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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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