A Travellerspoint blog

The Green Tide hits Poznan

The finale to Euro 2012

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View Poland 2012 on LynMoo's travel map.

GDANSK - POZNAN - 311KM

So the time had come to leave Gdansk and start the relatively short journey to Poznan, the epicentre of the Irish fanbase for Euro 2012. The campsite in Gdansk was mostly cleared with the mass exodus of the Irish by the time we started on our way and having successfully negotiated the sand traps in the site, we were on the road.

A fairly routine 3 to 4 hour drive for the lads was livened up by the 'hooker highway'! A stretch of road where different ladies plied their trade at 500 metre intervals along the road. Apparently that industry made a fortune during the tournament, so much so reinforcements had to be called in from surrounding countries! But for us we just had a good laugh waving as we went by!

We hit the centre of Poznan and learning from our mistakes before put all our trust in the sat nav lady to guide us to our campsite at Lake Malta. This time though she failed us! We 'arrived at our desination' of an abandoned car park lot and quickly figured out we were lost. Thankfully a local could speak English and directed us back the old fashioned way.

We still had time for our first near miss of the trip though (a few more would come a couple of days later) as Kev decided to play chicken with a tram! Thankfully the tram driver had spotted the campervan turning and slowed down in time to let us pass, it was close enough for Ste to raise a drink to the driver in thanks as we passed by though!

A Neighbouring Caravan
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Arriving at the campsite at Lake Malta we joined a queue of campervans in the car park and worried briefly if there would be room for us. It was Eoins turn to sort everything out for us this time and we were shepparded down the hill to the lake front where there was plenty of space. The campsite itself was based beside a huge lake used for rowing and boating competitions and which has hosted some big international tournaments. So the facilities were there for showers and toilets and the whole setup was excellent. It was relatively quiet when we arrived and the weather was stunning, the first excellent bit of weather of the trip so far. So we lay out in the sun and chilled on one of the many jettys lining the lake shore.

Chilling by the Lake Campsite
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There was even an Indian restaurant in the grounds just a hundred metres or so from our spot, so we all piled in there that night famished and had an enormous meal. Despite Shanes repeated requests for chips being ignored, we were all well fed. Some more than others, I ate a tad too much and had to go back to bed and focus all my bodys' energy on digesting!

I was of no use to anyone that night but Kev, Ste, Eva and Eoin made the trip into Poznan centre for drinks and came home a few hours later amazed at the atmosphere and experience in the square. The rest of us had missed out for now but we would see it for ourselves the next day......match day!

It was match day versus the Italians and the day started off as another scorcher. The kick off wasnt until the evening so we had to be sure to pace ourselves with a leisurely start to the day which we spent strolling around the lakeside and chilling at the waters edge. The time then came to don our best gear, paint the faces (and legs and arms and chests!) and get our singing voices ready and we were off in a couple of taxis to the square in Poznan city centre.

Pre Match Enthusiasm!
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The scene that greeted us was amazing. A sea of green flooded the streets sandwiched between the epic buildings that framed the square. Tens of thousands of Irish fans all planted here in the Polish city of Poznan. The atmosphere was amazing, the beer was flowing and the sun burned the scalps off the pasty Irish heads below!

Poznan Square
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We joined in the madness as best we could and met up with more people from home in the square for a few hours before venturing up to the Poznan fanzone to spend the rest of the credits we had put on our Euro2012 mastercards back in Gdansk. The Poznan fanzone was a much smaller and quieter one than in Gdansk, mostly because the majority of the fans were in the square a couple of hundred yards away. We still had a blast here playing drinking games to the amusement of the locals!

Fun and Games in the Fanzone
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It was very strange we were like celebrities for a few hours as Polish fans and entire families literally queued to get their photos taken with us, it was hilarious!

Another Photocall for the Locals
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Time crept up on us for kick off and we joined the throngs trying to get trams to the stadium. A line of 4 trams were stopped by the square and we all crammed into the last one as the doors opened....then the heat hit us. Within seconds the tram transformed into a sauna, a coffin of heat we couldnt escape from as the drivers had to lock the doors to stop more people crushing on. The fans on board were all singing away but the heat intensified and the sweat poured from us all. All this time the tram didnt budge an inch. It all became too much, people started banging on doors to get out but they would not open. I think it was Ste then who got the attention of a Polish policeman outside (by nearly putting his hand through the door!) who went to the driver and freed us!

