Quote: Poland = Peace

My most ardent desire is that my country will recapture its historic opportunity for a peaceful evolution and that Poland will prove to the world that even the most complex situations can be solved by a dialogue and not by force.
Lech Walesa

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Fantasy Friday: Poland

I’ve wanted to go here since I met a very nice girl when I was in grade 1 that had just moved from there. She was so nice and kind and only had good things to say about her former home (and we were in grade 1….).

Lonely Planet has my dream tours:

  • Gdańsk

    A port with great historical significance and many architectural delights

  • Słowiński National Park

    An unusual national park filled with lakes, bogs, meadows, woods and shifting sand dunes

  • Toruń

    Gothic architecture at its best, and the birthplace of Copernicus

  • Poznań

    Lively commercial city with plenty of museums and great entertainment options

  • Wrocław

    Poland’s fourth largest city, with plenty of cultural and architectural attractions

  • Auschwitz-Birkenau

    The Nazis’ largest extermination camp is Poland’s most moving sight

  • Malbork

    In a country strewn with castles, this monumental Teutonic masterpiece tops the list

  • 8 The Great Masurian Lakes

    A region of myriad lakes and patchwork forests, loved by sailors and kayak enthusiasts

  • Białowieża National Park

    Home to wild European bison and Europe‘s largest patch of primeval forest

  • 10 Warsaw

    The country’s capital, a place of unshakable energy and stamina

  • 11 Zamość

    A city with an abundance of Renaissance splendour and oodles of charm

  • 12 Zakopane

    The country’s most beloved mountain resort, with ample opportunities for hiking, mountain biking and winter sports

  • 13 The Bieszczady

    A forgotten corner dominated by mountains, meadows and pristine forests

  • 14 Kraków

    A city life no other – a royal seat for 500 years, its beauty will leave you gob-smacked

Craving Krakow

Sometimes I wish I were back in Krakow, Poland. I had such an incredible visit there last year. As it is less visited than other European cities, I thought it was worth mentioning here, because personally I found Krakow interesting and enchanting.

Early morning light in Krakow

Not long ago Krakow was under a Communist regime (it ended in 1989), and even longer ago it was in the shadow of the Holocaust (two main concentration camps were located very nearby), and yet the city and its people shine through.  If you are interested in history you will find much to explore here.

There is a beautiful main square with a large market in the centre:

Sidestreet in Krakow, looking onto the main square.

Main Square at night

Statue honouring Copernicus, who studied at the university in Krakow.

The Jewish Quarter – signs showing how the shops used to look.

We visited the Wieliczka salt mine – it was a short bus ride from Krakow, and was entirely worth the ride.  It was built, can you believe it, in the thirteenth century.  And functioned as a mine until as recently as 2007.  As you will see by my photos, it has some of the typical features of a mine (going down deep – 327 metres!, small walkways, mine shafts) but it is much more incredible:  not only does it have 300 km of pathways but it also features a bar and restaurant, a cavernous chapel (which still has weekly services and which has weddings), and statues of Copernicus and others, including the dwarves which were said to live in the mine.  Here are some of my shots:

Going down, down, down… (there’s a crazy old elevator that takes you back up!)

Salt mine

Statue of Copernicus – he visited the mine.

The amazing chapel deep underground

Altar in the chapel. Note that everything you see is made of SALT. Hence why it glows when it lights up, as you see here. Even the chandeliers are made of salt!

Finally, I really enjoyed seeing (and using) the old communist-era streetcars in Krakow – they have so much character!
Enjoy the rest of your Tuesday,

northkate

Streetcar no. 1

Streetcar no. 2 – my fav.


 

 

Savory Saturday – Perogies in Poland

Yum, dumplings filled with potatoes, onion and cheese – dipped in sour cream and sprinkled with seasoned salt.

Droooooling already! And a bit nervous to attempt these today.

Pierogies are made of a thinly rolled dough filled with various fillings. A large number of filling types makes this Polish food a snack, spicy first course or even a dessert. Originally, in Poland the most traditional filling are: forcemeat, sauerkraut and mushrooms. A vegetarian variant of pierogi made from mushrooms and a cabbage is dished up during the Christmas Eve dinner (according to the Polish tradition – food must be meatless that day). Other kind of pierogi, peculiarly popular in summer, is sweet pierogi. Seasonal fruits are used as a filling: mainly bilberries or strawberries. Pierogi filled with a specially prepared sweetened Polish curd cheese (called a white cheese by the Poles) is also very delicious and popular. (From Tasting Poland).

