Archive for 'Culture'

In Poland’s Booming Craft Beer Culture, Wroclaw’s Kontynuacja Near the Top

Posted on 16. May, 2015 by in Culture, Places to visit, Uncategorized, Vacation

Kontynuacja in Wroclaw.  [Photo courtesy of http://wroclaw.gazeta.pl]

Kontynuacja in Wroclaw. [Photo courtesy of http://wroclaw.gazeta.pl]

Poland, always a country heavy on beer drinkers, is more than Żywiec or Tyskie or Wroclaw’s own, Piast these days.  The craft beer scene from Krakow to Wroclaw is beginning to boom in Poland, and the learning curve is shallow.  In Wroclaw, Kontynuacja, meaning “continuation” or “follow-up”, has an impressive and consistent list of roughly 16 beers that makes it pound-for-pound one of the best craft beer spots in all of Poland.

That’s saying a lot for a region that sets the beer standard high, with everything from Czech to Bohemian to German beer regions a relatively short drive away.  But Kontynuacja holds its own.  Just a couple hundred meters from Wroclaw’s gem of a Rynek Square, it opened in 2013, two years after the city’s first craft beer pub (Zaklad Uslung Piwnych), and immediately became a challenger as the finest craft beer scene.

With Wroclaw set as the European Capital of Culture in 2016, the city is promoting an alternative scene to the more visited Warsaw and Krakow.  Arguably the most underrated city in Central Europe, Wroclaw’s Kontynuacja should no doubt play a role in hosting travelers, more than the touristy Spiz, the city’s first brewery (est. 1992).  The bright interior, high and polished (somewhat) communal tables, vaulted ceilings, and basement gives a vibrant feeling that you are in a beer drinking church.

The range from their small/medium/large batch suppliers is impressive: American and Indian Pale Ales, Belgian and Belgian-inspired ales and wheat beers, amber ale, red ale, Scotch or American or milk stouts, porter, Scotch ale, Polish ale, San Francisco’s Sierra Nevada, and cask beers hand pumped from their two hand pump taps.  The beers range in alcohol content from 3.8% to 10%, with prices ranging from 8zl to 16zl for stronger brews.

Kontynuacja has since expanded to Katowice, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see a Krakow and Warsaw location too.  The only shame is that it might not spread outside of Poland, because surely it is worth being in any city.

But Kontynuacja does not reign as a mere craft beer portal.  Browaru Stu Mostów (see video below) is a Kontynuacja inspiration and a testament to its influence and expansion of the craft beer scene, which is not only good for the beer drinkers but adds to the respect Wroclaw deserves both as a beer city and a must visit destination.

Na zdrowie!

(Note: the video below is in Polish.)
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Great museums to visit in Poland

Posted on 24. Apr, 2015 by in Culture, Museums, Places to visit

Here is a list of some great museums worth visiting in Poland! Everyone should find something interesting:)
  • Museum of the Warsaw Uprising (Warsaw) Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego: When you’re done walking through the exhibitions and watching the startling documentaries filmed during the fighting in 1944 on display here, you’ll understand a lot more about the Poles’ resolve to preserve their nation. Just the photos alone of Warsaw’s total destruction will leave you in awe that this city still exists at all.
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Image by Adam Fagen on Flickr.com

  • Museum of Zakopane Style (Zakopane) Muzeum Stylu Zakopiańskiego/Muzeum Tatrzańskie: This low-key museum is dedicated to the fine woodworking craft of the early Zakopane architects of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. No stunning, high-tech visuals, just beautifully carved furnishings and a wonderful aesthetic feel. They took the lowly log cabin and made it a palace.
  • Galicia Jewish Museum (Kraków-Kazimierz) Żydowskie Muzeum Galicja: The main exhibition here features contemporary and often beautiful photographs of important Jewish sites throughout southern Poland taken by the late British photographer Chris Schwarz. Schwarz spent 12 years traveling throughout Poland using photography as a way of trying to preserve the country’s rapidly disappearing Jewish heritage. The effect here works beautifully.
  • Czartoryski Museum (Kraków) Muzeum Czartoryskich: Members of the noble Czartoryski family were gifted art collectors, and this collection is one of the finest in central Europe. Two international masterpieces are on display: Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine and Rembrandt’s Landscape with the Good Samaritan.
  • Gingerbread Museum (Toruń) Muzeum Piernika: The town of Toruń is famous for two things: the birthplace of Copernicus and gingerbread cookies. At this privately owned museum, you not only learn the secret ingredients of great gingerbread, but also get to make your own. Good fun and great for kids.
  • Roads to Freedom Exhibition (Gdańsk) Wystawa drogi do wolności: An inspiring and sobering history lesson of the anti-Communist struggle in Poland. The mock-up of a typical empty grocery store in late 1970s, grainy news reels, interactive displays, and documentary films keenly capture the atmosphere of the times.
  • Lódź Art Museum, Muzeum Sztuki w Łodzi: A must for fans of modern art, the collection includes works by Marc Chagall and Max Ernst. Skip the bottom floors and head straight for the museum’s prize pieces on the upper levels, including several of Stanislaw Witkacy’s amazing society sketches from the 1920s.
  • Amber Museum (Gdańsk) Muzeum Bursztynu w Gdańsku: A must for all fans of the beautiful ossified pine resin that helped make Gdansk wealthy. On six floors of exhibits, you’ll learn everything you’ll ever need to know about amber; if you’re thinking of buying some amber while you’re in Gdansk, you might want to stop here first for an educational primer.
Image by Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland on Flickr.com

