And other misinterpretations in Gdansk!
13.06.2012 - 16.06.2012 19 °C
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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
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
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!
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
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...