From April 19, travelers from across the European Union and five other countries, including the UK, US, Israel, Serbia and the United Arab Emirates will no longer have to quarantine upon arrival in Greece if they can show proof that they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 vaccine, or present a negative result from a test taken no more than 72 hours before travel. The move comes as Greece prepares to open its tourism sector on May 14, according to Reuters.
I have been waiting for this news, since my week of cycling in Croatia was postponed to 2022. More from Reuters: Welcoming visitors back is important to the country, as its tourism sector accounts for about a fifth of Greece’s economy. It has a population of 11 million, and Germany is its biggest market for visitors followed by the UK. GK: Since their economy has not been very strong for the past few years, perhaps they need a jump start on other tourism focused countries?
Again from Reuters: Greece is a great destination for foodies as it was named Best Food Destination in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2021. It has been promoting locally-sourced ingredients for centuries thanks to its age-old habit of growing vegetables, harvesting olives for oil and utilizing every type of produce imaginable. Over the last decade, it has increased organic food production by 51%. And today, organic markets and island seafood make it an unintentional leader of the world’s most sustainable food.
I look forward to the plentiful seafood, and the underrated Greek wines. I am somewhat familiar with the cuisine, since one of my all-time favorite restaurants was Lola in Seattle. It was a very focused Mediterranean menu, with lots of Greek dishes. I look forward to many gyros, souvlaki, saganaki, mousakka, and tzatziki. Oh, and Barry the V’s favorite, Greek salad. I also learned about the Greek dessert wine, Mavrodaphne. The Greek doughnut, or loukoumades, covered with powdered sugar or honey are a great finish to a big Greek dinner.
And the nightlife: Athenian nights are filled with music, dancing and dining. Rustic and authentic, Perivoli tou Ouranou is a rembetika club with almost palpable atmosphere. Filled with the sounds of bouzouki, pelting out traditional blues-like music, it’s at once haunting and lively. Drunk Sinatra is a lively, always busy focal point for the partying crowds, Clumsies and Baba Au Rum are consistently included in various ‘best bars of the world’ lists, and Jazz in Jazz in Kolonaki, is the best bar in Athens, but only if you’re a fan of the genre. Another one of interest is Minnie the Moocher, a 30s style hot spot, perhaps more my style.
My previous experience with Ouzo and Retsina have mixed results. Perhaps what I drank was not of sufficient quality. Also, the famous red wines, Agiorgitikio and whites, Assyrtiko interest me as well. I have tasted many Armenian versions of Raki, also with mixed results. Perhaps I will stick with beer and Greek coffee?
Having been to Warsaw, and visiting Old Town several times, I am surprised to find out Old Town is not really old town. It is fake, and apparently, full of secrets.
According to Anthony Paletta of the Daily Beast: Weathering is mild, features are sometimes a little too regular, masonry is in surprisingly strong shape. Contrast with Praga across the Vistula, a 19th century neighborhood that is full of crumbling buildings, and you’ll soon apprehend that something is up.
If the Old Town is very nice, it’s a simulacra from the early 1950s, when most buildings were rebuilt from skeletal or absent remains. Some were scrupulously reconstructed. Others were dreamt up as pastiches of the era. There is an element of Disneyland to the place, but with the bleakest possible prehistory of the obliteration of much of Warsaw in the Second World War. The reconstruction of the city’s Old Town, adjacent New Town (new as in the 18th century), and portions of the principal avenue Royal Route (a kingly route between palaces, whose reconstructed portions consist of Krakowskie Przedmieście and Ulica Nowy Świat) was an undertaking of grave importance to the postwar Polish state, a country whose capital had been turned into rubble.
It’s a fascinating and very appealing place, which tells two stories at once. It’s not fully a reconstruction as many buildings are entirely new aside from their facades and basements and some never existed at all, but most of it is about as faithful a reconstruction as documentation and resources could provide. Its aim was not to delude but to restore the cruelly-extinguished essence of a vanished place and today offers a vision of the Polish Commonwealth pre-1795 through the frame of the 1950s, a much better fate than just having a pure vintage vision of the 1950s.
