Category: Food

Category: Food

Drinking in Poland

Polish alcohol

Poland is on the border of European vodka and beer culture and Poles enjoy alcoholic drinks at least as much as other Europeans. When it comes to drinking in Poland, you will find beer, vodka & wine in many shops including the smallest supermarket chains with larger supermarkets providing a full range of alcohol from around the world including well-known brands.

Although Poland is known as the birthplace of vodka, local beer seems to have much more appeal to many Poles. Drinking in Poland has changed for many due to the larger choice of alcohol available such as craft beer & real ale which is increasingly popular. In the cities, you will find specialist bars providing a staggering range of brews & flavours.

In many cities, you will find a surprisingly large amount of bars and restaurants serving drinks and food from outside of Poland. Although Polish drinks and Polish food continue to be the first choice for older Poles, the younger generation are developing other tastes.

Prices

Prices for alcohol in Poland tend to be much cheaper than in the UK with a pint of strong lager costing around £2 in most bars (even in the major cities). On the downside, alcoholism is rife and you will encounter drunks sometimes on a daily basis!

Beer

Poland’s brewery tradition began in the Middle Ages. Today Poland is one of top beer countries in Europe. Although not well known internationally, Poland produces some of the best Pilsner-type lagers worldwide. The most common brands include:

  • Lech (pronounced LEH)
  • Żywiec (pronounced ZHIV-y-ets)
  • Tyskie (pronounced TIS-kee)
  • Okocim (pronounced oh-KO-cheem)
  • Warka (pronounced VAR-kah)
  • Łomża (pronounced Uom-zha)
  • Tatra

Vodka

Drinking in Poland will usually involve vodka. The most popular brands of vodka in Poland are:

  • Żubrówka (Zhe-BROOF-ka) – vodka with flavors derived from Bison Grass, from eastern Poland.
  • Żołądkowa Gorzka (Zho-want-KO-va GORZH-ka) – vodka with “bitter” (gorzka) in the name, but sweet in the taste. Just like Żubrówka, it’s an unique Polish product and definitely a must-try.
  • Żytnia (ZHIT-nea) – rye vodka
  • Wyborowa (Vi-bo-RO-va) – One of Poland’s most popular potato vodkas. This is also one of the most common exported brands. Strong and pleasant.
  • Biała Dama (Be-AH-wa DAH-ma) is not actually a vodka but a name given by winos to cheap rectified spirits of dubious origin. best avoided if you like your eyesight the way it is.
  • Luksusowa (Look-sus-OH-vah) “Luxurious” – Another popular brand, and a common export along with Wyborowa.

Deluxe (more expensive) brands include Chopin and Belvedere (Most Poles consider these brands to be “export brands”, and usually don’t drink them.)

Polish people usually take vodka in shots, not in drinks, accompanied by a chaser in the form of some juice or soda.

Wine

Poland does make a few quality wines around Zielona Góra in Dolnośląskie, Małopolskie and Podkarpackie in the Beskids.

They used to be only available from the manufacturer or at wine festivals, like in Zielona Góra. But with a law passed in 2008, this has changed and Polish wines are also available in retail.

As for imported wine, apart from the usual old and new world standards, there is usually a choice of decent table wines from central and eastern Europe, such as Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Moldova, the Balkans, and Georgia.

In the winter time, many Poles drink grzaniec (mulled wine), made of red wine heated with spices such as cloves, nutmeg, and ginger. A similar drink can be made with beer, although wine is the most popular method.

Mead

Mead – Miód Pitny is a traditional and historical alcohol drink in Poland. Mead is brewed from honey. Original Polish mead contain 13-20% alcohol. Sometimes it can be very sweet.

Tea and coffee

Throw stereotypes out the door. For Poles, one of the most important staples to quench their thirst is not vodka or beer, but rather tea and coffee.

Ordering a tea will usually get you a cup or kettle of hot water, and a tea bag on the side, so that you can put together a tea that’s as strong or as weak as you like. This is not uncommon in continental Europe, but may require some adjustment for visitors.

Water

Carbonated mineral waters are popular, and several kinds are available. Poland was known for its mineral water health spas (pijalnie wód) in the 19th century, and the tradition remains strong – you can find many carbonated waters that are naturally rich in minerals and salts.

Opinions regarding the safety of tap water vary: odds are it’s OK, but most residents opt to boil or filter it anyway.

