Birdwatching in Poland

Posted on 12. Mar, 2012 by in Animals, Culture, Nature, Places to visit, Polish Language, Science, travel

Are you a fan of birds and like birdwatching (obserwacja ptaków)? Have you ever wondered if birding in Poland is really a gem for birders?

Białowieża Forest and Biebrza Marshes are the most famous birding hotspots in Poland. That’s true, but these are not the only ones!

There are plenty of other places, excellent habitats (siedliska) and real wildlife sanctuaries (sanktuaria przyrody) filled with birds. Unfortunately, most of these locations are unknown to foreign birdwatchers. Fortunately, there are a lot of experts in Poland who know them all because they were born, live and watch birds there throughout the year. Their expertise and years of experience can help you find the common birds of Poland and the rarities.

Don’t know when to go?

March is simply the best time ever for all species of woodpeckers (gatunki dzięciołów). Also massive flocks of geese and ducks (ogromne stada gęsi i kaczek).

April for woodpeckers (dzięcioły), owls (sowy) and April adds plenty of migrating waterfowls (ptactwo wodne) and raptors (ptactwo drapieżne).

Early May has all of the above (but worse for woodpeckers) plus displaying ruffs and great snipes on the lake! And mid-May brings late warblers: especially aquatic, river and barred. Plus flycatchers (muchołówki) – collared and red-breasted, 4 species of marshy terns (rybitwy bagienne), bee eaters (zjadacze pszczół), rollers etc.

June or late May is still good for raptors, terns (rybitwy), aquatic warbler (wodniczka) and bee-eaters but you may miss great snipes and woodpeckers, as they will be hardly visible, because of dense foliage and tall grass at this time of year.

Excellent birding tours have been designed to get the most from birding in Poland. You will enjoy unforgettable days. Great opportunities for nature sound recording and wildlife photography (nagrywanie dźwięku przyrody i dzikich zwierząt)!

Tours like that are quite a lot and you can just google them. A lot of them will pick you up from the airport, take care of the transport, food and places to stay (usually great homemade meals from local products). A lot of times everything is included in a tour like that and you can get it for about EUR 100 per person (including transport, place to stay, guide, all the tickets for entering paid areas). Highly experienced, english speaking local guide will lead you to all the best birding spots in the area, showing you the birds you wish to watch.

One thing to remember – May is the peak season and it is very busy for such tours, so you should probably book it in advance!

If anyone has been on a tour like that in Poland – we would love to hear what your experience was:)

Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)

POLISH SAYINGS – powiedzenia:)

Posted on 11. Mar, 2012 by in Uncategorized

Each country has its’ own sayings. Some of them may be similar or have similar meanings as in other countries. However Polish sayings, when translated exactly, word by word, most of the times don’t make to much sense.

Today I will try to explain the meaning of some of them to you.

Let’s start with this one:

“Słowo się rzekło, kobyłka u płotu”

Few have a chance to understand the meaning of this old Polish saying. Most Poles might point to the very sense of it and they know why they pronounce these few strange-arranged words to say what is intended, but few understand their real meaning.

It seems nonsense when translated literally: “A word was said – a mare is standing by the fence”. This old saying has a long historic background. In the 15th century, before there were newspapers and photographs, the kings could often venture out “incognito” among their subjects and “check up on them”.

The story goes that the famous Polish King Jan Sobieski III, the savior of Vienna (1683), notot far from his palace, made a bet with a petty noble (małostkowy szlachetny) who didn’t recognize him. Sobieski was kidding him that a man in his position would never get a chance to speak to the King. Jan bet his favourite mare. He was obviously going to “throw” the bet and let the poor man win, just for the amusement of his traveling companions. The hot-headed gentry-man demanded that his partner must present him immediately to the King. Sobieski then said to the confused gentryman: “słowo się rzekło, kobyłka u płotu”, pointing to the horse.

Hundreds of such wonderful sayings are functioning in the Polish language making it rich and nice to hear. The language is really a living monument.

Another great saying:

“Nie dla wszystkich skrzypce grają”

“The violin doesn’t play for everybody”

This is the reason why Itzhak Perlman can make pretty music with the cheapest fiddle, while even a Stradivarius is of no help to me…:)

“Co po trzeźwemu myśli, to po pijanemu powie”

“What one thinks when sober, one says when drunk”

 This one is as old as the hills. “In vino veritas” is Latin for “In wine there is truth” – “W winie jest prawda”

“Potrzebny jak dziura w moście”

“As necessary as a hole in the bridge”

 I need that like a hole in the head!

 “Ręka rękę myje, noga nogę wspiera”

“Hand washes hand, leg supports leg”

 You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours! Quid pro quo (Latin for “something for something”) Polish – “coś za coś”

Here are few more:

“Jak cię widzą, tak cię piszą”

How they see you, that’s how they perceive you

“Gdyby kózka nie skakała, to by nóżki nie złamała”

If the goat didn’t jump, she wouldn’t have broken her leg

“Gdyby kózka nie skakała, to by smutne życie miała”

If the goat didn’t jump, she’d have a miserable life

“Swój ciągnie do swojego”

Same kinds attract

“Każdy sądzi według siebie”

Everyone judges according to themselves

“Z kim się zadajesz, takim się stajesz”

You become whom you befriend

“Kto się czubi, ten się lubi”

Those who argue, like each other

“Baba z wozu koniom lżej”

When the woman gets off the wagon, horses have an easier time

“Lepszy wróbel w garści niż gołąb na dachu”

It’s better to have a sparrow in your hand, than a pigeon on the roof

“Co nagle, to po diable”

