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Thursday, 30 August 2018

10 Things You Should Know Before Coming To Poland - Part 2

Dearest sweethearts,

#DidYouKnow that the Poland statistics show an increase in the number of tourist arrivals at accommodation establishments from 2006 to 2016 (data for 2017 not yet publicly available, but I bet the trend still is months raise). In 2014 there were over 25.1 million arrivals and in 2016 it amounted to approximately 30 million! Poland has visitors raging from students inside the EU, to people flocking here from Ukraine (in search of a stable economy and a place where they can live not in fear), to people coming in for weekends for a weekend break... to many more... everyone can find something they would love in Poland. But many are misinformed or they cannot find the info they need about Poland... there are always plenty of questions to be answered. That's why I wanted to lend you a helping hand with another 10 Things You Should Know Before Coming To Poland. You can freely check here my first 10 Things ;) 
1. Polish Food does not need ketchup - ketchup is more of an American kind of topping, to bring some taste on the food you are eating, but in Poland the food is so delicious and savoury that you would kill all it's taste by drowning it in ketchup. Of course ketchup is occasionally used, like for example when eating pizza or "zapiekanki", but it's usually fresh tomatoes with a hint of herbs. Of course there is also the hot / spicy version ;) only for the brave! Also, putting ketchup on pierogi is a total NO NO! 
A mint lemonade in Rzeszow, Poland, at Niebieskie Migdaly (Coffee & Sweets shop)
2. You will need to ask for ice for your drink - don't take it for grant it, as you might in the USA, that you will get ice cubes in your drink. Even if it is summer. The drink might be cold / cooled but it will not have ice (at least in most of the places) so you will need to specifically ask for it. Ice is called "lody", just as ice-cream has the very same name ;) make sure you have that noted down. You will use it during summertime. A lot! 
3. Don't use travellers checks. Use credit cards, or better yet: cash. There are plenty of ATMs and of exchange offices (called "Kantor"). But paying by card is also an option to be considered, as long as you still have some change for paying the tip. You can leave no tip but usually, if you like the service and the product, you can give about 10-20% of the value. The tip, in most places, is not included on the bill ("rachunek") so you should check thoroughly what you pay for ;) and give the due thanks to the ones that serve you nicely. 
Cobbled streets in the Old Town of Krakow, Poland
4. Wear good shoes that don't kill your feet, the old town's in Poland are paved with cobbled stones. They are straight and firm and easily to walk upon, but I wouldn't be caught wearing heels on those roads. I love my loafers and my ballerina shoes and my sportswear; wouldn't trade them for those pretty little spikes... They would get caught between the stones and sprain ankles would appear at the blink of the eye...not to mention blisters and not being able to enjoy the walk, the views and the cities of Poland in all their glory. You would he at the lookout for the closest farmacy ("apteka") or bar/cafe to sit down and alleviate your pain. 
Wawel Cathedral, Krakow, Poland
5. Be careful of what you wear when you visit the magnificent churches / cathedrals in Poland. Ladies don't really have to wear dresses or skirts,  but you MUST be decent! Don't show too much skin, don't show any cleavage, don't wear shorts and short skirts, don't be a rainbow of colours and maintain decency and the quietness in the Holy places you are about to enter! Also... Don't use flash when taking photos! 
6. Take your shoes off! - at the front door, when you are visiting the locals. You most probably will be "served" a pair of "klapki" (shoes) that you can wear inside the house. It's common curtsy to make sure you leave the shoes at the entrance - it is as well a sign of respect and good sense, as they also carry plenty of germs! 
Legal drinking limits in Europe
7. One drink = no driving. If you're thinking of renting a car and driving around + having a beer or two... think again! It's not allowed. Also, under the new rules, drivers exceeding the speeding limit by 50 km/hour can have their license taken away from them! I recommend to buy some alcohol tests from the local farmacy or even from the Rossman chain. They are cheap and very helpful! 
8. Films / Movies are dubbed in the cinema and TV; the children movies will (almost always) be shown in Polish language, dubbed. If you'll go to Cinema City or Multikino or any other big multiplex cinemas, you will find the movies for kids only in dubbed Polish. The smaller, independent cinemas, will still show the original - so, fear not, you can see THE movie ;)
Czu Czu toys/games are #MadeInPoland and they are a perfect gift for the Little Ones of all ages!
9. Parents friends are called uncles and aunts ("wujek" / "ciocia"). If you are visiting a friend or family and they have children, to be sure they will call you uncle / aunt. It's a wonderful feeling when they do and the small ones come and connect with you and do the same. You can play with them and act like an aunt in full rights. Children are usually very friendly and polite. It's nice if you can also bring them some kind of gifts - people say you can't buy love, but children just love presents!
10. Poland = Come and complain. There is ALWAYS room for improvement! It's awful outside when it rains as I get wet! It's awful when it's sunny as I get sweaty! It's awful when it's cold in the winter because it's not summer... It's always someone else's fault for the weather and we just need to live with it... every day of the week/month/year... You name it! 

