Monday 22nd July- MEET THE VAN
Neil and Conker (Dark shadow in bottom right corner) collect the van from Gary, Rich & Kate (The Flicx UK Team)
Wednesday 24th July -DEPARTURE DAY
Carefully packed van leaves Epsom with luggage for Neil & Maurice, 2 of the men and
- A Flicx cricket pitch,
- Countless cricket bats, pads, balls
- Other cricket paraphernalia including Crazy catch and ‘Pop Toss’
- Two massive solid oak rugby tournament boards
- Several Rugby Tackle bags
Luckily the Third Man, Robin, was on assignment in Hamburg at this point and didn’t need to squeeze in.
Van arrives in Dover in time for an 11:30am ferry to Calais. Fortunately, the bored chaps in uniforms don’t ask us to take everything out to show them what we had – unlike some other travelers
A smooth crossing followed by steady progress through France and the Low Countries and into Germany allowed us to reach Hannover by 11pm EET.
This started a theme of arriving at staging posts with just enough time to buy a sandwich from an all-night Tesco’s or the like. On this occasion it was an industrial sized delivery pizza – much more if this would put intolerable strain on the van – which had already become a trusted friend.
Thursday 25th July- WILL NEIL’S BAG STILL FIT AFTER OVERNIGHT STOP IN HANNOVER?
Thursday was another day in the cab but this flew by with the AGG (Altitude Guessing Game). Maurice’s prediction of 2 ‘peaks’ of 200m or more on the journey looked good for much of the day but Neil figured things would get lumpier further south and his bid of 17 proved spot on. Once again it was late evening by the time we reached our destination – host Jim Parton’s Piotrowice Nyskie Palace in southern Poland. Jim is an author originally from the UK and has lived at the Palace with his wife Anna and 5 children for the last 6 years. This is an on-going restoration project on a huge scale. Jim is making great progress and is now able to accommodate paying guests and has already run a couple of successful rugby tournaments – hence the rugby gear on the van. However, the real reason we were there was to work with Jim to deliver the inaugural Piotrowice Nyskie Cricket Festival.
Jim welcomed us into his kitchen but more wary was the owl that had been perched above the sink – it immediately flew into a bedroom. Turns out it was a rescue owl and we hadn’t arrived at a Polish Hogwarts
Friday 26th July- JIM TESTS THE FLICX WICKET WITH BALL NAILED TO HIS BAT
Friday was spent setting things up before the teams arrived that evening. Jim had put in a lot of work producing 2 grass strips and of course we had the Flicx pitch. The obvious thing to do was to lay the Flicx pitch next to the grass wicket so a choice would be made the next day. Later on Friday the teams from Warsaw CC and Prague Barbarians arrived along with an advance party from Krakow CL. Finally, just before bedtime, Robin, (The third man) arrived from Hamburg, via Frankfurt, Wroclaw and a local taxi.
Saturday 27th July- THE TOURNAMENT
The morning of the tournament arrived – this was to be a Sixes event – and was perhaps even hotter than the previous day. It certainly reached the mid 30’s Centigrade during the afternoon. An inspection of the pitches revealed that maybe the grass one would need a little more of Jim’s loving care and that the Flicx pitch gave a more consistent bounce. In the end a great compromise was to use half of the Flicx pitch to bat on and let the bowlers run in on the grass.
The first game pitted Warsaw CC, an exciting blend of ex-pat wisdom and Polish youth against Prague Barbarians, an experienced team from over the border. Warsaw won in a closely fought game that set the scene for a fantastic day’s play.
The other teams were Krakow CC who brought a squad of 8 to cope with all likely conditions and the unknown quantity of the International Cavaliers made up of Jim, Robin & Neil along with Matt MacDougall, a guest of Jim’s from Chicago who was well versed in baseball but had not played much (any) cricket.
Both Prague and The Cavaliers were very grateful to Warsaw and Krakow for helping out with extra players. Warsaw went on to win the tournament deservedly winning all their games. However, perhaps the most spectacular performance came from Stewart Hicks, an Aussie from Krakow who scored 51 not out in 15 balls against Prague. Had the Aussies not turned things round at Old Trafford there was serious talk of him making the team for the 4th Test Match.
Despite the Saharan temperatures there remained an appetite for more cricket and T10 game followed with amalgamated teams.
