|Posted on November 29, 2010 at 1:22 PM|
Have you ever been to Zakopane?? No... and why would you? I have never been to Poland before and wasn't planning to do so either. However, my friends from Ryanair keep sending me these newsletter, in which they tell me, that they now have flights starting from 5 to 8 euros. Every now and then, they pursuade me to take a look at their site and the last time I did this, I was checking the calendar for the speed skating events.
I just noticed the Junior World Cup was moved one week back, compared to the first scedule when it would be at the same time as the World Cup in Berlin. I just noticed this when I got a pop up on my computer, telling me Ryanair had some discount rates for flights. I checked it out and noticed the flight to Krakow would only cost me 5 euro.. o boy o boy.... Five minutes later I had booked the flight and was searching the web for busconnections and cheap hostels to stay in.
After coming back from Berlin last sunday night, I was very tired and the rest of the week very busy with study, sleep, job hunting and working on the Berlin pictures, when on wednesday 11 o'clock I realized I still had to pack for my flight to Krakow the next morning. After 3 hours of sleep, I found myself trying to get warm under the shower at 5 in the morning and I was hoping there wouldn't be any snow as this means chaos on the roads to the airport. Luckily for me, we had no delays at all and soon I was boarding and flying of to Krakow. I was very ill prepared, as I realized I did not have any foreign currency on me and had no idea what to think of Poland.
I guess this left me with nothing but nice surprises! I got out of the plane, walking to a trainstation and within a few moment, caught a train to Krakow centrum where I walked for 10 minutes and found my hostel without any problems! It was a bright and sunny day and trams and people where passing by. After changing and freshing up, I hit the old center of Krakow. I strolled to the Wawel castle and did some sightseeing. I was surprised with how modern this part of Krakow looked and how rich all the people in the streets looked. I was only caught of guard by the fact that dusk hits already at 4 pm and this means the temperature drops a few degrees instantly.
Mariacki Church (St Mary's Church) by night.
I had a nice sleep in my hostel and the next morning, I took it easy as I planned to be in Zakopane at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. When I got to the busstation, the platform was crowded and I was lucky to have bought my ticket in advance as people were being refused on the bus. I settled next to a student going home for the weekend and looked out the window for the two hours of the busride. I expected some snowtopped mountains as we would approach the Tatras mountains, but it was warm and sunny for the time of the year, and I even pulled out my sunglasses when I arrived in Zakopane.
When arriving in Zakopane, it showed how ill prepared I was, as I expected a lovely cosy small mountain village, but instead I found a large bursting city with neon advertisement and large shopping malls. I walked to the town center as my hostel would be there and once again, I was welcome with Polish kindness and was very happy to stay at that place. I dropped my luggage at my room and stormed outside, as the sun was shining and I couldn't wait to go to the icerink.
Main street in Zakopane
I walked around the town, stopping here and there to take some pictures and I was again surprised, this time by the posters for the junior world cup! How nice. They were plastered onto an old wooden fence, but still, they were there. When I came to the sportpark, it was a little bit unclear where the icerink was, but I just decided to go with my gut feeling and walk around the athletic track. I found a huge screen playing videos of some of the world records raced in Salt Lake City and I entered the cafe.
I was greated by a person of the orginazing commitee who made sure I got a cup of hot tea and some cake. I was invited to come to 'the hotel' and get my press accreditation and be present at the draw of that evening. As the rink was empty and nothing was going on there, I decided to go and try to find that hotel. I knew it was close, but I had no idea what the name of the hotel was or how close it would be... When walking, I found some russian trainers, and just decided to follow them.. haha, and they brought me directly to the hotel Imperial, head quaters of this skating event. What an old dump!! I was glad I stayed in my warm, comfortable, luxe hostel! oeps... sorry, no offence but it didn't look to appealing to me. I was given a warm welcome again and got my press card for the event.
The posters in the village for the event.