What do you think? Have you ever been to Poland? What is your list of "10 Things You Should Know Before Coming To Poland"? What did you tell your friends and family when they first hosted you in Poland? Would love to hear your thoughts and ... If you have any questions, I am here!

Yours sincerely,
The Twisted Red LadyBug That Loves Krakow
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Thursday, 16 August 2018

Bucket List: Ed Sheeran in Warsaw - PGE Narodowy

Dearest lads and lasses,

Last Saturday I had the privilege to see and hear the wonderfully talented Edward Christopher Sheeran (Ed Sheeran) in Warsaw, in the PGE Narodowy Stadium. Born in England, with Irish grandparents (of whom he sings of in "Nancy Mulligan"), he sang in the local church choir ever since he was a wee lad of 4 years old. The earliest I can remember hearing Ed and listening to his songs on repeat was in 2013, when he released his wonderfully touching song called "I See Fire" for the movie "The Hobbit" - he was a sight for sore eyes, with that flaming red hair and that soothing voice. People were bound to fall for his voice and press on "Repeat" again and again... #DidYouKnow that on the 4th of December, Sheeran was named Spotify's most streamed artist of 2017 with 6.3 billion streams! Ed has Spotify's biggest album of the year with ÷ streamed 3.1 billion times, and the top song with "Shape of You" with 1.4 billion streams.
Ed Sheeran Concert tickets go out like hot bread, as soon as they went online, in less than 2-3 hours everything was taken out... hence the organisers did a very smart move: they praised super fast another concert date - the next day. Of course the tickets went flying away the next second. On Saturday and Sunday (11th and 12th of August 2018), Ed Sheeran played the 2 concerts at Warsaw's national stadium (PGE Narodowy Stadium) to promote his album "Divide" (÷). Two concerts in a row, to the happiness of all the hundreds and hundreds of people who came to listen to his soothing voice. The organisers were quite positive when they decided that despite the rainy weather the roof of the stadium would remain open (asking the participants not to bring umbrellas was not a smart move either...). But rain did come...and I was most definitely happy I stocked up with a raincoat ;)
Ed Sheeran's Instagram pic from Day 1 Concert in Warsaw, PGE Narodowy Stadium 
This was not Ed's first time in Poland, in Warsaw. 3 years earlier his tickets went away as warm bread in less than a week. The contact venue was back then Torwar, much smaller than the PGE Narodowy Stadium! This year's concert was promoting the record/album called "Divide"(÷). The tickets cost ranged from 269 to 400 zloty but they were worth every groszy! The Charm Music agency was the organiser and the Facebook page and the Facebook Event Page was always up to date with information. The entrances were open starting 16:00 hours and the band that were scheduled before Ed were from his entourage: 18:00 BE MY (Polish band), 18:30 Jamie Lawson, 19:30 Anne Marie and Ed was scheduled for 20:30 hours. 
How can one describe an Ed Sheeran Concert? Sheer madness, PGE Stadium transforming into a big pub gig, a mass of people moving and singing as one, hearts fluttering and huge truthful smiles... that is what it was for me :) someone from ONET Muzyka was saying that he could associate the screams of the female fans with the Beatlemania that once happened. The phenomenon of the popularity of Ed, a modest and very cute and energetic human being at only barely 27 years, is hard to discard. A decade ago Ed was playing in pubs, having small gigs, but look at this... fee years later the tickets for the Warsaw connect sold out so fast that the organisers opted to do another one (one day later) and again about 60.000 tickets sold out like fresh rolls! The whole stadium was filled out to the brim, leaving only a bit of free space only at the end of the stadiums plate - due to safety requirements. 

