Poland

Gorka Castle in Sobotka, Lower Silesia Poland

Castle Silesia PolandWe went to Poland for a wedding and got one day to get away from the city of Wroclaw and sightsee.

Gorka Castle was build as a summer residence of Wlostowic family. Then from XII to XIX it became a cloister and was systematically expanded. It is surrounded by Sleza Landscape Park.

Today the castle is being renovated and serves as a hotel. You can see the gallery here.

fire place gorka castle silesia poland

fire place gorka castle silesia poland

gorka castle silesia poland

gorka castle silesia poland

fire place gorka castle silesia poland

gorka castle silesia poland

gorka castle silesia poland

gorks castle silesia poland

Gorka Castle Silesia Poland

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Tropical white beaches? No… Polish seaside

Hel - white sand beach Poland

You can tell I’m not really that good with slow travel. Recently I had just one day to go to the sea, but it was so worth it!

kite surfingI used to live in a city on a shore. I still miss the air and the sound of water. Today I want to remind myself of times when I was young and used to go the the same place several years in a row. Not alone of course. It was a huge undertaking. Three families, mainly mothers with children. So 3 mothers, one girl and 6 boys, 3 tents, 1 or 2 tables with chairs, gas bottle to cook on, mattresses, bedding, bicycles, food, pots, pans, kettles and anything one should need during family holidays in “Spartan conditions” as we call it in Polish. Those who don’t know Sparta – it was was a prominent city-state in ancient Greece completely focused on military training and excellence, spartan conditions or ways of living are simple and without any comfort.sunbathers

We used always the same camping. It’s called Old Maszoperia and located just outside city called Jastarnia in Northern Kashubia – Hel peninsula. Right now it’s way bigger and more exclusive than I remember. When we arrived you could see the more kite surfers around this camp site than anywhere else. The only thing is, the lady that talked to us just outside the main gate was very unhelpful and unplesant. She wasnt’t the owner or the director but made us go away and look for accommodation elsewhere. It’s a shame because the place is lovely. When I close my eyes I remember a guy I met there once. He used to take his sunbed together with the tape recorder to the pier early in the morning and sunbath all day. These were the times when NANA hit the top of the charts. I also remember he and his friends smashed us in voleyball match.

FishWe found a room and headed straight to the center to find the best fried fish in Poland. We found it. Halibut. From North Pacific or the North Atlantic. “Very” Polish and very yummy.

Funny thing happened. I was trying to take a picture of a souvenir shop and somebody walked straight into my picture. Well, almost. I haven’t press the release button yet looking for the best angle. I asked, seeing the man stopping and posing:

“Would you like to have your picture taken?”

(Ok it happens, mainly abroad, but it does happen!)

and he didn’t say anything so I took the picture. Then he walked away saying

“Just make sure it’s online!”

I was surprised but in a fit of inspiration I askedstud-muffin

“What would you like it to be called?!”

and the man came back looked at the picture and fought hard…

“The biggest hunk in Jastarnia?” I suggested

“Neither hunk nor stud-muffin” he answered

So here’s the picture guess who is it!

HelSo anyway, Hel Tombolo is a long and narrow strip of land separating the Baltic Sea from the Puck Bay. The Bay is shallow and warm while the sea is cold and rough. This is why the place is perfect. I remember the first time I swam naked in the sea. It was there under the stars, Together with my friends we were jumping over the waves and then we lied close to one another looking at the stars. Great times.

This time we walked through the dunes to the sea after dark. I was recording our helpless calls before we got to the beach. It was good to undress and run into the water giggling. If you need a purpose in life it’s moments like this.

Pogodne daniaThe next day we decided to walk to Kuznica. A place where there were the best pancakes ever. Sweet and sour. Whatever one wanted. Always busy, always queues.

Funny thing is, at some point my Mum and my bro decided to walk along the street instead of the beach and thought they would be quicker but I was in the pancake place faster.

The place is called Pogodne Dania and is the biggest disappointment ever. I felt sick eating those pancakes. Avoid it!