It took a long time to finish the draw and when I finally got the draw for the next day, I could go back to town and have some food. I took the bus back as it was freezing cold and went into the first restaurant that I found when I got out of the bus. They had all sorts of Polish dishes and it was difficult to choose from the menu. But, as it turned out, Polish food is very rich, because I couldn't even finish my plate with sausage and potatoes! I went to bed straight after dinner and had a good sleep.
When I woke up on saturday morning, I immediatly noticed something was differant. The light coming from the blinds was differant and there was no sounds what so ever... I jumped out of bed and peaked under the blinds and say what I was dreading: SNOW! Lots and lots of snow! Normally, I get really excited when seeing snow, as we do not have this very often in Holland (although last year and this year we had more than the last 10 years all together) But now it was terrible! Snow means problems at the icerink and problems with taking pictures! How am I supposed to use my camera in a blizzard??
The COS icerink in Zakopane
Nevertheless I decided to go to the icerink and when I got there, I soon found out, there wouldn't be any races going on any time soon. The track was still covered with snow and there was no way there would be races within half an hour. When I got inside, I was told the races were delayed untill 12 o'clock, which really was a good thing as I noticed I forgot my batteries! I left them in the charger at the hostel. I ran back to the busstop, jumped out of the bus, ran upstairs to my dorm room, grabbed the batteries, stuffed them in my camera and ran back to the busstop and back to the icerink.
When I got there the second time, it was awefully quiet. At first, there were skaters and coaches walking around, lots of people at the little cafe, but now, at 11.30 nothing was going on. I soon discovered that the races where postponed again, untill 2 pm this time. I didn't really get why, as the ice seemed ready but apparently it wasn't. But, it was all fine with my, as I was setting up my laptop in the cafe, having a nice tea with a sandwich and trying to get some information about the races in Hamar, I didn't mind waiting.
By the time it was almost 2 pm, the place was vibrant again with people. Skaters, coaches and trainers, some anxious waiting mommies and daddies, and when the first skaters were called to the starting line, I guess everybody was releaved the event would be about to begin! I had some troubles, adjusting my camera to the grey and snowy weather, but by the time it was getting dark and they turned on the light at the icerink, I was doing much better.
After every distance, I was able to sprint back inside for some warmth as the snow and the wind made me very cold at the icerink. I felt sorry for the skaters who were out there in a racing suit and trying to do their best, while a blizzard of snow hit their faces. I was just very glad I had my wintercoat and snowboots on, and eventhough, I was still cold! I think the outcome of the races was not very surprising. Yekaterina Aidova from Kazachstan won the 500 meter girls and Russian Kulizhnikov won the boys event. Lotte van Beek showed she has still got it, by winning bronze in the 500 meter and gold in the 1.000 meter event.
The 1.500 meter boys was a long event, with 40 skaters to the starting line, but Sverre Lunde Pedersen won in the end, flanked by the two dutchies Thomas Krol and Maurice Vriend. I remember my first Junior event. Untill then, I had only gone to major international senior events and I knew all the skaters from television. And last year, I went to Groningen and had no idea who was who and I need to check the drawing list all the time to check the names. Now I was even looking forward to see some kids racing and I know if the skater did good or not.
By the time the 3.000 meter girls took place, it was pitch black outside and it seemed like there were less snowflakes in the sky. It didn't stop snowing untill all the races were done, but at least the girls didn't have to skate 3k in a blizzard. Maybe I make too much a deal out of this snow stuff, as I know most countries don't even have an indoor oval and most of the kids don't know any better than skating outside, in rain and storm, but for me these were really bad conditions to be at an skating event. The last outdoor events in Collalbo and Baselga were nothing but sunny and nice weather for a day of competition. Anyways, Pien Keulstra won the 3k and was flanked by 2 Russian ladies on the podium.
I guess everybody was happy the day was over and left the oval, as within a few moments after the flower ceremony, the whole compound was empty. I packed my stuff together and went back to town where I had dinner plans with an Ozzy from the hostel. We had a joyfull evening with good Polish grilled food and lots of wine. Absolutly nackered and with a slight buzz, I fell in a deep sleep.
