I was sitting in Burger King when I realised my flight to Kraków was two hours earlier than I thought. Maybe it was the journey: I’d spent 24 hours getting back to uni from Italy, handed in an assignment, then got straight back on the bus for 12 hours. Whatever my excuse was, I ended up sprinting through Stansted Airport with a backpack far too big for running.
I skidded to a stop at the gate – the furthest gate possible, because Ryanair – as it was closing. My mum Joy was far behind, unable to run and I begged them to wait another minute for her. The lady at the gate said I was lucky and advised me to go through, so I did. After crashing down the plane to my seat with a lot of confused people staring at me, I got into an argument about my backpack (it was far too big, I admit) and checked my phone to find my mum had been sent to returning passengers. The flight took off before I could get another response.
This was not good. The next flight wasn’t until the following morning, she wasn’t well enough to stay in the airport all night and she had all our Polish money. It felt like the longest flight ever until I could text her again and find out that she’d had no choice but to go to an airport hotel and pay for a new flight. I drew out my bank balance in zlotys and went to the hotel in Kraków alone.
While I waited the next morning, I trudged through snow to the arena to check there was no one camping. The show wasn’t until the next day – we’d come a day early for a day trip we could no longer afford – so fortunately, the arena was completely deserted. I was momentarily tempted to sit there already, but I had no idea where the line was supposed to start, so I just headed back to the hotel to meet my mum.
We decided we’d go into Kraków to at least see something, so we got on a tram we thought was headed to the centre. After an hour of watching the landscape become more and more barren, we figured we were going the wrong way.
Night had fallen by the time we made it to the centre. We were just in time to meet up with Eleonora from Milan at the Green Day bar. It was warm and cosy in there after that freezing cold outside, and I was very glad I was not pointlessly sitting outside the Tauron Arena. Tré Cool came in about 10 minutes after we left.
Armed with thermals, heat packs and foot warmers, we arrived at 6am to a line of about 15 people. One fan was from Finland, another from Ukraine and others from all over Poland. A girl from Warsaw told us how the ticket and travel costs were an entire month’s wages to her, but that it was her first chance to see Green Day and she knew it would be worth it. We later went to the nearby supermarket to buy our tour staple, dry bread and also Pizzerina.
The line was gradually becoming hostile. Soon after we arrived people began pushing and by the afternoon, many were too scared to sit down or to leave for a few minutes, in case they couldn’t get back in. A few hours before doors opened, it was almost impossible to move and some people were stumbling from the pushing. ‘Aggressive sardines’ is an accurate description.
It was predictable chaos when the staff opened the gates to let us closer to the entrance. People were screaming while others used the opportunity to push further forward. When we were finally lined up outside the huge door that led to the pit, the girl from Warsaw was in tears because she’d been there so long only to lose her spot. I don’t know what happened to her or if she even made it to the barrier but I hope she somehow did.
Me and Eleonora made it there in front of Mike, but my mum had been sent to a cloakroom for no reason and in the time it took her to argue her way out, a man forced his way in next to us. I remember thinking this was one of my most ridiculous experiences yet – which I suppose it was – but I don’t want to give Poland a bad rep because trust me, England and the US can be just as bad (Rose Bowl made it look like the most organised country in the world).
The Interrupters were still as energetic and entertaining as they were in Italy. Rather than growing tired of them, as I got to know their songs and speeches I enjoyed their sets even more. I’d soon forgotten the pushing, the cold, the ridiculous venue. The arena, one of the biggest in Europe, was far from sold out but when Green Day ran on stage, the crowd made it sound like it was. The band played like it was. In Bang Bang, Billie filmed the crowd holding up ‘Bang’ signs, though security snatched many away.
Every time I see Green Day, there’s a different song that resonates with me most. It was obviously Scattered that night. I remember locking eyes with Billie and for a moment we were singing at each other, sharing whatever it was that resonated with us about those words and he pointed at me before he turned away. Maybe that’s another reason fans will go to these lengths to see them live. They aren’t inaccessible, emotionless rock stars. Even when you’re miles out in a seat, their energy fills the room. They are sharing their souls with everyone in those crowds when they perform. Awestruck kids leave knowing their heroes are human just like them. Billie’s ‘freaks, weirdos and strangers’ leave knowing they are understood and not alone. Whether it’s the travelling fans who’ve seen them twenty times before, the kid from Kraków who’s been waiting their entire life for that moment, or the parents who tag along out of duty to find they love the band – our experiences are all so different yet at the shows we are all the same.
It always gets me too when I see Billie holding the country’s flag, both because I know then I’m really having that experience, and also because I know what it means to so many people there. It was a predictably rough crowd, but once I’m in I don’t care, because it reminds me that I’m alive. Dziękuję Poland for another night I won’t ever forget.
Our Polskibus to Prague was at 7am the next day. My mum set an alarm, but I guess her phone died in the night. When I woke up and checked my phone I was confused for a moment before shouting ‘IT’S 9AM! OUR POLSKIBUS LEFT TWO HOURS AGO!’
I heard from others that the bus before was five hours delayed and left at 5am instead of midnight. We could have legged it into a taxi to the bus station in the hope ours would be the same, but I didn’t want to risk spending the money in case it wasn’t. The next one, leaving at midday, would barely get us to Prague in time and if it was delayed even an hour, we’d miss Green Day. Trains were expensive and with all the transfers they entailed, I didn’t trust them. A taxi transfer was 300€, which was cheaper than flying, but we just didn’t have it. I’d heard that Uber was cheaper, but I didn’t even really know what it was. When I found out it was an app, I frantically deleted music and photos on my phone to make room for it. It gave me an estimate of 600zł-800zł, about £130-£170. We had that. It was obviously more than we’d usually spend considering the Polskibus was £11, but it was insanely cheap for what it was (I just checked Uber’s calculator and I guess they got wise to people stupid enough to call an Uber for that, because it told me almost double). So I did it: I called an Uber to take me from Kraków to Prague.