For detailed tourist information about Poland, visit our travel partner at, the Poland Travel Agency.

 


Christmas in Warsaw

How Christmas should be

A good time to consider having your dental treatment in Warsaw is over the festive period. Christmas in Warsaw is very special and you will find an abundance of Christmas fairs or markets. You will also find that the dental clinics are less busy at this time of the year.

Christmas fairs & markets

Starting in December you’ll find impromptu markets setting up on the plac Defilad, in front of the Palace of Culture and Science and the plac Zamkowy, by the castle.

These fairs and markets are definitely worth a visit and will make you feel like a child on Christmas Eve again! The best time to come to Warsaw if you want to enjoy the Christmas markets is in the second or third weekend of December.

Old Town Christmas Market

The much beloved Christmas Market returns to Warsaw’s Old Town starting at the end of November. The Market Square is filled with wooden stalls selling handicrafts (Christmas ornaments, amber jewellery, ceramics, carved wood decorations, and more), traditional food, mulled wine, and hot beer. A simple, but essential Warsaw winter pleasure!

The Christmas street lighting in Warsaw around the Old Town and along the Royal Route is just beautiful!

Warsaw is an excellent location to visit during Christmas and just perfect for picking up that original and unique Christmas present at a good price too! The best time to come to Warsaw for Christmas shopping is the last two weeks in November. Unlike the UK, this is when the shopping malls first get decorated for Christmas and you will enjoy the Christmas ambiance without the mad crowds during this time.

Polish Christmas

Christmas in Poland is taken very seriously and is mainly focused on family and friends. During Advent, families get busy baking Christmas piernik (gingerbread) and start making (yes making!) their Christmas decorations. Gingerbread is made in a variety of shapes including hearts, animals and St. Nicholas figures (St. Nick is the Polish version of Santa).

Traditional decorations include the pajaki, which are handmade stars and decorated eggshells.

Lit Christmas trees are placed in most public areas, outside churches and in homes. Traditionally the trees are decorated with shiny apples, walnuts, wrapped chocolate shapes, hand blown glass baubles, and many homemade ornaments and candles. On the top of the tree is a star or a glittering top piece. In many homes, sparklers are hung on the branches of the trees for ambiance.

Gwiazdory

During Advent the “Gwiazdory,” or star carriers, wander through the towns and villages and this continues until Epiphany. Some of the Gwiazdory sing carols; others recite verses or put on “Szopki” (puppet shows), or “herody” (nativity scenes). The last two customs are developments from traditional manger scenes or “Jaselka” (crib).

Oplatek

One tradition unique to Poland is the sharing of the “oplatek”, a thin wafer into which is pressed a holy picture. People once carried these oplatki from house to house wishing their neighbors a Merry Christmas. Nowadays, the bread is mostly shared with members of the family and immediate neighbors.

As each person shares pieces of the wafer with another person, they are supposed to forgive any hurts that have occurred over the past year and to wish the other person all the happiness in the coming year.

Christmas Eve in Poland

In Poland, Christmas Eve is a day first of fasting, then of feasting. The feast begins with the appearance of the first star; there is no meat in the feast, and it is followed by the exchange of gifts. The following day is often spent visiting friends. In Polish tradition, people combine religion and family closeness at Christmas time.

Although gift giving plays a major role in the rituals, emphasis is placed more on making special foods and decorations. On Christmas Eve, so important is the first star of the night that it has been given the affectionate name of “little star” or Gwiazdka, in remembrance of the Star of Bethlehem. On that night, all watch the sky anxiously, hoping to be the first to cry out, “The star!” The moment the star appears, people start eating.

Wigilia

Families unite for the most carefully planned meal of the year, Wigilia, the Christmas supper. The Wigilia derives its name from the Latin word vigilare, which means “to watch” or keep vigil. According to tradition, bits of hay are spread beneath the tablecloth as a reminder that Christ was born in a manger. An even number of people must be seated around the table or, tradition states, someone may die in the coming year. Wigilia is a family feast. In some places an empty place setting is symbolically left at the table for the Baby Jesus or for a wanderer who may be in need, or if a deceased relative should come and would like to share in the meal.

The meal begins with the breaking of the oplatek. Everyone at the table breaks off a piece and eats it as a symbol of their unity with Christ. They then share a piece with each family member giving good wishes for the following year. There should be twelve dishes, as a symbol of the Twelve Apostles, or an odd number of dishes for good luck (usually five, seven, or nine). Poppy seed cake, beet soup, prune dumplings, carp, herring and noodles with poppy seed are universal Polish Christmas foods.

