Krakow’s famous Summer Jazz Festival kicked off this month and it promises to continue be a must for all music fans. The three-week event has a truly international flavour as Colombian troupe the Sincopa Jazz Band got proceedings underway in the city’s Old Town on the 5th of July.
As well as showpiece events dotted around the Polish capital of culture, dozens of smaller, more intimate performances will take place to satisfy all jazz tastes. Cafes, bars and clubs are all set to open their doors and embrace the festival.
Poland’s 19th Summer Organ Festival gets underway in Krakow this month. Musicians from all over the world will appear at the six-week event performing in a number of historical churches throughout the city.
The Basilica Pauline, the Church of the Holy Cross and St Mary’s Church are among the venues hosting performances. Organised by the Centre of Culture and the Krakow Academy of Music, the weekly programme will feature an array of world-class organists including Krakow’s very own Luke Nicholas Mateja, Germany’s Gehard Gnann and Italian Matteo Messori.
Since 1991 the annual event has grown to become one of the most important in the city’s packed cultural calendar and it will be the perfect backdrop to warm summer evenings in Poland’s capital of culture.
Performances start on 2 July lasting until 13 August with tickets priced at between 15 and 25 PLN.
Classical music lovers are in for a real treat in Poland over the six weeks. The Warsaw Chamber Opera is celebrating the life and works of Mozart with a festival of his music. Poland’s capital city will host productions of all of the famous composer’s twenty three stage works, as well as a selection of his orchestral and chamber compositions and concert arias. The opera performances will be held at the Warsaw Chamber Opera and the concerts at several venues in the city including the Royal Castle, the Lazienki Park and the Seminary Church.
Next year celebrations throughout Poland will take place to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Frederic Chopin’s birth, so the Mozart event in Warsaw should give people a taste of what’s to come.
Now in its 19th year, the Warsaw Mozart Festival – the brainchild of the Chamber Opera‘s Artistic Director Stefan Sutkowski – was first launched in 1991, the 200th anniversary of Mozart’s death.
Angus Bell is a Scot, who while living in Canada, stumbled upon a medium who told him his Great Uncle Ivor (who had died as a child) was inspiring his ideas, that he would travel and write about it. While working in a methadone clinic Bell planned a cricket tour around Eastern Europe. Starting in the Baltics with playing cricket on ice and encountering a streaker, Bell picks up many a hitchhiker along the way and makes his way through the Balkans, Bulgaria, Turkey, Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic and finally finishes his tour in Poland where his final match is cancelled.
My sister lent me this book and instructed me that despite my general dislike of travel writing and my limited knowledge of cricket, it would indulge my love of Eastern Europe. However, whether you are a lover of travel writing, cricket, Eastern Europe, or would like to find out about an interesting, albeit odd, adventure.
While Bell’s knowledge of East European history is not always necessarily spot on (though I do understand it is difficult to convey complicated historical concepts, thoughts, ideas and facts in a limited number of words) I did find his investigation of academics’ work amusing simply because there were many thesis written in utter jest. I had never before come across academic work written as a hoax and I do wonder where academics get the time considering supposedly how hard they work and how much research they do! (Note, I realise many historians actually do work incredibly hard!) What I found most intriguing was the brief mention of Lapta, a Russian game which began in the medieval period and is a Russian game similar to cricket.
This Polish dish reminds me a lot of cevapi in the Balkans but a much lighter version. Chicken Bitki are like little sausages/meatballs, coated in flour and fried. In Poland chicken is normally more gamey, so if you can, get cornfed chicken or alternatively, use guinea fowl. I have never used chicken mince before and was not convinced about the combination with nutmeg and mushrooms, but in fact, they were quite delicious indeed.
Ingredients (to make 12)
115g flat, portobello mushrooms, finely chopped
50g white breadcrumbs
350g chicken breast, minced or chopped finely
2 eggs separated
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
2 tbsp plain flour
3 tbsp oil
Melt butter in a pan
Fry mushrooms for 5 minutes until soft
Allow mushrooms to cool and mop up any liquid/butter
Mix breadcrumbs, chicken, egg yolks, nutmeg, salt and pepper and then the mushrooms
Whisk the egg whites until stiff
Stir half the egg white into the chicken mixture, then fold the remainder
It is not necessary, but I would recommend that you then put the mixture in the refrigerator for 30 minutes as it becomes easier to mold the bitki
Shape the mixture into 12 even long meatballs, 2.5cm wide and 7.5cm long
Roll each bitki in flour
Heat oil in frying pan
Heat the bitki for 10 minutes, turning until evenly golden brown and cooked through
There is plenty of opportunity to stuff yourself silly with pierogi and other Polish delights while staying in Krakow, however, if you want a truly home-cooked meal then you need to visit Kawiarnia “Hamlet”, Ul. Miodowa 9, 31-055 Krakow. This rustic little place is filled with dark wooden tables, crochet tablecloths and cumbersome dressers, making you feel as if you are back in the home of your old Polish Babcia (Grandmother).