Hel peninsula is called by Kashubian people the Cow’s tail, the Cow’s Tongue or the Goose Neck. it was formed many centuries ago, thanks to the coastal currents, which hauled great masses of sand. First the waves and wind formed small sandy islets, which in time closed into a scythe. Afterwards it was subjected to erosion but in XIX century local people started to fix and enforce the peninsula. The infilling of sand is systematically undertaken until now.Jastarnia by night

Jastarnia is the Peninsula’s heart. At some point the village was separated with a fence into two parts: the catholic (called the Pucka part) and the protestant (called Gdanska or the Forest). People used to live off fishing. Fishermen set up “maszoperie” – the cooperatives. This is where the camping site name comes from. Jastarnia has a big and comfortable marina where you can see lots of yachts and different kind of boats. During the evening you can enjoy almost Mediterranean atmosphere in one of the many restaurants and pubs. There is plenty of lights, game palaces, street sellers, ice cream parlors. Jastarnia ice cream

After having gorgeous fish for dinner we went on to a karaoke bar and had some drinks listening to  young people singing. As always some of them were… how to put it… not that good, but other amazing. Certainly they should take part in Idol or Got Talent or some other music/talent show.

I got 3 pairs of sunglasses thanks to a Ballentines promotion. Check them out:

Sun glasses

The must do thing in Jastarnia is: eating waffles! I swear they don’t taste half as good anywhere else. I ordered one with whipped cream, fruits and carmel… oh… heaven on eath! It was so huge I couldn’t eat it all but if I stayed there for more than one day it could have been dangerous for my figure. Next post is going to be about Jurata and Hel (the city) in the meantime enjoy the slide show with additional pictures.

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Slow travel – wandering fields of gold

fields og goldYesterday R. and I decided to start a walking journey through Greter Poland. Two days – 80km and wild camping near lake. So I got up at 5am and it took us until 7am to be ready on the start of our trip. The first day route: Paczkowo – Czarlejno – Dominowo – Rusibórz – Milosław. But we got lost and somehow turned the wrong way. Instead of getting to Dominowo we ended up in Środa Wielkopolska.

The weather was rather gloomy. After the thunder storm during the night there were still heavy clouds in the morning. It was dashing off from time to time but we didn’t give up. You can see my backpack which includes as little as I could think of considering we could be camping wild in a thunderstorm near the lake. This means: foam pad, sleeping bag, sheet to construct the roof, a bit of paper and small twigs and matches to light a fire, pot with lid, tea, warm sweater, hat and documents to recognise my body ;)

I also took two pairs of shoes. As you can see sandals. colzaI remember someone I respected, when I was in high school on kayaking camp, saying the worst thing is to have your feet wet. it’s better to wear sandals than sport shoes with socks that will soak through. I had sport shoes in my backpack as well cos I thought my feet can hurt from walking in sandals and I can change when it’s not raining.

I also had toilet paper, string, knife, a bit of food and water. Not much food considering we were supposed to sleep near village with a shop. So far so good.

We walked along many roads…

tree alley

sand road

field road

asphalt road

stone road

chesnut road

we saw many wild animals…

deer

roe

hare

butterfly

cockchafer

pheasant

crane

and domestic animals…

rooster

dog

teddy

and many many more I would love to share. the most important thing though is that walking gives time to observe and absorb impressions, something that is hard when I drive or ride. It also shows there is no silance in nature. All the time there is wind, trees, bees, cranes, birds… thay all make sounds. I was used to then living in Poland but living in London made it necessary to accustom to it again.

Anyway walking out of one of the villages we made the wrong turn and only found out about it when R. feet hurt to much to walk further. He wouldn’t give up, but I just couldn’t look at his suffering and called it a day. I doubted if he could walk on the next day so started hitch-hiking to get us to the train station. It was hard but eventually a very nice guy gave us a lift to the train station. I organised cold beers and we had a lot of fun catching the train.

I loved it. It’s a shame we didn’t have our wild camping but well we can do it next weekend. First somebody needs to get proper shoes… Alltogether we walk from 7am to 3pm. Eight hours. Well I’m proud.

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Kórnik yet another castle on our May trip through Greater Poland

Kornik castle

It was starting to get dark when we got to Kórnik. Kórnik means a hen house but is spelt with ó instead of u. I bet it does not ring a bell for anyone who doesn’t speak Polish. the vowels ó and u are pronounced the same (although in former times they were in fact pronounced differently). It means the difference between them is purely orthographic. Polish schoolchildren do not like them because of the spelling errors they cause (and because of the bad marks as a consequence).

