Friday, 27 July 2007

Szklarska poreba photos

These pictures are taken around Szklarka of a place called Sowie Skaly (Owl's Rocks in English) as well as of the main road into Szklarska and the main river that flows through the town. Cool place for paintball although you run the risk of runnng off a cliff like Arnie in Predator.
The quality of these pics are not amazing due to the fact I only have a camera phone in Poland but I think the views are conveyed well enough.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

My version of krokiet (meat filled pancakes fried in breadcrumbs)

Coming in one night and being absolutely famished I looked in the fridge and found what looked to be rolled up wraps (flour tortilla rolled around fillings) and ate a few. They were delicious straight out of the fridge but I did not find out what they were until the next day. They were Polish krokiet (information and recipe for krokiet) but I had eaten them before they were finished and luckily enough the meat filling is not raw otherwise I would be talking about a way never to eat this food. Now I always them before the breadcrumb layers are applied and fried (see link above). Essentially they are just cold crepe pancakes filled with minced meat but they are lovely and great when you are in a hurry and don't have time to finish the recipe. Of course the Polish family here think I am crazy for changing the traditional way of doing things but the English have a stereotype of being eccentric so I might as well live up to it.

Dislike about Poland - paying for water

Coming from London, I took it for granted that I could drink as much water as I wanted from the tap without fear of any water-borne nasties infecting me or equally nasty chemicals. I try and drink as much water as possible as it is healthy and I done that here too for a month until I got a stern warning from my adopted babcja (grandmother) that scared me despite not understanding a word! Now it pisses me off every time I have to buy a 6 litre bottle of water which usually only lasts me 2 days at most. You can see from the photo it can cost about 5-6 zloty and that is the same as a packet of cigs and although I do not smoke anymore I still have a habit of judging prices by how they relate to the price of a pack of 20 in England (which is way overpriced in relation to other prices due to tax). I know that being unable to drink tap water is not unique to Poland and I had problems with tap water in Ireland because it tastes like a sheep had bathed in it, but it is the first time I have had to deal with it for an extended amount of time. The expense is not the major issue, but inconvenience because running out with the local shop already closed means no water for me. Furthermore it is a pain to decant water from the huge bottle into smaller ones to put them in the fridge so mostly the water is warm. Lastly we accumulate armies of blue tinted plastic bottles which are a real pain to get rid of.
Looking on the bright side I have increased my spoken Polish in shops a great deal because I am in there all the time to buy more water, I can order a large bottle of still mineral water like a native Pole. Also I have tasted many different brands of Polish mountain mineral water (One called Zywiec which the famous beer uses to it's brew) and I'm sure I am all the healthier for it.

Saturday, 21 July 2007

My favourite Polish dinner

My all time favourite Bigos, Bigos Bigos. This meal is the national dish, basically bacon and cabbage (but much better than the Irish version). It has such a unique taste and tastes better the longer it is reheated and the longer it is left. I can't recommend this enough and I have written down the recipe that my adopted bapcia (grandmother) Ania uses to make the Bigos I eat. This site also has all the recipes and information about Polish food that I pick up while I am here. Have a look and try some of the recipes yourself. I learnt much of this by watching babcja Ania with a limited ability to communicate and I have consequently cooked some of these recipes for my family and friends in London. Of course they loved this food.

The link is:

Singing Polish style

Magda, her cousin and myself of course were invited to a grill (Polish barbeque) and although no one ate anything, that was not the point of the party and the presence of a guitar meant that everyone was soon singing away. There are many Polish songs that everybody knows here unlike in London where there is not a strong traditional musical memory that everyone shares. If you start singing one of these songs everyone around you would know the words and probably join in. It reminds me of a lot of Ireland where there are very famous old songs which everyone knows and loves singing. I can join in quite convincingly although I usually wing it and say anything to the tune emphasizing the one word I might know. There is a song with the verse 'hej hej hej' and it has 'Dzwon Dzwon Dzwon' in it somewhere that I know (Hej sokoly). Luckily there was a binder with all the songs written and that was extremely helpful for me since reading Polish is quite easy once you know what the sounds are because it is phonetic unlike English. I sung a song which I know, an Irish song, 'Seven Drunken Nights'. It is a song I love to sing, especially while drinking, because you don't have to be a good singer and it has a great chorus. Unfortunately I tend to mix up or forget certain parts of the song but it is all part of the performance.
I was introduced to a lovely new barley beer. By god it's strong (Look at the photo!) but it has a wonderful taste and I think should be a sipping lager because it will blow your head. This could be a contender for top Polish lager (At the moment I have Warka strong as undisputed number one but I will have to do more research into this particular one, ahhh the things I have to go through to get this information for you!

