29 kwi 2010

Prasówka - round-up of the press

Why foreigners who live in Poland should learn Polish? Of course the article is also in Polish;)

The ridiculous and amusing idea from "The Economist" - the new map of Europe. I would enjoy this new Polish location but not because of no neighbours - we would have more beaches:]

The same in Polish resumed by "Gazeta Wyborcza".

A funny material from Fakty TVN about the most challenging geographical names to read - the famous Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokul really doesn't seem to be so difficult!

24 kwi 2010

Book guide part 3.

Written by Ewa Lipniacka - an English Pole whose family emigrated to Britain during the WW II. She discovered her country and wrote about Polish culture in a funny way. In this series you will find books about almost all European nations and some other.

As we can read from the cover:

"Xenophobia - an irrational fear of foreigners, probably justified, always understandable". In Polish ksenofobia, ksenofob - Polish ortography is simpler than English but we don't have x and write is as ks (seks) or sometimes gz (exam - egzamin).

In my opinion xenophobes are mostly people who have never been abroad and have no contact with other cultures. When you notice that people around the world have more less the same problems and experience your fear diminishes. This kind of books help in undestanding others.

Inside you will find chapters like: Character, Manners, Eating & Drinking, Business, Leisure & Pleasure. As a Pole I haven't been aware that Poles buy A LOT of flowers or share personal opinions willingly and loudly. I knew that Poles love titles (doktor, inżynier, kierownik;) and "there is a peasant nestling in the heart of even the most noble Pole".

Even if a "national character" is an issue to be discussed I admit - I identify with this book. Worth buying and reading.

21 kwi 2010


At last it's warmer in Poland and you can enjoy your time outside. I recommend short one or two day trips - anywhere! Even if your Polish friends tell you there's nothing to see in the surroundings don't believe them. All around the world people aren't very familiar with their own place;)

If you live in Warsaw and don't have time for travelling explore Mazowsze - the most interesting part is the north and south. But also close to Warsaw there are fantastic places like the palace in Otwock Wielki. I haven't been there but it looks great!

Check these not so well-known places!

I found a very interesting website with many e-guides in Polish. In English you will find something here and of course in the irreplaceable Trip Advisor. Virtual Tourist seems to be also ok but 49 regions in Poland existed between 1975 and 1998! Apart from 1999 we have 16 województwa (voivodeship). Shame!

On the photo: Opinogóra Górna - a representative property of the noble Krasiński family. Now the Museum of the Polish Romanticism. Exhibition only in Polish!

18 kwi 2010

Commemoration of the dead

I wanted to write about it after Easter but now after 7 days of the national mouring I have the more significant reason.

Many foreigners who spend more time in Poland notice that Polish people are very attached to the dead. Cemeteries aren't abandoned places and we visit them on many occasions without pressure, not only on the 1st and 2nd of November (Dzień Wszystkich Świętych i Dzień Zmarłych). This Easter I took a photo on one of the Warsaw's cemeteries:

Poles care about graves, clean them, decorate and spend a lot of money on flowers and candles. Unfortunately some people think that the more you buy the more feelings towards the dead person you show. In the smaller communities people even show off on the cemetery;) New style mourning candles are often kitsch (Polish kicz, adj. kiczowaty) and I'm not a fan of these:

Here you will find the information about contemporary Polish death and burial customs. This week you could have observed carefully planned ceremony of the burial of the president. It's amazing that 200 000 people came to the Presidential Palace in Warsaw just to see the coffin, pray and say goodbye. Poles prefer to be together in difficult moments but unfortunately rather only sad or dramatic events unite the nation. But it's too big topic for this post.

Today the president was buried in the Wawel Cathedral in Kraków - Polish symbolic place. For many it was too pompous and inappropriate as there are graves of Polish kings and the most worshiped poets. For sure it's meaningful and creates a new tradition.

In the past noble Poles had extraordinary funeral ceremonies, this is a fragment from Wikipedia about Sarmatism (XVII-XVIIIth century): "Funeral ceremonies in Sarmatian Poland were highly unusual, and unknown in other parts of Europe. They were carefully planned shows, full of ceremony and splendour. Elaborate preparations were made in the period between a nobleman’s death and his funeral, which employed a large number of craftsmen, architects, decorators, servants and cooks. Sometimes many months passed before all the preparations were completed. [...] Occasionally an army of clergy took part in the burial (in the 18th century 10 bishops, 60 canons and 1705 priests took part in the funeral of one of Polish noblemen)". This kind of celebrations had nothing to do with Christianity. Too expensive, too ostentatious, their aim was to show power and wealth of the elite.

When there was no Polish state funerals of the famous men often turned into patriotic manifestations. We inherit these both traditions.

11 kwi 2010

National mourning

So many things to write...

Unfortunately all 88 passengers and 8 members of the crew died. The body of the Polish president has been identified and transported to Warsaw today. Thousands of people came to say goodbye, give flowers or light a mourning candle (znicz on the photos). I also wanted to be at least for a while in front of the Presidential Palace (Pałac Prezydencki), in the crowd it's easier to not to feel the emptiness.