Just amazing, since 25,000 buildings were destroyed in WW2, with less than 1000 remaining today. Warsaw was home to three large movements or battles. So massive was the destruction that Poles thought of moving the capital elsewhere. The postwar in the Eastern bloc was hardly a great time for rebuilding. Little did they realize the prewar city looked great compared to what would soon follow.
Again, Paletta: Warsaw’s historic reconstruction projects were an odd priority from a state generally eager to construct new socialist cities. Functional older buildings across Poland were being torn down for “rational” construction and decadent capitalist ornament was stripped from buildings not far away in the city. Communists wouldn’t generally dedicate substantial resources to the reconstruction of a past they would surely have thought reactionary, full of prosperous merchants’ homes and churches from the age of Polish kings (historic reconstruction in East Germany took some time longer to gather any steam). Yet the wrenching past rendered the weaving of a stronger link with Poland’s history a priority even to the Polish People’s Republic.
The Warsaw Old Town was a unique addition to the UNESCO World Heritage List in the 1980, for a body that generally looked askance on reconstructions, especially on those that took such occasional liberties as the Warsaw one. The listing acknowledged the process of the rebuilding itself, finding the project representative of “the inner strength and determination of the nation, which brought about the reconstruction of the heritage on a unique scale in the history of the world.”
For a tourist like me, I really enjoyed visiting Old Town. It is charming, with street side cafes, bars, and coffee houses. A short walk away is Madame Curie’s former home, now museum. The cobbled streets, old churches, and “new” buildings create a welcoming atmosphere for tourists. I am more than overjoyed they did this! Perhaps this time, I will find a local to show me around? It should be great fun!
Over the past two years, my visit to Athens has been postponed a half dozen times, due to Covid. Well, Greece opens up to tourists on May 14. When will I get there? May 14! I plan to fly into Athens from northern Europe, and spend a week here, splitting my time between Athens and the island of Santorini. You are probably amazed that I have not been to Greece heretofore.
Rather than take you back to Neolithic Age, Pericles, the Ottomans and Greece’s long (3400 years old) and colorful history (you can refresh your European history on your own), let’s just focus on the present. Athens became the capital of the modern Greek state in 1834. Best of all, the city’s historic center has been converted into the largest pedestrian zone in Europe.
Let’s save the Acropolis and its surrounding area for another email. The core of the historic center is called The Plaka (northern side of the Acropolis). The narrow streets are said to remind people of a time machine with ancient monuments, churches, Turkish baths, museums, and interesting tavernas. Which ones do you think I will visit? The Plaka is the best place to shop in the city.
Moving on to Monasteraki, with more narrow streets and small buildings, this is the home to the city’s traditional bazaar (Yousouroum). And of course, nearby are a plethora of bars, tavernas, ouzeris, and clubs. This is the center of the city’s nightlife.
Nearby lies the “heart” of the historical and commercial center along Ermou Street, home to over 2500 shops of all shapes and sizes. The area is also home to the Town Hall, the Municipal Market (meat, fish, and veggies), and Kotzias Square.
Closer to the Acropolis is the Makriyanni neighborhood, with smaller museums, and loaded with bars, cafes, and restaurants. Downtown with Syntagma and Omonia Squares dominate the neoclassical buildings. The area is home to the Greek Parliament, the National Garden, monuments, and the stadium where the first Olympic Games were held (1896).
The various neighborhoods create stunning panoramic views of the city. Everyone says to avoid the suburbs (just like any big city). Greater Athens has an area of 165 square miles. Athenians do not consider themselves to be a mix of European and Asian cultures, they want to be Greek or Athenian!
Surprisingly, Athens is considered the hottest city in Europe, with an average summer temperature of 94 degrees F. The Olympics in 2004 started a dramatic makeover for Athens, including a massive transportation infrastructure, public transportation, and the new international airport.
I hesitate to give you too much history and geography. It is definitely the people here in Athens who make the city so lively and interesting. Greeks are friendly and hospitable (courteous) to a fault. They also believe in intellect, intuition, artistry, and a healthy respect for the past. But perhaps more than anything else, Greeks love to drink, dance, and eat. My kind of people!
