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Tuesday, 31 July 2018

10 Things You Should Know Before Coming To Poland

Dearest sweethearts, 

Poland has many visitors throughout the year - from students inside and outside of the European Union, to families who just wish to see a new country, to people from Ukraine whom think of staying here may be better for them, to hen and stag parties from the UK that flock here as there are plenty fun options with cheaper alcohol than back home... everyone finds something in Poland that they like/love and many end up coming again and again. But many are misinformed about many subjects, so I thought... why not give you a helping hand and let you know about 10 Things You Should Know Before Coming To Poland:

  1. The official name of Poland is actually the Republic of Poland (just like the Republic of Ireland). In polish that would be: Rzeczpospolita Polska. The official language is, of course, Polish but in the big cities people do speak English - in hotels, restaurants, big shopping malls. They also know Russian but they would rather not speak it, due to the dark history with the Communistic times. 
  2. Poland is located dead centre on the map of Europe. It borders Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia,  Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and (Mother) Russia (the Kaliningrad exclave). The North border runs along the Baltic Sea Coast. #DidYouKnow that previously Poland also had borders with Romania? :) 
  3. The capital city is Warsaw (Warszawa). Krakow was the capital for a very long while and it is still considered the City of Kings, the Cultural Capital of Poland, it's beating artistic heart. Warsaw was about 90% grazed to the ground during the Second World War and rebuilt. Almost everything you see there nowdays, in the Old Town, is remade after old sketches and photos of what used to be...
    View of Warsaw from the top of the Palace of Culture 
  4. Climate in Poland: moderate continental, with relatively cold winters (December to March/April - they do tend to be quite windy...). There are hot summers from June to August but usually July is quite a rainy month and it can rain heavily several days in a row. The highest temperature can reach up to 35 degrees Celsius.  
  5. Polish Currency is not EURO! Even if Poland is part of the European Union, that does not mean we use EURO. Zloty is the currency: 1 zloty (PLN) = 100 groszy. Don't worry, in most places you can pay by card and if not, you can always find an exchange office (they are named here KANTOR). 
  6. How to call a Polish number? The calling code is +48 and all you need to do is add it before the number you were given. The mobile phone numbers have 9 digits so that would be: +48 xxx xxx xxx and you're there! :)
  7. Polish law related to drinking in public - you can drink in a bar, you can drink in a restaurant, you can have a pint in your hotel room, but you cannot drink on the streets. Some people try to "fake it" and put the bottles in brown paper bags, but if you are found you will pay quite a large sum for your behaviour. 
  8. Public transport - I just love it in Poland! Especially the tram rides! They are always fast, on time and they have connections throughout the city. Trams are the best way to get around. You don't need to stand in a line and buy a ticket from the ticket machines in the stations, just jump abroad and buy a ticket from the vending machines that are available in each public transport machine. But make sure you have change for that as machines take only coins or you can pay with paypass (contactless).
    Wroclaw main train station 
  9. Poland cuisine is not quite made for vegetarians... the food here comes in large portions, carbohydrates heavy and rich with meat! Blood sausages, but is, golabki ("pidgeons"), pork knuckles and dozen upon dozen of pierogi types (dumplings that can be fried or boiled) - doesn't sound vegetarian, does it?!
  10. Vodka is a must!? If you will be invited by any local to their homes, you will for sure be served with either some hot tea or some vodka (or both). It is the "national beverage" and there are different flavours to satisfy each taste: sour cherries, walnut, quince, lemon... you name it, Poland probably has it ;)
Any other question and queries, concerns about coming to Poland? Fire away! I would be glad to answer :)

Yours sincerely, 
The Twisted Red LadyBug That Loves Poland
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Friday, 27 July 2018

