A Postcard From Poland

I got bemused looks when I told people I was going to Poland.

“On business?”

“No, on holiday.”

“Oh.”  (Bemused look).

See what I mean?

But the unease I felt at this reaction evaporated on arrival.  I loved Poland.  OK, so the weather helped; warm, spring sun and clear, blue skies that lit up what might otherwise have been gloomy, vast forests.

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Wood anenomes helped brighten them up as well.

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Malbork Castle – the largest, by surface area, in the world.  It was taken over and enlarged after 1309 by The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem (or the Teutonic Knights if you’re in a rush).

There were also buildings on a frankly ridiculous and huge scale: in Malbork

DSM_0132and Kwidzyn.  The cathedral here had a seriously good museum – though I might suggest renaming the Latrine Tower (left) to something a little less … prosaic.

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White Stork (Ciconia ciconia)

Wildlife seemed less shy than I’m used to.  White storks were in every village; on almost every farm.

DSM_0173They are thought to bring good luck and

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encouraged to nest on artificial nesting platforms; traditionally old wagon wheels.

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Swallows were bolder than at the Priory,

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and I was able to get

DSM_0178far closer than in England.

DSM_0049Fieldfares, which I’ve rarely seen before, were two a penny

DSM_0423as were house sparrows (which I have never seen at the Priory.  Not once).

DSM_0208We have marsh frogs in the UK too; they were introduced in 1935 and are now present in SE England.  Apparently.

DSM_0199I struggled to identify these handsome (if shameless) insects – fire beetles perhaps?  (Many thanks to Amelia at A French Garden who has identified these as firebugs,  Pyrrhocoris apterus).

DSM_0190From a distance, many of the trees seemed to be cloud pruned; only close up did the shapes reveal themselves to be mistletoe – it is far more widespread than in Sussex.

Travelling with my brother, I stayed for a couple of nights south of Gdansk and

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Sage Polish advice.

east of the Vistula; near the town of Kwidzyn.  Being an eager and voracious eater of gherkins, I had come across the name before.

DSM_2155(This old pickle jar now holds pellet food for the Priory carp).

DSM_0200We stayed at the charming Bialy Dwor – a comfortable former manor house

DSM_0203where I ate the best haunch of venison imaginable.  But, sadly not a whole one.  My starter of smoked goose with a wild strawberry dressing had my brother snoring into his soup, as I droned on and on about how perfect it was.  (Despite an expectation of indeterminate brown stews, dumplings and no vegetables, our food in Poland was excellent).

DSM_0096I’ve visited most countries in Europe but rarely as far east as this

DSM_0204 where, to my eye, the architecture hints more at Russia than Poland or Germany (this whole region was German West Prussia until the end of the Second World War).

DSM_0215After a couple of days, we drove back to Gdansk; an elegant old Hanseatic city, (formerly Danzig)

DSM_0213for more gluttony gastronomy and a continuing scientific (and very rigorous) investigation into Polish vodkas.  (Curiously, I can’t quite recall the results).  After that it was time to bid Poland, “pożegnanie” and board our train to Berlin.

Might just send you a postcard from there too.

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49 thoughts on “A Postcard From Poland

  1. Dear Mr David. I am Polish and I just came across this post by accident. I am so happy to read such a nice and warmhearted post about my country, whichI truly love! It really hurts me how people sometimes judge Poland and Poles not even knowing our country or our history…I know that we are not considered as a holiday venue, but it might change someday. It is so cool that you have visited Poland and took so beautiful pics! I must say my husband is from Malbork, so it’s a double fun for me to read your post. I also have to say, that next time while visiting Poland you should go more South. The Gdansk area is not so Polish… It doesn’t reflect Polish culture so well. It was formely mainly German district, including german town of Malbork, until WWII. The South of Poland is poorer, but more authentically Polish. I am a beginer garden blogger, and I follow your blog and admire it, I think it is great! Congratulations on your RHS blog award. I wish you all the best and thanks again for such warm words about my homeland. BEST REGARDS

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    • Hello Pola, well as you might have guessed I liked Poland very much indeed. My brother and I will certainly return (I want to explore Polish food some more – and Polish vodka too!). We are thinking of flying to Krakow next time and exploring the south for a week or so. When we do, I promise to write about it. Thanks for taking the time to write the above – it always making blogging so worth while when people respond. I wish you all the best too! Dave

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    • Hello Mr K, yes – I’ve been back for ages but I’ve lost my blogging impetus somewhat. Partly because I’m so very physically tired when I get home from work and writing a post doesn’t seem a priority. But now that I’m aware of your need, I’ll see what I can do. Dave

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  2. Looks like a really interesting and beautiful country, did you travel using public transport or hire a car? just wondering what the public transport was like………….. and how did you find the people of Poland, friendly? ……….Wow travelling with a sibling that’s tempting fate !!!