I have always enjoyed Greek and Mediterranean food. This is a great opportunity to widen my taste and wine palate. I look forward!
Just to whet your appetite for Greece, here is a list of their ten most famous writers and philosophers: Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Socrates, Aristophanes, Aristotle, Nikos Kazantzakis, George Seferis, and Yanis Varoufakis. I remember reading some of these in high school: Thesius and the Minotaur, Perseus kills Medusa, Poseidon, Athena, Zeus, and Apollo.
On the other side of their personality, Greeks are also verbose and intense in conversations. They love and respect logic. They also exhibit great charm, and may ask a rather personal question, just to get to know you. While these may be rather generalized personality traits, I found it rather refreshing, compared to Americans back home.
The month of May in Warsaw will have temperatures between 55 and 60, and a low of 41, with fifteen days of rain forecast. So, it will be colder than back home, but definitely not warmer than Greece. Athens will have highs of 89, and lows of 73, with only two days of rain forecast. Santorini will have highs of 84, and lows of 73.
The key will be to pack smartly, both for the cooler Warsaw, and the relative heat of Athens and Santorini. This conundrum often reared its ugly head on my business travel days. I would start in Palm Springs, head to Denver, then back east.
Generally, the weather should be comfortable in Greece, shorts during the day, slacks at night, with a light jacket. Warsaw may require a few more layers both day and night, based on the forecast and my last visit there.
On my first trip to Warsaw, Mr. Mike and I found the city to be friendly, with many options for food and culture. We even spent the better part of a day in search of the “Black Madonna.” We visited the Curie’s home (now a museum) in Old Town, rode the metro all over the city, and got a nice sampling of Polish beers and nightlife.
Poland has been home to some rather famous people (famous Poles). One is Copernicus, the famous Polish mathematician, astronomer and scientist. He identified the sun, rather than earth, as the center of the universe. But perhaps the most famous person from Poland is Frederic Chopin. Others include Pope John Paul II, Madame Curie (my personal favorite), Lech Walesa (Solidarity), Wislawa Szymborska (poet), Joseph Conrad, Angelique Kerber, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Meyer Lansky, Caroline Wozniacki, Tadeusz Kosciuszko, and Anja Rubik (not the Cube).
Speaking of Madame Curie: The mother of modern physics was known for her work with radioactive materials and the discovery of elements like polonium and radium. Unfortunately, her research took a hefty toll on her health, leading to aplastic anemia, which caused her death. The exposure to radioactivity didn’t just affect her, it also affected most of her belongings, including her clothes, furniture, and books. Now, more than a century later, Marie Curie’s notebooks have to be stored in a lead box, as they are still radioactive (and will be for another 1,500 years!).
Circling back to Chopin, many people are surprised he was not French. But he did live a goodly part of his life there. Widely considered a keyboard music genius, he only performed 30 public concerts in 30 years of performing. His piano concertos are widely considered the best and most significant.
Having read Madame Curie’s biography, written by her daughter, I knew I had to visit her home (now a museum). The story is both interesting and amazing. She was perhaps the strongest woman of her time. Why was I so drawn to her, aside from her great scientific contributions? In her very rare and intermittent time off, she loved to ride a bicycle in the French countryside.
What is Poland famous for today? Many say potatoes and pierogis. But I say, it is the great spirit of its people. During this trip, I intend to learn much more about the Polish pysche, what they think of Americans, and how they see their future. Maybe I will find Lech Walesa?
I may go to a Chopin concert, complete with an adult beverage. From 2017 visit:
Long before Lech Walesa and Madame Curie, the only Polish person I had ever heard of was Frederic Chopin. Born near Warsaw in 1810, he died in Paris in 1849, at a very early age. But fortunately for us, his great music and composition lives on. He was perhaps, best known as both a pianist, and his solo pieces for piano and piano concerti. In fact, he wrote little else.
His father was an immigrant from France and was employed as a tutor to wealthy families in Poland. His father became a French teacher at the Warsaw lyceum. Chopin himself attended from 1823 to 1826. He became fascinated by his mother and his older sister playing the piano. By the age of six, he was trying to emulate their sound, and at seven, started piano lessons. He quickly surpassed his instructor, Zwyny, and discovered his own approach to the piano, free of academic rules and discipline.
