Tuesday, 11 September 2018

The most famous Briton I had never heard of

While watching TVP2 early on in my Polish adventure, I happened upon a colourful program about Europe with what seemed like foreign people speaking fluent Polish including an English guy. Being only subjected to Polish culture and people for a couple of months, I became extremely excited that there was an Englishman on TV and I wanted to tell everyone. Little did I know at the time that this was Kevin Aiston and this guy is a huge star here but unheard of outside of the country. I was more intrigued because he was speaking fluent Polish and I immediately wanted to know how as I was struggling with my own language development.

Kevin Aiston - the ambassador

Kevin was a chemical engineer in England from Chelsea (Just down the road from me) but became disillusioned with the country after the introduction of the Poll Tax in late 80's and spent times in various parts of Europe before falling in love with Poland and arrived in Warsaw at 22. And now he is a major media star representing all things English as well as being in the fire brigade.

The advice to learning the language is to only listen to Polish and forget about using and being exposed to English (A common mistake). Good advice.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Likes about Poland - I gave up smoking

Everyone smokes, fags are cheap - of all the places and times to give up but myself and Magda succeeded! It's about a year now and it was surprisingly easy considering I was a heavy smoker for nearly 10 years! I came close to having a puff every now and then but never succumbed. The secret? Give up with someone and make a pact to support each other! That is my message.
Then you can make loads of money by selling them without smoking them!!! Job done.

The highest sports stadium in Poland - Szklarska poreba

Cross country skiing and shooting on skiis is popular in Poland and Szklarska poreba due to lots of snow and mountains. I wish I could remember exactly how high this stadium is above sea level but roughly is very high. Szrenica mountain is in the background if that provides any helpful reference to the relative height.
Also on a similar note,
behind Magdas' house is the strangest 400m track I have ever seen. It is part of the high school but actually occupies varying heights and winds through the trees marked with a yellow blotch. Battling with trying to jog at altitude (which is so much harder than I thought) I used to focus more on not tripping on tree roots, finding the next yellow tree and generally avoiding the trees. I used to be SO focused on this that I would find myself running miles and miles at altitude.....without realising it!
I have a new found respect for children having to do sports in mountain schools, especially those with severe winters as I could not even breathe in the snow!

Things to do in Poland

Buy or make cheesecake (Sernik)

Although I am an avid Cheddar lover, I never was fond of cheesecake but for some unknown reason that all changed once I moved to Poland. On my first day in Poland I met my Magdas' family in Szklarska poreba and being extremely nervous my appetite was not at its greatest but I was presented with plate of cake - homemade cheesecake! - upon sitting in the front room. Being the tremendously polite gentleman I am I put a brave face on (and stomach), and started to force it down while face-acting to my best ability. To my surprise though it was really rather tasty and my love affair with Polish cheesecake or sernik began.

These two beauties can be found in Spar which was only 5mins away from our flat in Zielona Gora. The cake selection was the only redeemable quality that Spar possessed as I always thought that no one had a clue what there job was or it was not important. Perhaps the manager of this particular branch had gone for a cigarette break a couple of years ago and none of the staff have bothered to check if he has come back. I think I might be bitter because I used to buy the lotto here and never won!

If you want to try and make one (Magdas' mothers own recipe!) visit

It is very easy but an unforgettable taste which has been receiving much praise I assure you.

Monday, 13 August 2007

The highest railway station in Poland - Szklarska Poreba

The train station in Szklarska Poreba is the highest in Poland and the first time I saw this train station, I was impressed. The sheer rock face on one side opposite the station building, and on the other side a view of all of Szklarska, Szrenica mountain and some others I can not remember the name of in the Karkonosze range.

However despite the impressive natural surroundings, I actually thought the station had stopped being used as it is in a poor state and seemed deserted. There was no one around even though it was tourist season and there was a space where once a shop had serviced commuters. Trains do depart nowadays, although quite rarely compared with in the past but the station looks like it's last legs largely due to the decrease in stone mining in the Szklarska Poreba area and a cease in the connection to the Czech Republic (Tanvald in 1945). I think the state of the building and area around serve as an analogy to how during different times Szklarska boomed. During Communism when there were closed borders, Szklarska boomed as one of leading holiday destinations for Polish people to go but as the borders opened with the fall of Communism, it's popularity inevitably declined as people could leave Poland for their holiday. There was a golden age in Szklarska Poreba's history which is not now but I think there is the possibility of mountain towns booming again in Poland especially with it's recent inclusion in to the EU. Skiing resorts like this are beginning to rival the Alps and their associated resort towns. Time will tell, and perhaps Szklarska Poreba gorna will be busy once again.

Polish passion for sunflower seeds

When I was a child I would feed my rabbit something that resembled muesli with many bits and bobs in it that I did not recognise. One thing I remember Bosco particularly liked were these striped seeds that were the first thing to run out as I used to feed them individually to him (I had a lot of free time as a kid). It was when I came to Poland and I saw people with bags of them or carrying round a huge sunflower that I realised these striped seeds were sunflower seeds and also realised they were edible (I used to pick out some for me before the rabbit could gobble them all out of curiosity. Also most striped things are poisonous or dangerous so there was a tinge of adrenaline charged excitement as I continued to up my dosage with my increasing courage).
Anyway I found out they were sunflower seeds on my 30 hour coach ride to Poland when only one of these was my food for the entire trip (I got that feeling I had forgot something originating from my stomach!). Furthermore they are an incredibly powerful aid when giving up smoking probably because they are so fiddly to open and not filling at all that people's minds are taken off wanting to smoke. I see people everywhere from bus stations to pubs resembling my rabbit as they battle with and nibble at them. Of course becoming addicted to these is a problem also, it's only a substitute. Instead of ashtrays or the floor being saturated with fag butts, there are millions of the empty seed cases which look just as bad. I gave up smoking while living in Poland and I am thankful that I did not take up the sunflower habit because I would hate the thought of robbing more rabbits of the most tasty part of their meal in the future to literally feed my habit.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Polish festyn

It was Sunday, we were bored but luckily there was a festyn on down the road at the local church. I was very holy as a child being brought up a Catholic and being a skillful altar boy for many seasons, however this all waned as my teenage years kicked in.

A festyn is a church charity event to raise money through selling cakes, food, raffles etc. Not being a practising Catholic, I have since had a fear I will be grilled as to why I have not attended Mass every time a priest is in my vicinity or I attend anything religious in England. However my apprehension about this festyn being slightly uncomfortable disappeared as soon as I saw a monk on some kind of music equaliser system mixin' a tune!

In fact there was a monk band from Krakow who played instruments and sang while in their robes. They were actually good with songs resembling reggae intermixed with rock and indie. The place was rockin'. There were hand actions to one song in which everyone got involved. I have not uploaded the videos to you tube yet but I will soon so you can hear the saintly songs yourself.

Of course one thing I was looking forward to was trying the food on offer and I was not disappointed. I had just eaten breakfast but nothing was stopping me from trying bigos and pierogi ruskie but unfortunately I did not have room for kielbasa :( The food was delicious, the little girl in the picture was not strapped in for safety, it was to stop her nabbing the cakes!

We won a variety of prizes including two skipping ropes, and elephant and a green Copernicus hat (the hat was not only practical in the bright sun, but also educational because I learnt Copernicus was Polish!)

For recipes on Polish cuisine visit my site about Polish food and recipes and look for bigos and/or pierogi ruskie!