Jim and Anna provided fantastic hospitality in the evening to some very weary players, and Tarun was delighted to accept the trophy on behalf of Warsaw CC. Nonetheless, everyone was up early on Sunday for a long hitting competition won by Pragatti from Warsaw CC and a further game of T15. Some new talent was on show for this game with Weronicka and Lidia from Warsaw CC joining in, and as ever, all of the action was captured fantastically by Joanna, the official Warsaw CC photographer.
Sunday 28th July- SO LONG PIOTROWICE NYSKIE
After fond farewells, we truly were 3 men in a van, thankfully minus the rugby gear. We experimented with all three of us in the front for a while but this proved rather snug so we took turns in the back.
We enjoyed a spectacular journey through the Czech Republic and Slovakia – the altitude reading on the Sat Nav struggling to keep up, 983 metres being the top reading. Predictably though it was well after 10pm when we arrived at the Hotel Prim in one of the less prepossessing industrial estates in Bratislava. We chose to ignore the well-meant suggestion from the Hotel receptionist that we take a tram for the 7km into the City Centre. Even our trusted van couldn’t get us in there in time for food, but a couple of drinks at The Alchemist and a sandwich from the 24hr Tesco did the job.
Monday 29th July- THE TOUR CONTINUES…
We joined the Monday morning rush hour traffic the next day for the start of another 400+ mile journey – this time on rather more basic roads. Slovakia gave way to Hungary and in late afternoon we entered Romania. The gathering gloom in Transylvania might have put the willies up lesser men but we knew the van wouldn’t let us down. It really did feel like we’d arrived somewhere different though with horse-drawn carts abounding and storks nesting on the top of lampposts.
We knew the score by now and bought some provisions on the road to our destination, Cluj – some Romanian cheese, yoghurt and even some Aerial to allow us to wash our pungent training gear. We were looking forward to a couple of night’s stay in our host Marc’s city centre flat. Marc is the newly elected President of Cluj CC but lives out of town so we were met by the club vice-captain, Andrei. Andrei interrupted his evening run to show us the flat and point us in the direction of local Sport’s Bar. Of course we were too late for food but we didn’t care, we had cheese.
Tuesday 30th July – COACHING AT CLUJ CC
Next morning, Marc met us at the flat and led the way to the ground. Unlike our stay in Poland, the precise format of the next 2 days was a little looser. It would combine some coaching, a little teacher training and some match opportunities but in what ratio would depend upon who turned up. One thing for sure was that we would be presenting Cluj CC with the Flicx wicket kindly donated by our partners.
In the event some of the players from Cluj CC couldn’t make it due to work commitments. However, we were delighted to work with Virgil, Eddison and Tudor, teachers from the local International School, Duschant, Ruben, Pavel along with Marc from the Cluj CC and two new recruits Andreea and Raul. Over the course of the next two days we went through some coaching drills, were treated to Eddison’s warm-up routines, had another Pop-Toss long-hitting competition (perhaps not surprisingly won by Pavel who also plays American Football) and played some matches. This was fantastic fun and the level of commitment was exceptional.
On Tuesday evening we were taken to the only Indian restaurant in Cluj, the Indigo, as guests as of the very kind proprietor, and enjoyed a fantastic meal.
Wednesday 1st August- BEGINNING OF THE END
The hospitality continued on Wednesday with a complimentary lunch at the Cantina Primariei ‘Memo 10’ after bumping into Cluj socialites the Cheeky Girls in the street. There was just enough time left to visit the very impressive Bridge Language Study House which Marc runs with his wife Gyongyver – Robin is signing up to learn Romanian remotely.
We left Cluj in mid-afternoon hoping to make Budapest in time for an evening meal though we all knew this would never happen. In the event we reached the Achat Hotel around 10pm as usual and then took a taxi into the centre. Needless to say there was just enough time for a couple of drinks and another dose of Tesco’s finest.
Thursday August 1st- A SERIOUS DRIVING DAY
Around 600 miles to Frankfurt but fortunately it was largely motorway and progress through Hungary, Austria and Germany was swift and allowed us to arrive before 8pm. Robin met an old friend and Maurice and Neil disappointed the local Tesco by going for a pizza.
Friday August 2nd- THE LAST DAY
The final day was smooth enough and we easily reached Calais for our 4:30pm ferry. Once over the channel it took a while for us to drive on the left and revert to speaking English but normal service was resumed by the time we got back to Epsom.