Ping Pong Polna

Ping Pong

Ping Pong

You know you are in a special place when you arrive in a town and the first thing you see at the bus station is not a bus, but a table tennis table. Right next to platform 1, a table tennis table, all set up and ready to use. Desmond Douglas would love Polna.

The next thing you notice is an old woman following Craggy into the bushes…ahh Polna..how we missed you.

We had been before, you know, via the Rebel brewery and watched Blansko beat a pretty poor Polna side, so taking that memory with us, confidence was high as we headed into the town centre to have a look around and grab something to eat. Friends and students had told us that Polna offers nothing to the foreign tourist, but we found it a lovely little place, with a busy market square and the stunning church of the Virgin Mary sitting proudly in the centre of the town and above it the first pub of the day, U Bartaku.

Polna

Polna

U Bartaku was the scene of what we thought was going to be our first hostile welcome as Blansko fans, but on that occasion Craggy saved the day by handing of over a sticker while muttering the words “Blansko Klobasa, we are friends”- It seemed to work that time, so we made sure we were armed with more stickers than a Panini album when we headed back there for a pleasant prematch pint of Jezek.

As we entered the bar area our first obstacle was a local man, not a man with a “who goes there” look, but a man flat out on the floor by the main entrance. Ahh Polna how we missed you…

U Bartaku

U Bartaku

The most noticeable fact about the pub is who the owner supports. The largest room is covered with Slavia memorabilia, flags, scarves and pennants, even though the nearest top league team is Jihlava and Prague is probably about 2hrs away.. The people of U Bartaku love Slavia and sleeping, probably in that order.

Sipping our beers and trying not to look out of place, our focus turned to the game and whether Blansko could follow up their 3-0 walloping of Prerov with another win. We are not a blog that goes through tactics, so that conversation lasted all of 7 minutes and we spent the rest of our time watching the local man face down at the entrance trying to get up. If you can picture it, it was like a scene from a Rocky film, but just like the Italian Stalion, he did it on the count of 8 by my reckoning and was back in the game. On our way out, we passed him happily sitting talking to his mates as though the whole episode was something of the norm in Vysocina. Ahh Polna…

The game, the game. We had high hopes, high hopes of seeing Petr Svancara for the first time in a Blansko shirt. Petr Svancara doesn’t do away games, he hasn’t got the time for it, apparently. Every second week he is either playing for Blansko’s farm team in Tisnov or on our television screens as a summariser for Czech TV. With the pay packet at the club consisting of a post match beer and a klobasa, I suppose we can forgive him for looking elsewhere to support his family.

The game

The game

To most football fans of the club, Svancara is probably the most important person at the club, but we have to disagree. Pavel, the drummer, is Blansko and he was missing. He never misses a game, well he’s never missed a game while I have been following the club. To say we were concerned was an understatement.

Just before we kicked off (Blansko, not us), I asked one of the other regulars if they had heard something, I genuinely thought that something awful had happened.

“Do you know why Pavel isn’t here today?” I asked

“We are not too sure, but we think he is in Greece”

“Saving the Greek economy?”

No answer…. Of course, he was on holiday, but I quite liked the idea of him being the saviour of Greece…..

Pavel "The Drummer"

Pavel “The Drummer”

Back to the game. As with most games at this level, there was not too much between the teams. I reckon Blansko edged the first half and a goal from a set piece midway through the first half from midfield general Premed Fousek was to prove me right on this occasion. Most of the game was spent in the centre of the park and I can’t recall David Juran being tested.

Second half had very much the same pattern as the first. Much of the play around the midfield and we genuinely thought that Blansko would take the 1-0 win and 3 points back to Udolni. But in the 73rd minute disaster stuck. Polna will probably put it down to a double substitution, but we put it down to the crucial role of a wasp. Both of us had spent most of the game elegantly swatting wasps, they were everywhere. And bang on 73mins, I was stung for the first time in about 20 years. The wasp had landed on my wrist and while I was not looking…my reaction was not to scream, but to throw my beer all over Craggy – leaving him a tad surprised “What did I do?” and me in pain. It also had an effect on our goalkeeper as he committed two howlers to gift Polna the points. You could say that Blansko were stung too.

With the game nearing the end, we’d seen enough and headed back to the safe haven of the local pub, where we found most of Polna there watching the Slavia game on a dodgy stream and the man who had previously been doing his finest impression of a human draft stopper the most vocal of them all.

Anyone fancy a game of ping pong?

A view of Polna from U Bartaku

A view of Polna from U Bartaku

With A Rebel Yell – We Cried Score, Score, Score

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One of the peculiar Easter traditions in the Czech Republic is to beat “your women” (copyright Czech man) with a stick and in return she will give you either an egg or a glass of slivovice. … So on Easter Sunday we decided to avoid this pagan ritual and take the 8,20 train from Brno Hlavni to Havlíčkův Brod in search of a brewery, a Blansko game and of course a klobasa. Espresso and a digital copy of the Sunday newspaper in hand, I met the only other person mad enough to join me on this venture into the Czech Moravian highlands.