Friday, 20 July 2007

It is hot actually

Well after complaining about not feeling the hot weather in the weather post previously, I certainly had to eat my words on this particular day. The thermometer nearly burst!!! I found myself melting and everyone here was doing the English thing of talking about the weather (I felt at home).

What I found quite strange was a hot weather expert that Polsat (national TV channel) employed to give advice to the Polish public. As I was watching they interviewed a black guy and I could not really understand but I assumed he is had flown in from some tropical country where extremely hot weather is normal. However he started speaking.......and he was Polish born and bred!!! I could not believe how this seemingly racist event was allowed to be aired on TV. It is assumed that this guy is an expert in keeping cool in hot weather just because he is black, he might never have left Poland in his whole life and so never experienced any different conditions to the rest of the Polish public, but he must have some inherent knowledge that all black people are born with about how to cool down in the hot sun. Imagine asking an Irish guy the best way to become unconscious through alcohol even if he is does not drink. I think I am used to an overly politically correct Britain where this type of thing would have been controversial and not be shown. Actually it is refreshing that this society is not worried about being politically correct to the point of absurdity and the guy got 5 minutes of fame anyway. By the way his advice was to drink hot tea to cool down in case you wanted to know the expert advice.

Monday, 16 July 2007

An englishman in......

I was browsing the Google search engine to see if I rate highly on the SEO and I found some interesting and related blogs (I'm not high by the way...yet!). I think the song about an Englishman in New York by Sting has influenced many Brits subconsciously because there are a multitude of blogs with this title. For me it was a natural title which did not require any thought and I expect for the others also but I think we should all link up to start a travel series that will overtake the lonely planet guides! If any of you 'An Englishman in.......' are reading this contact me and tell me what you think.

Here are links to some of those sights. (Sydney) (New Zealand) (A few different places)

There are more but I think you get the picture. I imagine a scenario like that in Bourne Identity films where we have an official 'Englishman' for every country! But instead of being assassinating people for the Americans we just tell everyone where the great places to get pissed are around the world.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

In lwowek slaski for Kate Ryan concert

A group of us travelled about an hour out of Szklarka to go to Iwowek slaski for a concert. I had not heard of Kate Ryan but wrongly jumped to the conclusion that she is of Irish descent and famous in Europe because she failed to break into British culture. I found out however, that she was born in Belgium to Dutch parents but some of her songs are still OK, quite catchy but her false American accent became quite annoying after a while.

I got quite near to her though as you can see on the left. No kate is not the mature women in the polka dot dress but the tiny image on the screen behind the umbrella. Anyway a lot of people did not come here to see her. I think it's more of a drinking in public thing. That is illegal in Poland apart from at events like this where a blind eye is shown but I still found myself hiding a can as some coppers walked by. I have heard many stories of people being fined for this and consequently old men find hiding places in bushes or hay wagons (today while driving we were stuck behind a hay wagon in which there were multiple old men drinking in the hay! Is that classed as a public place?).

For most of the time I was sitting beside a huge transformer or some electrical appliance which supplied power for all the lights around me. The thing that worried me was the large amount of wires scattered all over the place with drunk people stumbling all over them while

balanced on one of those cheap barbecue stands from argos. If that guy on the right had let one off then.....well this picture would have been much brighter. I have noticed that I am used to the English 'nanny state' effect where anything slightly dangerous would be sealed off behind an impenetrable cage by Health and Safety. I often hear myself saying 'but how is that allowed, isn't it dangerous' about a mountain tourist pass that has no fence or this situation here. Now I have realised the extent to which paranoia about being sued has influenced British culture because I am always surprised and scared because the state is not protecting me with a fence! But I am happy to report everything was fine, that guy carried on along his merry way.