Image by Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland on Flickr.com

  • Museum of Cinematography (Lódź) Muzeum Kinematografii: International film fans will want to stop here to pay tribute to Poland’s panoply of great directors, including Roman Polanski, Andrzej Wajda, and Krzysztof Kieslowski, all of whom studied and worked in Lódz.
  • Ethnographic Museum (Tarnów) Muzeum Etnograficzne: A rare and fascinating exhibition on the history and culture of Europe’s Roma (Gypsy) population, it traces the emergence of the Roma from parts of modern-day India some 1,000 years ago to their arrival in Europe and subsequent (mostly tragic) history.
  • Chopin Museum (Warsaw) Muzeum Fryderyka Chopina: The city where Chopin was raised wants to tell you everything there is to know about the composer. The museum was recently thoroughly revamped to deliver Chopin stories and melodies via high-tech media.
  • Museum of Icons (Supraśl) Muzeum Ikon w Supraślu: This is the most extensive collection of Orthodox icons in Poland. The exhibits are thoughtfully laid out to give you a full picture of the history of the Orthodox faith.
  • Pharmacy Museum (Kraków) Muzeum Farmacji w Krakowie: One of the biggest and best old-style pharmacy museums in this part of the world, with fascinating exhibits of potions, leeches, and concoctions that show just how far modern medicine has come.

If you visited any of them, please let us know in comments below:)

Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)

Polish economy today

Posted on 14. Apr, 2015 by in Countries, Culture, Economy

If you know Polish history, you cannot help but marvel at the country’s emergence from the ashes of its traumatic past (powstanie kraju z popiołów swojej traumatycznej przeszłości). Over the last 25 years, Poland, after centuries of war and subjugation (po wiekach wojen i niewoli), has enjoyed peace (pokój), a stable and booming economy (stabilna i kwitnąca gospodarka), and integration (integracja) with the rest of Europe.

An independent kingdom for the previous 800 years, in 1795, Poland was wiped off the map of Europe and absorbed into three great neighboring powers: the Prussian, Russian, and Austro-Hungarian empires, a state of affairs that lasted until 1918. Reborn following World War I, Poland spent a few short years as a democracy before proving ungovernable, succumbing to dictatorship, and then once again being conquered and divided (zdobyta i podzielona), this time by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, in 1939. Over the next six years, Poland found itself at the center of what the historian Timothy Snyder has called the “bloodlands” of Europe; an estimated five million Poles died between 1939 and 1945, more than half of them Polish Jews. The Nazis and the Soviets also wiped out the cream of the crop of Poland’s intelligentsia and clergy. Warsaw was reduced to rubble, and mass graves were sown across the landscape. Then came four gray and sooty decades of communist domination (dominacja komunistyczna). Only the Catholic Church offered Poles any hope.

Since communism collapsed in 1989, however, Poland has experienced a remarkable reversal of fortune (niezwykłe odwrócenie fortuny). After leading the protest movement that toppled the old regime, the trade union Solidarity won democratic elections and initiated aggressive, market-oriented economic reforms. The communist Polish United Workers’ Party turned into the capitalist Democratic Left Alliance, which won elections in 1993 and 1995 and led the country into NATO in 1999. And in 2004, Poland joined the European Union as a full member, cementing its close alliance with Germany, its erstwhile antagonist.

The Polish economy, meanwhile, has grown rapidly for two decades, at more than four percent per year, the fastest speed in Europe, and garnered massive investment in its companies and infrastructure. Poland’s is now the sixth-largest economy in the EU. Living standards more than doubled between 1989 and 2012, reaching 62 percent of the level of the prosperous countries at the core of Europe.

Poland’s economic freedom score is 68.6, making its economy the 42nd freest in the 2015 Index. Its score is 1.6 points better than last year, driven by improvements in half of the 10 economic freedoms, especially freedom from corruption, fiscal freedom, the management of government spending, and monetary freedom. Poland is ranked 19th out of 43 countries in the Europe region, and its overall score is above the world average.

Over the past five years, Poland’s economic freedom score has advanced by 4.5 points, the largest improvement in the region. Gains in eight of the 10 economic freedoms include double-digit strides in financial freedom and freedom from corruption. In the 2015 Index, Poland has recorded its highest economic freedom score ever.

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Shopping in Kraków (Sukiennice)

 

How did Poland manage so decisively to move beyond the repeated tragedies of its past? The question is rarely asked by market analysts, whose sense of Poland seems to go no further back than the economic reforms of the 1990s. Those reforms are indeed part of the story, but only part it, and focusing exclusively on them obscures the deeper causes of the country’s resurgence. Explaining Poland’s economic boom, and why it is likely to last, requires a deeper look into its troubled history.

I’ve been traveling to Poland within last 10 years a lot…and I see big differences every time I go! Polish economy is amazing and I hope it will stay like this, or only will get better:)

Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)