Tram Sauna
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So trams were out of the question and we were no nearer to the stadium! We somehow flagged a few taxis to take the 10 of us to the stadium and we joined the thousands of fans on the roads hanging our flags out the windows in the procession to the stadium.

Poznan Stadium
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The stadium itself was immense, and despite walking the wrong way around we found our seats just in time for kick off. The less said about the game the better perhaps!? But we were beaten 2 nil by the other eventual finalists and our tournament had ended. We hadnt even seen an Irish goal whilst in Poland!

Suffice to say the walk back to the square was a tad more sombre than the arrival at the stadium. To match our melancholy the heavens opened as we walked. We arrived drenched, tired, depressed and somehow hungover back in Poznan square. It could have been either the rain or the result but the square was quiet upon our arrival, and we made our way back to the campsite and the 'comfort' of our beds after another long long day.

But thankfully we still had another day left of our adventure before the long overnight drive that awaited us from Poznan to Munich and the flight home. And sure enough we banished the disappointment of the game the night before...with a trip to the waterpark at Lake Malta! We had some laugh being big kids again and breaking all the waterslide rules as we all bailed into the one slide and raced to the bottom!

We then spent the evening sunning ourselves by the lake in the stunning sunshine, and playing football across the boating jetties that lined the lakeside. Needless to say we had to dive in a few times to get the ball back!

Jetty Football
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But the knowledge of the drive to come was hanging over us all. We had our 'last meal' in the same Indian, the staff said their farewells and told us how much they would miss us and all the Irish fans that they loved. And off we went.

POZNAN - MUNICH 823KM

Its an 823 kilometre drive from Poznan to Munich and we had decided to do it all over one night so we could enjoy our last day in Poland. And quite the eventful night of driving it turned out to be! Everything started grand the roads from Poznan were all fine and the sun set beautifully on the horizon, the weather though changed drastically once darkness had fallen! A severe storm started and pelted the vans with rain and hail, as huge sheets (or 'sheep' according to Shane) and fork lightning illumminated the road for us in place of any cats eyes or street lights (of which there was none). Visibility was so bad that the chicane-like border between Poland and Germany passed in a frenzied nerve wracking swerve before we even knew it was upon us! At one stage of the journey I had to co-pilot Ste along the twisting road works of the autobahn as he genuinely couldnt see the edges of the road of the other side of the van....and this was on the motorway! It was an interesting, if not slightly terrifying last trip! The weather finally eased off after a few hours and we could up the speed from the crawling pedestrian pace we had been forced to go but a break was needed as we were behind schedule and the lads were all wrecked. The first truck stop we pulled into was jam packed with truckers and after a short intense discussion with a fellow driver in Estonian...we decided it best to move on to a different stop where we just might get away with our lives intact!

A couple of hours sleep were nabbed in a much quieter stop 20 minutes later, and we continued on to Munich without much more incident apart from sleep deprived crankiness!

Saying Farewell to the van.
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Thankfully there were no issues with the van upon its return and Ste got his full deposit back. The manager of the rental place kindly dropped us to the local picturesque German village where we got a bus, and then a train into the centre of Munich. Bags and cases in hand we settled into an outdoor terrace to finish off the Euro 2012 escapades, as they had been maintained, with some delicious Steins of beer! Oh, and wine for Alannah!

Last Beers in Munich
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So our travails following Ireland around Poland at Euro 2012 had been an incredible experience. The results of the football were obviously not what we had all hoped, but the experience was more than any of us could have imagined before leaving. Old friendships strengthened and new friendships forged, through the smells and cramps of the vans to the freedom of the road, and the endless craic had.

Although I dont think my liver would let me do it again!

Posted by LynMoo 05:39 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

"Polskaaaa-bought-a-chair-for-me"

And other misinterpretations in Gdansk!

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View Poland 2012 on LynMoo's travel map.

So the day had arrived, match day!

The relaxation of the previous day was over, we were prepped and psyched for the chaos which no doubt awaited us in Gdansk. Everything had been so calm in Leba, ahead of us were tens of thousands of Irish fans and Spanish fans suffocating the city in the build up to the game. It was gonna be great!

