There are little pockets of Thanksgiving celebration around Poland. In Poznan, Credo, a restaurant we enjoy, offered up the traditional fixings on the holiday. The Nazarene church shared a Thanksgiving meal with their Saturday evening worship with thanks given in English, Polish, and Russian.
We took to the road – piling into our minivan with three other Americans from Ed’s office and Benson (our dog). Looking back the theme of our trip could have been Copernicus, granaries, and gingerbread. We left Wednesday afternoon, making our first stop in Torun. Our hotel, a former granary within the walls of the medieval old town had a terrific restaurant complete with fireplace, polka band, and smalec (pronounced smalitz), rendered pork fat that’s eaten with bread rather than butter. Individually wrapped gingerbread cookies were left on our pillows.
|Bill & Janet|
|Woody & Ed|
|the boys – Benson needs a flat cap|
The old section of Torun is beautiful and small enough that you can easily see everything you want on foot, but remember we walk a lot. Besides being the birthplace of Copernicus, Torun is one of many towns claiming to have invented gingerbread. One legend that we came across said that a housewife used honey in her bread rather than starter one day after a little too much mead. There’s a gingerbread museum where you can bake your own in a wooden mold and a gingerbread store on every corner. I’ve baked more than my share of gingerbread houses when our daughters were young, so the baking wouldn’t have been a novelty to me, but I was keeping my eye open for a wooden gingerbread mold without luck.
We stopped by Kona Coast Cafe before we left town on Thursday. The cafe is owned by John (American) and his wife Magda (Polish). They roast their own beans and the coffee was so good that we bought a bag of beans to bring home. We learned from John the A1 highway to Gdansk was open, news that took more than an hour off of our drive that day. 🙂
|View from the Gdansk Hotel|
We checked into the Gdansk Hotel, a former granary, with a breathtaking view of the city. We had Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant that specialized in pierogi – 20 varieties on the menu. I had a sampler plate and chose four different kinds – mushroom, potato and cheese, sweet cheese and fruit, and chicken with nuts and raisins. The food was fine, but I realized that there’s a reason some combinations are classics. The chicken-nut-raisin pierogi just weren’t memorable.
|a castle dining room|
Friday, we drove to Malbork Castle, completed around 1300 AD, it’s the largest brick castle in the world. We had a English speaking guide who spent a couple of hours showing us around. She mentioned that Copernisus frequented the castle, pointed out the section that had been the granary, and went on and on about the toilets:
- –where the toilets were located
- –the pathways the monks would have used to get to the toilet
- –a gargoyle statue whose beard pointed the way to the toilet
- –how the toilets drained into the water below
- –some unwanted guests were eliminated by “falling” into the toilet
|the castle kitchen|
In two hours, she told us many other things, but you see what sticks in my mind. That, and the kitchen – the heart and soul of a home, even in a castle.
|I loved the painting on this wall at the Solidarity Museum, pity about the door.|
We spent Saturday wandering around Gdansk. We visited the Solidarity Museum with reminders about life in Poland under communist rule and learned about the beginning of the end. We all remember Lech Walesa, Solidarity leader and former president of Poland. I now know that English speakers have grossly mispronounced his name (Vawensa would be closer). His estranged wife, Danuta, has just published her memoirs – her side of their life together. I hope it comes out in English. I love this quote from the Christian Science Monitor review of her book, “We had crowds of labor union members, advisers, politicians, journalists and lunatics pouring into our apartment from dawn until late at night.”
With the sun low in the sky at 3 PM, the men in our party settled in Restauracja Republika, a sports bar, for beer and football while Janet and I visited the amber shops and a gingerbread shop located in what used to be the home of Copernicus’ mistress. Here, I found a wooden gingerbread mold! We ended up staying at Republika for dinner. I ordered the cod, but when I had a bite of Ed’s burger, I knew I’d made a mistake. Their burgers are extraordinary – worth the drive!
We hurried home on Sunday, only a 4.5 hour drive with the new highway, to make it to the Lech Poznan match that evening. You’d think our dedication would motivate them to score, but no, a 0-1 loss.
It was a wonderful trip. Stateside friends and family, you should be visiting! You’re missing out on Europe’s best kept secret.
An accountant by trade and a food blogger since 2009, Lois Britton fell in love with Polish cuisine during the years she lived in Poznań, Poland. As the creator of PolishHousewife.com, she loves connecting readers with traditional Polish recipes. Lois has a graduate certificate in Food Writing and Photography from the University of South Florida. She is the author of The Polish Housewife Cookbook, available on Amazon and on her website.
This post brought a memory of my last trip to Poland with my husband. He fell in love with Torun, I always loved Gdansk:)) But all together we had a good time.
Try to find the book, The Women of Solidarity. Danuta is not featured in this book, but it tells a whole other story that is quite overlooked.
you chose a pretty destination to travel in Poland, I like all the places you have decribed
I have to go back to Torun – I have not been there in years. We always go to Gdansk where we are in Poland because my best friend lives there. My first trip with M. (we were almost dating then:)) was to Gdansk and Malbork:) I love your pictures.
Katie (and Tony)
I have tried to comment before, but my posts never seem to go through. Let's try again!
I so enjoy your blog! We adopted our daughter from Poland, then age 15 months…now she is 4.5 yrs going on 16 😉 We loved Poland so much! We were able to travel Poland and we have been in that very same Amber shop in Gdansk. I am interested in that wooden gingerbread mold!
Thanks so much for your comment. What a small world! Prague sounds like a good assignment, except for the Czech currency. I had a hard time calculating the exchange rates, the numbers are just too big.
I wish I could visit you! Amber is my favorite stone. When we were in Europe in 2010 it was so tempting to play hooky and drive that car into Poland before we headed to Denmark. I hope to get to Poland this year. All of my ancestors came from Poland or Prussia. Please keep the stories coming!!
Mary, you will love Poland and considering your passion for quilting, I suspect the crafts will also catch your eye.
I suggest travelling with GdanskShuttle.
Last year they took from us 120 euro for whole day trip.
We were travelling with 8 persons so it was 15 eur/ person – less than cost of tram, train and bus both sides.
And certainly more comfortable.
Thanks for the tip, Robert.
I recommend tours of the castle Malbork from company Prestige Line
booking: +48 514 425 484
Normally, I delete comments that are advertisements, but I’ll leave this for now in case a reader might find this helpful.