Here are some general photos of the night. I'm rarely in my photos since I take them all but I am there!! I particularly like the young boy in the England kit who was running around with a sword, he reminded me of St. George but he was a nightmare to get a photo of.

Everything in Poland is not cheaper

It came as a surprise that electrical goods and branded trainers here are much more expensive than in England. Since food, cigs and booze are much cheaper, I extrapolated this to all goods. Economics and all that jazz is not my strong point so I was confused because the country on a whole is poorer but I think it is something to do with little competition here and they stay in business due to the small, rich section of society buying their products. Basically anything imported is really expensive. People here go to Germany for their consumer goods. Before I realised this, I had bought a laptop in Poland thinking it has to be cheaper than in London. I did not 'feel' the actual price as it was in zloty and I did not think of converting at the time.
Now I shop online and the best and easiest site I have found so far is an American shop caparison site which lists many different prices from an array of different shops for electrical items to jewellery and garden items. I am interested in buying a good DSLR camera and on this site I got 26 different prices for one particular camera with a difference in price of 100%! The site is called compare4 us and it is very quick. I think much faster than driving to Germany and back and cheaper due to petrol costs. It would be even better if it was in different languages but I expect this to be implemented shortly as it is a new site.

Saturday, 14 July 2007

It's hot apparently

In London when it approaches and hits 30 degrees, everyone goes mental. It is the only thing to talk about and everyone says 'It's too hot' after a long sigh while sweating profusely. Even the slightest movement causes a person to melt, actually just breathing usually does the trick.

And yet here I didn't think it was extremely hot but after looking at the thermometer.....

The reason is probably due to the fact London is a concrete city and city heat is much 'wetter' making you more uncomfortable and here in the mountains the air is cooler etc. I knew about horrible city heat but I never knew it could be this comfortable in heat that has been recorded by the thermometer. Look what I'm wearing in the house.......

I love these mountain slippers and they are really warm, which is why I should not be wearing them! One stereotype that I think many foreigners have of Poland is that it's cold and snowing all year round. I suppose I still hold on to this stereotype on some level and am consequently still amazed when it is hot or I see people walking around in summer clothes. Perhaps I am comfortable in winter slippers because I am subconsciously denying the weather.

Furthermore, I spotted a Polish ice-cream van. To my disappointment there is no huge difference between them here and in England. He sold out of the back and did not have the creamy machine ice-cream but that was it. It even had a similar but still annoying ice-cream van tunes to announce his arrival. Not what I was expecting at all.

Friday, 13 July 2007

Argentina 3 Poland 1 U20 World Cup

Since I have been in Poland I have noticed the pride and support that is evident when Poland is involved in any type of sport. I was in a bar when Poland beat Portugal in a qualifying match a while ago and the atmosphere was incredible not just in the pub, but everywhere. I urge them on now in any sport in hope that further success will only increase the already near un-peakable (is that a word?) enthusiasm I have witnessed. About 11pm last night I was regretting the fact that I was not out to watch this match in the pub as I watched Janczyk score the opener, I thought it was going to be Brazil all over again. Without England in this tournament I opted for Poland and marvelled at the fact that they could be on the way to claiming another South American team's scalp.

However Argentina, or more accurately one man, who prevented that - Sergio Aguero. His two class goals ended Poland's world cup. However I did feel better for not going to watch it at the pub at least. And quite interestingly Magda's mum managed to confidently predict the right score. I wonder if she is a secret footie fan or actually if the words in the corner of the screen, na zywo, are a sponsor or something and do not refer to the match being live.