Krakow Hidden Gems: Stained Glass Museum

Dearest sweethearts,


#DidYouKnow that Krakow has it's very own Stained Glass Workshop and Museum? It is located on Krasinskiego 23, just across the Kino Kijow,  very close to the National Museum in Krakow Main Building (Al. 3 Maja 1) and just 7 minutes walk from the Main Market Square?! That's right! The Stained Glass Workshop and Museum is a hidden gem of Krakow, a Polish Art Nouveau corner and an unique institution on a world scale. The exhibition space intertwines with the old stained glass studio, that is functioning since 1902!
The Stained Glass Workshop and Museum in Krakow 
The building was designed by it's owner with a special order, making certain rooms bigger, some taller and having a lot of space for very tall windows (so the light would come through). The workshop still cultivates traditional techniques that were used in making stained glass windows ages ago. 
What I found very attractive was that the tour was done while the artists were working so you could actually see them in their daily tasks! You can observe the process directly above their heads, as you climb up to the second floor, to see the painters that give the finishing touches to the masterpieces. 
Stained Glass Krakow Museum 
To speak of this lovely hidden gem, one must speak of Stanislaw Gabriel Zelenski. He was born in February 1873 in Warsaw and died in August 1914 near Lukow. He was an architect and he was the owner of the Krakowskiego Zakladu Witrazow S.G. Zelenski. 
After completing his studies at the Lwow University, he initially worked as a government architect for Krakow. Together with the Art Nouveau technique, the Stained Glass became widespread not only in churches but in residential buildings as well. 
The Stained Glass door at the entrance to the house
In 1902 Zelenski bought and founded a stained glass factory under the name "Krakowskie Zaklady Witrazow" - along with architect Wladyslaw Ekielski and painter Antoni Tuch. They created an Artistic Glass and Glass Mosaic Factory. 
Up the stairs you must go!
In 1906, the plant was moved to a new building designed by Stanislaw Gabriel Zelenski and Ludwik Wojtyczek at ul. Krasinskiego 23. The building that now houses the Stained Glass Krakow Museum.
The hallway between the cafe and the workshop / museum rooms for Stained Glass Krakow Museum 
#DidYouKnow that until 1912, stained glass windows were made in 53 churches and chapels in Malopolska region, 27 in Lwow, 13 in the Duchy of Poznan and 16 in the Kingdom of Poland. 
Available pieces to be bought in the Museum Shop/Cafe
The Stained Glass Workshop and Museum,  the hidden gem of Krakow,  as you can see it nowdays,  was founded in 2004 by Piotr Ostrowski. It is the result of an innovative concept of the so-called "living museum". And indeed as you walk into it, you can see how this house lives and breathes art through each nook and corner. 
Available pieces to be bought in the Museum Shop/Cafe
But what does that mean? It means that the space available to the visitors is intertwined with a still-functioning stained-glass workshop, in which artists are constantly working on new works. As part of the visit, one can learn step by step the whole process of creating a stained glass window and look upon the current projects. 
Souvenirs at the Stained Glass Krakow Museum 
The Museum also has an exposition space (on the second floor), consisting of both historical and contemporary works of art. There are many sketches, drawings, hand-made glass designs and finished works. It is the richest collection in Poland associated with stained glass art. 
Stained Glass art in Poland was much more popular than today. The leading creators of Young Poland (Mloda Polska) used this form to express themselves quite frequently. The company cooperated with, amongst others, with artists like Stanislaw Wyspianski, Jozef Mehoffer, Henryk Uziemblo, Wojciech Jastrzebowski and Stefan Matejko (the most loved and admired Polish painter). 
In 2016, as part of its mission to popularize the Polish stained glass heritage, the Stained Glass Krakow Museum undertook the reconstruction of the outstanding work of Stanislaw Wyspianski titled Apollo. The project aimed to maximally faithfully recreate the Stained Glass damaged during World War II and make it available to the public - well... at the end of the museum tour you can see the finished project in all its splendour. 
#DidYouKnow that over 200 stained glass windows realised by the Stained Glass Krakow Museum (inside their workshop) can be admired throughout the city of Krakow? This includes windows in the Wawel Castle Cathedral and the Franciscan Basilica. 