The next morning, I had some difficulties waking up, but when I realized it might not be snowing, I jumped out of bed and took a peak from under the blinds. I even saw blue sky! Marvellous! I was ready within a few moments and checked three times if I had everything before I went to the icerink again. I didn't want to come back again because I've forgotten something! When I arrived at the icerink, music was bursting from the speakers and I could feel, everybody was excited. There were even some spectators and they cheered for the polish skaters.
The 500 meters where won by the same skaters as yesterday, so when we had the flower ceremony of today and yesterday, almost the same people where on the podium. The first few pictures were made in bright sunlight, but soon, the mountains and some clouds absorbed the sunlight and left the ice greyish and dark. The 1.000 meter boys was won by Maurice Vriend and the 1.500 meter girls gave an all dutch podium, aswell as places 4 and 5. Pien Keulstra beat Lotte van Beek and Letitia de Jong completed the orange podium. It was all giggles and laughter on the highest step of the podium.
The 3.000 meter boys was the final event of the Junior World Cup in Zakopane and had a really close finish. Frank Hermans, raced against Sverre Lunde Pedersen in his pair. Hermans took the lead quit early in the race, but in the final lap, Pedersen was getting awefully close. With a last inner corner, it seemed Pedersen would win from Hermans and win the event, but Hermans managed to stay ahead by 0.01 seconds and won the 3k for boys. Pedersen finished second and dutch boy Maurice Vriend collected another medal by finishing 3rd.
You can find all the results from the races on the site of the Polish Speed Skating Association: click here to go to the page
One the event was over, everybody went their seperate ways and I went back to town, for the last night in Zakopane. I can surely recommend to visit the town, I have heared there are loads of walking tracks, skiing and langlauf routes. It has everything you could wish for in a wintersport area and the city is really alive and good entertainment.
Below you will find some of the best pictures of this weekend. Conditions to shoot pictures were really difficult but I did the best I could.
Verneri Kinnunen from Finland skating through a blizzard
Frank Hermans from the Netherlands
Lotte van Beek, Netherlands, on her way to the fastest time of the day
One of my photos was used on the populair dutch website: schaatsen.nl
Simen Spieler Nilsen from Norway at the start of the 1.500 meter
Maurice Vriend from the Netherlands racing to 3rd place
New day, sun is shining and Tommi Pulli from Finland races the 500 meter
Piotr Michalski representing Poland
Podium 500 meter girls: 1. Yekaterina Aidova, 2. Britt van der Star and 3. Lotte van Beek
Ursula Wlodarczyk racing for Poland in the 1.500 meter event
Yvonne Daldossi from Italy
Letitia de Jong from Netherlands racing to 3rd place
Tatyana Sokirko from Kazachstan
All Dutch podium with 1. Pien Keulstra, 2. Lotte van Beek, 3. Letitia de Jong
Artyom Tsygankov from Belarus skating the 3.000 meter
Pawel Torun from Poland
Thomas Krol from the Netherlands
When I got up this morning, it was snowing again and minus 4 degrees outside. Tomorrow it will be somewhere between -15 and -8, so I am happy to be leaving and going home, although the temperatures are not much higher over there. I took a bus back to Krakow and spent some more time in the city and enjoying Polish cuisine. I did hear some disturbing news from some of the young skaters, stuck at airports or with serious delays, so I do hope, I am able to fly home tomorrow without any difficulties, because so far, this trip has been a dream get-a-way! Everything has been very cheap and comfortable, nice and friendly and exciting and new, I do not wish to close of with a bad experience, but we'll see about that. This blog more or less covers my experiences with Poland and this small speed skating trip- I hope you liked to read this and the pictures. Next event will be on friday, the Eindhoven Trofee, an allround tournament for Men to select for the dutch Allrounds in december.