parkrun Kraków, Poland

Kraków parkrun route map, a loop and a bit of the park.
Kraków parkrun route. Head anti-clockwise to the 734m mark, turn, back to the start/finish and then a complete loop of the park.

Kraków parkrun is easy to find. The start and finish are at the NW corner of the park Błonia, which is walkable from the old town, and has a tram stop directly opposite. I walked from town – about half of that time I was walking to the park, then the other half I was walking along that long straight you can see at the top of the map. It’s about a mile just for that section. That also takes you past the city stadium which this weekend was hosting the European Rugby 7s.

Grass in the middle of the park, very pale after days of sun
Blessed drizzle over the park

I had been in Warsaw at the beginning of the week. It was very warm, but cool enough on the Monday that lying in the shade in a park was pleasant. But no bedroom was air-conditioned, and the heat increased through the week. A cloudy day and downpour on Tuesday was relief enough for me to walk to the bus station on Wednesday, but Krakow was back to the same heat, and then more. As a result, the forecast drizzle and sub-20 temperatures of Saturday loomed like a mirage, even more so as the thunderstorms meant to arrive on Friday moved from the afternoon to evening to night. But sure enough, Saturday morning was cool. The pictures might look a bit dull and drizzly as a result so you’ll just have to trust me that for most of us, this was fabulous.

Chalk marks on the ground to show where to make the first turn.
The 734m turn around point

I chatted to a Frenchman at the start, after he’d explained the course to me. I hadn’t understood why on the way there I’d passed the 4km marker, then the 734m turnaround point. How would we turnaround, but still get to 4km on that stretch? It’s straightforward enough – head off clockwise to the turn, run around it and then do a complete loop anti-clockwise. So although you start on the long straight, you only run the whole length of it at the end, including that 4km marker.

4km chalked on the ground on the long straight
The long straight

I suspect the course is completely flat, but I struggled a bit, feeling like I found a headwind on that long last stretch. It might just have been a general sense of lag after a week of not sleeping very much. My brother, at any rate, thought that my next destination Slovakia suited me. I was just pleased to be warm but not hot. (Did I mention Poland was hot? So hot, for instance, that sitting on a park bench in the shade at 6pm was too warm.)

Wide and damp paths
Damp and lovely
Running along a wide path in the drizzle.
Sweeping turns and long straights
The finish line, marked with the word META
The finish line

Some friendly locals got me and others to sign the visitors’ book (/sheafs of A4) and chatted for a while at the finish line. As with other runs I’ve done in Poland, there’s no culture of heading straight to a cafe here, which is fine in the summer, and there’s plenty of space to mill about after the finish, either off to one side of the course, or the whacking great grassy area in the middle.

Results from Krakow parkrun, event 414, 2/7/22; 154 finishers.

Zamek Malbork – The Malbork Castle Museum

A large sign on a grassy bank spells out Malbork.
Malbork – this is just along the river to the south of the castle

Malbork, a town in Northern Poland an hour or so from Gdansk, lays a claim to having the largest castle in the world by land area. Different people or guides phrase this differently – some mention the fact that it’s the largest brick complex in Europe, probably because that the brick such a distinctive feature. Overall, it may not mean much more than that the walls have been extended to cover a larger area than others chose to. It’s also all a reconstruction, as so often is the case in Poland, and there’s an exhibition on the restoration from 1962, following a fire in 1959 which had added to the damage done in WWII.

Malbork Castle, seen from the riverside, on the South side. Behind the high outer walls, the High Castle stands several storeys higher. All made of brick, it's a perfect storybook castle.

The size of the site means this is a lengthy visit if you see it all, particularly if you listen to all of the excellent audio tour that is included in the main admission price.

A model of the whole of the castle site shows the scale of the walls and the layout of the high, middle and lower castle areas

Visitors are free to walk round the edge of the castle, and there’s an audio tour to guide you round that for 15pln (£2.70). The castle is open 9am-8pm, Tuesday-Sunday. Main admission is 70pln (£12.50), or there’s a reduced rate of 30pln (£5.50) after 5.15pm from Tuesday-Sunday. See the castle ticket webpage for up-to-date information.