OK I will try to recreate the moment that a nation's hope quadrupled with a bad quality screenshot ....... immediately after the goal. Try to ignore the fact it looks like it's part of some angry but tender man love video.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

New translation service available

A new human translation service has been set up in association with partners here in Poland which is FREE to use. Any word length is acceptable upto a reasonable amount.
Either the translations will be posted as replies (if they are small), or larger amounts will be posted back to your eMail as soon as possible. Do not forget to leave your eMail address!

The link

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Kotlet schabowy - yummy obiad

Polish food is a large part of the culture and I am willing to reflect this through my breakfasts (sniadanie) and dinners (obiad). There are other meals such as second breakfast (first breakfast can be a chore as I'm not usually hungry), but they are no way near as important.

This particular dish are pork cutlets in breadcrumbs which are then fried and traditionally served with kiszona kapusta (sour raw cabbage) and ziemniaki (potatoes, usually skinned and boiled). The dinner I had which is the photo below varies in that I had salatka (salad pronounced sawatka) and frytki (chips).

I know it looks like battered cod and chips here but I promise you it's a genuine kotlet schabowy!

I have heard that these are good for building muscle, being high in protein and calories and that one kotlet is the equivalent of one piwo (lager, pronounced peevo). However it is obviously high in fat being fried in oil in combination with a considerable insulin spike from the breadcrumbs and if you worry about the measuring tape then you should avoid regularly eating large amounts of carbs and fats together in one meal. Of course that is not an excuse to pass up the opportunity to eat this wonderful hearty foodtuff which adapts equally well to breakfast the next day, cold on a kanapka (sandwhiches but fillings are not between slices of bread, they are on one and eaten in a similar manner to e.g. cheese on toast).

In case anybody readding this is getting hungry, I will lay out a method of making these nutritional nuggets.

  1. Clean thin cutlets of pork removing fat and grisle.
  2. Pound the meat with huge tenderiser hammer to ensure the pig has definitely passed on.
  3. Season with salt
  4. 'Deikata' (Special spice but you should find it in Polish shops) is mixed with breadcrumbs.
  5. Dip meat in egg yolk/white and then into breadcrumb powder mix.
  6. Repeat coating until you have the desired thickness of breadcrumb coat.
  7. Fry in olive oil until golden brown.

Easy peesey lemon squeezy!!!! You do not have to use pork though, it can be chicken,turkey or fish (don't like them).

There are many versions of this in other countries e.g. German schnitzel and when I have gone visited each country and tried them all I will put together THE definitive guide with ratings and everything!

Anglik rating: 8

If I still smoked I would enjoy it extremely after a couple of these beauties.

Monday, 9 July 2007

Who came up with these signs?

When I first arrived in Poland I ran into some trouble straight away when I had to go to the toilet. I was confronted with images similar to those in the photo and I used my higher brain function to both logically try to figure this little puzzle out and subdue my urge to release. After what seemed like days and no native poles noticeably male or female needing to enter, I needed to bite the bullet myself. I had just seen and read the Da Vinci code and in this moment thought I was extremely clever for remembering the bit about the 'Sacred Feminine' symbol which was a triangle and represented a woman's hips and womb (the one in this photo is upside-down by the way). In my moment of revelation while confidently marching in to the opposite door I didn't even notice the lack of urinals and needless to say soon after there were a few shocked and red faces especially on my part.
I think these signs are unique to Poland but I have yet to find out why they are used or where they come from. If anyone knows who reads this please comment as it is one of those things that continue to niggle me especially on those occasions when I still find myself going into the wrong room (usually on a night out). Is it just me that finds this hard? Otherwise I hope I don't have a subconscious preference for women's' toilets and use this as an excuse!
I might as well talk about an experiment I done at uni since it's related, well kind of. I studied microbiology and one thing I remember was having to measure the amount of microorganisms, namely bacteria, in the air of the male and female toilets in the department. Hence we were measuring the cleanliness of each and guess which toilet was filthier? The women's'!!! Ha. All that time that women spend doing their hair, make-up and holding board meetings in there contaminates the air. Of course I realise the floor is a different story as men like to hit everything apart from the urinal but that is not part of this experiment and therefore irrelevant :)