Ed went on stage at about 20:40-45. He went alone, just him and his acoustic guitar - one of the several he would use throughout the concert. A down to earth vibe always flowed from him, dressed up like most people that were in the stadium: jeans and a t-shirt... just as if he went out to a pub on a Saturday night :) The very first song Ed played was "Castle on the Hill" and as soon as he struck the first cords, the screams and singing of the whole stadium mingled and rose to the sky. It was loud! One of the loudest concerts I have been to! And guess what?! Ed said the same ;) he saved best for last, Warsaw being the last leg of the tour, and he stated that we were way louder than the Wembley crowd ;))) throughout the night he would reiterate our loudness and truth be told, my eardrums were about to burst several times. It sounded like the concert of the lifetime for many and I think many had to go to a laringologist the next day - I woke up with a sore throat from all the singing...

From the moment Ed stepped on stage all the people, as if a rod of lightning passed through us all, went up and started dancing and singing out loud. People in the seating areas, that were sitting down up to that moment, went up and started swaying with the music. And guess what? Nobody went down after! We all connected through Ed's music for 2 magical hours. "I knew that from the first song I would feel at home here", said Ed. These were not the first but also not the last words he said. There was plenty of announcements and comments, some of them quite lengthy and he has such a funny way to share stories of his life, it's just adorable! He talked about being shy during concerts, and how he admires people that can let go and dance and sing, while he would be just staring still and doing all the action in his mind :) I also loved him sharing his view of his favourite type of audience, including the Super Dad and the Super Boyfriend who is dragged to his concert. Ed also shared a story about the Polish band - BE MY - the supporter concert band, musicians who rented a house with Sheeran years ago :) my my... isn't the world small?! 
Every song that Ed Sheeran played in Warsw was taken to great heights and received as a hit, no matter if it was a hip hop song or a ballad. During the "A Team" the stadium was lit with thousand of flashes / mobile phones and voices raised to sing together the chorus with Ed. During "Thinking out Loud" Ed said that he would like all of us to sing, and if we don't know the lyrics of this song he has no clue what we are doing there ;)) As usual, there is some kind of action at every big concert, and the Posh fans had a Facebook event page where they organised this: The Flag of Poland being light up during "Perfect" - white and red cartons were distributed to the people seating and with the help of the landers from the phones, the audience constructed the Polish flag. Ed was surprised and we could all see a bright smile upon his lips and in his eyes, while playing the song, along with the thousand of us :) Magical! 
Of course the time went by and you would not feel where it slipped away yet... There he was, going away :( there was, as usual, an Encore and "Shape of You" was on the list and a lovely rendering of "You need me, I don't need you" :) and the (seeming) endless screams of the fans (whose voices were already almost gone). The feeling of being in a club, in a pub, participating in a huge Ed Sheeran gig is the feeling of the year! His down to earth attitude, his smiles and his funny stories, the vibrant music that he shares with us... everything makes us love Ed Sheeran, and if anyone compares him with the Beatles and the mania they produced... well they might be right :) but they should not point fingers and fret about it. What matters is that the hearts of people were lifted. What matters is the smile upon everyone's faces, the sparkle in their eyes, the wonderfully magical fresh vibes and the vibrant energy of the crowd. The feeling of togetherness. Ed creates soft songs, that through small (typical) words, create the right feeling. After his concert, I felt the need to attend the next day one as well... It was like a huge workout with a giant release of endorphins... and I would do it again. Anytime! 