The walls are made of red brick. A high arch with raised portcullis leads into the courtyard, past two other gates. The ground is cobbled with large flat stones laid where cart wheels would roll
The main entryway, once past the ticket check

The castle is from the 13th century and was the headquarters of the Teutonic Knights. It’s suitably grand. The tour takes you through the three castles, High, Middle and Lower – I realised on the tour that although these terms are self-explanatory, it had never occurred to me that a “High Castle” was a term in actual use, rather than just a description.

Brick buildings and a tall tower surround a cobbled courtyard with green lawns at the lower castle
Courtyard, lower castle

The guided tour is excellent. It’s location-specific, so you can ignore any particular section by just wandering off, though I was happy to listen and head to where I was told. You can still explore more or less as you want, and some parts are slightly fiddlier to find – exit into the corridor and you’ll see a gargoyle on the wall, he said, but it was a small gargoyle and I looked the wrong way the first time – which added to the sense of exploration.

A very large Great Hall, with a small fireplace to one side. Pillars along the middle of the hall hold up curved arches that spiral out across the ceiling
Curved roof in the grand hall
Curved arches on the ceiling, painted with creeping vines and flowers.
A guided tour
More curved arches in the roof of a corridor, painted with creepers and flowers.
Remember to look up

Along with the grand architecture there’s plenty of paraphernalia to see. Amber is big in the region and the castle has a large collection. There’s an amber museum in Gdansk if you’ve not had enough, too, though one was enough for me.

A courtyard is lit by dappled light shining through the branches of a tall tree. Ivy grows up some of the brick pillars.
Courtyard
Courtyard of the High Castle. All around are high walls with open arch windows (no glass). In the middle of the cobbled courtyard is a well, covered by a structure with wooden stakes and a conical tiled roof.
Courtyard of the High Castle
People walk round a huge range in the kitchen, which has arches covering where the fire would have raged. The lighting gives it a red glow.
The kitchen
A long room, with white walls and painted frescoes above head height. Tall black pillars hold the arches that spread across the ceiling.
Note the outfits of the staff at the far end
A wooden bridge joins two sections of the castle. It is viewed from below, unreachable from here and at about the level of the 3rd storey.
Wooden bridge joins two sections

The castle was built for strength and so was never besieged. After 1457 it became one of the residences for Polish royalty until 1772. Swedish forces invaded and occupied the castle during the 30 years war, in 1626 and 1629, but it has not been the scene of much fighting. The tour therefore concentrates on interesting architectural features rather than historical political to-ing and fro-ing, and is all the better for it.

I enjoyed the tour and was a little sad when it ended and I had no more words from the soothing narrator. As a result, when he suggested downloading a further app and joining him in a tour of Malbork’s medieval city, I did just that (though I saved it for the next day – it really was an exhaustive tour of the castle). The Movi guide has guided tours for plenty of areas in Poland, along with the Kaasmuseum in The Netherlands and The Witold Gombrowicz museum in France. Well worth a look for Poland.

Information about Malbork Castle from Wikipedia.

parkrun Zamek w Malborku, Malbork, Poland

parkrun Zamek w Malborku route. Two out and backs, a long one then a short.

This region is well-served for parkruns. Other than Warsaw, they aren’t always clustered in individual cities, but there are several here that can be reached by a short train journey, particularly from Gdansk. Malbork is just a 40 minute, £2.30 train ride away (over £5 if you get the express train), and I opted to stay in town for a few days to make it even easier.

This event was their third birthday (but only event 84, thanks to Covid), and they had put the word out, upping attendance from last week’s 28 to 73. That, balloons, cake and celebrations made for a festive atmosphere, even if I and the two Irish tourists I’d bumped into on the way understood barely a word.

Group of runners walk to the start, on a path bordered by tall thin trees
Walking to the start

We were made welcome, though, and the run director made sure I knew roughly where I was going. It isn’t tricky, though this is their last run on a temporary route they’ve used while the boardwalk in front of the castle was being renovated, so you won’t need the details. Still; head North for a couple of kilometres, round the U to a turn-around point, all the way back and beyond for a few hundred metres, and back to the finish.