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Poland Pub watch - Grota pub

I've decided to review pubs,restaurants or whatever catches my eye. When I was in the pub game, mystery drinkers were my pet hate (those people that get paid to eat, drink and then rate a place) not because I didn't want to get a bad score from them but because their introduction increased the amount of training that I had to give to new staff and I hated that!. Furthermore lots of brightly multi-coloured stickers and posters with picture prompts came to cover every available space that wearing sunglasses behind the bar became the necessary norm (I worked a lot for Mitchell & Butlers, sounds like a cigarette company but it's actually a large pub company who employed more research and development people than bar staff!) I lost count the amount of times that some young grad newbie executive somewhere in the company came up with some crappy campaign to improve service which either made our work ten times harder or service ten times slower.

Anyway I enjoyed being a mystery customer in London where I rated many things about my experience in a particular establishment so I will carry on. Who knows I might influence someone who reads this to go to a place I mention (actually come to think of it I'm probably missing a good opportunity here, all this FREE advertising and publicity I'm giving!!!)

The Grota pub - Szklarska Poreba

Actually I've come here quite a lot in the past, usually whenever we came here for a break from Zielona. It is an underground bar off the main street in the center, hence the name Grota or grotto in English and has recently undergone a refurb. As you can see from the picture it looks cool and looks like a mix between a wine cellar and a castle. I don't know where the old Victorian style street lamps fit in but they are useful for hanging your coat on(as you arrive) or acting as an sturdy aid to help pull you to your feet (as you try and leave).

I like the owner here, Pawel. We don't have deep conversations about life but he knows my name and can say a few greetings in English which is good enough for me. My opinion was different when I first came here because I lost money to him by saying thank you in Polish before I had got my 15 zloty change! Apparently saying this at the wrong time is translated as 'keep the change mate'. Even after explaining the mix-up I didn't get the change back but I treat it as a Polish life lesson and he probably done me a favour by teaching me..........yeah right I was done-15 zloty= 3 or four pints!!!!!

Last night there was a young barman that I had never seen before and he seemed delighted to be able to practice some English. I think these situations are strange. On one side there is myself, an Anglik speaking Polish, and on the other, a Pole speaking English. I've been in situations in e.g. a shop where this is happening but there is a real communication problem which could be solved by one of us reverting back to our native language but we don't, carrying on determined to prove we can use each other's language communicatively.

Games games games

Apart from the cool look, two big pluses for me are the fact there is a dart board and a pool table. I am a big fan of pool (called bilard here - must comes from billiards?) being near obsessed with it before I came to Poland. I am good (why be modest?) and thrived playing in the pub atmosphere where being good at pool and staying on the table for a lengthy amount of time is seen as being almost divine. Snooker players are revered especially on a pool table because once you are good at snooker and used to potting distances the size of my garden, you can play impressive pool. That is one thing that I miss about London. You can go into a pub on your own to play pool and get a game by putting your coin on the table or name on the board. Although there is pool over here, the 'winner stays on' way of playing doesn't exist here and when you play it's against your friends usually for a set amount of time. I miss playing strangers and pool being taken a little more seriously. Moreover I'm not a fan of spots and stripes instead of reds and yellows, I think it's too American. American pool tables have HUGE pockets, very low down tables, huge balls, huge cue tips, well just huge in general. I hardly play over here but I still find it a bonus for a place to have a pool table.

The rules of pool vary everywhere, even in neighbouring pubs let alone a different country but the only rules which I have come across here are quite different. The black has to be doubled into the opposite pocket that your last colour was potted. I actually really like this rule because it adds a new dimension to the strategy of how to finish the game, for instance you have to plan your last colour as corner pockets are more desirable. I have been told this originated to make games last longer and spend less money.
Incidentally, if you are interested in some rules played elsewhere or the different varieties of games then have a look-see using the links above. It's quite interesting if you are into this type of thing.

However I do not like the foul rule for a potted white in which the ball is put in behind the line and you have to hit a ball which is past the center spot/middle pocket line. It can be really frustrating if you have a free white and you have to double of the top cushion to just hit your own colour because they are not in the top half of the table, there being no free ball also.