First stop on the trip was a visit to Havlíčkův Brod, a small town that I had stumbled upon only once before and that was by mistake. Many moons ago, shortly after I had swapped life in London for Brno, I was forced off the train by an angry conductor, the reason being I was on the wrong train, so I suppose he had a point. On that occasion I didn’t get past the station pub, but this time we were to venture further into town…destination the Rebel brewery. Billy Idol once wrote a song about it.

We weren’t really expecting too much from the town, nobody had ever talked about it as a place to visit, so we were pleasantly surprised at the pretty square, but more so at the number of pubs we passed on the way to the centre. Hundreds, blooming hundreds.

Rebel Brewery

Rebel Brewery

After taking the customary photos of the square and a quick check of the map, we headed in the direction of the brewery. To double check we were heading the right way, I approached a local for confirmation. “Excuse me, we are looking for the Rebel brewery” I asked. She looked at me as though it was the first question anybody had ever asked her, so I repeated it and just to be your stereotypical tourist a bit louder. Of course, she had heard me the first time, but probably thought the question was so silly that it didn’t need answering. I knew this as soon she pointed to the building opposite and walked on.

As with any TBK trip, it’s is never straight forward – and the brewery wasn’t open until 11.00 (yep, we start early) leaving us with an hour to kill before we have our first glass of Billy (ed. not amphetamine sort). We took a few more pictures and went off to look for the ice hockey stadium and some of the other sights of the town before arriving back at Rebel at exactly 10.58 am

11.00  the waitress opened the door to the brewery pub and once we had made ourselves comfortable the waiter started to list the beers on offer with immense pride. This took a  couple of minutes and I am sure did it it without drawing breath and naturally we had already decided that we liked the first beer mentioned, so a rather pointless exercise.

Beers downed and electrical appliances recharged, we headed back to the station for the 12.03 train to Žďár nad Sázavou… a big mistake. I had spent a bit of time here in the late 90s teaching a group of supermarket managers who were interested in each other and bed swapping than learning how to use the present perfect tenses. I also recall the town being the Czech equivalent of Luton and the train station toilet being something similar to the one in Trainspotting. Ahhh, perhaps I am being a bit harsh as it is home to Zelená Hora, a stunning  Baroque church  (which I think is now a World Heritage Site)..

Zelena Hora

Zelena Hora

Another pint downed at the local football club and a quick tour of the church and it was back to the station  for the trip to Polná , home to SK Polná  and known as the gateway to Moravia and Bohemia. The 40 minute bus journey was long enough for us to appreciate the CzechMoravian highlands and for us to pick 11 songs we think the FK Blansko players listen to before they run out on to the pitch. Yes, we are really are that sad…and more on that later.

So, off the bus and more directions (“turn left at the cemetery and it right in front of you”) we made our way to the stadium, one of the best in the division as it has stands on two sides of the pitch. Beers bought and high fives given to the drummer, we took our places in the stand and immediately joined in the first Blansko chant of the day. “BLLLAAANNNSKOOO” the 5 of us screamed.

Polna

Polna

I am afraid to report that the game passed me by, I remember the two cracking goals from Goaldelka – the first from just inside the Polná half which looped over the goalkeepers head and the second a mazy run and shot. I also recall Honza, Honza, Honza Trtilek hitting the post when it seemed easier to score (he apologised to us after the game), but the rest of the game was a blur for which I blame the awful klobása that the Polná grill served up. No horseradish, again.

Polna klobasa

Polna klobasa

After the game, we said our goodbyes to the away support and some of the players and with an hour to kill before taking the last bus out of town we went in search of the local pub. Ahhh the local pub can only be described as a bar that wouldn’t look out of place in a Simon Pegg project.  Apart from the extremely attractive barmaid and us, the rest of the place was full of pissed up regulars including a father sipping his beer while waiting for his son to come out of his slumber. Although we’d had a few ourselves, we did stick out like sore thumbs and it wasn’t long before a Polná fan cornered me in the toilet and told me I was brave to be in here. I returned from the toilet to find Craggy in conversation with a second Polná fan who was telling him that we wouldn’t have won had the sun been out….

I am probably not really doing the pub any justice at all, as both of us with have quite happily stayed there all night and once we had presented the bar with a TBK sticker, the bar became a much friendlier place to drink. However, we had a bus to catch to make our train connection back to Brno and this sadly meant an end to the Polná experience.

Polna pub

Polna pub

Back in Žďár and with another hour before the train home, we propped up the bar, chatted to the local barmaid, who was actually a dental nurse if my memory serves me right, but decided that bar work was more fun and sipped our final beer of the day. With a Rebel yell, we cried more, more… Anyone fancy Tasovice away?