The sun shines through the trees that line the route
Shade covers most of this course

Today was a very warm day, comfortably over 20degrees even on the way there, let alone after the start at 9am. Much of Malbork, including parts of the boardwalk, is open to the sun, so this route was a huge bonus on a day like today. There’s an unshaded bit at the top of the course, and we really felt it at that point.

Brick pillars on either side of the path near the turn-around point
The first turnaround, 2km in. I totally missed the sign, but you go round the first barrier at the end

Swapping notes with the two Irish runners afterwards, both of us blokes had missed the sign that pretty clearly marked the first u-turn, but we had other runners to follow and made the turn without incident. The second u-turn, 550m or so from the finish, was marked by both a sign and a marker on the ground, so wasn’t hard to miss. It seemed a long way when I was going it, but it isn’t really – there is a little gradient here, so perhaps that’s why I was wishing it into view.

A wooden structure in front of the path, as the run goes round to the right then back to the left to head along the riverside
Heading back at the top of the ‘n’ shape

The first and last bits of the run are along the riverside (River Nogat), and I presume the percentage of the course that is there will only increase on the new route. Trees shield it from view much of the time, but it’s there, providing a sense of space.

Lush green vegetation by the path as the route heads through a car park
Crossing a car park towards the finish

In common with many events here, it runs with relatively few people, and just one marshal, at the car-park which is on the route. It was very quiet there, I never saw a car moving, and some cones reinforced the idea that something was happening.

The finish is on a narrow section of the path
Running in to the finish/meta

The finish is on a narrow section of the path, so we were all sure to step off the route quickly as people were still coming through the other way. I didn’t notice any problem even with 70+ people, other than a few finishers racing through the finish and having to be chased down by the lady handing out finish tokens.

Finish ("meta") sign on the path after the event, with small boats in the marina behind
A view of the marina

Afterwards we hung around and nattered while the sweat started to dry – it really was pretty warm, and stayed that way – before wandering back towards town via the boardwalk. The view of the castle there is pretty dramatic, and it’s a great backdrop for the whole thing. I had also done the tour the day before, so was filled with thoughts of the Middle and High Castles as we walked by. More usefully for a runner, if you keep going along the waterfront, you come to a man-made beach and a spot where you can take a dip in the river, which was sorely tempting today.

We roped in the run director for a fully international flavour – Polish, Irish, Irish, me.

Results from parkrun Zamek w Malborku, event 84 25/6/22; 73 finishers.

European Solidarity Centre, Gdańsk

Situated to the North of the city centre, the European Solidarity Centre is an imposing building in rust-coloured metal, with a huge statue to memorialise the shipyard workers killed in anti-communist riots.

Tall statue, with three concrete legs with crosses at the top, supporting large anchors in memorial to the steel workers killed in 1970. Rusty-looking Solidarity museum is behind; it is a multi-storey building, but nowhere near as high as the statue.
Solidarity centre and statue outside

The inside of the centre felt entirely at odds with the more brutalist outside, giving a great contrast. It is a vast atrium of calm, free to visit without paying to visit the museum. Plants everywhere help contribute to that atmosphere. When I came out of the museum, a small visiting orchestra was giving a performance of classical music, which fit the place perfectly, though the quiet that followed was also wonderful. It’s a great space, into which a lot of care has clearly been put.

The hall inside the centre, before you get to the museum. A vast atrium of calm with plants everywhere creating a chilled atmosphere
Inside the Solidarity Centre.

I booked ahead for my visit, having been (sort of) turned away the day before. There are timed entry slots, so if you arrive at 3pm, you may be told to push off till 4pm. I didn’t hang around and just booked for the next day, then showed my email at the audioguide station and scanned in to the museum upstairs.