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  3. Wonderful architecture and birds, we have had a few storks in the UK, not sure if they are just summer visitors though. Glad you’re enjoying the food, that makes or breaks a holiday I think!

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  4. Seems strange we don’t have storks. The climate’s not a lot worse. I saw them in Hungary once, flying in slow-flapping formation like outsize geese. I would so love to have a stork’s nest on my chimney. Do they over-winter in Africa?

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  5. HI Dave, very nice pictures indeed, in particular the ones with birds. Storks are kind of venerated in Poland and in the eastern regions of Europe, after all, many legends are related to this bird.
    I’d really, really like to know the results on the vodka investigation… You may repeat the experiment to have more accurate stats…

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    • The vodka investigation will need to await our return, Alberto. Though my brother did buy me a bottle of the excellent Zubrowka Bison Grass Vodka. If you can get hold of it, I’d heartily recommend it (and this from someone who isn’t a great vodka drinker by any means). Dave

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  6. Everywhere in the world has its beauty, Dave. I’m glad to know, despite the armies and politics that have pushed across it, Poland still has a thriving wildlife. And architecture! Good choice!

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    • Like I’ve said, Faisal both my brother and I were really taken with Poland: the countryside, wildlife, the people, the food, the arcitecture – though it has to be said that once off the main roads the potholes were appalling! Even before we left we had decided to return to explore Warsaw and Krakow and further east. Dave

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  7. I was hoping you’d write a post about your trip. Looks an amazing place. The food sounds delicious and is always a big factor in our choice of holiday destination. I guess the perception of Polish food is all fermented stuff, lots of sauerkraut and meat. We lived in Germany for a while and I have to say weren’t enamoured with the native food there. We often ended up eating at Balkan or Greek restaurants instead.

    We were greeted with a similar response when we said we were going to Norway for our honeymoon. Not your classic romantic destination but we loved it. One day when we can afford another mortgage we might go back. 😉

    Can’t believe you don’t have house sparrows at the Priory; the hedgerows here are teeming with them. Perhaps I could send some down and you could see if a colony would start off.

    Looking forward to the postcard from Berlin.

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    • Hi WW, Norway and Sweden are countries I’d like to visit but as you say, only when I’ve won the lottery. I was in Prague about ten years ago and didn’t think much of the food there – I guess it has probably come on since then. (To be fair I got food poisoning so I’m a little prejudiced). However, I’m quite a fan of German food. My brother and I ate really well in Berlin. We visited a Prussian restaurant and there was a constant stream of people being turned away as they hadn’t booked. The food was marvellous – with huge portions (diners were taking what they couldn’t eat home with them in foil boxes).

      I don’t know why we don’t have house sparrows at the Priory – they are in decline in England but we have plenty of them here in Seaford. D

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      • It was a while ago that we were in Germany so it sounds like the food has improved since then. Would love to go back. I saw someone on TV visit Kiel and it looked stunning. We went to Bergen in Norway and it was another Hanseatic port. I love the architecture of the buildings and the colours. Just wish we had the time this year to get away, what with work, book and OH’s OU degree it’s a bit difficult. 😉

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    • The storks were pretty special, Janet. I’d seen them nesting in Mainz on the Rhine before and I think they used to nest in the UK in the middle ages – but perhaps I dreamed that. D

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  8. I must admit I never associated Poland with holidays but you’ve proved it is a beautiful destination and looks very different to a lot of Europe. I agree about the firebugs, Pyrrhocoris apterus, I get a lot in the garden.

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  9. looks fab. If you want to see mistletoe like that again you should come to Worcestershire/Herefordshire its all over the place, oh and they brew vodka in Herefordshire which is apparently rated by the Polish

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    • Oh, OK Helen. I’d never seen mistletoe as widespread – it was everywhere. Obviously I don’t know Worcestershire/Herefordshire very well. Herefordshire vodka, huh? Who’d have guessed. D

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  10. It seems it is warmer and sunnier in Poland than in Italy, where we nearly light a fire last evening it was so cold! I think your insect is a Trichodes apiarius. I have lots of them in the garden here. Christina

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    • Hi Christina, thanks for that. I did an image search on Trichodes apiarius but they’re not the same – seems Amelia has id’d them though – Trichodes apiarius. (We’ve been having fires pretty much every night). D

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  11. I nearly worked in Poland about twenty years ago but ended up in Greece instead. Good to see some photos of the country!
    Marsh frogs rings a bell with me – at a museum local to us there is a game where you decide the provenance of each of the animals and the frogs came up on that.

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    • Hmm, Greece? Poland? I can see why you chose the former – I would’ve too. We only went to Poland, actually, to research some family history. I’m very pleased we did and will certainly go back. D

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