Yours sincerely, 
The Twisted Red LadyBug That Loved The Ed Sheeran Concert in Warsaw 
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Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Krakow Hidden Gems: The Obwarzanek Museum

Dearest sweethearts,

A week or so ago I was telling you about the Stained Glass Workshop & Museum in Krakow - one of the #HiddenGems of this city that not many know of. Today it is time to share another secret of this city: The Museum of the Obwarzanek. If ever you have been in Poland, and especially in Krakow, for sure you have observed throughout the city the small dark blue carts, with people selling something that you would call a bagel /pretzel. But guess what? It's none of that: it is the traditional Krakowian Obwarzanek. It is one of Krakow's symbols and a treat that kids and adults alike like - a light snack for the road, that can be also transformed into a sandwich (but be careful, as it has a whole in the middle!).
The Obwarzanek, for the people of Krakow, is a culinary heritage that has been recognized even by the European Union! The "Obwarzanek Krakowski" has received the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status. So if you wish to make sure you are buying an original Obwarzanek, you should make sure the cart or the place that sells it, has the appropriate yellow and blue sign created by the EU to show the PGI status. The Museum of the Obwarzanek is not really a museum in itself. It is rather a small coffee shop, with a point of sale for the Krakow Made Obwarzanek, some memorabilia shaped as the Obwarzanek (from bracelets to socks to puzzles to cups and whatever you can think of!) & a large room where the Obwarzanek workshop takes place.
Entrace to the Museum of Obwarzanek
I would say the place is not really wheelchair friendly, as you need to get up a few steps to get inside and there is no way to do that in a wheelchair. There is a nice terrace outside where you can have some lemonade and obwarzanek while you wait for your turn to join in the workshop. As you go up the stairs, there is a long room - with small white tables and chairs on both sides. At the end there is the counter and the mini-shop with all the Obwarzanek memorabilia. You need to get to the counter and make the order and pay and then get seated. You can pay either by cash or by card (paypass - contactless option possible). The memorabilia is all Made in Poland and the pieces are unique, showing their love for the symbol of Krakow.
To the left side, as you are sitting at the counter, you can see the large room that is used for the workshops: two large, long tables are clean and ready for the "students". Everywhere (in all the rooms) there are old pictures, drawings and mentions of the Obwarzanek - throughout history. The baking is done in a room connected to the workshop room but only the "teacher" is allowed there - safety reasons mainly, but everyone is able to watch what happens through the video cameras installed there - image shown on a big screen in the workshop room. Fret not, there is also a toilet (for both men and women), quite small, located in the corner of the workshop room + a small sink (also in the same corner), where people can wash their hands before starting to "play with the dough" - health and safety first, and everyone should do that!
The Obwarzanek workshop ususally lasts about an hour and it can be done both in Polish and in English language. The workshop itself is not hard to perform, but it is a lot of fun for both children and adults alike. I was thinking if my daughter would like it, and as you know kids love PlayDough... so the real Obwarzanek dough would be fun to play with as well, but at the age of 2 (like my daughter) it would be a waste of time and money as she would not understand what is happening and what she should be doing.
The age that the "teachers" at the Museum of Obwarzanek recommend is 3+. During the workshop I took part of there were plenty of children, ages ranging from 4 years above. At the end there was a quiz session and the kids could win some gifts from the Museum. It was fun seeing them answer to the questions - that meant they liked it and they payed attention and that they had fun! And that is the most important thing at their age, for children, to have fun - to have a good time! So if you do have a Little One, I guarantee they will like this workshop! They get to play with dough, make their own Obwarzanek (eat it straight from the oven!) + they can have a quiz!
There is no breakfast without Obwarzanek :)
Only 1,60 zloty per Obwarzanek
The Workshop Room
The City of Clepardia and the walls of the City of Krakow