This museum commemorates a hugely important time in Poland’s history, as it fought to be rid of Communism. It’s also salutary for a free Brit, as a reminder and a warning – simply reading the words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a rejoinder to recent laws passed by people who I can’t politely describe. Even knowing that there is a group of people who will turn their nose up at any mention of that declaration, sure they are supporting a nebulous idea of freedom and making up their own minds even as they are led down the path of radicalisation, just as the British press did by lying about the EU for years, with otherwise politically-unengaged people knowing they should say “up yours Delors”. To give a funny (but not) example – on Question Time, one responder said she voted to leave the EU because she was fed up of the straight bananas ‘we’ get now. Not only swallowing the lies, but shaping her own reality to believe they had affected her world.

Hard hat are stuck to the ceiling in a room which has recreated the look of the Gdansk shipyards, with exhibits about the protests there
Shipyard exhibit

The museum starts in the shipyard, taking visitors into that time by recreating some of the look of the place. This was mostly not a bloody revolution, so some of the history is a little dry; there are lots of meetings and conversations. But there’s plenty to see, and the individual stories that start in the next room bring the narrative to life. It’s not a story I feel able to sum up, and in any case my reaction was much of the time one of anger at more contemporary events (and yes, for the reactionary right, I did also feel lucky to be able to express that anger, but that isn’t good enough on its own), but the pictures tell some of the story of the museum. For better information, you might start with a page about Lech Wałęsa.

Landrover-style Popemobile used by Pope John Paul
The Popemobile that John Paul II used
A large video wall shows protests. There is a tablet to browse other information, and photographs of people involved in protests in a glass exhibition cabinet.
Interactive exhibits
An exhibit stands in a room with a mirror-roof. That mirror allows you to see that the curved panels of the exhibition are that shape so they spell out the word "solidarnosc"
Exhibition space in the shape of the word solidarnosc.
Photo of union leader and Nobel Prize winner, Lech Walesa, made up of other documents, artfully arranged
Lech Wałęsa
A broken gate with police riot shields and a vehicle arranged behind, to give a feel of protestors facing the authorities
A protestor’s eye-view of conflict at the shipyard, where authorities broke down a gate with a tank
The road to democracy
A round table recreates the feel of union organisers debating with authorities
The history of the debates shown on video screens
A display of posters of different Solidarnosc candidates standing for election, every one of them photographed individually with Lech Wałęsa
Solidarnosc candidates in the Polish elections, individual posters for each, photographed with Lech Wałęsa – a hugely successful initiative.

There are fascinating exhibits on the size of the Communist bloc in Europe, and its dispersal over time.

A coloured animated map of Europe colours Communist colours in red, then shows them changing to grey as Communism is defeated over time
Decomposition of the Eastern bloc
Large walls in a room carry the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in several different languages
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Part of the Declaration of Human Rights, "Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association"
“Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association” (and because it apparently needs pointing out, ‘peaceful’ means non-violent, not kept quiet because noise is a bit annoying)
"No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile"
“No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile” (And perhaps don’t send asylum seekers, perfectly entitled to travel, at vast cost to other countries. Particularly don’t do that and then listen quietly while useful idiots bang on about people not having enough babies)

I found the museum very interesting, if very dry in places – though we should be grateful that for the dullness of people debating in rooms, rather than fighting for supremacy. The audio guide is excellent and guides you through the place expertly. At times I switched off a little and let the feel of it roll over me, and that works, too. It’s close to being a must-visit in Gdańsk, though you might also choose not to go, and appreciate that freedom instead.

Museum of World War 2, Gdańsk (Muzeum II Wojny Światowej w Gdańsku)

WWII Museum

As the stench of corruption in the UK spreads far and wide enough that I can smell it from here, where without the first edition of “the paper of record” (ha) you might have no idea of a powerful man’s second attempt, (that we know of) to give work to his mistress and where the long-running crisis in the legal system (long pre-dating covid, to go with those prompted in health, transport and so on by under-funding or assuming the private sector will do more than look after itself) finally looks to be coming to a head, it seemed a good idea to take a reflective look at where a democratic vote for a legendary fuckwit and media management can take humanity.