If you understand Polish I recommend you to watch today's Fakty TVN. It's a very good material and very sad.

This kind of a tragedy happened for the first time in the whole world. "The crash wiped out almost half of Poland's leadership. Those killed included Kaczynski, his wife, Maria, the army chief of staff, the head of the national bank, Poland's deputy foreign minister, 12 members of parliament, and at least two presidential aides" ("The Guardian"). Most of the senior staff in the presidential administrative office died. Not only officials were flying on that plane - also families of the officers killed in Katyń 70 years ago and chiefs of the veteran organizations. Here you can find the whole list.

We really appreciate a huge support from the Russian president, prime minister and all the services. Perhaps this incredibly difficult situation will warm up rather cool official relations between Poland and Russia.

In Poland we will have 7 days of national mourning. EU and our neighbours: Lithuania, Ukraine, Russia and Czech Republic decided to do the same (but shorter). We are surprised of the amazing support from Latin America: Venezuela, Colombia and Brasil (in which will also be national mourning!). Polish tragedy is on many newspaper covers but we really wish a different kind of promotion.

This week most of cultural events are cancelled, theatres and cinemas are closed, you will see many Polish flags with a pall. In the newspapers you will find many many obituaries (nekrolog). In radio and tv there will be no ads! Every flag will hang half-mast.

10 kwi 2010

A national tragedy

Today at 9:00 Polish presidential plane Tupolev Tu-154 crashed in Smoleńsk (Смоленск) in Russia. The Polish state delegation was going to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre. The cause of this air crash is unknown yet, Polish and Russian governments have started investigations.

Likely all of the (approximately) 88 passengers on board were tragically killed - including Polish president Lech Kaczyński with his wife Maria Kaczyńska, Ryszard Kaczorowski - the last President of Poland in exile, many members of parliament, high rank army officers and representatives of different churches.

It unbelievable, we're all devastated.

According to The Constitution of the Republic of Poland now the head of the state is Marshal of the Sejm (Chairman of the Sejm) Bronisław Komorowski.

8 kwi 2010

Polish Easter - Polska Wielkanoc

I wasn't fast enough - in the Polish Blog Adam wrote in an interesting way about traditional Polish Easter. I don't want to repeat all the facts, I add some crucial things.

Easter remains not only the Christian tradition. It's a mix of very old pagan customs and the faith in the Resurrection (Zmartwychwstanie) of Jesus. All the spring, fertility and new life symbols like egg, bunny*, little chicken, yellow and green colour (jajko, zajączek, kurczaczek, kolor żółty i zielony) are connected with celebration of the passage of seasons and the spring equinox. If you think it sounds like a heresy I recommend you for example this article. In the beginning the transition from paganism to Christianity was about domination and blood and some pagan celebrations had to be incorporated in order to convince more people and make the abstract new faith more understandable.

In Poland there's no tradition of giving presents for Easter. Families meet on Sunday and Monday in order to eat together and if the weather is ok spend time more actively (no exaggeration - mostly going for a walk). People who want to avoid all this pack and leave. In Poland you can still ski in April or just enjoy your time on the beach in lovely Sopot.

On Saturday people bring to a church a small basket (święconka) with hard-boiled eggs, bread, sausage, salt and pepper and Easter decorations. My grandma prepares an ascetic version and boiles eggs with onion skins. Here you will find more examples of pisanki.

Priests bless baskets and during the Easter breakfast on Sunday we share every product (on the first photo). Then we eat a lot more: pâté with horseradish (pasztet z chrzanem), salads and of course more eggs - here with my homemade mayonaise and anchois:

For lunch there are two traditional soups: żurek and barszcz biały. On the second dish Poles eat meat: pork, veal, chicken, turkey, white sausage or less popular fish. And for dessert Eastern pascha:

and mazurek - a cake with any ingredients on top you like. My family's version requires a great deal of work and patience because this glaze needs 5 hours. But it's worth, the result is mouth-watering! Impossible to buy in any shop.

You can burn some calories on Monday while running away from people with water;) Śmingus-dyngus is a joyful tradition but you have to be prepared - there's no mercy!

* in fact in Polish it's zając - a hare

3 kwi 2010

Songs about Polish tourist places

Because of the cleaning ritual I have no time to write about Polish Easter. I will complete it soon, today I've prepared something different for you but also in the holiday mood.

Listen to this absolute classic songs, every Pole should know them. You can find lyrics here.

How Muniek Staszczyk with T.Love sees Warsaw - "Warszawa"

Freedom and nudity on the beach in Chałupy by Zbigniew Wodecki. This point on the screen shouldn't be green;) - "Chałupy welcome to"

Grzegorz Turnau in magical Kraków/Cracow - "Bracka"

The green hills of Solina by Wojciech Gąsowski - "Zielone wzgórza nad Soliną"

Winter holidays in a health resort in Tatra Mountains by the fabulous Wojciech Młynarski - "Jesteśmy na wczasach"

Have you enjoyed?:) Of course there's a lot more! Please write what other songs like this you like.