Soon, he was playing at private events, and by the age of eight, played in a charity event. A mere three years later, he played for Russian tsar Nicholas I, who was in Warsaw to open Parliament. At seven, he wrote his first piece, Polonaise in G Minor, which was published. He followed that with a march that was favored by a Russian duke. “Other polonaises, mazurkas, variations, ecossaises, and a rondo followed, with the result that, when he was 16, his family enrolled him at the newly formed Warsaw Conservatory of Music. This school was directed by the Polish composer Joseph Elsner, with whom Chopin already had been studying musical theory.”
Fortunately for us, Elsner realized that Chopin’s talent must never be limited by academics, though he stressed traditional training. Chopin himself showed strong interest in Polish countryside music, which permeates his later work. His training at the Conservatory provided instruction in harmony and composition. His piano playing continued to develop with high individuality.
In an effort to broaden his musical horizons, his parents sent him to Vienna. He made his performance debut there in 1829. And after a second successful concert, he returned to Warsaw and wrote “Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor (1829) and his Piano Concerto No. 1 in E Minor (1830), as well as other works for piano and orchestra designed to exploit his brilliantly original piano style. His first études were also written at this time (1829–32) to enable him and others to master the technical difficulties in his new style of piano playing.”
He left Poland, heading to Italy and Germany, when the Polish revolution against Russia began, leaving him in Vienna, then ultimately Paris. Here, he flourished, established ties with other young composers Liszt, Berlioz, Mendelssohn, and Bellini. His talent allowed him to write and teach, earning substantial income while freeing him from the stress of concert giving.
“Chopin realized that his extreme delicacy at the keyboard was not to everyone’s taste in larger concert spaces. But an introduction to the wealthy Rothschild banking family later that year suddenly opened up new horizons. With his elegant manners, fastidious dress, and innate sensitivity, Chopin found himself a favorite in the great houses of Paris, both as a recitalist and as a teacher. His new piano works at this time included two startlingly poetic books of études (1829–36), the Ballade in G Minor (1831–35), the Fantaisie-Impromptu (1835), and many smaller pieces, among them mazurkas and polonaises inspired by Chopin’s strong nationalist feeling.”
After two youthful love affairs, he met novelist Aurore Dudevant (Sand) in 1838. They wintered in a Majorca villa, hereupon Chopin became ill, and was forced to stay in a monastery. Rumors of tuberculosis caused the villa owner to evict him. The cold and wet conditions, malnutrition, and lack of a concert piano impeded both is work and his health. They left for Marseilles in 1839, where a local physician brought him back to health in mere months. But the tuberculosis would ultimately take his life ten years later.
The period after Majorca was the best of his life, happy and productive, resulting in several masterpieces. He returned to private teaching for income, living elegantly while developing unconventional fingering and agility. The result was beautiful music that was shrewdly and profitably published.
Despite continued concerns for his health, he continued to produce “soul searching” music through the early 1840s, while now living in Nohant. In the country, he found peace and was able to indulge his quest for perfection. “He seemed particularly anxious to develop his ideas into longer and more-complex arguments, and he even sent to Paris for treatises by musicologists to strengthen his counterpoint. His harmonic vocabulary at this period also grew much more daring, though never at the cost of sensuous beauty. He valued that quality throughout life as much as he abhorred descriptive titles or any hint of an underlying “program.”
By 1848, his relationship with Sand ended, and his health likewise further eroded. After a strenuous tour through England, where he was unable to socialize or compose, he returned to Paris, where he died in 1849. He was buried in a Paris cemetery, but his heart was interred in Warsaw.
During his lifetime, he gave few more than 30 public performances. His lasting legacy to music: “His original and sensitive approach to the keyboard allowed him to exploit all the resources of the piano of his day. He was inexhaustible in discovering colorful new passage work and technical figures; he understood as no one before him the true nature of the piano as an expressive instrument, and he was able to write music that is bound up with the instrument for which it was conceived and which cannot be imagined apart from it. His innovations in fingering, his use of the pedals, and his general treatment of the keyboard form a milestone in the history of the piano, and his works set a standard for the instrument that is recognized as unsurpassable.”
