Wednesday, 14 September 2011
Back in Zielona Gora
So I spent a lot of time in Zielona Gora. It was nice and sunny while I was there, as I mentioned, too sunny and moist, so the mosquitoes came out to play. In a city surrounded by forests, this was an interesting summer. NIghts with the windows closed, days scratching your bites. I have not been this bitten since my last trip to Seychelles. Remember, last year's journey to Sri Lanka was made in the dry season - lucky me, no bites!
Coming to Zielona Gora this time was very different from my first time here. Back in January, the only thing I wanted to do was huddle inside, such was the cold. My first Polish Winter kicked me in the proverbials. I knew Poland was cold, but that cold?!?! As a traveller to usually exotic destinations, and as a true resident of London where snow is meant for decoration not for semi-permanence, my introduction to Poland was also my introduction to real cold weather. Hence why my first blog post on this town was not so favourable.
Being summer, and once again coming to ZG, I can safely say, that it is a lot nicer this time round!
You know what, all a city needs is a bit of sunshine and a bit of warmth and it completely changes in the blogger's eye ;)
Now Zielona Gora trnaslate as 'Green Mountain'.
So a big question to the (not so) many visitors to Zielona Gora is where is the Green Mountain located.
(If the Trade Description Act applied in Poland, some smart-ass lawyer would have sued by now...)
Lubuska is pretty flat. It is where the Oder (called Odra in Poland) flows through, so the hills are pretty non-existent. It is certainly green, there are more trees than you can shake your fist at, but for a green mountain, hill or even a small promontory, then the best bet is going to be were the Palm House is, on the edge of town. Perched on top of a small rise, this humble slope is as close as you're going to get to the Zielona Gora in Zielona Gora.
Now Zielona Gora was a town that was in the theatre of battle during WWII. So the rebuilding of the town was quick and Soviet once you get beyond the pretty city centre, it is all concrete blocks. Not flattering, and even though the Soviet Era is now long dead, you may get a sneaky peek of some old monuments within the buildings.
Zielona Gora is a weird and wonderful town. It is located in one of Poland's richer districts, and being a former German town, it shares a lot of heritage with that past. You can see it in the back streets, where some of the old buildings survive, clustered, falling into some disrepair, waiting for some money to gentrify these little pockets of history. It is not all concrete blocks that dominate this green mountain.
But let us not forget, Zielona Gora is very firmly a part of the modern Poland and like many other places in Europe, it is now the same as the next town or city. The same shops, the same streets, the same pattern of development. While different from the brutalism of the Soviet times, the architecture of Commerce has now made its impact here, just as it has done in towns and cities across Europe. Big out-of-town shoping malls, brands that are the same across the continent, and cash that needs to find a hole in your wallet, so it can slip from your grasp into some board member's pension pot.
But it is not all doom and gloom. Zielona Gora itself is an optimistic place. I have visited some parts of Poland that have made my jaw drop - not in a good way. ZG is very different, and I swear it is the summer that has changed my mind to the place. Of course it is not perfect, but it is a pretty town. It is a forward looking town, and a very young town. Unlike many other parts of Poland, there has not been a brain drain to other parts of Europe. Zielona Gora is a young city, children are here, families have made this their home and you could quite easily see the boards on the edge of the city stating: Welcome to Zielona Gora, a Nice Place to Raise Children. Please Drive Carefully.
Stick around, tomorrow I am going to go through some Zielona Gora's quirks, not the normal city that you see at face value, but what lies beneath the cracks, in between the people and around the urban landscape. It is far more interesting (and hospitable) in the summer, and it was great fun to go wandering through this town. And then there will be more tales from my holiday to Poland and through Central Europe, later on in the month...