As it’s the holidays for me, in an attempt to fill some time I headed to see my friend in Kraków for a couple of days. Betwixt visits to ex forced labour camps, sitting on squares drinking coffee and exploring disused quarries I managed to visit the stadiums of the four highest ranked Kraków clubs.
My first port of call were the stadiums of the two Ekstraklasa sides Cracovia and Wisła Kraków. Situated 10 minutes walk from Kraków’s expansive rynek (main square), the stadiums are separated by the błonie, a large stretch of greenery on which the Polish Pope John Paul the second gave several masses on his many visits to his homeland.
First up was Cracovia’s stadium named after Józef Piłsudski, Poland’s famous independence fighter, but better known as Kałuży, the street on which it sits. The stadium of the five times Polish title-winners has been in this place since 1912 (the club was founded six years earlier). In 2010 the stadium received a generous (and controversial)157 million złoty (approx. £30 million) facelift. It’s an attractive stadium architecturally and has a maximum capacity of just over 15,000.
Cracovia trying to entice fans to buy season tickets ‘We’re returning to the Saloon’ (The club has just been promoted to the Ekstraklasa)
We then crossed the Błonie to get to Wisła Kraków’s ground, the Kraków City stadium named after Wisła’s great former striker Henryk Reyman. Wisła, 13 times winners of the Polish title, were founded in 1906 and their stadium has been in its current place since 1922. The stadium, as in the case of Cracovia, was also lucky enough to get an expensive makeover from 2004 onwards. The new Wisła stadium cost an astonishing 540 million złotys (£100 million) to build and has a capacity of just over 33,000. Not as impressive architecturally as Cracovia’s, the stadium still has an imposing presence.
After our trip to the two stadiums we spent a lovely evening in Kraków’s former-Jewish district Kazimierz. The next day I planned to find the stadiums of two lower league Kraków clubs. The first stop on my itinerary was the stadium of Garbarnia Kraków. Garbarnia are one of the many clubs in Poland which rose to great heights and has now dropped into relative obscurity. Garbarnia was founded in 1921 and even won the Polish league in 1931. They now play in the second league East (third tier).
I made the trip to see their old stadium on Ul. Rydlówka in Podgórze, an area across the river from Kraków’s idyllic old town. Opened in 1990 the stadium is in a state of ruin which makes it look much older. Since 2011 the club has not played its matches here, using the complex only for training and friendly matches. It’s an atmospheric space but it’s pretty clear why third tier matches cannot be played there.
‘Don’t park here!’
‘Where Wisła lives’ (it’s a bin). Obviously some Cracovia fans did this 🙂
My last stadium stop was in Nowa Huta, the industrial area that Polish Communists built in the 1950s to undermine Kraków’s intelligentsia and Roman Catholic traditions. It’s a pretty rough area but some of the Socialist Realist architecture is actually quite impressive.
We travelled to Nowa Huta to visit Hutnik Kraków’s stadium. Fortune smiled on fourth tier Hutnik as during Euro 2012 England chose Kraków as their base. Looking for a place to train England decided on Hutnik’s stadium which meant a huge facelift for a ground which was in bad condition. Now however it is greatly improved, not only hosting Hutnik’s games but also those of Garbarnia and the second tier club Puszcza Niepołomice. We managed to convince the caretaker to let us have a look around the place. We saw pristine changing rooms, a lovely playing surface and floodlights which were formerly used in Wisła’s old stadium. It really was a lovely lower league ground. The worst thing about it was the England paraphernalia which was everywhere, it really added a kitsch element to the whole experience.
Thus endeth my stadium odyssey in Kraków, it was time to soak up some more sun and take the train back to Warsaw. This is Rightbankwarsaw signing off.