Kornik castle towerAnyway, the castle beginning dates back to Middle Ages. It was a fortified stronghold surrounded by a moat, the only access to the castle was by a draw-bridge and wrought-iron bars. In the XVI th century the castle was rebuilt in the renaissance style and fortified further. In the XVIII century, Teofila Działyńska-Szołdrska-Potulicka, with all determination she had, turned the mansion into a baroque aristocratic residence. The castle as we see today was created by Tytus Działyński, who changed it into a Neo-Gothic, fortified structure with towers, turrets and battlements.Kornik castle Poland

There is a legend about a “White Lady” strolling the chambers of castle at night. You can find her portrait in the castle, it supposed to be Teofila Działyńska-Szołdrska-Potulicka herself.

According to legend, beautiful Teofila, called by everyone the White Lady, descends from the portrait every night and goes to a park, where a rider on a black horse awaits her. They wander around the park until the crack of dawn. This is how the ghost of Teofila Działyńska was punished by evil powers. In the vicinity of the castle in Kórnik there was a small hunting hut. Treasure was supposed to be hidden in the cellar of the hut and guarded by the evil powers. Teofila, however, ordered the hut to be pulled down and gave the bricks to members of the local community. The evil ghosts took their revenge by making her wander around the castle and park. The curse will be removed when somebody finds the treasure once hidden under the hut.

castle kornik side viewProbably the legend of the White Lady took the beginning of the Teofilas evening walks. She suffered from migraine and she spend willingly time in the park to ease her ailments.

The salon was called by Wladyslaw Zamoyski “peace convicts” because most of the portraits hanging in the family present to persons convicted of participating in various national uprisings. The presence of an empty coffer ceiling heraldic hall Tytus Działyński explained as the need to have free space in case you had to paint a missing arms of a visiting guest. The castle also hosts a library, which contains the works of such great Polish writers and poets as Jan Kochanowski, Mikołaj Rej and Juliusz Słowacki. The Kórnik library also holds the manuscript of the third part of Mickiewicz’s “Dziady”.

The castle’s large park-arboretum comprises over 2,500 species and varieties of trees and shrubs, the largest collection of that kind in Poland.

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Czerniejewo one of the greatest palaces in Greater Poland

Czerniejewo palace

In Poland we have two public holidays in May: 1st may the Holiday of Work and on 3rd May to Holiday of the Constitution of 3rd May. This year it’s Tuesday and Thursday so taking 3 days off gives you 9 day holiday. Cool huh?

We decided with J. to visit famous Palace in Czerniejewo. Both of us have already been there. J. used to be a tourist guide and take round groups of children and adults and I have many good memories from my visits as a child.

I would like to show you some pictures, share memories and encourage visiting when you get a chance.

Ok a bit of history:

czerniejewo palace front gateThe main tourist attraction in Czerniejewo is baroque palace. The palace was built for a general J. Lipski, in the second half of XVIII century, outbuildings, stables and coach house. The palace is situated within an English style park (13 ha), with numerous ponds and old trees.
Palace of the Czerniejewo is truly a royal residence, one of the most impressive in Greater Poland.Palace czerniejewo front entrance
The palace was built in the years 1771-1775 in the place of an old mansion. Architect was probably Ignatius Graff from Rydzyna. The palace was rebuilt twice. For the first time shortly after the founding, already in the nineties of XVIII century, then the great column portico was built which considerably extended the front elevation, providing indoors driveway to the entrance.
The next development came in the twenties of XX century, when a gallery connecting the main body with the wings was built. Then the main body itself was expanded to the east. The construction of the gallery was completed only in 1980-1982. Two courtyards leading to the palace add to its splendour: the so-called avant-cour, and cour d’honneur – courtyards enclosed with stables, coach houses and outbuildings.
czerniejewo palace outbuildingsThe interior remains to the present day the same as it was designed during the reconstruction of the nineties of XVIII century, perhaps by Kamsetzer projects. At that time round, supported on columns terrena and ceremonial hall were built as well as two storeys high and covered with a flattened dome, room on the first floor. Inside the front-end you can see Leipzig Raker coat of arms.Czerniejewo palace outbuildings
In the years 1979 to 1985 the building was restored. Now it’s used as a hotel with elegant suites and museum interiors.
Behind the palace is a beautiful, 13-acre park established in XVIII century, which in the XIX century was transformed into a landscaped English park, with avenues of lime and hornbeam, ponds and pheasantry.