The pool table in Groto is not brilliant quality with a noticeable roll which seems to change even during a game, and if you take a shot from a particular side then you have to use the cue at a perpendicular angle to the table due to a wall being up your arse.

I have learnt a new multi-player pool game here where you choose 3 numbers e.g. 1-3 or 4-6 and you basically do not want to pot these but you can anything else, and the winner is the person who is the only one with their numbers left on the table. It's not as exciting or tense as Killer but enjoyable none the less.

Secondly there is a dart board. I love darts also and started playing from a very young age because my father (from Ireland,an Offaly man - go on the Faithful) used to play with many teams at many levels and accumulating trophies like a woman does shoes. I think a dartboard is synonymous with the British or English pub but the equivalent apparatus rather than game over here leaves a lot to be desired!

The board itself is a fruit machine with holes and with all the associated flashing lights and incredibly high-pitched beeps. The darts themselves are typical pub darts .....except they have plastic points?!? The main task is just to get all three darts to stick in the board since more often than not they shoot of at acute angles and no one is safe. This happens in England also but usually with beginners, children, the blind (although the deaf are pretty good - played against a deaf team before) and my former boss, a landlady called Ann who was notoriously bad at darts and who struggled to avoid hitting the cars parked outside.

We tend to play games with up to 6 people simultaneously all the time and no one-on-one's which is odd but very refreshing and I must admit that there is one huge advantage apart from not having to wait to play - no chalking!!! Good for the mathematically challenged amongst us who tend to make many mistakes doing the subtractions in front of everyone, myself included.

There is quite an interesting site revolving around a book 'Passport to the pub' which is a reference to all things pub in Britain.
I liked the analysis on this particular page about all the games and activities found in a British pub being directly related to the British being "socially inhibited" and in need of props to initiate interaction with strangers or development of "closer relationships with fellow pubgoers". I think the authour has a point. There is also more cool information about the pub games and how to survive this experience. Check it out.

There has been an attempt to make the place very realistic in the sense that you could think your in a grotto because more often than not is bloody freezing! Of course it's excellent for keeping the beer cold which is always a good thing and when you've been there for a few hours drinking, a trivial thing like ambient temperature is irrelevant. As I'm sure pissed-up English lasses will testify to when there on the pull in mini-skirts in winter.

Value for money

Not bad in my opinion but I only remember the price of Tyskie: 4.5 zl draught (About 80p)
5 zl bottle

I was always a draught drinker in England but I've been advised to drink bottled, I'm not sure exactly why, maybe it's possibly been watered down. But I have been told tht in London also so maybe it is a universal thing.

There is a jukebox which requires money and I do not agree with these in general as in my opinion music should be free in pubs. Of course you have a wider choice of music suited to your own tastes but on quite a few occasions no one has bothered to breathe life into the jukebox and nothing saps the atmosphere out of a party better than silence.

To sum up

Even though I have reservations about Polish pub games and temperature control, I relish the oppurtunity to experience these differences, being one reason I came here.
I really enjoy coming here and will continue to come here in the future. There is an appetizing menu which I am yet to try but I hope to in the near future.

Menu may not be very legible but imagination can be stronger than reality!

Anglik rating:

6 pints = Pretty good night,no mixing drinks, didnt go mad but thinking about kebab

Saturday, 7 July 2007

Almost got to lubniewice

We should be travelling to a lakeside town at this very moment. A friend of ours, Jan, invited us to his place in Lubniewice in the west of Poland (map) for a post graduation party by the lake. It would have taken 6 hours or so to get there but it would have been worth it.....beers, swimming in the lake, catching and eating fish, beers, sunshine, trees, tents, beers, kayaking, canoeing, kielbasa probably vodka...... and some more beer, you get the picture. Jan even got a fishing rod for me since I'm desperate to eat what I catch while I'm not in London(It's not generally a good idea to eat what you catch out of the Thames unless you have had all your shots updated first).
Unfortunately we were unable to join the rest of the ex-students pissin' it up due to unforeseen circumstances but I got a feel of the place through a site in English (click on the Lubniewice link above). It's full of great photos and info and there's also a link to another site which is trying to raise awareness of Poland in the English language:

Check it out. It combines old time picture postcards of the town with space pictures!