Traditionally, there is no meat eaten on Christmas Eve. Often there is compote of dry fruits. The remainder of the evening is given to stories and songs around the Christmas tree. In some areas of the country, children are taught that “The Little Star” brings the gifts. As presents are wrapped, carolers may walk from house to house, receiving treats along the way.

For detailed tourist information about Warsaw and the rest of Poland, please visit our travel partner, the Poland Travel Agency.

 


Polish culture

From religion to Hip Hop

Polish culture is closely connected with its intricate 1000 year history & Kraków is considered by many to be the cultural capital of Poland. On this page, we provide a very brief introduction to Polish culture so that you can better understand the locals.

Kraków

Kraków has some of the best museums in the country and several famous theatres. It became the residence of two Polish Nobel laureates in literature: Wisława Szymborska and Czesław Miłosz, while a third Nobel laureate, the Yugoslav writer Ivo Andric also lived and studied there. It is also a home to one of the world’s oldest universities, the Jagiellonian University of Kraków.

Etiquette

Some men, particularly older men, may kiss a woman’s hand when greeting or saying goodbye. Kissing a woman’s hand is considered to be chivalrous, but you will not go wrong shaking hands. For a more heartfelt greeting or goodbye, close friends of either sex will kiss three times, alternating cheeks.

A fairly common practice is for people to greet each other with a dzień dobry (good day) when entering elevators, or at the very least, saying do widzenia (good bye) when exiting the elevator. It is usual to bring a gift when invited to someone’s home. Flowers are always a good choice. Florists’ kiosks are ubiquitous; be sure to get an odd number of flowers, as an even number is associated with funerals.

It is customary to hold doors and chairs for women. Poles are generally old-fashioned about gender etiquette. Men should not wear hats indoors, in particular when entering a church. Most restaurants, museums, and other public buildings have a cloakroom, and people are expected to leave bags and outerwear there.

It is advisable to refer to Poland (as well as to some other countries like Czech Republic, Slovakia, or Hungary) as Central Europe, and not Eastern Europe. Although not very offensive, if used, it may reflect foreigners’ ignorance and certain disrespect on the history and clearly Latin cultural heritage of the countries from the region. Poles themselves refer to the “old” EU west of its borders as “Zachód” (West) and to the states created after the break-up of the USSR as “Wschód” (East). Geographically this is borne out by drawing a line from the tip of Norway to Greece and from the Urals to the coast of Portugal. For better or worse, Poland remains at the cross-roads of Europe, right in the continent’s center.

Religion

A big and important part of Polish culture is religion.

Older Polish people are strongly religious while younger thirty-somethings tend to be medium religious (attending church on major catholic holidays) or not at all religious. The so-called ‘Generation JP2’ (JP2 is short for John Paul II), people between the age of 16 and roughly 25, tend to establish a neo-conservative look on religion in Poland, just like Americans did in the ’80.

The vast majority of youngsters remain officially catholic and occasionally go to church, but in fact do not give much attention to religion. During Easter, the churches have a lot of ceremonies and are very well visited by the locals. Saturday evening is for candlelight ceremonies outside the churches.

The Black Madonna of Częstochowa is a holy icon of the Virgin Mary, that is both Poland’s holiest relic and one of the country’s national symbols.

Because of the Black Madonna, Częstochowa is regarded as the most popular shrine in Poland, with many Polish Catholics making a pilgrimage there every year. Often, people will line up on the side of the road to hand provisions to the pilgrims as those who walk the distance to Częstochowa walk the entire day and have little means to get things for themselves.

Regular stores are closed during main religious holidays (25th & 26th of December, Easter Sunday, and Monday), other holidays may mean shorter working hours.

Customs

Dialog and the interpenetration of cultures have been a major characteristic of Polish culture & tradition for centuries. Customs, manners, and style of clothing have reflected the influences of East and West.

The traditional costumes worn by the nobility in the 16th and 17th centuries were inspired by rich Eastern ornamental style with its Islamic influences. The style of clothing is called Goral (Pronounced GOO-RAL).

Polish cuisine is yet another aspect of Poland’s cultural identity. Distinctive Polish foods include kielbasa, pierogi (pierozki), pyzy (meat-filled dough balls), kopytka, golabki (pronounced Go-waunm-b-ki), sledzie (sh-ledje-eh), bigos, kotlety (schabowy and mielony) and much more.

