Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving... in Poland.

Thankfully, this year I was able to experience an attempt at an American Thanksgiving in Poland. While it was not the same, (I miss the smell of Turkey cooking) I was surprisingly satisfied. There was turkey, stuffing, spinach, soup, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce... and of course mashed potatoes. If there was one part of the meal the Poles could master, its the mashed potatoes.

My dear friends Paige, Caroline and Veronika and I splurged on a delicious meal. As a result our wallets were thinner, but our stomachs were full. It was enjoyable, but I did miss the festivities that take place with the family over Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving to all! Hope it was warm, tasty and cozy this year!

Paige's reaction to Pumpkin Pie. This is the first time she's ever eaten it.

It may not look like a lot of food, but I was quite full afterwards.

Paige and Veronika at Dinner.

Wine in hand with a delicious turkey meal before me.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dear Dad, about that Polish boyfriend...

A dear friend recently shared an article entitled "Polish men not beautiful, says website." Apparently, on the website, men and women can send photos of themselves which are then analyzed. After serious scrutiny the website directors decide if these people are really "beautiful." I did not know this website existed, although I can't say I'm surprised. According to Greg Hodge, the managing director, Polish and Russian men are the most likely to be rejected. About only 9% of both Polish and Russian men are voted in, opposed the the 39% of Polish women.

I have to say this is quite discouraging, except for my maybe my father. My dream of a sexy, handsome Polish man sweeping off my feet and living happily ever after in Krakow seems so much more unrealistic now.

So for now Dad, I'm safe. The chance of meeting said dream man is currently on hold until the looks of Poland's men take a turn. Perhaps they can start with getting rid of the mullets and fanny packs. Just a thought.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Poland's National Icon

Poland is one of, if not the, most Catholic countries. When you come to Poland you are bound to run into a Church.. or ten. Its what the country is known for, among other things. That being said, when you come to Poland it is absolutely impossible not to see something dedicated to Pope John Paul II, be it a street name, a university, an airport or just a random plaque on a street corner. JP II is bigger than God in this country. Pope John Paul II was an amazing man and will never be forgotten, especially here in Poland. My roommate Paige told me today about how when she goes to visit her family outside of Krakow, there is a picture of Pope Benedict XVI, but in the background of the picture is JP II. Because while Benedict may be our current Pope, John Paul II will always be around, will always be the "real" Pope. Perhaps you'll all get gifts relating to JP II, maybe a mug, a plate, a card, picture, photograph, postcard... you get the picture.

I recently read an article on about how Chile is facing a current dilemma regarding a statue of Pope John Paul II. Apparently, there is an enormous statue, 45 ft. (13.5 m), currently sitting in a warehouse in Chile because The National Monuments Council refuses to approve the location for the statue, claiming "...the statue was too big for the site and would ruin the harmony of the square." The council also claims "...that was too undignified for such a revered figure as the late Pope John Paul." The desired location is currently above an underground car park. The sculptor is deliberating over what to do with this statue now. I think I know the answer.

In my opinion... when in doubt, if it has to do with JP II, just send it to Poland. This country will have absolutely no problem finding a place to put anything commemorating this amazing man. In fact, it would be honor to have the biggest statue ever of John Paul II.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Coffee and Bagels?? Yes please.

I was in my Polish Literature class yesterday, when our conversation took a turn to a more historical discussion. We mentioned Jan Sobieski III when my professor all of a sudden said, “Who here likes coffee? Who here cannot go a morning without drinking a cup of coffee?” Majority of the students in my class, including myself, raised our hands high. I do not function in the morning without a cup of joe. It is really quite sad actually.

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

“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”

Travelled this weekend to Wroclaw, a beautiful small Polish city. Together with my wonderful travelling buddies, Caroline and Petro, we conquered this city. Literally, by the time we left on Monday morning, we walked practically every inch, at least that which was worth walking. We arrived late Friday night, allowing for full exploration on Saturday and Sunday.

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.