Thursday, December 31, 2009
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Poles are very Catholic. Poles love Christmas. Poles have many traditions. My family, identifying partly with our Polish heritage, partake in a few of these traditions, mostly those relating to Christmas Eve. My family always breaks the Opłatek, a communion like wafer symbolizing the importance of family, God and friends. We also eat keep our Christmas Eve meal meatless, indulging in pierogie... many pierogie because as previous learned, you can never just have one. This delicious carbohydrate masterpiece is accompanied with fish, although not the traditional carp. (I think we stick to flounder or some other white fish.)
Sunday, December 6, 2009
After serious gift shopping for friends and family, (or yourself) those frozen hands, busy sifting through great deals, need to be warmed. So when those newly bought wool gloves just aren't cutting it, there’s always Grzaniec Galicyjski (try to pronounce that one, I dare you.) This delicious, sweet, hot mulled wine is the perfect addition to your sudden indulgence in Christmas spirit. It warms both hands and soul.
The market is full of different characters from all walks of life. While this might be where one hears English spoken more than any other place in Poland, native Poles can also be found, slowly preparing for the biggest holiday in the country. I’ve weaved in and out of the crowds almost every day since it opened in the beginning of December.
My favorite time to go is at night, when the entire market is lit with tinkling lights. Even the small streets leading the center, glow with icicle blue lights and wreaths. Couples holding hands, children running around with their families, and friends laughing over a cup of Grzaniec Galicyjski contribute to the fantasy of Kraków. The horse-drawn carriages only heighten the romantic atmosphere with its occupants closely huddled under blankets for warmth.
A friend and I found ourselves in grumpy moods one evening, having no real desire to do anything but to curl up in a ball and go to sleep. On our way through the city after eating dinner, we were drawn to the market because of the festive music playing and after an hour, we left the market with smiles on our faces and presents in our hands. Christmas is a magical time of year, and while it may make me an unrealistic romantic, I adore it. I can’t wait to be with my family, enjoying champagne and brownies for breakfast.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Well, apparently, it was a Polish man by the name of Jerzy Kulczycki who opened one of the first cafés in Vienna, and apparently one of the first ones in Europe. Kulczycki was gifted coffee beans leftover from the Ottoman Empire during the Battle of Vienna. With these small delicious, highly addicting beans, Kulczycki opened the first café, named Hof zur Blauen Flasche (House under the Blue Bottle.) This little shop became a hot spot in Vienna. He remains a coffee hero, especially to Viennese coffee houses, as well as Polish coffee connoisseurs.
So the next time you are sipping on the delicious cup of coffee (as I am right now), remember, chances are Kulczycki made it possible for you to drink it. Yes, thank Poland for that delicious morning necessity. I know I will.
Also, if you are ever in Krakow, Poland and you happen to be searching for a delicious cup of coffee, under the guidance of my Lit. Professor, go to Pożegnanie z Afryka. This café apparently has the best coffee in all of Krakow, and is reasonably priced. I will surely be venturing there this week and will report back with my thoughts.
Now, with this new found knowledge of Poles and coffee, I want you to picture this. You are sitting at your kitchen table, enjoying that delicious cup of coffee, perhaps in a Kulczycki commemorative mug and what is sitting on the plate next to said mug? Is it a warm, slightly crispy bagel with some cream cheese? Well, if it is you can just call yourself a Polish loving person. Because indeed, Bagels were in fact created by Poles.... in KRAKOW... in the early 17th Century. This carb filled delicacy became a quick staple in Poles diet.
With this new found glory of Polish creations, I hope every morning when are enjoying a wonderful breakfast you raise your mug and bagel to the Poles.
There are bagel stands all over Krakow. My heart belongs to the one right next to my foreign language school. The woman there knows me now and knows what kind of bagel I always choose... z serem (with cheese). Actually, one day it appeared that there were no more bagels with cheese left so I was content with getting a sesame seed bagel, when all of a sudden she looked at me, pulled out a cheese one and said Jeden. Just one left... for me?? She smiled and handed me the bagel. She officially is the best bagel lady in all of Krakow.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Funny story time, the first morning in our hostel was quite an adventure. Petro, Caroline and I were sitting in the kitchen enjoying our “breakfast snack” when another guy staying in the Hostel came in. He threw some toast into the toaster and left. All of sudden, his toast practically caught on fire filling the entire room with smoke which then triggered the fire alarm. The guy came back into the kitchen, clearly embarrassed and awkward, followed by a disgruntled hostel employee who was clearly not happy about the almost smoky fate of Nathan’s Villa Hostel. It was quite a fantastic way to start off our adventures in Wrocław.