We set out from Leba pretty much on schedule and hit the country roads again. This trip wasnt a patch on the previous journey, just a couple of hours to Gdansk and we had hit proper motorway within half an hour or so. Eoin had made a cd of classic and new Irish footy and trad songs which we pretty much listened to on repeat for the journey getting psyched up for the day ahead. Thankfully we also had the sat nav to guide us through the outskirts of the city, into the busy city centre and to our campsite at Stogi.

The campsite at Stogi was just a tad different from where we'd stayed in Leba, it was green madness! Even the driveway up to the site was crammed with Irish fans and the music blared from the site. We parked up outside reception and again let Ste take care of everything. Gemma tried to pet a cute little dog that nearly tore her arm off, whilst Lorraine and Eva went in search of the ladies...and they did not like what they had found. Suffice to say hundreds of drinking Irish men can very quickly overwhelm a small campsites 'facilities'. 2 cubicles is not enough, so the men had commandeered the ladies toilets on that side of the campsite as well!

Luckily enough our spots were over the other side where it was a little bit less crazy, and we found another ladies toilet that hadnt yet been completely destroyed. The campsite itself was located just off Stogi beach near Gdansk city centre, so the ground was mostly sandy. 2 tracks of cement in the sand marked the parking spots for the vans, and deviating off these tracks asked for trouble as we quickly found out. When parking the first van the front wheel slipped off into the sand and buried itself deeper and deeper! With the help of 4 lads from home who we happened to know and be parked beside us, and 4 Leitrim lads from the other side of us, we managed to rock the 3.5 tonnes of van back out getting caked in sand in the process.

Next up was Shane and Eoins turn.......and they rather embarrassingly just drove straight in with no problems!

So it was match day, we were parked up and settled on site......it was now time to get into town. We had decided before going to not get tickets for this particular match for a couple of reasons: for one it was a pain using the UEFA lottery nonsense and we had been through enough suffering getting tickets for the Italy game, the cost of the tickets themselves werent cheap, and also we wanted to experience the atmosphere in the city centre and fanzones during the match as well as the stadiums. By the end of the evening we knew we had made the right choice.

Lynmoo Gdansk

Lynmoo Gdansk



The weather was not good as we started out for the city centre decked out in our 'Team of Gary Breens' specially made shirts (for those who dont know, Gary Breen is a now retired Irish player who has a legendary chant named after him sung by Irish fans at matches). We sheltered under some trees by the tram stop with just our flags to keep us warm!

The tram itself though was nicely crowded and warm and again we bumped into someone we knew from home, it was getting ridiculous how many people we randomly bumped into over here! There was a great sing song on the tram on the 20 minute trip to the city centre and the throngs of fans fell out of the doors when they opened stopping the traffic in the street with the sheer number of us.

This was our first time in the city centre of Gdansk and as we walked under the Upland Gate we were all fairly taken aback with the beauty of the old town along with the sheer numbers of fans filling the streets.

Gdansk Main St

Gdansk Main St



We have all since agreed that the 2-3 hours that followed were some of the best of the trip. Walking through the streets singing and chatting with Irish and Spanish fans alike, and stopping at bars enroute to the fanzone where we were to watch the game itself.

At this stage a special mention has to go to the Spanish fans. We chatted, drank and sang with so many of them, posing for pictures and joking about the game and they were all so friendly and good craic that we had a ball with them all!

We eventually reached the fanzone as the weather continued to deteriorate. Security was tight at the entrance and I got a good invasive frisk checking for booze on the way in! As Alannah doesnt drink beer we had picked up some bottles of vodka in a shop on the way over and attempted to smuggle them in, Ste managed this by simply holding a bottle in his hands hidden by an inflatable hand over his head...and dancing wildly during the frisk!

Stemma Fanzone

Stemma Fanzone



Arriving into the fanzone reminded me of arriving early to a festival or a big concert. There was a huge empty square facing the massive stage and screen, to the sides and back where tented areas and of course the rows and rows of porta-loos! The porta-loos were the first stop for us all, and on the way out we spotted...the games area. Several football related games like penalties, a footy cage game, sumo suits football and giant fussball table games were tucked away to the side of the stage and we couldnt resist. In fact we may have gotten into it a bit too much! I convinced Eoin to do a bicycle kick and he nearly broke his neck, we took penalties with a gang of mad Spanish fans and had a great laugh with them. We even coaxed the security guards to join in and my attempted diving header left me caked in mud. All in the name of fun though!