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The recipe:

Pierogi Recipe adapted from Gourmet Magazine April 2004 as found on epicurious.com

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Yield: 48-50 pierogi

For dough
3 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for kneading
1 cup water
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt

For potato filling
1 1/2 pound russet potatoes
6 ounces coarsely grated Cheddar or 4 tablespoons green onion oil*
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Special equipment: a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter

Make dough:
Put flour in a large shallow bowl and make a well in centre. Add water, egg, oil, and salt to well and carefully beat together with a fork without incorporating flour. Continue stirring with a wooden spoon, gradually incorporating flour, until a soft dough forms. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead, dusting with flour as needed to keep dough from sticking, until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes (dough will be very soft). Invert a bowl over dough and let stand at room temperature 1 hour.

Make filling while dough stands:
Peel potatoes and cut into 1-inch pieces. Cook potatoes in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until tender, about 8 minutes. Drain potatoes, then equally divide in two bowls. In one bowl add the cheese, salt, and pepper, in the other bowl, add the green onion oil. Mash the potatoes until smooth and mix thoroughly.
When mashed potatoes are cool enough to handle, use a small cookie scoop to scoop out the filling. Cover and keep the filling in the fridge until you are ready to fill your pierogi.

Form and cook pierogie:
Halve dough and roll out 1 half (keep remaining half under inverted bowl) on lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 15-inch round (1/8 inch thick), then cut out 24 rounds with lightly floured cutter. Holding 1 round in palm of your hand, put 1 potato ball in centre of round and close your hand to fold round in half, enclosing filling. Pinch edges together to seal completely.

Bring a 6- to 8-quart pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pierogi, stirring once or twice to keep them from sticking together, and cook 5 minutes from time pierogi float to surface. Drain and pan fry in butter or oil over medium heat until crisp.

Halloween traditions from around the world

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Did you know that in some parts of England, Halloween was called ‘Mischief Night‘? And it really just meant that. People would cause a ruckus, like taking doors off their hinges and throwing them into ponds, or would hide them for no one to find? Hilarious!
I found some very funny, spooky, and interesting traditions for Halloween all around the world. Listen to some of these from Halloween Around the World.

Ireland

Thousands of years ago there was a tribe of farmers called the Celts. They knew that the sun helped make their crops grow, so when autumn came the sun began to fade and they believed that the sun would be winter’s prisoner for six months.

They were worried that the sun would not return so to make sure it did they held a festival on October 31. During which, they asked the sun to return safely in the summer. All the cooking fires were put out and a huge bonfire was lit on the hillside. Here they prayed the sun would shine brightly after winter was over.

The next morning they would return to the hillside take a piece of the burning wood from the remains of the bonfire and light new fires so as to bring good luck. Feasts were held over the new fires and people would dress up in costumes made out of animal skins. It was believed these costumes would protect people from bad luck.

China

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The Feast of the Hungry Ghosts: In China the souls of the dead, particularly during the seventh lunar month, wander the earth in search of affection. They are known as the hungry ghosts because of their hunger for recognition and care.

Czech Republic

In Czechoslovakia chairs are placed by the fireside. There is a chair for each family member and one for each family member’s spirit.

Germany

Here, people put their knives away. This is done as they do not want to risk hurting the returning spirits.

Hong Kong

During the Hungry Ghosts Festival or Yue Lan, ghosts and spirits roam the world for 24 hours. Some people burn pictures of fruit or money. This was believed to reach the spirit world and comfort the ghosts on this day.

Italy

In Southern Italy families prepare a special feast for the souls of the departed on All Souls’ Day. The families would set the table with a bountiful meal. Then they would all go to church to pray for the souls of the deceased. They stayed there all day, leaving their home open so that the spirits could enter and enjoy the feast.

When the family came home to find that their offerings hadn’t been consumed it meant that the spirits disapproved of their home and would work evil against them during the coming year.

Poland

In Poland doors and windows are left open to welcome the spirits or the visiting souls.

Portugal

In Portugal they have feasts of wine and chestnuts at the cemetery.

Russia

In Russia the blue cat is said to bring good luck. Blue cats such as Russian Blue, British Blue and Burmese.

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