czerniejewo stablesI was brought up with four boys my so called cousins. Our parents were friends and we used to go away for weekends and holidays together. Czerniejewo was one of the places which we often visited. It was here where i had my first riding lessons. There is still stable here today although I didn’t see any horses at this particular visit.Czerniejewo park I remember we use to ride through the park to a large meadow where we learned how to move, stop, turn also techniques like rising trot, half-seat, two-point and so on. One day instead of a big horse we chose pony hahahahaa I remember he didn’t want to cooperate and shaked off each one of us. We had quite a trouble to catch it afterwards. My Dad got once a big, fat white mare and we had a laugh they really suit each other perfectly. I remember also staying overnight in rooms above the restaurant you can see on a picture while our parents slept in the Palace. We had so much fun.

czerniejewo park alleyYou can also rent a carriage or a chaise I think we did that once as well. J. said it wast the peak of their programm while visiting Czerniejewo. You can go into the palace and see magnificent rooms like: Golden-, Garden-, Winter- Salon, Music room, Hunters room and so on.

In the park there are avenues of lime, ash and chestnut, and three axes of the lakes in the north. Initially the park was designed in French style, since the mid XIX century it was transformed into an English park though.Picnic spot Especially noteworthy are stately oaks, hornbeam, lime and yew with four trunks. We found a spot near the lake at the back of the palace in a meadow undreneath trees to have our picnic: pancakes, fruits and cupcakes. From this spot we’ve seen the panorama of the palace and sea of yellow sow-thistles. There was not a single cloud on the sky. It made me think how different it is to UK and London. No screaming, no noises, no crowds, just sun, breeze and greenery.

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Rogalin – XVIII century baroque palace – where we enjoy picnics

I haven’t been writing for a while now and really feel bad about it. I still need to finish my Vietnam story especially that now comes the time to describe Mekong Delta trip. It’s just that I don’t really know how to write about it, but bear with me. It’s coming.

In a meanwhile let me share some pictures from a lovely place near where I live in Poland. We went there with my best friend recently in an attempt to sightsee some of Wielkopolska nicest palaces and castles. More should follow.

Some facts:

  • Rogalin is primarily famous for its 18th-century baroque palace of the Raczyński family which has been in recent years renovated
  • It was erected on a rectangular plan. The centre part of the front elevation, which dominates the entirety, is crowned with a triangular pediment bearing the Raczyński (Nałęcz) coat of arms and the garden elevation has a semi-circular protruding terrace

The building has two storeys from the front and three from the garden side owing to the slope of the terrain. The entrance to the sala terrena on the ground floor is shaped like a sea grotto. The entire body is dominated by a cupolaed garret, the central part of which is crowned with a sculpture bearing the initials “KR” (from the founder Kazimierz Raczyński)

Palace in Rogalin view of the backyard

  • It houses an art gallery with Polish and international paintings (including Paul Delaroche and Claude Monet and the famous Jan Matejko’s large-scale painting Joanna d’Arc)
  • There is a lovely French garden at the back of the palace which then extends into an English style landscape park with famous 1000-year-old oak trees called Lech, Czech and Rus (‘ll tell you two legends about those three heroes so notice the names)
  • It’s has a cafe in old carriage house and stables you can visit, but what I would recommend is to make a picnic on Warta riverbanks as we used to do when I was a child

The picture on the left shows the view of the palace from the French back garden. It’s not very green yet so it might loose some of it charm,Rogalin garden statuebut you can still appreciate the building.

The statues, located here and there in the garden, are of mythological creatures and gods. I remember as children we used to run inside the green labyrinths and pretend we take part in stories full of mystery and danger.

We’d always visit the oak trees and then head towards the river banks for a walk and picnics. I can’t remember swimming in the river besides this one time in high school when we visited summer cottage of one of my friends near Rogalin. We actually swam in a small pond for bathing cows next to the river, not in the river itself. In the summer you can see some boats with anglers forever waiting to catch a fish. Meadows surrounding the banks are full of wild life and here is a picture of dragonfly I took on one of my trips there. Dragonfly

Now, first of promised two legends about three brothers.

