Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Rzeszow - Sandomierz - Rzeszow
I could sleep all day and then I could sleep another whole day on top of that.
I meet Ania at noon and we take a 90-kilometre bus ride to Sandomierz, an historic Polish city which dates back to the Middle Ages. Its gorgeous old town is perched on a hill overlooking the Vistula and San rivers. In 2010, the Wisla washed away almost the entire lower town in an apocalyptic flood that took over 30 lives across the region. Evidence of the scale of damage it still apparent as you approach the city from the south.
Today, Sandomierz’s old town is experiencing a tourism renaissance after being featured on a popular TV programme filmed here. It is a quiet, laid back place with lonely cobbled streets, shaded outdoor cafes and a gorgeous town hall square. There is also a cathedral, a castle and a dozen or so churches one of which contains macabre (disturbing) paintings of beheaded saints. After spinach pancakes we take a stroll close to the river and up through a water-free gorge the steep sides of which are shaded from the afternoon sun by banks of thick vegetation. I'd never heard of this place before but it is certainly well worth a day or two of your time.
Sidestepping two Polish skinheads in paramilitary fatigues we get the two-hour bus back to Rzeszow to watch the first semi-final between Portugal and Spain. I feel absolutely done in and can hardly keep my eyes open at times, never mind make interesting conversation with poor Ania who must by now be thinking I am the most boring person she’s ever met.
I feel like I have seen an awful lot of Portugal recently. I attended all three of their group matches in sunny Ukraine and this tempestuous zero-zero feels more like torture than fun at times. There isn’t much between the two teams with Portugal’s pressing game making the Spanish appear human just for once.
Sphinx closes up for the night but the staff allow Ania and I to hang around for the second period of extra time and then the penalties. Spain have lost three of their six tournament penalty shoot outs including against England at Euro ’96 – the only time England have actually won the spot kick lottery. It seems bizarre that the Portuguese should keep Ronaldo back to take the fifth penalty, which is never going to happen as Fabregas’ effort goes in off the post and sends the Spanish through. So is it to be the Spain v Germany final almost everybody predicted? Ronaldo's forlorn expression resembles that of the decapitated saints in Sandomierz church.
Spain 0 Portugal 0 (Spain win 4-2 on penalties)