Apparently it is quite popular also with the Grannies, who love to do good things for their grandsons and granddaughters. They have a lot of fun as well, working on their manual skills. Plus they learn how a symbol of Krakow got born! Wouldn't you also like to know the full story? I will tell you now a bit of the history and the tips and tricks behind the Obwarzanek but you really should book a workshop for yourself and have fun! And listen to the rest of the things that I will not mention here, but are very interesting to see and hear and read in person ;)
The WOMEN / MEN sign on the toilet :) Cute, is it not?!
The Museum of Obwarzanek ticket :)
Glass Obwarzanki for a memo? :)
Writing daily on the board the specialties :)
#DidYouKnow that in the year of 1394 we can find the first mention of the "Obwarzanek"? It is in one of the notes/letters written by Krolowa Jadwiga (Queen Jadwiga) - "dla krolowej pani pro circulis obwarzanky 1 grosz". By the way, don't be fooled by the fact that the Queen bought Obwarzanek for 1 grosz. Don't think that 1 Obwarzanek = 1 groszy. Remember that the groszy / zloty was very strong back then, and probably with the amount of 1 zloty she bought several Obwarzanki. A peasant would have to work several days / even weeks to earn a groszy.
The entrance to the museum, seen from the inside
The tickets form an Obwarzanek :)
The Children enjoying the workshop
So the Obwarzanek is actually more than 600 years old! #DidYouKnow that a long time ago, the City of Clepardia (Kleparz area as we know it now, right next to the Old Town) was a separate city from Krakow? The city of Krakow had guilds - for example the guild of shoemakers, the guild of people that dealt with leather, the guild of bakers and so on... 100 years later after Queen Jadwiga, there was a King (Krol) named Jan Olbracht. He decided that only bakers from the guild can produce and sell Obwarzanek on the Main Market Square (in the City of Krakow). The bakers that selled illegally were named "partacznek" (or something similar, excuse my aweful Polish :) I am still learning). 
The Workshop is ON!
#DidYouKnow that there are simple ingredients that are used to do Obwarzanek? Everyone can do it, as everyone has these items in their pantry: flour,salt, sugar, yeast, oil (or some kind of fat) and (at the very end) water. But why do we call Obwarzanek like that? It refers to its production process and derives from “obwarzać” (to parboil), a distinctive technique of boiling the dough. When you first create the braided dough you must put it in boiled water and then bake it - that will make it crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. If you boil it in the water, that will make the yeast dough to stop from raising when in the oven. 
The best thing is to eat them fresh from the oven. The Obwarzanki are fresh only one day. That is also why they are the last ones to be made in a "piekarnia" (the place where you bake the bread). There is even a lovely old drawing that you can see in the museum, on one of the walls in the workshop room, that shows people baking Obwarzanek under the dark night sky. But what is the process behind it?!
Once you add the simple ingredients together, you stir them until you get the dough, with a wooden spoon. The dough is then left to raise (in the summertime it can take 15 min, in the wintertime the bakers usually leave it over night - in a warm place, usually covered up with a cotton napkin). Once you have the dough, you need to partition in into small pieces that choose 2 that you will roll and roll and roll untill you get two nice "sulka" that you will need to braid. Once braided, it goes in the boiling water, then it gets sprinkled with salt / sesame / poppy seeds (sometimes cheese - "oscypek") and gets baked in the oven.
The sprinkling of the salt / sesame / poppy seeds :)
The finished product :)
#DidYouKnow that over 150.000 Obwarzanek are made in 8 certified bakeries in Krakow?! Every Obwarzanek is braided and sprinkled by hand! And if you wish to make sure you have an original Krakow Obwarzanek than all you need to do is turn it around - if it has stripes or checkers it is the one! If not, than it is a fake and you should not eat it as it is not as delicious as the orginal one ;) Also... #DidYouKnow that the salt used for the Obwarzanek must always come from the Wieliczka Salt Mine (part of the UNESCO Patrimonium)? That is used inside, to create the dough, but also for the outside - for sprinkling the dough, before baking.

What say you? Are you convinced yet of visiting the Museum of Obwarzanek?!
Here are a bit more details:
19/16 PLN normal/reduced
Reduced tickets: children over 3 and under 16, students, seniors
Duration: approx. 1h
Come get your own diploma :)
ul. I.Paderewskiego 4 (Rynek Kleparski)
tel. +48 12 357 73 22

Opening hours
Monday-Thursday 10.00 – 16.00
Friday-Sunday 9.30-17.30

Yours sincerely, 
The Twisted Red LadyBug That Loved The Workshop Provided by the Obwarzanek 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. Would love to come again one day, probably with my sister or my daughter, and have a bit more fun :)
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