Lubniewice is one of the smallest towns in Poland with a population of around 2000 and also offers Polish language courses for foreigners. I can't think of a better place to go and learn.

And here is a picture of the lovely Lubniewice from the above link with Magda and myself swimming thanks to the magic of photoshop.

Ahhh, I can feel the waves lapping against my chin! It turns out we did make it there after all.

Friday, 6 July 2007

A refreshing look of history-reasons why old maps are cool

When it comes to history, I never really cared for it much as I just thought of it as a waste of our valuable memory which (I was strongly in favour of the useful subjects like the sciences - alas I was young and dreamt of a sci-fi utopia where historians were only to be found scattered in various glass jars with lot of bubble streams etc.). However I'm a bit more easy-going now that I've matured and realise there is room for all those countless dates which set out a timeline of events that happened a long, long time ago. Especially when it comes to weird maps! I haven't confused the subject with Geography but historical maps are cool in a way because:

  • They look like they were drawn by children

  • You can use them as a hanky and no one would know

  • They didn't help anyone find anything

  • You can pretend to be a pirate

If i think of any more I will update - or feel free to suggest

Anyway I found a site which contains cool maps and there is one which is useful for my cause. It's of Poland in the 12th Century and there's some serious historical chat going on which impressed me....much knowledge being tossed around about Boleslav and his 14 kids. (That's nothing, my grandmother on my fathers side gave birth to 22 kids and 12 on my mothers. My parents are Irish if your interested. Having over 150 first cousins makes family tree-making that you have to do at primary school a monstrously difficult task. My sister actually got into trouble for lying because she wanted quite a bit of extra paper.

The map:

It's like looking at Google earth! Click here if you want the details and that history jazz where this map is sourced from.

But if you cant wait the second for the link to load then here is a quote from the site

"Boleslav was Christian. Poland was officially ‘Christened’ in 966 in a political move to stop German encroachment justified as missionary efforts. The date is now considered the beginning of the Polish state. The tribes to the north and east of Poland remained pagan for hundreds of years leading to Polish encroachment/missionary activity in their lands. In the early 13th century another Polish Prince (the proper term for an independent feudal leader who is not a king - a duke is a vassal) Prince Konrad of Mazovia (no silly nickname, unfortunately) in a political move that was astoundingly stupid invited the Teutonic Knights to come and deal with the Prussians and Jadzvings. This they did by killing them all and replacing them with German colonists (who then took over the name of ‘Prussians’). In effect, instead of a barbarian tribe, Poland ended up with an expansionist, militarist, religiously fanatic organisation on its northern borders leading to hundreds of years of conflict. The repercussions of Konrad’s decision have been felt down the ages having been instrumental in the unification of Germany by the latter Prussians, the start of the second world war when Germany demanded a ‘land corridor’ to Prussia and, even now, leaving the Kaliningrad oblast of Russia as an enclave surrounded by the EU - with the attendant political tensions.
Comment by Konrad Talmont-Kaminski — June 23, 2007 @"

There we go then, a brief period of Poland's history for you to digest at your leisure.

Where I am in Poland - szklarska poreba

Why Sklarska?

At the moment I live in a small but extremely beautiful mountain town called Szklarska Poreba (there are polish letters in this but i can't do them - i will try and learn, I should know already!) which is in the south-west and on the border with Czech Republic. The reason? My wonderful and beautiful girlfriend. I met Magda (not a common name for a Polish girl) in London which of course influenced which part of Eastern Europe I eventually ended up in.
This is a tourist town,mostly for Germans, which doubles in size for the ski season but an Englishman is still a rare sight.

I extremely like this place for the natural scenery alone. ( - this site is by a photographer who is the father of one of my friends and there are hundreds of amazing photos at all times of the year. It is in Polish but I hope the pictures speak a thousand English words.)

