June 11, 2012 5:14 AM EST
Euro 2012: Why England Fell In Love With Krakow
As England jetted off to Donestk today to prepare for the first of their three group stage matches, it would have been with a heavy heart as the team said goodbye to their base at quaint Krakow for now at least.
When England signed on to stay at the training base, many questioned their tactics, with the games having not yet been announced and the possibility of a great deal of travel time should they play their matches in the Ukraine.
And when the worst outcome happened in the draw - the Three Lions receiving all three of their first games in another country to their base - the criticism got louder.
But one of the clear tactics of the FA, encouraged by incoming manager Roy Hodgson, has been to get involved within the host cities before the squad fully concentrate on their games at hand; a strategy much unlike the one in South Africa for the 2010 World Cup where they stayed hidden from the main towns and tourist spots.
And with the disappointment that came with that experience, England have shifted much more towards being a part of a community during a tournament rather than shunning it.
And Krakow certainly has a lot to offer in that respect; while Warsaw is seen as the business capital, it's nearby neighbour city could be the glamorous alternative, providing beauty, history and salvation from the skyscrapers and corporate types.
England players have taken a tour of the city, and from arts to food and tours of what used life to be like in Poland, Krakow has offered it all as the side got ready for an uphill battle in Euro 2012.
Despite not hosting any games during the tournament, Krakow is buzzing with the feeling that a big football event is happening. Fans of Holland, Italy and England have made a concerted effort to come to Krakow and support their teams face to face, and visitors of the country have also dropped by to see if the city's reputation is justified.
Krakow can boast multiple museums, with the entire city boasting a very creative feel. This photographic museum may not be Wayne Rooney's cup of tea, but the opportunity to view all different kinds of art is available for both tourists and locals.
This fanzone has been buzzing every night as fans gather to watch the matches, and with green parks surrounding the area, space is aplenty and the locals and tourists have enjoyed a great party atmosphere.
With shows and culture all around the streets of Krakow's centre, a quick walk through a local park won't just see greenery. Collections from numerous artists are sold on weekends for charity and to showcase new works, for easily affordable prices.
The security on offer from Krakow's local police has been second to none for the England squad. While the players have been able to walk around, tourists have been desperate to get near them, but other than some noise outside the hotel room, no problems have been reported.
In the city square alone, Krakow has so many beautiful building it could leave any architect impressed. The laneways and streets surrounding also boast old fashioned monuments that have held their charm despite the wars tearing through the city throughout history.
In the centre square, events are always happening - just today, three days into the tournament, a disabled football match took place with scores of visitors watching an cheering on the teams. It doesn't take much to get the crowd going here, and any competitive game of five a side will have onlookers within seconds.
Almost every corner boasts buskers, and people walking around playing their musical instruments freely. over the weekend, concerts regularly took place, and though the England players may have been in their rooms they could still no doubt hear the goings on outside as crowds gather to watch people making music.
Krakow can boast a host of tourist attractions that give people an insight into the history of the country like no other city in Poland. With visits to Schindler's Factory and Auschwitz available to visitors, the England camp took full opportunity to take part in learning more about the host nation, and Ashley Young and Wayne Rooney both said it was an experience they'll never forget.