Krakow has been involved in the production of Stained Glass for many centuries and not only important monuments are adorned with it, but also private houses. I recommend you to have a look on the Stained Glass Krakow Museum site and find their location, or ask for the special map that the clever marketing team has created. The site is in English and Polish and wonderfully created. You can find it all at one click away!
The Stained Glass Workshop and Museum was created as a space of dialogue and craft, a space where one can elevate craft to fine art. The Museum tour started by meeting our lovely tour guide - Gabriela. We were a group of 5 people and we were straight away ushered to the Main room where the design and welding takes place. 
Gabriela told us about the most important piece in the room: one of the golden medals from the 1925 Paris Exhibition (and Contest), where the 2 Stained Glass windows that adorne now the Wawel Cathedral,  won the Main Prize. Usually they would give out one medal but in this case they felt the need to give 2: one for the designer and one for the executor. Just so you know, the designer was none other than J. Mehoffer. 
100 Shades of Stained Glass 
The team does not do the Stained Glass here, they have ready made colours from the glass factories. There is a palette of about 100 types of colours. #DidYouKnow there are only 4 Glass Mills in Europe that can provide the Stained Glass? Also... #DidYouKnow the most expensive colour is dark red, made out of real gold powder? 
Welding in process...
During the museum tour you can find how the design is born, how it is cut into smaller patterns and all the types of techniques used for welding, for "glueing" the pieces together. You will learn about the Patternating technique - which allows to make more life like details. You will see the difference between the lead and the Tiffany technique (used for smaller, more delicate objects). 
You will then move to the second floor and learn more about the colours and how one can remove the layers of colour in the glass. You will learn about the fact that having windows facing the North is a must - as the light is more gentle. You will see easels made in the 1900s still standing there, being used by the painters. 
You will learn that only one layer of painting and work can take up to 24 hours to make and bake. This way you will understand more about the amount of work and patience and planning it takes to do a small piece of art. 
In the middle, the dark red is done with gold dust :)
At the end of the tour you will have a look at the finished works of art, see the taller room where the assembly used to take place and finally gaze upon the Apollo finished project. The tour usually takes around 45 to 60 min and you can ask as many questions as you want. There are only 3 main rules: do not touch anything unless invited/told so, don't disturb the people working & do not make videos (you can do pictures).
If you choose to have a workshop, like I did, there are multiple options, according to how much money and time you have. There is the short version (1-2 hours), standard version (3 hours), stained glass course (3-4 days), intensive classes (2 day intensive all day workshop). 
My masterpiece in the making 
After each of them you will get to make your own piece of Stained Glass art. And before working with the Stained Glass you will get a tour of the museum. The materials are included and you are given a protective apron foe your clothes. You must wear it! This tend to get "dirty" ;) 
After the tour of the museum and workshop you usually get a 15 min coffee break at the small cafe on the 1st floor. They have really nice apricot jam croissants and good bottled lemonade by (John) On Lemon - produced in Poland, Polish brand sued by Yoko Ono ;) you should google that!
Gabriella holding the Stained Glass Krakow Museum's own map of Krakow and where you can find Stained Glass masterpieces  :) it's a must see/have! 
The workshop takes about 1:30-2 hours, the short version, and there can be any number of participants between 1 and 50. The available languages for the people that will explain to you what you must do, are: Polish, English, German, Italian and French. The cost of the short workshop is 180 zloty per person (museum visit and coffee break included). Booking a workshop is a must 24h in advance - there is an online form on their page ;) They reply really fast via email and the team is adorable! Great customer care skills - you can see that they love what they are doing and that they want you to have a great time as well. During the workshop you will have to do everything manually: pick the main model you want (out of a set already selected for you),  pick a matching colour, start cutting it into shape, making sure there are no rough edges, taping it ready for the lead soldering, soldering and... giving it the finishing touches! Sounds... easy, right? :p wait until you pick it up and have to do it yourself! Do so! And tell me what was your experience ;)

