It’s just about time for the start of one of the most hallowed traditions in football (aka soccer for us Americans). It’s time for UEFA’s Euro 2012 and the host countries of Poland and Ukraine are ready to showcase their stadiums, culture and sportsmanship to the world.
Specifically for Poland, the host cities are Warsaw, Gdańsk, Wrocław and Poznań with the opening game – Poland vs. Greece – in Warsaw on June 8. For Ukraine, the stadiums in Kiev, Lviv, Donetsk and Kharkiv will play witness to some very exciting matches as well, including the final.
Most of these cities on the list are already popular tourist destinations, especially for Europeans looking for an inexpensive weekend getaway. But, what do they offer the eco-conscious traveler?
In addition to my previous article about traveling green in Gdańsk, read on about my top 5 eco-travel tips for Euro 2012.
- Arrive Green: Poland is offering special rates on train travel during Euro 2012 and will be operating additional trains between Ukraine and Poland so players won’t worry about missing a match. However, keep in mind that travel time may be a bit longer due to necessary customs / border control stops as a result of the widths (gauges) of the tracks being different between the two countries.
- Stay Green: While it may be booked on game days, try Warsaw’s Hostel Green Mazovia, which is run by a local conservation organization. Alternatively, the Swedish Scandic eco-friendly hotel chain has locations throughout Poland. As for Ukraine, despite already having one of the lowest urban pollution rates in the world, the country is just beginning to learn how to strike a balance between economic and sustainable development and therefore doesn’t offer many green accommodation choices. In addition, the limited hotels in Ukraine have been accused of price gauging. For Euro 2012 however, both countries have set up camping sites with a few facilities.
- Use Green Transport: The Warsaw Metro is one of the newest subway systems in Europe, and Ukraine is quickly building out an extensive system in Kiev too. In addition, tram lines that cover a great deal more ground throughout both countries (left over from Soviet rule) are also a great bet. With some lines interconnected, a 3-day Tourist Card in Poland provides unlimited access to trams, buses and the metro along with discounted (or free) tickets to museums, restaurants, and other attractions. While I usually advocate city bike tours, Poland has a high rate of cycling accidents and fatalities and Ukraine is not equipped with bike lanes in any of its cities, so it is best to take public transportation. Alternatively, outside the cities of Ukraine, there are organized bike trips and trails through the Carpathian Mountains and Crimea.
- Dine Green: Green Way is a vegan-friendly chain of restaurants across Warsaw, but if you are looking for more local vegetarian and vegan options in Poland and Ukraine, try the website Happy Cow, which lists information about restaurants, health food stores and recipes for health-conscious eaters all over the world.
- Soak Up Green Space: While in Poland, check out Poznań’s Malta Lake where different outdoor events, cultural events and sport competitions take place weekly, and Warsaw’s Royal Lazienki Park where you can relax with a boat ride on the lake along with the ducks, peacocks, deer and swans or catch a rickshaw for a spin around the park. Ukraine will also appeal to the active traveler looking for kayaking tours in Kiev or exploring one of the largest European botanical gardens in Donetsk.