The devil dictates when you’re in a hurry

“W zdrowym ciele, zdrowy duch”

Healthy soul in a healthy body

“Mądry Polak po szkodzie”

Smart Pole after the damage is done

“Co kraj to obyczaj”

Each country has it’s own tradition

“Co ciało lubi, to duszę zgubi”

What likes the body will lose the soul

“Komu pora, temu czas”

When it’s your time, you have to go

“Kwiat bez zapachu, jak człowiek bez duszy”

A flower without a smell is like a man without a soul

“Komu w drogę, temu gwóźdź w nogę”

who wants/needs to leave, stick a nail in his foot

“Sukces ma wieju ojców, porażka jest sierotą”

A success has many fathers, a failure is an orphan

“Musi to na Rusi, a w Polsce jak kto chce”

A must is in Russia, in Poland you do however you want

“Kto pije i pali ten nie ma robali”

The one who both smokes and drinks doesn’t get roundworms

“Modli się pod figurą a diabła ma za skorą”

He(she) prays but has a devil under the skin.

“Panu Bogu świeczkę, a diabłu ogarek”

A candle for God, a stump for the devil (said about two faced people)

“Szczęście jest pomiędzy ustami i brzegiem kielicha”

Happiness is between the lips and the rim of a glass

“Ładnemu we wszystkim ładnie”

A pretty person looks pretty in everything

“Nie chwal dnia przed zachodem słońca”

Don’t praise the day before sunset

“Wszędzie dobrze, ale w domu najlepiej”

Everywhere’s fine, but best at home

“Potrzeba jest matką wynalazków”

Necessity is the mother of invention

Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)


Sushi anyone?

Posted on 10. Mar, 2012 by in cooking, Countries, Culture, food, Places to visit, travel

Sushi is popular in Poland’s urban centers. Seriously popular. An informal study of Warsaw magazines reveals that about 12% of all the city’s restaurants sell it – and even then you probably want to book a table on a Friday night to make sure you get some.

It seems that to Varsovians (Warszawiacy), sushi says modernity (nowoczesność), taste (smak, gust), and fashion (moda). It’s also one of the more expensive foods you can eat – though really that’s an encouraging sign. Who wants to eat cheap raw fish? So it’s a sign of wealth (bogactwo) and success (sukces). It’s the food of business deals, of cash rich calorie-reluctant lunching ladies, of trendy about-town urbanites who scoff at their old-fashioned mothers recoiling in horror at the thought of eating uncooked, slimy fish flesh.

Sushi is ‘vinegared’ rice topped with other ingredients – fish (ryby), seafood (owoce morza) or vegetables (warzywa) being the most common, but as in America, home to the California roll, here in Poland sushi has been adapted to cater to some more local tastes. Smoked mackerel (wędzona makrela) sushi is a popular choice, eel (węgorz) with gherkin (korniszon) packs a tangy if utterly inauthentic punch, and rice stained ‘Barbie purple with beetroot juice’ is a common sight. Anathema in Japan, but popular with most western sushi eaters, the calorific Philadelphia or mayonnaise rolls with deep fried battered prawns (krewetki) or fish (ryba) and extra avocado(awokado) are big sellers.

It’s a long way from sushi’s origins back in 17th century Japan, when Hahaya Yohei created a delicious roadside finger food by marinating fish in vinegar and selling it in strips or on a damp cushion of rice. The acid breaks down the fats in the fish, fermenting it slightly and creating one of the five basic tastes identified by Japanese cooking, ‘umami’, defined as a taste sensation that is meaty or savory.

‘Umami’ sounds terribly Eastern and exotic, but in fact it has always been a part of Polish cooking, more so than in other European cuisines. Żurek, a popular broth, gets its umami taste from the fermented rye flour, and bigos, Poland’s national dish of hearty meat stew, gets it from the fermented cabbage, the naturally occurring nucleotides in the mushrooms and the cured sausage – curing increases the glutamate content. The precise minimalist aesthetic of sushi might be a million miles away from this warming hearty food, but the basic meaty-sour taste is not.

And Poland has always appreciated fish dishes, again with an emphasis on curing, brining and smoking – all increasing the umami taste. Strips of herring (śledź) or sprat (szprot) fillets lightly brined with allspice, mustard seed and bay has the slippery-fresh rawness of sushi, albeit distinctly Polishflavoured, and it’s been a traditional part of Polish cooking for centuries, making Poland ripe for a sushi invasion.

For all its popularity, and despite normalising ‘make your own’ sushi classes, sushi just isn’t normal everyday food. It has a taste of the exotic, the rarefied and the precious about it. It is food with presence, food that has cache. It’s thrilling to watch highly-trained Japanese chefs and their Polish disciples cleaver-ing up fish and creating our dinner before our very eyes. It’s gratifyingly novel and space age to select little dishes from a moving conveyor belt. It’s glamorous to click lacquered chop sticks (pałeczki do jedzenia) against porcelain bowls, spectacular to have food brought to the table on a giant wooden junk. It’s rewarding to master the art of using delicate chopsticks with grace (wdzięk) and panache (ostentacja). The joy of sushi isn’t simply the food; it’s the style as well. And as a modern and cosmopolitan city (kosmopolityczne miasto), Warsaw is the perfect place to eat sushi in – and with – style.

There are some great sushi restaurants not only in Warsaw, but other (mostly big) Polish cities. It is not quite exactly the same sushi as the one I’m used to in Maine. But overall great new experience!

I would recommend Sakana restaurant in Warsaw (Moliera 4/6 St) and So-An (Koszykowa 54 St).

Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)