever people think will be an obvious flow is not obvious to me? I have made a habit, anyway, of going round museums the wrong way unless the signs are very clear. It’s not deliberate.

Warsaw and its National Museum

That cover image sums up my view of Warsaw nicely – modern and old, all together. Prosperity really seems to have hit, and the capital is lively and lovely, with shops, restaurants, cafes, sights, museums and parks all over. I headed for the National Museum, to the East of the centre, and set on a magnificent bridge. I’d run past it on Saturday, and the bridge had seemed particularly imposing from below; it wasn’t clear how I could clamber up onto it, but there are large sets of stairs underneath, which branch out to allow you onto either side of the bridge from below.

The museum is 25 PLN for entry to everything (20 if you want to skip the temporary exhibition. 30 if there are two of those), and another 10 if you want an audio tour. The temporary exhibition (Shouting: Poland! Independence 1918) is on Poland and it’s shifting state of independence, as different groups invade, life settles between wars before more invasions. The exhibition is, like the rest of the museum, heavy on the art, light on exposition, which works for this subject. Different rooms have different subjects, from war and its effects, to the cult of the hero (Marshal Pilsudski is depicted in a bewildering array of styles and media, paintings to sculpture).

I had expected more text about Poland and its history, and wasn’t quite ready for the amount of art. There are two huge galleries covering 19th century art (which then leads into 20th and 21st century) and The Old Masters, on the top floor.

Also on the 1st floor, with the 19th century art, is the gallery of Polish design, which is short, full of interesting artefacts, and fascinating.

On the ground floor, I initially missed the Nubian art exhibition, tucked away (or really obvious, depending on where you look first) to the left of the ticket office. A big deal when first uncovered in the 1970s, the site has now been washed away. Some of the findings “found their way” to a gallery in Sudan, and some here in Poland; my impression was that this wasn’t the same colonial ‘preservation’ as other National Museums have, more the result of how the art was found. It’s astonishing, at any rate, to think just how old much of this is, some in remarkably good condition.

I wasn’t as bothered with the medieval art exhibition, heavy on the religious iconography, though the triptychs are  beautiful. Also: dimly lit, so there’s no picture.

Finally, the main galleries. A smattering of the art within. I have little to add, because I just wandered and soaked it up. A wiser person might pause halfway through the museum, and regather energy before heading for the second enormous gallery. I chose to head back into the 19th century one after the old masters, which was reasonably effective as a way of viewing it through fresh eyes. The galleries are an art history tour, taking you through different artistic movements.

I had run past a statue of Jan Matejko in the morning, at that point clueless as to his significance. I had spotted that he was an artist, mind – see if you can guess how from the picture below. It felt like a nice piece of serendipity to then see some of his art on the same afternoon.

Jan Matejko
Jan Matejko statue.

Warszawa-Praga parkrun, Warsaw

Warszawa-Praga parkrun route
Warszawa-Praga parkrun route.

There are plenty of parkrun options in Warsaw but in the end I settled for the one nearest to my hostel. I was glad of that afterwards; with freezing hands, more than 4km back would have been intimidating, though actually I defrosted on the jog back.

This was event 286, with 56 attendees. All, as an English bloke from St Albans said at the beginning, looked lean and fit, but then these were no conditions to come for a gentle walk round.

The run is in the park behind/to one side of the National Stadium. The grey area at the bottom left of the photo is part of the stadium; the park is over a busy road, but not hard to find. I jogged there, timing it reasonably well by getting there at 8:45. It was -12 or so, no weather to be standing around. Poles tend to greet each other and shake hands, so I did that with whoever was looking and after some mutual leg and arm swinging, as we tried to stay warm, we all walked to the start.

National Stadium
National Stadium.

The course is very flat. It’s a 2 and a bit lapper, heading anti-clockwise, then on the third time round, turning left to go down the central section to the finish. Worth knowing in advance, as there was no marshal there. Luckily I had someone to follow, so didn’t miss it – I am sure it is well explained; but in Polish.

It’s a scenic spot, very wide paths passing trees and lakes as you head round the park. Plenty of room to pass other park users, who were sparse in the cold. My hands got extremely cold, despite two pairs of gloves. Part of the problem, I think, was having my phone stuffed in one hand, which kept that hand from forming a fist, and meant the phone itself could carry its coldness into the hand. At the end, my thumb knuckle was numb, and fingertips painful. In a moment of madness, I was convinced that taking gloves off was a good idea, but I quashed it, pushing those painful fingers into nooks and crannies to warm them up while the Poles joked about an Aussie couple who had run in -20, reckoning it the coldest temperature they had ever seen. It’s cold, and I am not sure it entirely helped my running; just a little too much cold air coming into my lungs. This was my fourth second-place finish in a row, and a frustrating one, given that I was gaining towards the finish and had probably given up too much ground at the beginning. Still a fun run out, though.