Yours sincerely, 
The Twisted Red LadyBug That Loved The Hours Spent At The StainedGlass Workshop and Museum in Krakow 

P.S. I was offered the tour of the museum and to take part of the short workshop for free. In return I promised to share my photos on the social media (Facebook and Instagram) and write a post on how truly I felt during this tour. The opinions are my own and I absolutely adored this place! For sure I will tell my friends to try it out. I already take great pride in the piece I made and I display it on my boudoir. Would love to come again one day, probably for a longer course :) 
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Monday, 23 July 2018

No more FREE MUSEUM NIGHT in Krakow?!

Dearest hearts,

The FREE MUSEUM NIGHT is very popular in every country and every city around the globe. Almost everyone has been a part of it once and it's truly quite a lovely thing to experience. But guess what?! You may have to forget about that when it comes to Poland, to Krakow. Perhaps next year you will have to pay to enter the event! The problem is a different interpretation of the tax regulations - not very favourable when it comes to the cultural institutions. In that light, the organisation of free events by the institutions will not be profitable. The case was delay by "Dziennik Gazeta Prawna" - so far the cultural institutions have been able to deduct the VAT (value added tax) in total from the expenses they incur in favour of the promotion. The Deputy Minister of Finance (in response to the Parliament questions) however, stated that such action is not acceptable. The institutions will be able to count up to several dozen prevent from 100% of the recovered tax. Experts recognize that the new  interpretation of regulations will hit primarily museums. 
Free Day ticket from Wawel Castle/Museum
In addition to the cyclical FREE MUSEUM NIGHT it may also be problematic to organise, for example, free festivals / workshops / prize galleries etc. Until 2016, it was clear that museums could deduct VAT from such events. Now the practice of the National Tax Chamber has changed. Settlements with pre-coefficient, most likely museums, will have to settle accounts with Fisk (Fiscal Dept.) using the so called "prewspolczynnika". This is related to the response of the Deputy of Ministry of Finance (Pawel Gruzy) in June 13th, to the Parliament interpellations number 22403, 22396 si 22230 + June 5th interpellation number 22098. The ministry decided that the FREE MUSEUM NIGHT could be treated as an economical activity. Until now the event was seen it in the context of promotional activity. The change in the interpretation of the regulation affects the need to modify the way museums settle this with the Fiscal Dept. Perhaps from the new year museums will have to use the so-called "prewspolczynnik". According to "Dziennik Gazeta Prawna", Pawel Gruzy assured the head of the National Fiscal Administration will analyse the problem and modify the interpretations contrary to the current position of the Ministry of Finance. 
Grunwald Monument - Krakow, Poland
The last FREE MUSEUM NIGHT 
If the new position of the Fiscal Administration is accepted, it is possible to completely reorganize the organisation of free events by the cultural institutions. I'm speaking here not my about the Night of Museums but also about other cultural events that were free up until now - events designed also to support the activities of cultural institutions. Most likely, the only sensible solution to this problem will be the introduction of payment for sightseeing. It is impossible that it will be necessary to eliminate other manifestations of unpaid statutory activity! If the Night of Museums is a ticketing event, services or goods purchased during the event may be considered directly related to VAT - taxed activities. The organisation of a paid event cannot constitute a statutory activity. For this reason, the formula of the Night of Museums will most probably change (from what it was the recent years). I just hope they will still be able to discuss this through and still have the FREE MUSEUM NIGHT (and the occasional free days of the museum)...

Yours sincerely, 
The Twisted Red LadyBug That Loves Museums
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Saturday, 14 July 2018

Krakow Citizen Budget 2018

Dearest sweethearts,

Guess what?! We know the results of the Citizen Budget 2018! Greenery, sport, health and culture - projects of this nature have won in the 5th edition of the Civic Budget of Krakow. As in the first and second year of the Civic Budget,  gyms were popular and now the open-air cinema is becoming more and more popular. This year's voting list included 430 projects: 123 citywide and 307 district based. There was a high turnaround, as well as a clear decrease in the number of invalid votes. Together (electronic and traditionally) there were over 34 thousand residents that took part of the vote.
This Tuesday, July 10th 2018, during a press conference, the voting for the Citizens Budget of Krakow in 2018 was summed up. Ranking lists were announced, along with the number of points they received in the vote. 

"I am particularly pleased by the falling number of invalid votes, which is the smallest since 2016. This proves that the information about the vote reaches an increasing number of people and is treated with more attention every year" - Deputy of the President of Krakow on social policy, culture and promotion of the city (Andrzej Kulig). He noted that a large percentage of the voters chose the traditional method to vote, which confirms the correctness of the decision to restorate the paper voting (next to the electronic one). According to the VP of Krakow,  mobile voting points (as the one located at the Rondo Mogilskie) was a great plus.
Fot. Bogusław Świerzowski / krakow.pl
This year everyone who resides in Krakow, who turned 16 in the day of the vote, could submit their decision. That also applied to foreigners, like myself, living in Krakow. Even those who did not have a PESEL number! To encourage the foreigners to vote, there were prepared info materials in multilingual versions: English, German, Ukrainian and Russian. The residents of the districts Podgorze, Debniki, Nowa Huta and Pradnik Bialy turned out to be the most active in the voting. Here are more statistics on the 2018 vote:
- Total votes = 34641
- Valid votes = 32958 (electronic 22446 and on paper 10512)
- Invalid votes = 1683 (electronic 17, paper 1666)

Among all city wide projects, "Green smog absorber for each district" (14142 points) won the most votes, followed by "Teznia solankowa" (8153 votes). The 3rd place was the project "Did you forget about the Nowohucki Lagoon... and Nowa Huta?" (6068 votes). However, it should be remembered that according to the schedule of the Citizens Civil Budget for 2018, the final list of tasks to be implemented will be announced by 31st of July at the latest.