Saturday we meandered through the city, weaving in and out of small cobblestoned streets. The Rynek was the first stop, where we admired the beautiful architecture and clock. After taking several photos we made our way to St. Elizabeth’s. A beautiful church with quite an interesting history. It is the first church I've seen where there were no stain glass windows. The church was bright and beautiful, and the feel is completely different from any other church because of the windows behind the altar. They reach from floor to ceiling. After spending some time in that church, we walked to the Cathedral, another beautiful edifice.
The weather was cold, but we beat it with the help of Chococoffe. A local café, serving delicious chocolate treats. We all chose the same Chococoffee, a scrumptious combination of espresso and melted chocolate. It hit the spot perfectly.
Daily boosts of entertainment of our trip came from the little, almost completely hidden gnomes. Yes, gnomes. A simple word that when uttered results in nothing but laughter. There are 50 hidden all around the city, creating quite the scavenger hunt. Unfortunately we did not find all 50 but relished in the search all the same.
One of the most interesting parts of the trip was visiting the cemetery on All Saints Day. Poland is full of traditions, especially those related to religion. On this day family and friends light candles on the graves of loved ones. No grave is without a candle. While this day may not be as vibrant as the celebration in Mexico, it is beautiful and fascinating all the same. We went at night allowing the full effect of the holiday to hit us. While I’m sure it is beautiful during the day, at night the cemetery is glowing. It is eerie and luminous. The surrounding mood ranges from those enjoying some drinks to those deep in prayer. Everyone visits the cemeteries. The whole country practically shuts down on this holiday.
I enjoyed Wrocław, and will hopefully return again someday, preferably when it is warmer.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
I love to talk. I love conversations that begin at one end of the spectrum and after a roller coaster ride of engaging discussions finishes at the complete opposite end. When you become so involved with one topic which turns into six and then suddenly it ends with no one remembering how it began. So the other night, some of my friends and I were sitting around in my room. Our conversation was casual, talking first about our personalities. How I tend to be sarcastic and tease people, but in a good natured way. How my friend Robert and I agree that you shouldn't dish it out if you can take it.
When Josephine (my Chinese suite mate) joined in we started talking about what life is like in China. It was very eye opening, since she said that life in America must be better. There much more freedom to do what you want. How in the States you have the right to protest Obama on the National Mall is you feel the need to do so. However, do that in China and you’ll find yourself locked up in jail. She shared how her mom and dad work hard but don’t make the money they deserve and how so much of that money goes back to the government. This conversation made me truly appreciate what I have living in the States. However, I realize America is far from perfect.
We then moved on to talking about education. Again, Josephine shared how the Chinese educational system is rigorous, demanding extremely dedicated students. Education is valued therefore much emphasis is put on succeeding. Robert too shared his experience of education in Romania. What struck me most was the story of an American teacher who spent time teaching in Romania. What surprised this teacher was the dedication of his students. For example, they went out partying late one night but somehow they all managed to make it to class the next day. The teacher fully expected most of them to blow class off, as many of his former students would in the States. This teaching experience was so moving, during his end of the year speech he cried. What does this say about the emphasis put on education in the States? Unfortunately, it is easy to coast by through high school in the states and never really learn anything. I know plenty of people who barely made the grade in High School but still managed to walk down the aisle at graduation, diploma in hand. That being said, there are plenty of great things about the education system in the States. I went to a great high school and was privileged enough to have some dedicated teachers.
The topper to this whole conversation is the fact that we spoke English the entire time. A guy from Romania, a girl from China and two girls from America. Again I feel so privileged that English to some extent is universal language. That when I walk into the store praying someone knows English, my wishes 9 times out of 10 are answered. Not enough emphasis is put on learning a foreign language. I took French for years and while I could survive in Paris, I’ve lost most of it.
I can’t even imagine the challenge some of my classmates must go through on a daily basis. Trying to learn a foreign language in a foreign language. I am the only native English speaker in my Polish class and again it is a privilege to be taught in English. Most of the time the class is taught in Polish but when we are all sitting there with blank stares on our face, completely confused our Professor asks that daily question, Rozumiemy? (Do you understand) and when we clearly do not she switches to English to explain.