His works: Chopin’s works for solo piano include about 61 mazurkas, 16 polonaises, 26 preludes, 27 études, 21 nocturnes, 20 waltzes, 3 sonatas, 4 ballades, 4 scherzos, 4 impromptus, and many individual pieces—such as the Barcarolle, Opus 60 (1846); the Fantasia, Opus 49 (1841); and the Berceuse, Opus 57 (1845)—as well as 17 Polish songs.
His style: He had the rare gift of a very personal melody, expressive of heartfelt emotion, and his music is penetrated by a poetic feeling that has an almost universal appeal. Although “romantic” in its essence, Chopin’s music has a classic purity and discretion, without a sign of exhibitionism. He found within himself and in the tragic story of Poland the chief sources of his inspiration. The theme of Poland’s glories and sufferings was constantly before him, and he transmuted the primitive rhythms and melodies of his youth into enduring art forms. At the same time, he subtly differentiated, for example, the intimate poetic inspiration of the mazurka from the more outward-looking, ceremonial aspect of the polonaise, which in works like the Polonaise-Fantaisie (1846) he expanded to the proportions of symphonic poems for the piano. The waltz, meanwhile, offered him a courtly dance medium on a smaller scale, and he responded not by expanding it but by bringing it to unprecedented levels of polish and grace. From the great Italian singers of the age, he learned the art of “singing” on the piano, and his nocturnes reveal the perfection of his cantabile style and delicate charm of ornamentation. His ballades and scherzos, on the other hand, have a dramatic turbulence and passion that effectively dispel the notion that Chopin was merely a drawing-room composer.
Listen: Chopin, Frédéric: Ballade No. 3 in A-flat MajorFrédéric Chopin’s Ballade No. 3 in A-flat Major, Opus …
Chopin’s small output was mostly confined to solo piano; yet within its limited framework its range is seen to be vast, comprehending every variety of musical expression. Though Chopin squandered too much time on the drawing-room Parisian aristocracy and disappointed critics who valued artistic worth only in terms of large-scale achievement, he was immediately recognized at his true worth by more-discerning contemporaries, who were astounded by the startling originality he reconciled with exquisite craftsmanship. Present-day evaluation places him among the immortals of music by reason of his insight into the secret places of the heart and because of his awareness of the magical new sonorities to be drawn from the piano.Arthur HedleyLeon PlantingaThe Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica
The quotes are from Britannica, I am hardly a music expert, but I do like Chopin. I will find a concert, even if it is on you tube!!
One of the few countries in Europe I have not visited is Greece. I have not really avoided it per se, as it was on my radar back on my first trip to Europe. But fate intervened, and I was called home due to the untimely death of my Father. In fact, I was going to meet a friend there, and travel around the country and a few of the islands.
So, fast forward to today, Greece is a much different place. Economic problems, mostly the result of outsized inflation, pensions, and debt have made it the weak link of the European Union, and maybe the entire world! What better time than July, when the country is slowly and carefully reopening?
Greece is the southernmost country in the Balkan Peninsula. The country is defined by its geography, with land area comparable to England, and the state of Alabama. I did not realize Greece has over 2000 islands, with 170 inhabited by people. The islands on the Aegean Sea lie not far from Turkey. Athens, the capital, is home to roughly a third of the country’s population.
Because of its geographic location, Greece can be considered European, Balkan, Mediterranean, and Near Eastern. And much like Turkey, it was ruled by the Ottomans for nearly four centuries. To the east, the Aegean Sea borders Greece. To the south, the Mediterranean, and to the west, the Ionian Sea. Land neighbors to the north are Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Turkey. The southernmost part of the mainland, the Peloponnesus connects to the mainland by a narrow isthmus at Corinth.
A central mountain range, the Pindos Mountains, forms the backbone of central Greece. Mount Olympus, the mythical home of the gods, is the highest point in Greece, at 9,570 feet. To the south, the Peloponnesus is now an island, 3.9 miles from the mainland.