Ice flowing up the Vistula River
Ice flowing up the Vistula River.

I didn’t hang around at the end, jogging back over the massive and imposing bridge past the National Stadium. My hands warmed enough to take pictures of the ice flowing along the river, and the lego heads out on the sand, for which I have no explanation.

Results from event 286, parkrun Warszawa-Praga.

Constitution day

Constitution day
Lodz, Poland

Lodz, Poland

Today is a holiday in Poland, as was Wednesday. Not ideal from a sightseeing point of view perhaps, but I’d aimed for a museum yesterday and left the Jewish cemetery and ghetto for today. The cemetery is a distance away-3 miles, trip advisor says, and I think that’s for crows. My walk was interrupted by exploring the source of loud bangs, possibly a gun salute, which was the constitution day gathering, and one long walk later I was at the cemetery. Which has a wall around it so, left or right? I picked left, went west and the entrance is on the east. I share it in the hope that you might be saved the complete perambulation.

The whole Jewish community of Lodz was lost so many of the graves have obviously had no visitors in some time. I found the one pictured the most touching, but it is an atmospheric place to visit.

As an industrial city that was largely undeveloped till 1820, Lodz has managed to hold on to plenty of green spaces. You’re never more than a km or so from a park, and today I’ve walked through 6, including the survivors’ park, with a memorial to those Poles who saved Jewish lives-star shaped if only I’d realised it in time to photograph it better-and rows of trees of remembrance. The open spaces are cheek by jowl with civilisation, derelict, run-down and new.

Lodz seeing

Lodz seeing
Lodz, Poland

Lodz, Poland

Lodz is described as ‘the Manchester of Poland’ and I can see why. Arriving at Lodz Kaliska was unimpressive, but I then walked across a lovely park to get to the hostel. The parkrun park, I’m fact, so I took a run round it this morning to see if I could work out the route. Mostly, though not the start point, but it’s not a huge park and they can’t hide.

Beyond that is a road with alternating pubs and restaurants, which also seem to alternate states of decay. There’s a university all around the area, with various campuses, but the student numbers haven’t supported the Retro pub, nor the couple of music clubs, which are just as dead and derelict.

Wandering around last night I found myself on Piotrkowska street, the main shopping etc street. Fairly unprepossessing to begin with, but a trip to the tourist info centre today made me look a little more closely, to spot the different architecture and grandness of what once were houses and now shops. They even give you a glossy book on the street, taking you through the more interesting buildings. It’s really a history of who lived there and what style the building is in, so unless you’re a student of 19th century architecture it’s all pretty dry. All in all, then; Manchester. Not without attractions, but it makes you work for them.

Plus it’s raining.

I visited the Museum of Lodz, which is near the shopping centre Manufaktura. Being me, I managed to wander in through the vehicle entrance and take a tour round the gardens before I found the main entrance, but made it in. Exhibits ranged from Lodz art-tick a box for the art of both here and Gdansk-through the development of the city to famous people of Lodz, but the star is the building itself. The main rooms were the residence of manufacturer Izrael Kalmanowicz Poznański, listed as making many objects “as well as spicy products” for those lucky lucky local people. The ballroom and dining room were particularly grand, and a great place for a wedding. I wonder whether the pictured couple in wedding gear had had their wedding previously and were just having photos done. Otherwise it seems odd in the extreme to come see the place in full gear without anyone else, though perhaps only as odd as not having photos when you and guests have the run of the place and don’t have to have your picture taken by tourists, as was the case for them today.

Dinner was at Soplicowo, which I’d spotted the night before. A review of trip advisor’s third rated restaurant suggests good eating is a stranger to the city, and this place bears that out. Nothing terrible, but it’s ornate and fancy in appearance, yet the food was only pretty good. I over ordered, and fed right up.

Back at the budget ‘Boutique Hostel’. Word to the wise – it is cheaper to book without going via Hostelworld, and worth paying the extra for the more up market hotels in the group, or even the Grand. The latter is only three star, yet has the location and exterior of a grand city hotel. Budget boutique place has small cell like rooms if you’ve booked a single, and no frills. Plentiful facilities in the communal areas, a smell of smoke (though less today, so it depends on the other guests) and noisy corridors. Not to mention (and this is related) doors which are impossible to close quietly. It’s perfectly fine, but there are plenty better, and it was a come down from the cosy Riverside hostel in Gdansk.



Lodz, Poland

Łódź, Poland

When the photo you see here was taken, I didn’t know what was inside. I was hoping for dark beer. I am almost disappointed to report that that’s what I got*. Nothing comical there, then. In other news, Gdansk is much prettier than Lodz, but the weather in the former is crashing down again on Friday while the latter looks like being quite warm. Lodz looks unsettled but the last time I checked, the worst was saved for the night.

*Having drunk the same thing in a restaurant and in a glass and everything, it is in fact a not-quite-yellow beer. Not a dark one.

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