Eoin and the Spanish fans
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Running around the games area had kept us lads warm, but when we returmed we found the girls huddled under an umbrella sheltering against the worsening weather. We couldnt stay outside for the game itself so made our way to the largest tented bar that just had dozens of smaller screens upon which to watch the game.

In a way the bad weather led to the perfect recipe for the most unbelievable atmosphere I've ever experienced for a match. The hundreds of fans crammed into a beer tent due to the weather singing at the top of their voices created an environment hard to describe. It was intense but with no malice whatsoever. Hundreds of Polish people had joined in and were singing the Irsh chants back to us in Polish (which we could only interpret as "Polskaaaaa, bought-a-chair-for-me"! Well thats how it sounded anyway.) The Spanish of course replied with their own songs. The tent became a cauldron of noise, banging and shouting and jumping and cheering. On a trip to the bar I got dragged into a conga-line that brought me into the middle of a huge group of Spanish fans by the bar for some dancing and singing! The atmosphere and friendly relations between all the fans here was just incredible. A middle aged Polish man and his daughter joined our table and he insisted on buying all the beer returning with tray after tray of drinks and singing along with us. We were interviewed by Polish radio, and the entire scene was filmed for Polish television. Mayhem.

Fanzone gang

Fanzone gang



And somewhere in the midst of the madness a match was also being played. We were in the process of being thoroughly schooled by the Spanish on the way to a 4-0 defeat, a hammering and an education from one of the most sublime teams that have ever graced the game. You couldnt even feel all that angry, no doubt we showed too much respect and didnt perform as we could have and should have, but we were also simply outclassed.

Shane and Emer in the Fanzone
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The Irish fans reaction to this embarrassing defeat made headlines the next day and is kind of strange to explain why it happened unless you were there, because not just in the stadium but in the fanzones and bars and squares all around Poland, we all stayed and continued to sing and chant for the team for hours despite the result. We hadnt been to a European tournament in 24 years...we're werent going to let the small matter of being shte affect the session!

The team of Gary Breens in the fanzone
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Although with that being said......it was exhausting!

The morning after the night (and day) before we all woke with sore heads and sore limbs from all the jumping about in the fanzone. Some of the other vans in the site started leaving that day to go back to Poznan where the majority of the Irish were based for the tournament, but we were intent on chilling in between games.

Day 2 in Gdansk was to be the more traditional tourist day. We all again got a tram into the city centre where there was a completely different atmosphere to the day previous. There was still a good buzz about the city, just not the madness of the day before.

We could take in more of the beauty of Gdansk today as we strolled about, and it really is a stunning city.

Finding a quiet restaurant that could accomodate us all was the real trick but we eventually found a little place just tucked inside a small alley off the river. The menu on offer was another story altogether. Having been assured that the restaurant had run out of mushrooms, Shane ordered the 'Beer Lovers Plate' which sounded apt. However the plate turned out to be a bowl.....and more crucially, they had most definately not run out of mushrooms!

We were all wrecked and slowly made our way back to the tram stop picking up some 'refreshments' from the local underpass off licence on the way, as you do. Back at the campsite a quiet tipple in the guys campervan turned into a great session which saw amongst other things: Emer losing the Kings cup drinking game, Kev losing the use of his body through intoxication (milk and Jagerbitter will do that), and Shane losing the control of his sphincter and fumigating the van!

Campervan fun!
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Day 3 in Gdansk and again we were all shattered from the night before. Thoughts of making a trip to the beach up the coast at Sopot were briefly debated, but we decided we may as well check out the local beach at the campsite at Stogi. And it turned out to be a massive beach with bars, restaurants, showers, football and volleyball nets. The sun had come out for us today so we relaxed for the day on the beach and tried to catch some much needed rays.

It was our last night in Gdansk and the campsite had started to clear out. It took a few of us to help our neighbours get out of the sand so we made a mental note to make sure we didnt make the same mistake for our departure the next day. But being our last night we wanted to sign off with something we hadnt had in days...a good, non fast food meal!

Another trip into Gdansk city centre was called for. On this night Poland themselves were playing and the city was madness once again (even though the game was being played in a different city), we stopped for a drink in a bar and myself and Lorraine took up the responsibility of finding a good restaurant. And oh did Lynmoo deliver!