But it seems the islands of Greece get traveler’s attention, and for good reason. The Ionian Islands are off to the west: Corfu, Paxos, Leucas, Ithaca, Kefalonia, and Zakynthos (the six main islands). The Aegean Islands are east of Greece, and include Thrace, Lemnos, Lesbos, Chios, and Samos. Farther south in the heart of the Aegean, lies the Cyclades (Santorini and Mykonos), and the Dodekanisa. Crete, the largest island, sits to the south entrance of the Aegean Sea.
Over the years, I have many Greek friends and colleagues. Each one really wanted me to visit their homeland. I guess I am on my way, finally.
Now that you have your bearings, let’s see and enjoy this great and ancient country.
The Acropolis of Athens is the most striking and complete ancient Greek monumental complex still existing in our times. It is situated on a hill of average height (156m) that rises in the basin of Athens. Its overall dimensions are approximately 170 by 350m. The hill is rocky and steep on all sides except for the western side, and has an extensive, nearly flat top. Strong fortification walls have surrounded the summit of the Acropolis for more than 3,300 years. The first fortification wall was built during the 13th century BC, and surrounded the residence of the local Mycenaean ruler. In the 8th century BC, the Acropolis gradually acquired a religious character with the establishment of the cult of Athena, the city’s patron goddess. The sanctuary reached its peak in the archaic period (mid-6th century to early 5th century BC). In the 5th century BC, the Athenians, empowered from their victory over the Persians, carried out an ambitious building programme under the leadership of the great statesman Perikles, comprising a large number of monuments including the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, the Propylaia and the temple of Athena Nike. The monuments were developed by an exceptional group of architects (such as Iktinos, Kallikrates, Mnesikles) and sculptors (such as Pheidias, Alkamenes, Agorakritos), who transformed the rocky hill into a unique complex, which heralded the emergence of classical Greek thought and art. On this hill were born Democracy, Philosophy, Theatre, Freedom of Expression and Speech, which provide to this day the intellectual and spiritual foundation for the contemporary world and its values. The Acropolis’ monuments, having survived for almost twenty-five centuries through wars, explosions, bombardments, fires, earthquakes, sackings, interventions and alterations, have adapted to different uses and the civilizations, myths and religions that flourished in Greece through time.
Perhaps some of you remember reading about this in World History or Western Civ. I actually took a Greek Classics class at Cal, since most of the bio-science majors used it to pad our grade point average!!! But it was very interesting. In fact, many years later, my ex took a class of Greek History, and since she was unable to write the final paper, I did it for her!!!
I can see the Acropolis from my hotel. And just about every place in the city offers a view of the great monument. The ancient agora which to the untrained eye looks looks like a jumble of rocks and broken pavement (to the trained eye as well) was once a vibrant neighborhood and part of the Plaka and Monastiraki. The American School of Classical studies came in the fifties and kicked everyone out of their houses and businesses and demolished the buildings that had stood there for centuries to dig here. So next time you are walking through the Plaka and thinking that you wish there was more of Athens like this, remember that there used to be and be thankful that they did not destroy it all. But to be fair it is archaeological excavations like the agora which give Athens much of its precious green space.
Needless to say, the Acropolis is the finest and greatest sanctuary of ancient Greece. Athena must have been one great person!
The Acropolis is the highest part of the city, and has been used continuously since Neolithic times. Earthquake damage in 1800 to 1803 resulted in removal of the sculptures, and were taken to England by Lord Elgin.
But the Parthenon is the epitome of Greek classical art. I look forward to seeing it for the first time. It was bathed in snow earlier this year!
Rather than detail the entire history, I will let you google it. I am going to just take in all of the views, and try to picture myself as an ancient Greek, coming to the Acropolis to pay homage to my Athena.
I would rather try to think of the famous people who walked on these steps before me. Maybe you heard of a few?
The most popular toast in Poland is na zdrowie, which is pronounced “nah zdrov-e-yay.” This saying literally means “to health” and is quite commonly used — if you’re drinking in a Polish bar, odds are you’ll hear someone say it eventually.
