With almost 200,000 inhabitants, Kielce, situated in half way between Warsaw and Cracow – two biggest metropolises, current and former capitals of Poland – is the host city of August IHF Youth U18 Women’s World Championship. Usually not in the spotlight, but when talking handball, Kielce is the capital. Let’s get to know the Handball City!
When hearing „Kielce”, the association of each self-respecting handball fan is unambiguous: PGE VIVE Kielce. Everybody recognises this male team, the Polish champions and Champions League winners from 2016. In Europe the team is commonly known just as “Kielce”, that speaks for itself. Thanks to their big successes, the city of Kielce first gained wider popularity and then become one of the most important points on the map of European handball, which is proved by the fact of organization the championships. What is worth seeing here? We answer here in our mini city guide designed for handball fans. A day in Kielce when you can take a deep breath of handball.
Hello, wake up! It’s time for morning jogging. You can feel yourself like Talant Dujshebaevs’ boys at Athletics stadium MOSiR, right next to the Legionow Hall. It is there where VIVE players are preparing for each season. Luckily, you can join them as they are just about to start their trainings.
Having mentioned Legionow Hall: obviously it’s a home of PGE VIVE. It is also one of the two tournament arenas where from the next morning first matches will be played. Want to see where best handball and best fans guest every week? That is your first “must have”!
Legionow Hall is also the place where Karol Bielecki suffered a serious accident: he lost an eye. During a sparring match against Croatia in 2010 “Kola” crashed with Josep Valcic. However, it did not prevent him from returning to playing at the highest level! When he came back to Legionów Hall a year after with Rhein Neckar Loewen team, Kielce fans prepared for him a great welcome and unforgottable setting. Eventually, he has become a handball legend. Bielecki will be also one of the championship ambassadors, so you can easily meet him during the event and collect a foto or an autograph.
After (or before) a match of your favourite team you should start with a dinner at “Solna 12”, restaurant owned by Karol Bielecki, world handball legend. His story is the essence of handball. But be watchful, it is nothing strange that after few minutes one of the best players in the world will sit at the next table!
After good dinner, good dessert. It is a speciality of “Tiffany Cafe”. Especially players from the Balkans love to hang out there. The custom started by Rastko Stojkovic, former PGE VIVE key player and favorite of fans, survived till today. Among foreigners in PGE VIVE this is the most popular place to meet.
The city is though not all about PGE VIVE, it is not the only one handball team in Kielce. There’s also a female Korona Kielce, playing in highest polish leauge as well. Ladies will surely be actively supporting their younger pals as Magda Więckowska is the one who links the team with Polish U-18 national team. The native Kielce is playing for both.
The second arena of the tournament is the Hall of the Kielce University of Technology. On the daily basis academic team of the University hosts their matches there.
When taking in so many calories before, you need to find a way to burn them after matches. You have got two main options: walk along Sienkiewicza street or shopping in “Galeria Echo” mall. Choosing the first includes overcoming a 1300 meters of representative street (one of the longest in Poland), once heart of the shopping life, today a cluster of banks, resaturations and cafes. Thanks to the oval layout of the street, it looks dazzlingly illuminated in the evening with countless lamps. The latter way means visiting over 300 shops in the “Galeria Echo” mall. In this ranking it is the leader in Poland.
For these who look for cultural attracttions we offer a visit in “Palace of Cracow Bishops”. This is an early-baroque palace residence from the first half of XVII century. Now, there is a Polish National Museum there that is worth visiting. Do not forget to go around the palace to see beautiful Italian gardens in the back! Next to the palace you can find Kielce’s cathedral. You can also just sit in the main square and enjoy the city life.
Yes, we have also something for you, nature lovers! It is inherent for you to visit a park in the very heart of the city. As many VIVE players live nerby, it is common that they spend there their leisure time, especially with kids. When having more time, Kielce’s Geopark is also a place for you.
But you want more handball? Okay. Despite it is not being used during the tournament, it’s worth seeing also the third kielce’s handball arena: “Krakowska Hall”. Before the era of great successes PGE VIVE Kielce had played right over there. Till today players from those times claim that there is nothing better than atmosphere there. The hall is pretty small, acoustics is great, what makes this place really special. For Kielce handball fans it is an iconic place and you should also try to visit it. Belive us, you can almost feel the real handball heart there. At present Korona Handball team is using it as a home court and the handball sports championship school in Kielce, that headmaster is Radosław Wasiak and sports manager is Sławomir Szmal, Polish famous goalkeeper and one of the ambassadors of the tournament, is using it too.
Interestingly, August championship is not a very first big tournament hosted in Kielce. Only a year ago Kielce has also guested 2017 UEFA European Under-21 Championship. The event enjoyed great popularity, and the fans were leaving here delighted. Mateches took place at Kolporter Arena, having 15,000 capitacy football stadium. We cannot imagine that it would be different now. What is more, in 2017, Kielce was awarded the European City of Sport prize! Efforts to award this title were initiated by the current MP of the European Parliament Bogdan Wenta in cooperation with the city’s president, Wojciech Lubawski. Wenta is a great figure of the Polish handball. He had played several matches in Polish National Team and than became a coach. With National Team he reached silver medal at World Championship in Geramy in 2007. Later he joined PGE VIVE Kielce. After big successes with the club (four times Polish Champion and bronze medal of Champions League) he settled in Kielce permanently.
And this is the end of our one-day trip around Kielce. We have chosen for you places closely related to handball and the most iconic monuments of the city. But this is definitely not all that is worth seeing here when participating in the IHF Youth U18 Women’s World Championship. The region offers much more! Sandomierz, Sanctuary on the Holy Cross, spas in Busko or Solec-Zdrój, the Royal Castle in Chęciny, Jaskinia Raj or one of the largest open-air museums in the country – Tokarnia are just some of the many exceptional places that you must see during your visit in the Świętokrzyskie voivodeship.
Come and see for yourself, take a deep breath of handball in the Handball City!
Author: Maciej Szarek
Photo credit: Anna Benicewicz-Miazga/ Patryk Ptak / Sławomir Rakowski