A veritable feast can be enjoyed at this small cafe/restaurant. The meat pierogi and the Ruskie (cheese) pierogi (9 zloty for one portion), sprinkled with fried onions, are the most delicious I have ever consumed. The restaurant is also famed for its soups which will warm your cockles on a chilly spring evening. The best bit? Your waitress and chef is indeed a Polish Grandmother.
Since 2007 London restauranteurs have suffered devastating losses and been forced to terminate service. However, those left standing with a reliable clientele have been fortunate and wise to undergo significant, and much needed facelifts, dragging them kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. However, the change at Bar Polski can be described as subtle at most. Formerly known as Na Zdrowie, the management have finally realised that the majority of its clientele are incompetent! Incapable of pronouncing the Polish word for ‘cheers’, many opted simply to refer to it as, The Polish Bar. As a compromise, the management have renamed the bar-restaurant, Bar Polski. The name change appears to be where any difference ends and Bar Polski continues to effectively cater for Eastern European enthusiasts and less knowledgeable Londoners alike.
With its only remotely close landmark being a Pret à Manger, Bar Polski is hidden down a backstreet in Holborn and unless actively seeking it out, one is highly unlikely to find it. However, it is definitely worth taking some friends on an adventure in order to discover it. Chic sparse décor, black leather seating and basic grey tables are juxtaposed with colourful traditional folk motifs and cockerels painted on the walls. The latter of which provides a great deal of amusement to those with little knowledge of wycinianki style and Polish traditions.
If you want to sample some traditional Polish food it is best to visit Bar Polski during the week from 8 P.M. onwards, when the post-work drinkers are leaving, and you are able to acquire a table. In a similar way to Spanish tapas or Greek meze, the food at Bar Polski is served in a way that is perfect for sharing among a large, ravenous group of people.
For a relatively small bar-restaurant, Bar Polski offers quite an extensive range of Polish food. The mixed fried pierogi (dumplings) stuffed with meat, cabbage and cheese are served on large white plates with three dips, one of which is indistinguishable. The pierogi stuffed with meat and pierogi stuffed with cabbage are delicious. Unfortunately the pierogi filled with cheese curd is somewhat disappointing. If unfamiliar with Polish food it is very important to remember when ordering pierogi to ask for the fried version because the boiled version may well put you off Polish food for life. This is not the fault of the chef at Bar Polski, simply a problem that arises from the method of cooking; boiling any food turns it into a slime-like substance.
Nonetheless, the vast majority of the menu will certainly not let you down.One plate not to be missed is the Bigos, a stew of sauerkraut, fresh cabbage, mixed meats and seasonings, served with rye bread.
All of this can be washed down with any of the beers on the menu or if you are feeling a little more adventurous sample some of the vodkas which are categorised into ‘dry and interesting’ and ‘nice and sweet’.For the hardy among you a shot of any vodka on the menu will compliment the food.However, if you would rather drink vodka ask any of the helpful Polish staff which mixer they think goes best with each one.They will always endeavour to help you.
Bar Polski is at 11 Little Turnstile, Holborn, WC1V 7DX (tel: 020 7831 9679).
Drinks, lunch or dinner. Food served until 10 P.M. No bookings accepted.
Takeaway service available.
Who to know: John, the owner. He has been known to wrestle with pickpockets to prevent inebriated customers are not mugged.
What to know: If you come to a SSEES event at Bar Polski you will enjoy plenty of free food.
What to eat: Pierogi, Bigos.
What to drink: Beers including: Zywiec, Lech and Tyskie; around fifty types of vodka.
Spotted: Current and former SSEES students and staff!
I was born in Surrey, raised in Hampshire, but now reside in Bayswater, in London. My interest in history and passion for Eastern Europe developed when, at the age of nine, I read Judith Kerr’s novel ‘When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit’. After spending many summer holidays in Slovenia, I studied much Russian history at A Level, and then went on to attain an Upper Second Class Honours Degree in East European History from UCL’s School of Slavonic and East European Studies. During my vacation periods I enjoyed travelling throughout this incredible region and to date have visited: Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Croatia, Bosnia, Hungary, Slovenia and Germany. I am currently learning to speak Russian and will study my Masters in East European History on a part-time basis from autumn 2009.
I love food and all things cultural, particularly East European. I write feature articles for Anglomania, a sport, culture, fashion magazine and work as an editorial assistant for Glam Media UK. I have previously worked for TopTips.com, Emap, Conde Nast, The Telegraph and The Sun.
In this blog I am indulging my love of Eastern Europe, and utilising the web I shall tell tales of my travels, and impart my knowledge of the region’s culture, history and food.