Architecture

Polish cities and towns reflect the whole spectrum of European styles. Poland’s Eastern frontiers used to mark the outermost boundary of the influences of Western architecture on the continent.

History has not been good to Poland’s architectural monuments. However, a number of ancient structures have survived: castles, churches, and stately buildings, often unique in the regional or European context. Some of them have been painstakingly restored, like Wawel Royal Castle, or completely reconstructed after being destroyed in the Second World War, including the Old Town and Royal Castle in Warsaw, as well as the Old Towns of Gdańsk and Wrocław.

The centre of Kazimierz Dolny on the Vistula is a good example of a well-preserved medieval town. Poland’s ancient capital, Kraków, ranks among the best-preserved Gothic and Renaissance urban complexes in Europe. Meanwhile, the legacy of the Kresy Marchlands of Poland’s eastern regions with Wilno and Lwow (now Vilnius and Lviv) as two major centres for the arts, played a special role in these developments with Roman-Catholic church architecture deserving special attention.

In Vilnius (Lithuania) there are about 40 baroque and Renaissance churches. In Lviv (Ukraine) there are Gothic, Renaissance, and baroque urban complexes with influences of the orthodox and Armenian church.

Music

The music of Poland has a long history and is inextricably linked with Polish culture. Fryderyk Chopin, inspired by Polish tradition and folklore, conveys the quintessence of Romanticism. Since 1927, the International Frederick Chopin Piano Competition has been held every five years in Warsaw.

Polish classical music is also represented by composers like Karol Szymanowski, Mieczyslaw Karlowicz, Witold Lutoslawski, Wojciech Kilar, Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki, and Krzysztof Penderecki – all of whom rank among the world’s most celebrated composers.

Contemporary Polish jazz with its special national flavour has fans and followers in many countries.

Artists from Poland, including famous composers like Chopin or Penderecki and traditional, regionalised folk musicians, create a lively and diverse music scene, which even recognises its own music genres, such as poezja śpiewana (sung poetry) and disco polo.

Poland is one of the few countries in Europe where rock and hip hop dominate over pop music, while all kinds of alternative music genres are encouraged.

Poland has always been a very open country to new music genres and even before the fall of communism, music styles like rock, metal, jazz, electronic, and New Wave were well-known. Since 1989, the Polish scene has exploded with new talents and a more diverse style.

Poland has a very active underground extreme metal music scene. Some of the bands that have heralded and helped the cause are Behemoth, Vader, Yattering, Decapitated, Indukti, Hate, and Lux Occulta. This has paved ground for a large underground movement.

 


Polish food

Kuchnia Polska

Polish food (Polish: kuchnia polska) is a mixture of Slavic culinary traditions and is still enjoyed by millions of Poles despite the wide range of other cuisines available in Poland today, and is an aspect of Poland’s cultural identity.

Polish food is rich in meat, especially chicken and pork, and winter vegetables (cabbage in the dish bigos), and spices, as well as different kinds of noodles the most notable of which are the pierogi. It is related to other Slavic cuisines in usage of kasza and other cereals. Generally speaking, Polish cuisine is substantial.

The traditional cuisine generally is demanding and Poles allow themselves a generous amount of time to prepare and enjoy their festive meals, with some meals (like Christmas eve or Easter Breakfast) taking a number of days to prepare in their entirety.

Traditionally, the main meal is eaten about 2pm, and is usually composed of three courses, starting with a soup, such as popular bouillon or tomato or more festive barszcz (beet) or zurek (sour rye meal mash), followed perhaps in a restaurant by an appetizer of herring (prepared in either cream, oil, or vinegar). Other popular appetizers are various cured meats, vegetables or fish in aspic.

Polish food – The main course

The main course is usually meaty including a roast or kotlet schabowy (breaded pork cutlet). Vegetables, currently replaced by leaf salad, were not very long ago most commonly served as ‘surowka’ – shredded root vegetables with lemon and sugar (carrot, celeriac, beetroot) or fermented cabbage (kapusta kwaszona).

The sides are usually boiled potatoes or more traditionally kasha (cereals). Meals often conclude with a dessert such as makowiec (poppy seed cake), or drozdzowka, a type of yeast cake.

