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Volleyball World Championship

Posted: 19th May 2014 11:57

Poland is the next venue of the FIVB Men’s Volleyball World Championship, and this is something of a spiritual home for the tournament as it is the country’s national sport.  This will be a special place to watch the championship as Polish volleyball fans create a buzz and an atmosphere that is not matched anywhere else.  Enthusiastic audiences will witness the world’s highest ranking teams compete for the coveted title as world’s best volleyball team.

24 nationals team will participate in the Volleyball World Championship.  They will play 103 matches during the period between 2 and 21 September.  Games will be held in six cities; Katowice, Lodz, Krakow, Gdansk, Bydgoszcz, Wroclaw.  These cities will showcase the best they have to offer as spectators discover these are destinations shrouded in culture and history.

The first championship was held in Prague in 1949 and since then the sport of volleyball has continually grown which will see this year’s championship be the biggest one yet! In the event’s long history, the former USSR has seen the most success with six titles.  However, the more recent editions of the Championship have been dominated by Brazil who have won the tournament three times running in 2002, 2006, and the last Men’s World Championship in Italy in 2010.  We have put together a guide to the host cities to help you fully discover the cultural and historical delights of each one.

Katowice

A rapidly developing urban metropolis, the former capital of the Polish heavy industry has been transformed into a modern municipal organism throughout the last decade.  Katowice has few significant historical monuments, but it’s a major commercial and cultural centre and holds sufficient attractions to make it worth a stopover.  If you can, head to Katowice in August where two festivals dominate the month.  The “Katowice Off Festival” offers a diverse range of alternative music that gives you a real insight into a branch of Polish culture, whilst the other festival to look out for, “Tauron Nowa Muzyka”, has plenty of jazz, electronic and dance music for you to get stuck into. 

The Tadeusz Kosciuszko Park and the Parachute Tower

One of the most famous parks in the city, the Tadeusz Kosciuszko dates back to 1888 and has a distinct ‘English garden’  feel which is particularly apparent when you come across an alley of roses.  The park is also filled with several structures worth seeing, the most impressive of these being the Parachute Tower, a 35 metre steel construction which is the only one of its kind left in Poland.  A story is attributed to it relating to the defence of the city by scouts who resisted the Wehrmacht Forces during the first days of the Second World War.  This stands today as a monument to the defenders of Katowice who died in the ensuing battle and were killed by Germans in 1939.  Other attractions in the park are the Church of St.  Michael Archangel from 1510, a lapidarium, Beata’s Hill and a cemetery of Soviet soldiers killed when liberating Katowice in 1945, as well as an outdoor sculpture gallery and a winter luge track and ski trail.

Lodz

“The Polish Manchester” came to prominence in the 19th Century when it grew dramatically wealthy thanks to its massive textile mills (well, more so thanks to the thousands of workers who toiled inside of them.)  But this affluence was smashed to smithereens by the Great Depression and was further strangled by Nazi Occupation and the following communist regime.  Despite this decline Lodz has, in recent years, undergone something of a rebirth in which has seen huge investment in Poland’s third biggest city.  The biggest development was the “Manufatura”, a cultural-entertainment-retail centre which is located on a revitalised factory complex. 

Vestiges of the past are still located all over the place in this city, particularly 19th Century industrial architecture.  The “Ksiezy Mlyn” complex is comprised of a monumental spinning mill, tenements for works, a building for the fire brigade, a hospital, school and animal farm.  There are also a plethora of old villas and buildings with curious architecture which bear witness to the past.

Cinema

For all the film enthusiasts out there, Lodz actually has a reputation as a film’s buff retreat thanks to it being the centre of the Polish film industry.  Polish directorial goliaths such as Andrzej Wajda, Roman Polanski and Krzysztof Kieslowski honed their skills here.  Not only that but legendary, American film director David Lynch was so seduced by Lodz that he decided to set some of his 2006 film Inland Empire here –  the obsessives can even stay in Lynch’s suite at the Centrum Hotel. 

A Museum of Cinematography which is peculiarly found in the neo-Renaissance residence of the “Cotton King” – Karl Scheibler – now holds a wide exhibition of souvenirs and documents relating to movie stars, movie posters, scenography, cartoon puppets, film equipment (including one of the five Kaiser-Panoramas still in existence today in the world) and a studio movie theatre.

Wroclaw

This charming capital of Lower Silesia is difficult to resist thanks to its cute market square and old town vibe which seems to have managed preserve its own tradition and cultural heritage.  Over the years, the city has absorbed Bohemian, Austrian and Prussian influences which has led to a curiously varied architectural and cultural make up which is best displayed at the Market Square.  Explore below the attractive aesthetics and you will find that this is the hub of south-western Poland; whether it is industry, commercial or education, Wroclaw is at the centre of it.  This is combined with an exciting cultural scene thanks to its many theatres, exciting festivals and student community, which can only mean one thing – plenty of pubs!