However Magda's family are also a reason I love this place. The family home in which I live at the moment is a guesthouse, over a hundred years old and I just find this cool, I'm not sure why. I was worried most about meeting the family, with the culture clash a possible problem, however my worries were unfounded and was welcomed very warmly into the family.

The way to an Englishman's heart
One method of being made to feel at home are overwhelming feedings which Magda and myself are subjected to on a regular basis here. When we used to visit szklarska for just a weekend it would be refreshing because we gorged on traditional home-cooked meals. I met a French guy visiting Poland for the first time with his girlfriend. He studies in London with a lot of his mates because he says it's a lot easier there. Anyway we were at a party and one of the first things he commented on was how he had been force fed food when he went to his girlfriend's parents' home. We have just moved out of our home in Zielona Gora (another part of Poland about 4 hours away) and so I am enjoying the wonderful food here, Bigos being my present favourite in an ever changing cycle.

My first impression of Sklarska

Sklarska has an amazing snaking road which serves as the main entrance to the town and it runs along a stunning rocky river for a couple of miles with ancient mountain trees towering on either side, truly a spectacular way to arrive. However listening to the running water crashing over the rocks combined with a sudden drop in temperature as you increase in altitude alongside mountain water just causes my bladder to strain and I always just concentrate on holding it! The awe of the experience always turns to anxiety but I guess that's just me.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

The aim of this blog - why Poland?

Deciding to leave London for a new life (only a year actually) in Poland was something that I did not plan at all. It was an impulsive 'why not' decision which I still do not regret after being in Poland ten months now.
That's me in the sun - 1 effect of being here is that I have become considerably more hairy about the head, which is one thing I must discuss later?!

The main reason for writing this is to hopefully help answer the question continually posed to me both in England and over here:

John, Why live in Poland?

Why come to Poland when there are tens of thousands of Poles emigrating out of the country?

I agree at first this seems strange but the simple answer is that I am not Polish and and being a native speaker from London instantly qualifies me for a decently paid job as an English teacher. (Although I am not actually keen on carrying on teaching because I don't want to learn any more English grammar, and hope to move on as soon as possible). Even though there are very capable Polish teachers of English here, native speakers are in much demand regardless of teaching ability and or experience due to being rare here.
So even though getting work in Poland is much harder and it is paid far worse for Poles, it is not so for foreigners, in particular native speakers of English. There is an abundance of work and in my experience here qualifications (e.g. TEFL) are not necessary.

I hope to start another blog soon about my experiences and advice about teaching in a foreign country

Overall I am surprised that there are not more foreigners in Poland, not necessarily to earn a great deal of money but more importantly to absorb this wonderful culture of music, tradition, food etc. that up until recently (maybe 20 years) was isolated from the west.
That is the reason I am here - and I want to be bilingual, Polish being my chosen second language. Being in the actual country is the easier if not lazier way of picking up another language - I am forced to acquire some language without seemingly trying. Of course I think how much I acquire is a combination of how hard I try as well as how much I allow myself to absorb. I was here a couple of months and could speak more Polish than another native speaking teacher who had been here some years, and that was without actively learning!
(Incidentally I have also picked up some linguistic theory since my other half Magda studied Angielski Philology and I would often find myself reading her books when I was bored).

Perhaps the reason people are surprised in England when they find out is due to negative stereotypes about this country that is present and has not been helped by a massive influx into Britain. I must admit I did not have a clue about what I would find on arrival and had my own preconceived stereotypes about the country being 50 years behind (I was shocked, pleasantly, when I first saw McDonald's and huge Tesco superstores).

The reason for this blog

And so I it is my aim with this blog to improve peoples' perception of Poland and its' Poles through reporting of my experiences here through the eyes of an Englishman, things that I find funny, curious, annoying or anything I deem worthy of a post and hopefully influence a few peoples opinions along the way.
Please feel free to comment on anything I mention or anything you would like me to cover - feedback is very much welcome and actively encouraged.