June 2012:Poland and Ukraine from A to Z

Everything you need to know about “little ears dumplings” and the little boys'/girls' room

The European Football Championship is in full swing, but what does it involve? Many of the fans who have traveled to the host country are surviving on a diet of hotdogs and beer! But there is so much more to discover – delicious “little ears dumplings”, for example. ContiSoccerWorld gives you a brief insight into both of the host countries: Poland and Ukraine from A to Z – a list that is by no means exhaustive.

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A is for All kinds of superstitions. Many Poles are extremely superstitious. There is a corresponding superstition for almost every situation. For example, you shouldn’t say thank you if someone wishes you good luck. If you do, you are guaranteed to attract bad luck (some Dutch fan obviously didn’t know this before the match against Germany…). And a note to all you football widows: You mustn’t put your handbag on the floor, because otherwise “all your money runs out”, as every Polish woman knows. And here’s one for you men: Never send a bouquet with an even number of flowers.

B is for Borscht. This vegetable soup, traditionally made with beetroot, is a Ukrainian specialty for which there are more than 30 official regional recipes. Every football fan should try it. It’s alleged to be a good hangover remedy…

C is for Camping. For many EURO 2012 fans, the campsite is the cheap alternative to a hotel – and sometimes the only available option. At the Ukrainian venue of Charkow, for example, all the hotels are either fully booked or ridiculously overpriced. So UEFA provides accommodation for German and Dutch fans alike at a campsite with around 300 tents a few kilometers away from the stadium. Camping mats and sleeping bags for two people are included in the price of €48 and there is a security team on duty around the clock.

D is for Dnepr. The Dnepr, which runs for 2,200 kilometers, is the longest river in Ukraine – and the third longest stretch of water in Europe.

E is for Entry. To gain entry to Ukraine, visitors need a passport that is valid for at least another three months. A visa is only required if you are planning to stay for longer than six months – but no final penalty shootout would ever last that long. European citizens can also travel to Poland without a visa; an identity card is all that’s required.

F is for Football. The Ukrainian Premier League (Premjet-Liha) is the highest-ranking football division in the country. This league, which was founded back in 1991, sees 16 teams battle it out for the title that was last won by Schachtar Donezk. The record holders are Dynamo Kyiv, who have topped the league 13 times on the last match day. The Polish Ekstraklasa also has 16 teams pitted against each other. The very first match took place back in 1927 at the upper house of the Polish parliament. The teams Ruch Chorzów and Górnik Zabrze share the record with 14 titles each.

G is for Geld (Money). The Ukrainian currency is the Grivna. One euro is currently equivalent to around ten Grivna. The cents are the same as the Russian Kopeck, with both silver (1, 2 and 3 Kopecks) and gold (10-50 Kopecks) coins.

H is for Hunger. If you’d like to sample an alternative to burgers and stadium hotdogs to sate your hunger, Poland has an array of traditional dishes fit for a fast food fan. Nalesniki, for example, are thin pancakes, which are eaten with marmalade or savory cottage cheese. The same goes for Ukraine, where you can get a traditional, freshly prepared meal from the restaurant chain Domashnyaya Kukhnya for around ten Grivna (roughly one euro).

I is for Information. During the summer months, Poland has an information hotline for tourists that is available in German, English and Russian in the event of an emergency. You can get advice between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. by calling 0048 800 200 300 free of charge. If you are calling from a cell phone, dial 0048 22 601 55 55 (standard connection charges apply).

J is for Janukowitsch, Wiktor. The Ukrainian President and one of the most controversial politicians in the enlarged European Union. He is also one of the loneliest people in the European Football Championship. Barely anyone wants to sit next to him in the gallery – unless forced to – since his more than unsporting behavior toward his political opponents has made the headlines. He could soon get the final whistle though, as the Ukrainians go to the polls in October…

K is for Kilometers. Some of the match venues in the two host countries are more than 1,600 kilometers apart. But EURO 2012 will last way beyond the final for many fans owing to the difficult road conditions – when their camper van gets stuck in one of those infamous Ukrainian potholes.

L is for Local languages. Ukrainian is the official language of Ukraine, naturally. It is also common, however, to hear vast sections of the population speaking Russian – almost a third of the population speaks the language of the neighboring country fluently. In Poland, the native language is almost exclusively “Polski” (Polish).

M is for Motorway Toll. In Poland, motorway tolls are extremely common. Since the beginning of May, further sections of road have also been included in the toll system. The toll amount depends on the length of the stretch of road and the vehicle category. You can also pay in euros in most cases.

N is for Names. Polish people like to simplify their names or use an affectionate diminutive. For example, Joanna becomes “Asia”, Aleksandra becomes “Ola”, Małgorzata becomes “Gosia” and Barbara becomes “Basia”.

O is for Ostseestrand (Baltic Sea beaches). The Polish Baltic Sea beaches are attracting increasing numbers of foreign holiday makers. A large number of holiday homes appeal to both families and those seeking a little peace and quiet, and cities like Sopot are now a happening hotspot for nightlife and partying.

P is for Pierogi. There’s just no excuse for going to Poland and not sampling the country’s dumpling specialty. Every Polish mama has their own Pierogi recipe made from either yeast or pasta dough and filled with different ingredients. Most Polish cities have a "milk bar" (traditional restaurant) where you can sample this Polish dumpling delight for yourselves.

Q is for Qualification. This is the third time that Poland has qualified for a European football championship. In 1960, they got as far as the quarter finals, after which they did not participate again for a number of years. Then in 2008, the national team qualified again when the tournament was held in Austria and Switzerland, but were eliminated in the first round. Poland has now been chosen as a host country together with Ukraine, which took part in European championship events as part of the USSR until 1992.

R is for Religion. Most religious people in Ukraine are members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Around three quarters of Ukrainians belong to an orthodox church. The country also has around two million Muslims and approximately one million Catholic Christians as well as other smaller religious communities. In Poland, almost 95% of the population is Catholic, and the second largest religious group are members of the Orthodox Church.

S is for Sprache (Language). Contrary to common preconceptions, Polish is a round and soft language. But learning Polish can be quite a task: There are several letters that don’t appear for instance in the English alphabet, there are seven cases and, on top of all that, almost everything is declined or conjugated. But if you’d like to give it a try, you can score brownie points in Poland with the most famous tongue twister of them all: “W Szczebrzeszynie chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie” (A beetle buzzes in the reeds in Szczebrzeszyn). The official language of Ukraine is Ukrainian. In the East and in the Crimea, people also speak fluent Russian, and Romanian, Polish and Tartar can also be heard. People can also communicate well in English in tourist spots.

T is for Toilet Signs. Poland now uses the increasingly common men/women symbols on its toilet doors. But before, the symbols of the triangle (for men) and circle (for women) were standard.

U is for Uszka. Special Pierogi dumplings that can be found in Poland and Ukraine. They are shaped like an ear, hence the name “little ears dumplings”. They are usually filled with cabbage, mushrooms and meat.

V is for Vorwahl (Area code). If you want to make a phone call, the area code for Poland is 0048, and dial 00380 for Ukraine.

W is for Währung (Currency). The official currency in Ukraine is the Grivna (UAH). One euro is currently equivalent to around 10.5 UAH.

Z is for Złoty. Polish Złoty can be purchased at the exchange offices known as “Kantor”, and cash dispensers are also widespread in cities, just like in other countries. The Euro-Złoty exchange rate is currently 4-1. One Zloty is equivalent to 100 Groszy. Incidentally, the letter Ł (an “L” with a small slash through it) is pronounced like the English “W”.