However, if you’re looking for more unique toasts, the Polish language has several longer ones you may like. For example, if you’re in the middle of a big party, you might say Człowiek nie wielbłąd, pić musi.This phrase is pronounced “Cho-vee-ek nye vee-l-blonde, peach moo-shi,” and it means “Man is not a camel, he must drink.” Just hilarious!
If you prefer something a little, well, less colorful, you could always go with the classic za nas,which ispronounced “zah nass.” This means “to us” and is appropriate in just about any situation. I like this one! And it is easy to say.
Personally, these are just so amusing to me, but I can’t wait to try them! I hope these can be used with beer, since I am not a big vodka drinker. Here are a few more:
Literally meaning “One hundred years”, Sto Lat is an expression used at weddings and birthdays. It’s used in the Polish version of the Happy Birthday song, so it’s quite probable that you’ll hear someone singing it on a night out in the town.
And we like to drink! Rybka lubi poplywac or “Fish like to swim” this seemingly eccentric saying is best explained by the stereotypical Polish love of herring. Alongside pickles, it is a traditional accompaniment to vodka. We heartily recommend enjoying some snacks when sampling the best of Polish vodka on a super tasty vodka tour.
Would be chevaliers amongst you might choose to raise your glass and declare “Za pięknie panie!” for beautiful women. Poland is by the way chock full of beautiful women. It’s cheesy as hell but what toast isn’t.
OK, I think it is time to start drinking so I can enjoy all of these unique phrases. Maybe I can teach them a little kampai, or better, yet, Bonzai!!!!!
I can’t wait to try these again. I had them a few years ago, but now, I hope to have a local show me the real thing!!!
Pierogies from Poland are semicircular noodle dough dumplings often filled with fresh quark, boiled and minced potatoes, and fried onions. They can also be stuffed with sauerkraut, ground meat, cheese and fruits. I think I prefer ground meat.
Head to Krakow in the summer for the annual Pierogi Festival, during which tens of thousands of the dumplings are ritually devoured.
It seems many cultures have a version of this: China has the won ton, Japan has the gyoza, the Italians have the ravioli.
A big glass of beer or wine might be just perfect with these pierogis. Cheers, or Bonzai!!!!
Well, you know I could not pass up a bargain flight, using some old United Mileage Plus miles, and a few from my Chase Sapphire card. So, here I am in Warsaw for a few days (May, 2021), before heading to other parts of Europe.
(From 2017) I was here in 2017, with Mr. Mike, our second stop on a trip that included Prague first, then Budapest. I went on to Vienna, and Mike headed home, as I recall. We both found Warsaw to be culturally rich, with great bars, and pretty good food. Here is an email form 2017 that you might enjoy reading again.
Most of us know that Warsaw is the capital of Poland. But, we probably do not know much else about it. Warsaw is located in the east central part of the country, not far from the border of the Czech Republic from where we arrived. Sparing you some of its storied past, Warsaw is located on the Vistula River, 240 miles SE of the Baltic coast city of Gdansk.
The Old Town was designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1980. The heart of Polish French composer Frederic Chopin resides in the Church of the Holy Cross. Remnants of tsarist era remain in various forms. In the early 20th century, the Jewish community accounted for nearly 50% of the population of Warsaw. After the annihilation of the Jews, Warsaw had to be repopulated after the war.
The tallest building (237 meters) in Warsaw is the Palace of Culture and Science, a gift of the Soviet dictator, Joseph Stalin. The oldest evidence of cheese production was discovered here, around 7500 to 8000 years ago. Warsaw is the most congested city in Europe. The world’s narrowest house is here, with a width of 1.22 meters, and a height of 9 meters. A patent bureau for children has been open for 10 years, with over 30,000 inventions registered. Lazienki Park hosts free Sunday concerts from May to October. Warsaw has more theaters (47) than movie theaters (36).