Yours sincerely,
The Twisted Red LadyBug That Loves Krakow

Sources: Krakow.pl and News Krakow 
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Monday, 9 July 2018

Pidgeon Issues in Krakow

Dearest sweethearts,

You've heard me saying before that the pidgeon population in Krakow causes quite a lot of issues and conflicts. Locals are split between loving and feeding them vs. chasing them around to kill them. The tourists love them, even when they steal their food, as they look good on pictures... well... in the local news this last week, there was an article about "The Pidgeon Killer" - they way they put the title it sounded as if someone massacred all the flying rodents in the Krakow Main Market Square.
Krakow Main Market Square - Krakow Rynek
Without further ado, here are the facts: a 27 year old man tortured in a cruel way and then killed 2 pidgeons. That may get him prison for up to 5 years. The man recorded (of course, as we are in the era when everyone has a smartphone!) everything with a mobile phone and than "shared" the film to his "friends" in order to boast about his deed. The policeman quickly found and arrested him. In the apartment of the 27 year old they found the metal pipe he used to torture the pidgeons and the phone he used to record the video. The man, of course, pleaded guilty and expressed his deep remorse - As per Sebastian Glen, spokesman for the Malopoksa Police Force. 
Krakow Pidgeons in the Planty
However the remorse will not save him from heavy charges - abusing cruelty over animals and causing them to die. In this case the Penal Code provides up to 5 years imprisonment. For the time being, the police offered the bail and fine in the amount of 2,5 thousand zloty. Now... how about all those lovely horses in the middle of the summer heat, collapsing from taking the carriages throughout the Old Town Krakow? If pidgeons raise fines and penalties how come the lovely horses don't get the same treatment? I, for one, think that carriages with horses should not be allowed during high peak summertime days (at least!).

Yours sincerely, 
The Twisted Red LadyBug That Loves Krakow 

Sources: News Krakow and the Malopolska Police
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Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Krakow - European Capital of Catering Culture 2019

Dearest sweethearts,

Guess what?!
That's right, as you have also read from the title, Krakow won the title of the European Capital of Catering Culture 2019, defeating in the final finale Lisbon! "We will use this to show off our traditional recipes (for example Krakow's Maczanki), as well as the unique atmosphere and hospitality that reigns in Krakow restaurants" - states the President of Krakow, Jacek Majchrowski.
Sweets from a local shop in Kazimierz, Krakow
The European Gastronomic Academy awarded for the very first time the title of the European Capital of Gastronomy Culture 2019. Krakow won and that means that next year the city will organise several important events - it will be an opportunity to host specialists and enthusiasts of good cuisine and stars of the world gastronomy in Krakow. I, for one,  surely hope that Jamie Oliver will come ;)
Yummy breakfasts in Krakow - there are plenty places to pick from. Everyday you can have breakfast in a different place, with a different environment ;)
Krakow can already boast of achievements in this field. The city has been promoting good gastronomy for years. The Recommendation of Krakow Restaurants (Akcja Rekomendacja Krakowskich Restauracji) has already had 11 editions! For years the Cracovians and tourists alike have been invited to the Dumpling Festival (Festiwal Pierogow). The culinary novelty is Krakowskie Zapusty, where the tradition of frying bread and the Obwarzanek feast are maintained. 
Breakfast at Charlotte - Chleb I Wino, Plac Szcepanski
"Now we want to create new projects and, in addition to dumplings or donuts, promote recipes related to the cuisine of the Royal Court, bourgeois or academic Krakow", says Jacek Majchrowski. 
Breakfast at Niebieskie Migdaly - Krakow
Next year, many events will be organised as part of the European Capital of Gastronomy Culture. Gastronomic Congress for specialists and enthusiasts of good cuisine from around the world, meetings in Krakow with chefs and celebrities of world gastronomy leading restaurants distinguished amongst others with Michelin stars. It's worth to mention that Krakow restaurants are the of ones outside of Warsaw that have Michelin distinctions - there are currently 26 restaurants on this list! 
The magical English breakfast by MilkBar Tomasza
As an interesting topic, an innovative format will also be offered: "wirtualnie gotowanie" (or virtual cooking) - it will consist in simultaneous preparation of dishes in various restaurants, which can be followed on the internet, and the theme will be the cuisine of Krakow and Poland.

Yours sincerely, 
The Twisted Red That Loves Polish Food

P.S. Source of the info above: Polish Press Agency (PAP) and Polish Media - local newspaper articles (e.g.  news.krakow.pl) 
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