He arrived within a few minutes, a polite and well-spoken young man called Michał, and asked with a smile where we wanted to go. My mum glanced at me and took a deep breath.
‘Well, we need to get to Prague.’
He apologised for his English – which was perfect, I’m sure he just thought we couldn’t possibly be that stupid – and asked her to repeat it. Now he understood, stared at us blankly for a moment and laughed.
My mum tried to explain what happened and he listened patiently as it sunk in that we were seriously asking him this.
‘Wait. How far is it? 500 kilometres? How much will it cost? Maybe we can do it.’
All three of us struggled to get an Internet connection out there, but I told him what the Uber app estimated and he said that would be fine. He just had to go to his dad’s house to get money for petrol. He reckoned we could get there by 5pm. We told him it didn’t matter as long as we were in time for Green Day.
So, here we were, heading out in an Uber to Prague. It turned out Michał had lived and worked less than ten miles from us in England and his mum still lived there. We passed a bridge that we all thought looked like a bridge in Mansfield. This was his second day working for Uber after moving back. Yes, you read that right, it was his second day working for Uber and two English girls asked him to take them 539km/335 miles to Prague. He was extremely professional and nice about the whole thing, though.
The Interrupters were finishing as we arrived. As much as I’d loved all their sets, I was not going to complain that we’d missed them. Thanks to Michał, the best and most patient Uber driver in the world, we’d made it in time for Green Day.
This was the furthest back we’d ever been at a Green Day show. It only confirmed all I’ve been saying about how it doesn’t matter. Of course front row is awesome and I love being able to see so well, but my mum and I had so much fun dancing together at the back. I still felt that same connection to the band and every word Billie sang. Seeing the full stage with the crowd all around us took me back to my first seated shows that had changed my life so. Scattered around us were people who didn’t know the band well but still watched in awe, and others who knew everything and sang and danced like we did. It was 100% worth getting an Uber all the way from Kraków. I regret nothing.
We got a taxi to Prague Airport the next morning, because it only cost the equivalent of £5 and we did not want to risk getting lost and somehow missing our flight. Our journey to Oslo was surprisingly – and refreshingly – uneventful.
We bought a loaf of bread to eat and just wandered around Oslo. Despite how cold and expensive it was (though I did get a Pokémon backpack for the equivalent of £15), I liked those modern streets a lot and I hope I can go back one day when I haven’t been wiped out by an Uber.
I decided not to camp that night. I’d heard that people didn’t queue in Norway and though it was technically 14°C warmer than Kraków’s -15°C, it was a different cold that seeped into the bones and froze you from inside. I sometimes wonder if I should have done just to add ‘then I camped out in Oslo’ to ‘I got an Uber from Kraków to Prague’ but it would have been pointless, because when I arrived in the early morning there were only three people at our gate (and one at the other). We were all foreigners – three Finnish girls and us English. The first locals arrived around 10am.
I can feel the nerves in that photo – knowing the line had finally been moved from the steps to its ‘proper’ place and that doors were getting closer. And the cold. That cold was definitely worse than Kraków or Prague, or at least it was by the time I’d been standing there all day.
Security lined up by the door and one stood in front of us, confused that none of us spoke Norwegian. Still, he laughed and told us to go in English. Everyone ran. The security who’d lined up were mobbed, but I slipped around to one at the side with no line. I was in, down some steps, and saw – for the first time ever – a completely empty barrier. Our door was Jason’s side and I think we all considered running to Mike’s, but we could hear the mob coming that side and chose to play it safe. I spread my arms to save a spot for my mum at the corner of the catwalk, next to Jenna and Rosamari. I couldn’t see my mum anywhere though and as more people flooded the barrier, I struggled to keep the spot. She did make it and we ended up in number order – the first time I’d ever seen that, too – but she was in a lot of pain. People shoved her to get ahead and she went flying into a turnstile, which seriously hurt her ankle. She was worried she wouldn’t last the show, but when The Interrupters came on and we sang all the words we knew, she was dealing with it well.
Once the bunny was off the stage and Green Day ran on, it was as it always is. We forgot the cold, the idiots who’d pushed her, even the pain became bearable. After Prague – as much fun as that was – our great spot felt especially close. The band were on fire. I don’t know how receptive the crowd were, because I was just in my own world with my favourite band.
‘SHE knows it!’ Billie laughed as he walked past, looking for someone to sing Longview. He picked a guy we lined up with though, which was great.
I remember having that almost spiritual experience I had with Scattered in Kraków, this time screaming along with Billie to 2000 Light Years Away, Waiting, Forever Now and more. He told us ‘tusen takk’ (thank you very much) and ‘jeg elsker deg’ (‘I love you’) and I felt like such a part of it all. Possibly because I have a Norwegian friend and actually understood, possibly just because shit, guys, this is my life – I was in Norway seeing Green Day.
For the first time I caught a pick Billie threw me and I’m so glad it’s from Oslo, one of my favourite shows of all time and a memory of all the songs I sang along to with my favourite person I’ve never met.
We’d originally planned to carry on to Stockholm after Oslo, but we just couldn’t afford it and all the travel disasters on this trip wiped us out completely. I was OK with that. Oslo was tied with Florence as my favourite show on this tour so far, we’d made it to Prague and Kraków was amazing. This was our last show until Manchester two weeks later… or so we thought.
Next up: booking a bus from Cornwall to Brussels with under 24 hours notice.