Is Poland ready for the football?

For football fans, it might be the cheap drinks and party cities that make Poland an attractive destination, but there’s much more to the venues than that.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. He has been a journalist for more than 20 years and has travelled the world full time since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


Euro 2012 football in Poland

“You didn’t hear this from me,” someone whispers in my direction. “But I’m not sure Poland will be ready in time for the matches.”

I take it with a grain of Polish salt.

You seem to hear these things before every big international sporting event – and Poland is about to put itself right in the spotlight when it shares the hosting duties with Ukraine for one of the world’s largest sporting tournaments.

In less than two months eight of the countries’ cities will be the home of the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship (Euro 2012).

Poland Euro 2012 Wroclaw

Sixteen teams will compete in 31 matches. The whole event will run over 24 days and is expected to bring in tens of thousands of visitors.

It’s a huge undertaking for any country but particularly one that is still growing its economy and infrastructure after decades of communist rule. It knows, though, that national pride is just as important to grow and this competition is being taken very seriously.

I’m in Poland as a guest of the country’s tourism organisation to see what visitors can expect if they come for Euro 2012. Hopefully they can expect finished stadiums.

We were supposed to visit the brand new Municipal Stadium in Wroclaw, one of the four host cities, but when we got there we weren’t allowed in.

No real explanation was given, something to do with a miscommunication apparently.

It has already been used for some events but is undergoing some changes for Euro 2012. You do wonder whether it just wasn’t in a state to be seen by journalists yet.

My impression from the outside, though? It looks like a pretty impressive structure!

Poland Euro 2012 Wroclaw

Three of the teams competing – England, Italy and Netherlands – will base themselves in Krakow for the length of the tournament.

The strange thing is that the city isn’t actually hosting any games, though. Perhaps the decision to be located there is because it’s a fairly central position.

Perhaps it says something about a perception of Poland. Or perhaps it’s that the teams don’t want to spend too much time in places they can’t pronounce (Wroclaw, for example, is pronounced ROTZ-lahv).

Poland Euro 2012 Wroclaw
Poland Euro 2012 Wroclaw

Visiting Poland for the football

There’s no doubt, in my opinion, that visitors to Poland who are coming purely for the football will be impressed with the country.

It may not have been a place they would had come otherwise but it’s impossible not be get caught up in a lotsi of vodka, beer, dancing, meat, history and friendliness.

I’ve written a bit already about the Polish food here and I’ll have more to say soon about the hospitality of the people I met.

Poland Euro 2012 Wroclaw
Poland Euro 2012 Wroclaw

Poland (and Krakow in particular) has a bit of a reputation as a cheap party destination – particularly for those about to sign their lives away in marriage.

The football fans won’t be disappointed but those looking for something a bit deeper will probably have an even more rewarding experience.

Poland Euro 2012 Wroclaw

These cities have history – but not just the history from centuries ago that we marvel at but can’t understand.

There is a history here that happened during many of our lifetimes and that a lot of people alive can still remember.

There’s something to be said for visiting a country where the past still has such an impact on the present. It’s to the detriment of any tourist that they forget that.

Poland Euro 2012 Wroclaw

Despite all the fears and the whispered warnings of the locals, of course Poland will be ready for the Euro championships, that’s a given.

The real question is whether all the visitors will be ready for Poland!

Time Travel Turtle travelled to Poland as a guest of the Polish National Tourist Office but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.

6 thoughts on “Is Poland ready for the football?”

  1. Wroclaw doesn’t have an “l” in it’s pronunciation – it’s Vrots-wauff! (the strange “l” with a line through it is a “W” sound).

    Anyways, me nitpicking like a jerk aside – I was in Poland in January/February and all the Poles I met seemed VERY doubtful that anything would be finished. All the rail stations were being done over too, with Wroclaw having a super ugly design (not like its amazing looking stadium, though!)

    Poland really needs to sort the trains out, too – they were fairly inefficient when I was there, so they need to be able to handle the deluge of international fans.

    Hope they can do it! I wonder how the Ukraine’s preparations are shaping up?

    You’re right about Poland having a lot to offer though – Gdansk and Poznan were both incredible destinations. Hopefully the football fans will show some respect and not just treat them as cheap drinking holes, but I’m doubtful…

    • Thanks for the detailed comment. And for picking me up on the pronunciation. I think I was saying it right… just didn’t manage to explain it well 🙂
      All these countries seem to get themselves ready in time for big events like this – it’s just a matter of how last-minute it is and what gets compromised at the end to get the essentials done. From what I’ve heard, Poland is in a better shape than Ukraine at the moment.
      And, yeah, it’ll be interesting to see how the football fans treat the place. Hopefully they get more out of their trip there than just a game and a few pints. We’ll see…

  2. Great article!

    I recently went to Krakow (Dec ’11) and it is such a beautiful city. Can see why some teams are calling it home for that period.

    They definitely need to sort out their transport system. The local transport is confusing for people who speak English and my sister and I nearly had all our valuables stolen on a Warsaw to Prague overnight train. Safe to say I won’t be doing one of those again.

    Other than that, Poland is a beautiful country and I’d go back next time I’m in Europe.

    • You’re right about Krakow – really beautiful!
      Public transport can always be hard in foreign countries (I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve done something wrong with a ticket or missed a train because of a language issue). Hopefully having such a large influx for Euro 2012 will mean there’s a bit more assistance put in for tourists.


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