Dinner in Gdansk
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That night I ate the best meal I have possibly had in my entire life, and everybody else thought likewise. We were the only people in a beautiful quaint little restaurant and were treated to some free Polish vodka shots by the staff as well. The food was just spectacular and we are still raving about it today, I would fly back solely to eat there again! It was the perfect way to finish off our stay in this stunning city before the madness resumed on the next stage of the trip.......Poznan!

All the crew acting respectable at dinner...
Lynmoo

Lynmoo

Shemer

Shemer

Aloin

Aloin

Keva

Keva

Stemma

Stemma

Posted by LynMoo 14:03 Archived in Poland Tagged beaches people parties backpacking Comments (0)

The beginning of the end.....of our livers.

Following the Irish team through Euro 2012

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View Poland 2012 on LynMoo's travel map.

Our Poland adventure really began about 7 months before our flight touched down in Munich in June 2012, and as most great ideas are, it was born in a pub! Ireland were playing the first leg of the European playoffs in Talinn, Estonia on the 11th November 2012. We had all gathered in our local with a cautious optimism that perhaps this could be our year, but at the same time we were all afraid to get our hopes up having been disappointed so often in the past.

As the fourth Irish goal went in I remember turning to the table and stating in no uncertain terms: "We're going to Poland in the summer"!

DAY ONE - DUBLIN - MUNICH - 1374km

And so it came to pass that we landed on German soil in Munich on the 11th June, the day after Irelands first game in the tournament against Croatia. A disappointing 3-1 loss the night before had left us an uphill battle to qualify for the next stages with the international heavyweights of Spain and Italy yet to come. But that disappointment was somewhat offset by the fact we were now there.

St Ledger scores vs Croatia
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The months of planning (by everyone but me!) were coming to fruition as our gang of ten not-so-hardy travellers set about picking up our transport and accomodation, the soon to be very smelly campervans that would house us for the next 10 days of shenanigans, tomfoolery, mischief, fun and frolics.

The camp had to split in two to pick up our vans and we arranged to rendezvous somewhere down the autobahn. 5 couples split 6 & 4 between the vans, an unusual mix of footy fans especially according to the guy who rented us the vans. In his own words Lorraine, Gemma and Eva were the first 'ladies' he had seen of the 100's of Irish fans he had rented to. Some precious brownie points earned for the lads on that one...not that they would last too long!

After Ste had foolishly volunteered his credit card for the safety deposit, the start of our journey was made with some trepidation! And by trepidation I mean a cold sweat and out of character caution for the drivers as we crept onto the autobahn.

Ste and Gemma in the van
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2 hours down the autobahn and the 2 vans united in all their glory for the first time!

Our homes for the next 10 nights!
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DAY ONE - MUNICH - BERLIN - 585km

We always knew the first day of our itinerary was going to be a long one. Thoughts of powering straight through Germany and reaching our intended destination of Leba on the North Polish cost were soon cut short when the realism of campervan travel and the distances involved hit home. So the more realistic target of Berlin and a campsite on the outskirts was set.

It was getting dark as we pulled off the autobahn 7 hours later and started the search for our campsite. It was some change from the monotony of the German motorway to the backroads, we even had to swerve to avoid a deer at one stage! And the roads are that bit thinner so manoeuvering the 3.5 tonnes of campervan became that bit more delicate, but it was nothing compared to some of the Polish backroads that we would face the next day!

So we settled into our first campsite (and delicious beers) of the trip and watched idly by as Ste took care of all the electricity and water. It was a quiet first night as the 3 hours of sleep from the night before and the drive caught up on us all. Also we were only halfway to Leba and an early start awaited us in the morning.

Morning in the campervan
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DAY 2 - BERLIN - LEBA - 400KM

After an inevitable later than expected start on day 2 we were on our way again, and some interesting sights, roads and weather lay ahead!

We passed the border into Poland without any major transition, but within a couple of miles we started to spot the little differences between the 2 countries. The motorway soon enough became a dual carraigeway and then even sooner just a main road. Road signs became that bit rarer (especially speed limits!) and the surroundings changed as well. As we ventured further into Poland we started to pass through small villages that would be gone in a flash, similar to Irish country pubandpetrolstation villages. The countryside was vast and the villages very rural. The high powered Mercs and Audis of the German autobahn made way for older smaller cars and the occasional horse and cart (which make overtaking on the small winding roads very interesting!).

