Friday, 27 July 2007
Tuesday, 24 July 2007
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 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:
Friday, 20 July 2007
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
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.
http://rowmarcus.wordpress.com/ (New Zealand)
http://thechillcoat.blogspot.com/ (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
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
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
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
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!
Tuesday, 10 July 2007
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.
- Clean thin cutlets of pork removing fat and grisle.
- Pound the meat with huge tenderiser hammer to ensure the pig has definitely passed on.
- Season with salt
- 'Deikata' (Special spice but you should find it in Polish shops) is mixed with breadcrumbs.
- Dip meat in egg yolk/white and then into breadcrumb powder mix.
- Repeat coating until you have the desired thickness of breadcrumb coat.
- 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
Sunday, 8 July 2007
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!
6 pints = Pretty good night,no mixing drinks, didnt go mad but thinking about kebab
Saturday, 7 July 2007
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
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.
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.
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. (http://www.tryzyg.pl/ - 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
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.
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!