Three brothers Lech, Czech and Rus went hunting together but each of them followed a different prey and eventually they all travelled in different directions. Rus went to the east, Czech headed to the south to settle in the Bohemian hilly countryside, while Lech travelled north. There, while hunting, he followed his arrow and suddenly found himself face-to-face with a fierce, white eagle guarding its nest from intruders. Seeing the eagle against the red of the setting sun, Lech took this sight as a good omen and decided to settle there. He named his settlement Gniezno (similar to Polish gniazdo – ‘nest’) in commemoration and adopted the White Eagle as his coat-of-arms. The white eagle remains a symbol of Poland to this day, and the colour of the eagle and the colour of the setting sun are depicted in Poland’s flag.

Anglers

Another legend with the three brothers refers to how the city of Poznan (where I was born and live nowadays) was founded. Several long years have passed from the time since the three brothers, Lech, Czech and Rus, said goodbye to each other. When a cheerful, golden autumn came Lech gathered his team and set out on a great hunt. They headed west and soon entered the vast forest. Time and time again the team came across cluster of timid or buck deer. Sometimes, the earth rumbled from heavy jog of herd of bison or aurochs. Then the forest was filled with dog clatter, clatter of horses’ hoofs and horns playing fighter announcements of triumph. On the third day morning, in pursuit of a powerful tur, they came to the Cybina river, where a fishermen village laid. Suddenly from the midnight forest rang the sound of distant horns came.
“Who can it be!?” exclaimed Lech. Warriors looked around – everybody was there. The first horn was heard then the second and third.
“The enemy is probably some invaded our lands” said Lech “we have to go back to the edge of the forest and prepare to repel the attack!” Archers and Javelineers hid behind trees, and the warriors prepared bows and swords and formed the order of battle. Meanwhile, playing horns were closer and closer. Wind has already reported the tramp of horses’ hooves and the buzz of people. Finally leaning out of the wilderness a large team of warriors appeared. At its head drove the two leaders. They were going straight towards the village.

Dragonfly

Lech ordered his warriors horn the battle-cry and then rolled his hands in a tube and exclaimed: “Who are you and what are you looking for in a foreign land?”

“It’s no Man’s Land and what we seek is ours!” reply came. There was nothing to wait on. Lech shouted the order to archers, and he along with his team hit the enemy like a whirlwind. Already were they to cross the swords, when Lech suddenly threw weapon on the ground and cried joyfully “Czech! Russ! I recognize you (poznaje in Polish)! Welcome!”

Amazed warriors of both teams Put your sword and then began to welcome each other. The three brothers, Lech, Czech and Rus, fell into each other arms and embraced long and heartily. Lech decided to celebrate worthily the meeting with the brethren, ordered to light fire and roast the deer. As they ate and honey loosened tongues, Czech and Rus in turn began talking about several years of their wanderings among the Slavs beyond the Oder.

When the cup of honey made a circle around the campfire Lech said: “This day will remain forever in our memory as the day we met after many years of separation. In memory of this meeting I will build on the site new settlement
fort and name it Poznan.

And so it happened. In the spring of next year Lech built on the right bank of the Warta fortified city Poznan. In the borough artisans and merchants started to build their houses. This created a city of Poznan, which with time expanded to the left bank of the Warta.

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Xmas work out – Polish bigos – 5 to 7 days cooking pleasure

So, let me tell you how you make one of the traditional Polish dishes called bigos. The longer you cook it the better it is. The more types of meat you put inside the better. Believe me it’s so worth the effort!

Ok, so first of all you need to cook the sour cabbage with black pepper (grains), allspice, bay leafs. Well to be honest if it’s too sour you need to rinse it first but it rarely happens. It looks like this:

So it is cooked and let me tell you the more the better cos there is never enough of bigos. At this point I add mushrooms. if you read my post about mashrooming you know what mushrooms I’m talking about. At th beginning they are dry so you need to leave them in warm water to soak for a while. chop them and put them in. So now you fry different types of meat.  beef, pork, wild fowl, sausage… This year I didn’t get a nice portion of beef, everything looked too fat or not the right quality. So I took: shoulder, veal, pork roast, beacon and rural sausage.