A corridor lined with Nazi swastikas and Soviet sickles sets a tone
Nazi and Soviet symbols

I ended up at the Museum of the Second World War, North of the old city. Fortunately this is an excellent museum, informative, reflective and thanks perhaps to Gdańsk’s unique perspective on events, sombre even as you get to the ‘triumph’ at the end.

Gdańsk’s own history is complex, ruled over time by Germans, Poles, Prussians and itself. From 1918 to 1939 it was in a disputed corridor and with a huge majority of Germans in the city, it wasn’t given back to Polish control. In the late 1930s, Poles and their language were excluded from public life and ultimately the status of the city, with its Nazi majority in parliament, was used as an excuse to invade Poland. After the war, though Poland was on the winning side, its rewards for such were ambiguous. Gdańsk itself was annexed by Poland but had a Soviet-installed Communist government.

The museum is split up into several zones. The entrance is down stairs from ground level, and then you head down to floor -3 for tickets and exhibits. You start in a long corridor with exhibitions off to each side, though the first two are small rooms, giving an idea that you will be popping in and out. Then you head into another small room, through and everything opens out, and it is clear that this is not a museum presenting things in small bites. It is very atmospheric, and you could almost wander through and just gaze around you for an experience all of its own.

A large hall, with military uniforms, half a plane 'dive bombing' from the wall and computer screens against the wall
A large hall

That said, there’s also a whole stack of information. In the picture above, which was the first large hall I came to (entirely possible I missed one, so I won’t say it is the first), there are captions in Polish and English for everything. To the right are several interactive displays, again in Polish and English, allowing you to read more about the history of the war, or browse the pages of a journal displayed to one side and so on.

Some exhibits are large, some just small excerpts of life – like the barbed wire, above – that hang on huge walls, often to chilling effect. I got to the end of that long corridor – roughly where the ‘Terror’ sign offers entry to another gallery – and figured I was near the end. Word to the wise (but not wise enough to check a floorpan) – this is about halfway.

A video screen with a film giving an overview of WW2 action
A video display

There are lots of exhibits, even a couple of reconstructed streets to allow you to feel a wartime atmosphere, and plenty of information about battles etc., but it is fair to say this museum is not nerding out on hardware or small detail of troop movements. Instead it is aiming more at a representation of how the war looked and felt to the people involved, particularly in Europe. So there is a tank and half a plane, but lots of uniforms, propaganda and information posters, personal effects from civilians, combatants and prisoners of war. As you might expect of a Polish museum, there’s a section devoted to The Katyn Massacre, a terrible story both in that it happened and that people were further terrorised by being lied to and gaslit (strange to think this for Brits was once a distant idea) for years.

A map showing Japanese brothels all over Asia
Showing aspects of the human cost – Japanese ‘comfort houses’ in Asia
Several pipes from floor to ceiling rotate, showing metal identity plates from those forced into labour
Revolving identity plates of workers
Hanging displays showing headshots of people killed in the Holocaust
People killed in the Holocaust
A set of propaganda posters from different countries, in the theme of 'careless talk costs lives'
Careless Talk etc.

On the same theme, of the Polish view of the war, there’s an enigma machine and a case with the story of Marian Rejewski, who was first to crack the code, and some stark casualty figures – check the green bar at the top, below, which shows (as a percentage) how many more Polish civilians were killed.

The museum is big, fascinating and clearly lovingly curated. It was busy when I went, but rarely crowded, and there are plenty of seats and free wifi if you want a break. It is open 10-6 Tuesday-Sunday, and you can book tickets online. Though not for Tuesday because, as I found out entirely by accident, on that day it is free. Otherwise the main price is 25zl (£4.62).