Our little convoy had been ticking over nicely on the Polish roads for a couple of hours, just relaxing and taking in the sights, when the sat nav lady informed us to take the next exit off the main road. The exit turned into an effective single lane, unsignposted, directed worryingly away from the small signs of civilisation and into the deep countryside. We were still 2 hours from our destination so this couldnt be the turn?? After some inter-campervan debate on the walkie talkies we decided we had to just take it and trust the satnav! About 2 minutes off the main roads with us already feeling dubious.....a big storm started to add to our worries!

Polish backroads to Leba
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Sheets of rain pounded the windscreens causing torrents of water on the road whilst huge bolts of lightning ripped across the skies. The narrow road was flanked by ditches on either side and potholes in the middle! The road appeared to be just wide enough for our vans and little else, but we learned that in fact buses could actually pass us by at speed missing us by inches! It was 2 hours of excitement and near misses for the passengers, and just sheer nerves of steel for the 2 drivers! We did make it in one piece though and the storm even cleared up just as we pulled into the beautiful beach town of Leba. We parked up outside our campsite for the next 2 nights, and the two sweat drenched exhausted figures of our drivers Ste and Eoin embraced....they hadn't been quite as cocksure of themselves as they'd let on. In fact they admitted theyd been terrified for most of the last 2 hours!

We had arrived in Poland, we were by the beach, and our holiday could begin....beers were now in order! And while we're on the subject a particular mention has to go out to the Polish brewarys: the beer in Poland is sublime and has converted not just ourselves but im sure the tens of thousands of Irish who made it to Poland.

Leba is a beautiful seaside town on the Baltic coast and the campsite we stayed in was a much classier affair than what we had been expecting for this trip. We got 2 excellent spots parked up beside each other, put out the awnings, setup some log benches, started a fire with some marshmallows, busted out the guitar and started singing some camp fire diddlies! Well the parking part of that sentence is true.

Ste and Lorraine
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Just havin a laugh
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In fact we relaxed into the start of our holiday, played some football to get in the mood and laughed hysterically at Eoin falling over the benches beer in hand chasing the ball.

Man down!
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A walk into the town that night nearly left us stuck for dinner, everywhere appeared to be closed and Poland were playing in the tournament that night as well so for a while it didnt look like we would be fed. We wandered into an empty bar with no customers and some staff just sitting watching the match so we were not expecting much, but it turned into a great night. Plenty of food and beer had watching the games with the staff, Shanes 'Strong' pizza....which he wasn't man enough to eat, Emers surprise birthday cake of assorted muffins, the incident which shall henceforth be known as 'salami-gate', and even an over zealous security guard at the campsite on the way home! The holiday was off to a good start!

Awwww the lovely birthday couple!
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For our second day in Leba the sun came out and we had to hit the beach! We were all taken aback by the size of the beach and the brightness of the white sand, it was like a clean Brittas Bay! The men set about playing footy with beers, whilst the 'ladies' settled down into gossiping with wine...or whatever it is they do when we're not around?!

Leba river
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Representing the local
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Playing football on the beach is exhausting, and had to be interrupted by many a drinks break. Eventually we settled on a shoot out to determine the loser - who was to be dunked into the sea. Whilst taking penalties a local auld lad in his speedos joined in and embarrassed both Ste and Kev, but Kev was up for more embarrassment as his feeble efforts at penalty taking resulted in the 4 of us flinging him into the sea! Not that it was much of a punishment as we all ended up jumping in two minutes later.

The gang on Leba beach
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This was a proper start to a holiday, sun sea and, em, sand (well with 10 of us sharing 2 campervans there wasnt gonna be much of anything else going on!).

As the sun went down we remembered again why we were there, the football! So back to the campsite for dinner and to the bar to watch that evenings games. It was all just a distraction though, an appetiser for the next day and the next stage of the trip, for the next city was Gdansk, and the big game versus the World Champions! Ireland vs Spain in the European Championships 2012......what could possibly go wrong???

Posted by LynMoo 09:45 Archived in Poland Tagged beaches people parties night backpacking Comments (0)

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