So first onion with beacon:

And then the meat:

shoulder

 

Veal

Pork roast

I put salt and pepper (ground) to all of them. My tip is to put it into pot and then pour some hot water on the pan to get all the remains out and pour it to bigos, it brings in more flavor, and the water evaporates. And let’s not forget the sausages:

 And after cooking you add some more ground pepper, salt, sweet red pepper, charlock, coriander, cumin, jniper, tomato puree and wine or plums. Everything to taste.

And this was only the first day.

No you cool it down or freeze it at least once a day for 5 days.

And then it’s ready and gone in minutes! Enjoy!

Bigos

 

Festival of lights – All Saints Day and Polish Zaduszki

Ever-burning fire

Ever-burning fire

Another of my favorites Polish traditions is All Saints Day and Zaduszki. All Saints is a solemnity celebrated every year on 1st November. It is a national holiday when in church people honour all known and unknown saints and martyrs. It is also a day when people visit the graves of loved ones to talk to them, to pray and to place candles and flowers on their graves. The special candles are placed there so that departed souls can find their way through the darkness. Many Poles travel long distances to visit family graves and to remember the dead.

Ever-burning fireThen on 2nd November we celebrate All Souls Day (Zaduszki). It’s a day of remembering the dead and its origins can be traced to the times of Slavic mythology – the tradition of lighting candles comes from ancient slavic Dziady (Grandfathers Eve). Dziady were held twice every year (in the spring and autumn). During the feast the ancient Slavs organized libations and ritual meals. In local mythologies such feasts were organized both for the living and for the souls of the forefathers who joined the Dziady after dark.

GraveIn my childhood we used to go to the cemetery in the morning and then joined our family for dinner. My Grandma used to cooked two dishes – soup and main, then two kinds of veg and dessert cake and jelly with whipped cream for my younger brother. The most popular soups are chicken soup and barszcz (beetroot soup) with uszka (dumplings). For main different kinds of meat schabowe (breaded pork fillets) or collops or fried chickens. And then the most plump yeast-raised cake. Oh and let’s not forget the kompot. It’s light, refreshing drink most often made of dried or fresh fruit boiled in water with sugar and left to cool and infuse. The Eastern European drink originates from the time of the Ottoman Empire, it may be even the predecessor of the Western European dessert of the same name.

CandlesAfter dark we used to go for a walk to Poznan Citadel. It is one of the biggest military cemeteries. In fact there is not one but a few of cemeteries, all gathered in one place, among them there are:

  • Old parish graveyard
  • Commonwelth Cemetery
  • Garrison Cemetery
  • Orthodox cemetery
  • Old Garrison Cemetery
  • Russian Military Cemetery
  • Graves of German soldiers
  • Polish Military Cemetery
  • Graveyard of Distinguished Residents

There are also monuments and graves belonging to veterans of Napoleonic wars, soldiers of I World War, scouts, Citadel fighters (polish civilians, which took part in fights in February 45).

Some of the graves are very old and abandoned, some of the look quite new, there is also part which looks like American cemetery (foreign soliders from US, Australia, UK and many other countries ) what they all have in common is the huge amount of candles lit on them, if not by members of the family then by strangers. This was my favorite part of the day. Watching the lights, reading the names and details of dead trying to imagine who they were and what their story was, litting candles that burned out and the ones we brought with us. This year we didn’t go to the Citadel but still I would like to show you some taken in cemetery near where I live now. Enjoy.

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On your marks, get, set, ready, go! – Mushrooming in Poland

One of the most amazing customs in Poland is mushrooming. You get up really early and set off to a wood, forest or other wilderness. Our choice for years now is backwoods called “Blota” (Muds in translation). It’s located near Sierakow in Greater Poland.

Map of Sierakow

Map of Puszcza Notceka - wilderness

Necessary equipment:

ready for mashrooming

Team ready to conquer the forest

  1. Patience
  2. Good shoes (water resistant)
  3. Basket
  4. Sharp knife
  5. Second breakfast (tea recommended)
  6. Knowledge of mushrooms (which are poisonous which aren’t, we are not talking magic mushrooms here)
  7. Compass, just in case (although we never have one and got lost maybe two times in my whole life, anyway I don’t want to think you get lost because I said you don’t need to take a compass)
Matecznik Blota - Blota backwoods

Hostel we slept in

So we got up early and drove 2 hours to our favorite spot. A place we found when I was in elementary school and still went on summer camps. This one was tilted “Bike and horse riding camp”. We stayed for 10 or 14 days in backwood Blota and spend time horse riding and cycling. I think we had some English lessons as well. It was so long ago that I only have some snap shots in my memory. I remember mice running on the floor, how we crept out one early morning to collect some mushrooms and saw one of the most amazing sun rises with rays of light sparking in the drops of drew all around us. I don’t even think anyone noticed we were gone. This summer camp has been one of my favorites. Not sure if they do such camps anymore.