Other Polish food specialities include chlodnik (a chilled beet or fruit soup for hot days), golonka (pork knuckles cooked with vegetables), kolduny (meat dumplings), zrazy (stuffed slices of beef), salceson and flaczki (tripe).

Polish Soups

Chłodnik litewski: cold yoghurt-and-beetroot soup served with a hard boiled egg, originally from Lithuania.
Barszcz biały: sour thick wheat starch soup with marjoram, potatoes, sometimes with cream.
Barszcz czerwony: refreshing beetroot soup with vegetables and sour cream or served clear with dumplings.
Żurek: sour rye soup with potato, sausage or an egg, sometimes served in a bread loaf.
Krupnik: barley soup with a smattering of vegetables and smoked meat.
Kapuśniak: sour cabbage soup.
Zupa ogórkowa: hot sour cucumber soup.
Zupa koperkowa: dill soup.
Rosół z kurczaka: golden chicken consommé with noodles.
Zupa pomidorowa: tomato soup, often with rice or noodles.
Grochówka: thick pea soup.
Zupa grzybowa: mushroom soup with cream.
Flaki wołowe: beef tripe soup.

Hors d’Oeuvres

Smalec: partially double fried lard with onion, marjoram and sometimes with apple or prune. It is spread over bread and served together with pickled cucumbers as an appetizer before the main meal.
Śledzie w śmietanie: herring in sour cream, usually with onion.
Boczek ze śliwką: bacon stuffed with prunes.
Tatar: steak tartar; raw minced beef with chopped onion and raw yolk.

Main Courses in Poland

Eskalopki z cielęciny: veal in a blanket.
Polędwiczki wołowe: beef sirloin, often with rare mushroom sauce.
Ozór wołowy: soft steamed beef tongues.
Sztuka mięsa w sosie chrzanowym: boiled chunk of beef in horseradish sauce.
Zrazy zawijane: beef rolls stuffed with bacon, gherkin and onion or red pepper, in a spicy sauce.
Golonka w piwie: fat, but tasty pork knuckle, sometimes in beer sauce, always with horseradish; very traditional, originally from Bavaria.
Karkówka: tenderloin, usually roasted
Kotlet schabowy: traditional breaded pork cutlet (a tasty choice if you do not want any risk).
Kiełbasa: Polish sausages – white sausages are especially very tasty. They go well with pickled cucumbers (gherkins) in combination with beer or vodka and fresh air.
Żeberka w miodzie: spare pork ribs in honey.
Kaczka z jabłkami: baked duck in apple.
Kurczak de volaille: chicken steaks spread with butter, filled with mushrooms and bread crumbed, originally French.
Wątróbki drobiowe: chicken liver.
Baranina: roasted or even grilled lamb – great, especially in the mountains.
Klopsiki: meatloaf, often with tomato sauce.
Bigos: appetizing, seasoned “hunter” stew made from sauerkraut with chunks of various meats and sausages, extremely traditional.
Dziczyzna: game.
Fasolka po bretońsku: cheap bean and sausage stew.
Gołąbki: cabbage parcels originally from Lithuania, they are stuffed with meat or meat and rice.
Kaszanka: grilled or baked solid pieces of buckwheat blended with pork blood and shaped as sausages.
Szaszłyk: originally Caucasian dish; chunks of meat grilled on a spit.
Karp po żydowsku: carp in aspic with raisins, originally Jewish.
Łosoś: salmon, often baked or boiled in a dill sauce.
Pstrąg: trout, sometimes flambé.
Sandacz: pike perch.
Pierogi: very traditional small white dumplings, larger than ravioli, filled with sauerkraut with mushrooms, cheese and potatoes or with fruit. They can be also with meat (z mięsem).
Naleśniki: omelettes stuffed with jam, fruit, cottage cheese etc. and very similar to crepes.
Knedle: potato dumplings stuffed with fruit, usually plums.
Frytki: chips.
Kopytka: hoof-shaped dumplings.
Kluski śląskie: Silesian dumplings, made from boiled potatoes.
Kasza gryczana: buckwheat groats.
Placki ziemniaczane: potato pancakes.

Deserts in Poland

Faworki: pastry twisters.
Galaretka: very sweet jellies.
Makowiec: sweet poppy cake.
Pączki: doughnuts.
Sernik: delicious fat cheese cake.
Szarlotka: cake with apples, sometimes served with whipped cream.

For further information about Poland including detailed tourist information, please visit our travel partner, the Poland Travel Agency.