Milk bars and other options for eating out that were opened in Socialist times are experiencing a second life in Warsaw thanks to affordable prices subsidized by the state. Milk bar, a Polish (bar meleczny) cafeteria, was first established in 1896. Many people feel this is the best way to experience Polish culture. Started during the communist era when milk bars were subsidized, it allowed lowly workers to enjoy a meal out. Even today, the price is about $3 USD. Common items are delicious soups, a variety of cabbage-based salads, fried pork chops, pierogi (ravioli with various fillings), and pancakes. At the milk bar, you’ll likely see glasses of watery juice and — of course — milk, but most milk bars also stock bottles of water and Coke. Try a Polish pastry, especially the classic paczki, a glazed jelly doughnut typically filled with a wild-rose jam. Every milk bar is a little different, but it is little taste of the communist days.
Like many other cities of the world, Warsaw is often called the “Paris” of the east, and may well have been one of the world’s most beautiful cities before World War 2. But I like the fact that Poles drink 92 liters of beer yearly! At one time, over 3.3 million Jews lived in Poland, making it the center for European Jews. The oldest restaurant in Europe has been in operation since 1275. The first surviving Polish recipes cookbook dates back to 1682 with dishes influenced by strong Lithuanian and Tartar-Turkish influences and German culinary traditions.
The biggest section in any Polish grocery store is the candy aisle!! That must make the dentists happy! On the downside, the Polish language is difficult to master. On the plus side, Poles represent the biggest number of people by nationality to rescue Jews during the German Nazi-organized Holocaust, up to around 450,000 from certain death. Poland holds the world record with the most people at 6,135 being awarded the title of Righteous among the Nations by the State of Israel.
What else? The Polish alphabet consists of 32 letters. A popular drink in Poland, orangeade or oranzada, is a sweet carbonated drink with an orange taste that originated in France and spread to Poland in the 18th century. Polish dumplings or “pierogi” are one of national dishes and one of the best recognizable Polish food outside Poland. Poles love their cold cut and Polish butcher shops or “sklep miesny” are known for their enormous selection. The main meal of 3 courses is eaten around 2pm, starting with a soup, a main course of meat and a desert. That leaves a long period of time to drink beer! The “Paczki” or Polish doughnut is one of the most traditional Polish desserts appearing since the time of King Augustus III of Poland in the early 18th century. It is most consumed on the last Thursday or “tlusty czwartek”, which is a Thursday before Ash Wednesday. It has been recorded that 100 million “paczki” are consumed every year just on this one day.
Polish born Marie Curie or Maria Sklodowska (1867-1934) was the first and only Nobel laureate in two different sciences and first female professor at the Sorbonne University. Pope John Paul II also known as Karol Wojtyla (1920-2005) was Polish. He was the only Polish Pope to date and served the second longest. Additionally he is credited with contributing to hastening the end of communism in Poland and throughout Central and Eastern Europe. (We visited the Curie Museum)
What about my profession? The first oil refinery in the world was built in 1856 by Polish pharmacist and petroleum industry pioneer, Ignacy Lukasiewicz. Beer is often served with raspberry or blackcurrant juice (piwo z sokiem) and drunk using a straw. During colder seasons the popular refreshment is hot beer with cloves and cinnamon, sweetened with honey (piwo grzane).
Speaking of vodka, this is part of the ‘Vodka belt countries’ and has a history of producing high quality vodka for more than 500 years. They are made from specially selected variety of Stobrawa potatoes, rye or the grass Hierochloe odorata. Poles celebrate their name day or “imieniny”, which is the day commemorating the saint they are named after. The names associated with each day is listed in all calendars in Poland. Just like birthdays, there are parties with food, drinks, presents and the singing of the traditional birthday song, “sto lat”. And if you want to wish someone on their name day, just say “Wszystkiego najlepszego z okazji imienin!”
On a sad note, it is estimated that more than 6 million Poles including soldiers and civilians died in concentration camps, labor camps, prisons, and forced labor during the 5 years of Nazi occupation. The historic site of the Auschwitz German concentration camp near Oświęcim is now a site of pilgrimage and monument to the prevention of war and suffering.
As you can read, there is much to see and do, to experience and learn. I never thought I would visit Poland, but here we are!!!
And fast forward to 2021: Here I am again! I hope to find some locals to show me around.