Our parents came to visit and liked this place so much that every autumn we went back there for

Penny bun

Penny bun, quite small just fit for vinegar as my grandpa used to say

mushrooming. Woodmen have changed but we remained faithful. From stories told by my parents I can tell you that sometimes there is so much mushrooms that you stay on your knees all the time, there is just no point to stand back up (unless you feel like doing extensive workout). I personally like just the right amount of mushrooms, when you are satisfied but still have time to enjoy the forest. Smell is amazing, you can feel the aroma of the moist soil, moss, maple and pines. Greenery gives your eyes well deserved rest after hours of sitting in front of the computer screen. And you do a lot of walking without even noticing it, as there is a point to it and a prize – mushroom.

Ok let’s get down to mushrooms, the most popular kinds that I know and collect are:

MushroomPenny bun, porcino or cep –  held in high regard in many cuisines, and is commonly prepared and eaten in soups, pasta, or risotto. We mostly dry it and add to dumplings (polish traditional dumplings for Christmas have filling made of sour cabbage and mushrooms) and bigos (Hunter’s Stew);

Xerocomus, Boletus – used by us for the same purposes;

Suillus – you can recognise it easily as it’s cap cuticle is slimy and sticky when moist, most commonly found near young coniferous trees;

To be honest with you the mushrooms that are poisonous can also be really beautiful. Golden cascades  streaming down the tree trunks, snow white polka dots of Amanita or incredibly symmetrical stripes underneath the cap take your breath away.

amanitus

Amanitus - toxic mushroom

This year we weren’t very lucky. Our first spot was mushroom-less and I was more concerned about spiders than anything else. It seemed they were everywhere. I have a way of passing between two trees that seem ideal to accommodate spider’s web. I take a long stick and wave it in front of me . Hahhaaa now when I think about it, someone might think I’m chanting the mushrooms. We came back with just enough for supper and Christmas dishes for one family.

Now a bit about drying the mushrooms. The string method – slice up the mushrooms

Toxic mushrooms

Toxic mushrooms

thinly, and use a needle and cotton to string all of the mushrooms together. Use real cotton rather than an artificial material as this is less likely to stick or melt during drying. Once you have the mushrooms threaded string them up in the airing cupboard, in the kitchen, or in any similar warm location. This year only one string survived as most of the slices just fell off the string. If it happens to you, you can use The tray method. Use ordinary baking trays lined with some newspaper.

Toxic mushroom

Toxic mushroom

Arrange your slices of mushroom around the tray, making sure that they’re not overlapping each other, and discarding any slices that are maggoty. The thing with this method (especially if you put the tray in the oven to shorten drying time) is that the newspaper can stick to the mushrooms and then you will have bothersome process of removing paper in front of you (before cooking). You know you have to soak them in water anyway but not always the newspaper comes off easily. The Skewer sticks method. Our new invention! Instead of stringing the mushrooms together you make mushroom skewers and stick them in styrofoam box. And it works!

Did I mention you need to clean the mushroom first, remove any snails, pine needles

Cleaning mushrooms

Cleaning mushrooms

or dirt? Check if they are not maggoty and only then dry them! You do not dry the Suillus. We eat them the same day fried with onion and cream. Yummy! (well I started to eat mushrooms when I was 18 so if you disagree I can understand) A lot of work and a lot of leftovers. I throw them into my garden in hope they will make a better start for mushrooms but this is useless. On the right you can see my share of last year crop. Check out the bowl as well! All of them now sorted and cleaned, some more on the table still before processing.

Now I hope you will go yourself and try mushrooming! I ensure you, even if you are too scared to eat them it’s still a lot of fun!

How to marinate mushrooms in vinegar (we don’t use wine just alcohol)

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