The Raclawice Panorama

This is an essential addition to any visit to Wroclaw.  The panoramic painting by Jan Styka and Wojciech Kossak commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Kosciuszko Insurrection and is a truly stupendous depiction of the Battle of Ractawice which took place on April 4th 1794.  It is Wroclaw’s proudest artefact; measuring 15m by 114m, it is wrapped around the internal walls of specially constructed rotunda.  It’s viewed from an elevated central balcony, and three-dimensional items (tree trunks, plants, weapons and soldiers) special lighting and sound effects bring it to life.  Visitors can enjoy 30-minute guided tours, which depart every half-hour.  You move around the balcony to inspect each scene in turn while a handheld audio guide provides recorded commentary.

Gdansk

A very separate and independent part of Poland, Gdansk has played a pivotal role of the world stage.  As the location for the official outbreak of WWII, and the setting of the famous strikes against the Communist regime, this city is characterised by a stronger, independent identity.  The position of Gdansk as a port city means that it has been influenced by wealthy merchants who left traces of distinctly un-Polish architecture, such as 18th Century merchants’ houses (many of which were ruined by the war but reconstructed afterwards.) After all the social and political upheavals of the last century, the city is now busy setting about reinventing itself as a tourist hub, which is of great benefit to anybody visiting for the Volleyball World Championship this year.

The Crane

The oldest harbour crane in existence in Europe today, mind bogglingly The Crane was constructed between 1442-1444.  Its two brick towers were ingeniously designed to hoist heavy cargoes off or onto vessels, and it stands today as a beacon of Gdansk’s maritime history.  It was used for loading and installing masts on ships, while at the same time it constituted an architecturally unusual city gate.  The most fascinating aspect of it though is learning how it worked.  Two giant wheels – 5m in diameter – were installed as a hoist with a rope wound around the axle; the whole contraption was set in motion by people ‘walking’ along the inner circumference – essentially men become mice in a giant spinning wheel.  Astoundingly, this collective effort could lift loads of up to 2000kg, making it the largest crane in medieval Europe.  Early 17th Century wheels were added higher up for installing masts.

Bydgoszcz

The landscape of Bydgoszcz is that of any typical industrial, Polish heartland.  Delve below the grey, granite look of the place and you will discover a city that is surprisingly diverse and charming.  A sprawl of retail outlets are broken up by a plethora of architectural styles and entire areas that are undergoing extensive renovations.  What’s more, there is a buzz about the place thanks to its thriving student population which means there are plenty of places to sample some Polish lager as well an exciting cultural scene.  Historically, Bydgoszcz was developed around a fortified medieval settlement which was strategically located on the River Brda.  The city was elevated however, when, at the end of the 18th Century it became a centre of an important waterway system due to the construction of a canal linking to the Wisa to the Odra. 

Mlynska Island

The most beautiful spot in the city, a stroll through here is an aesthetic delight; whether it is delicate little bridges, cascades, weirs or a sandy beach, there is plenty to seduce you.  The cultural centre of the city, you will find the modern Leon Wyczolkowski Regional Museum which has one of the largest collections by the painter.  Relics of the past are knocking about too, such as old granaries and remnants of the Old Mint.  The whole of Mlynska Island has been registered in the Registry of Antiquities and is enjoying a revitalisation which sees other historic buildings also undergoing renovation.  To really appreciate this gem of an island take a cruise on a unique and modern solar-powered water tram – which are also equipped with independent electric energy batteries and thus, they are 100% ecological vehicles!

Krakow

Unless your geographical awareness is limited to only knowing the way around your house, you will have heard of Krakow.  It is one of the most visited cities in Poland; this can be largely put down to the fact it stood as the royal capital for 500 years and was a centre point for history and culture and the Gothic and Renaissance architecture still stands tall today.  This can be attributed to the miraculous fact it managed to survive WWII largely undamaged, meaning no other city in Poland can boast as many historic buildings and monuments. 

Of course as the “Prague of Poland” this means there also plenty of opportunities to tour another cultural institution of the city – its bars, of which there is supposedly more per square metre here than any other city in the world.  In particular, an exciting mix of cool clubs and bars can be found near the old market square centre; the city has a unique and potent atmosphere popular with stag dos and other party goers who you can quite easily party with until 6am. 

Wawel Castle

So in-between sampling the many bars of the city and watching volleyball, you should take time to visit the Royal Wawel Castle.  As the political and cultural centre of Poland until the end of 16th Century it is a strong symbol of Poland as a nation.  This royal residence has a fairy tale feel as it was placed on a hill above the city; the excellent Renaissance palace was built over the original and much smaller building that was constructed during the 11th Century.  The cathedral opposite is a Polish Pantheon and is the resting place of kings, army leaders, soldiers and Poland’s greatest poets.  To honour the legend that surrounds the castle, there is a monument of the famous Wawel Dragon standing at the foot of the castle.  The dragon breathes fire defending access to his lair.

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