If you have a little time before or after, I also recommend the 20-minute experience that is the Piwnica Romańska, a Romanesque cellar offshoot of the Archaeological museum. It shows the remnants of a 13th century Dominican monastery, costs 8zl and although it’s technically a museum, it’s more of a show. I turned up and no one was behind the desk, while a couple of bemused tourists wondered if they should wait, or could just go in. The man of the couple put a foot on the stairs as if to test this out, and was warned off by a grumble from the old lady sat next to the desk who might have been knitting. Or just guarding. I hung around while they scuttled off, and was greeted fulsomely by the lady who returned, though she thought she had already spoken to me and I had already paid. By now I was ready to follow instructions, so I went downstairs and when she said there would be a film at 12, I figured I should stay in the first room, which has a few exhibits to one side, and a screen. 3 others, including the couple, joined me, and though we looked at the next room, which clearly had the results of the dig in, the ticket lady was corralling us into that room masterfully, just by twitching toward the door. We watched the short film, and were then invited into the first room, and she pressed whatever was necessary to start the narration. It was loud and clear, and then talked us from room to room, but we had further instructions from the ticket lady to keep us in the right place. There’s an ossuary and a central room with funky columns and features, and you should go and take it in if you can. If not, these pictures give an idea – imagine being controlled over when you move, and a deep voice talking you through where to look and when to walk.

Gdańsk Południe parkrun, Poland

Route map, hung on railings at the finish line.
parkrun Gdańsk Południe route map.

On a day that saw runs cancelled in France for excess heat, and England was warm too, Poland had ideal weather for running – overcast, warm, a tiny shower after we’d finished and then some sun to enjoy later.I celebrated with my fastest run since Rotterdam, last year, even getting over-excited and catching the young boy who was pacing 22 minutes. It didn’t last, but I was happy just to be in the ball park.

Południe is a district of Gdańsk – the word just means South, so many cities have a “Południe”. I had an easy stroll through parks and quiet streets for 4km or so from the South of the city to the park, ‘Zbiornik retencyjny Świętokrzyska’. It’s more like 7km from the centre of the city, but there are plenty of buses. You also have the choice of Gdansk parkrun itself, at a similar distance from the city, though it was cancelled this weekend for a triathlon.

A flag and banner advertising parkrun in front of the lake. People are chaining their bikes to the railings on a small concrete jetty onto the water.
Banners

The run is a fast and flat one, and a pretty simple course. There are no facilities, so post-run entertainment is provided by the participants, with water and some biscuits with the parkrun name on. They made me pose with one of those, but it was a terrible picture and I’ll not share it. Nice biscuits, though.

A view of the larger lake
The first lake from the South
People gathered on the paved path at the finish, with apartment blocks behind.
The meeting point, with finish line (META) marked on the ground.

The meeting point is the car park at the SE corner of the park, next to some apartment buildings as you can see above. The start is further round the park, on the West side, so everyone wanders over there. That happened organically, but it seemed to slightly surprise the organisers, and I wondered whether if they’d had a moment longer, they might have done the announcements at the initial meeting point. It didn’t matter, they carried the megaphone to the start and did them there – several rounds of applause, some I couldn’t make out, others clearly for milestones (such as someone running their 50th parkrun).

Runners on the brick-paved surface
Running

There were a couple of other English people there, taking a break from a stag-do, which is an impressive effort. We all ran one loop of the Southern-most, larger lake, ran round the East side of it again before heading up the path to the other lake, which is smaller, has a small hill to surmount to get up onto the path, and a fountain in the middle to greet you once you’re up the hill. Back down the path, round the other side of the larger lake and back to the meeting point. Job done.

Not many people spoke English, which isn’t uncommon so far for me in Poland (and if they’re learning a language, it’s more likely to be Ukrainian, to talk to their new friends), but I still managed to have a quick chat about my 500 shirt with a runner – he was breathing more easily than me as we ran down the last straight, asking me first in Polish and then English but I managed to answer his questions. And I had a nice chat via a phone’s translation (typing) with a young girl whose mum had asked me to pose with the Gdańsk Południe biscuit. She wanted particularly to know how long I’d been doing parkrun for to get a 500 shirt, and was kind of amazed that my first event was in 2007. I looked at her and suddenly realised that most of her life, and we communicated that with a big of sign language. She enjoyed it, I pretended to. Yikes.

A crowd of runners by the lake after finishing the event.
Gathered at the finish
Me, in a parkrun Gdańsk Południe frame by the lake
Me, and frame

Results from parkrun Gdańsk Południe event 247, 18/6/22 – 78 finishers.

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.

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