Poland Travel

GINGERBREAD CHRISTMAS IN TORUŃ

Christmas in Poland can be truly magical. Over the last 14 years of living in England I only had a chance to spend a few of them back in my hometown in Chełmża and visiting Toruń during that festive time became a sweet tradition. This time, however, I decided to do something I have always wanted to do- bake my own gingerbread.

Toruń Old Town

Everyine agrees that Christmas decorations are the best way to get instantly transported into the festive spirit. Toruń does deliver when it comes to that. Walking around the High Street and the Old Town, you can’t fail to notice many light displays, have a picture with a REAL Santa and…

..and of course a stunning, huge christmas tree that always brightens the Christmas nights for Nicolaus Copernicus or rather the famous astronomer statue standing by the corner of the Town Hall.

There is nothing better on a cold winter evening than to find the most delictious, chewy, warm mountain-style cheese with a cranberry sauce called, Oscypek. Toruń Christmas market is full of tasty treats and of course mulled wine and beer 😉 Shame I was driving and couldn’t have a sip- in Poland there is zero tolerance to driving after alcohol (unlike in the UK where I can go out to a pub or a restaurant and have a small glass of wine or a beer).

Warm Oscypek with cranberry sauce- mniam 🙂

Having sat down on the throne in Brama Świątecznych Życzeń (the Gate of Christmas Wishes), I only had one wish for the upcoming year 2019. To live in love, spread love and help others find love within themselves. Having published my memoir ‘Polish Girl In Pursuit of the English Dream’ in March 2018, I was thankful and grateful for the love it received and all the love it was able to give. We never know what each new year is going to bring but being brave to follow our dreams couldn’t be more rewarding. Better to risk losing than to risk never gaining at all.

Walking along Toruń High Street I met this amaaazing man, he proposed to love me as long as he can, so till about February time (or for as long as it’s cold) and I said; Yes! That’s longer than some of my relationships with other snow-men melting away at the first signs of…well whatever they used as an excuse 🙂

After meeting the snowman, I met this guy. He took my hand and said: ‘Do not fear my love, I will be back to see you again very soon and put a smile on your face… next year’. I replied’ ‘Oh that’s amazing, thanks, I am looking forward to it. Most men I knew never came back or if they did, it wasn’t to spread love and gifts….’ ‘I know my dear’ he replied- I read your book ‘Polish Girl’ 🙂

After eating a huge dougnut, drinking coffee and of course eating oscypek, I noticed this- the sweets heaven- oh I wanted to have even one of these gorgeous creations but I stopped myself at the very last minute and thought…I am sweet enough.

I couldn’t be more excited when I enetered the gingerbread making class in the Museum of Gingerbred. We were all given a gingerbread dough ball that we had to work on untill it turned really sticky and then we could use the tools to roll it out and place it in the wooden block with a carved design.

Once it was taken out of the wooden heart, I carved out Pokochaj Siebie at the back of it. After all, that’s what I managed to find for myself and that’s what I wish upon everyone to find. To Love Yourself.

I was so, so excited and happy with my own handmade gingerbread. It was now ready to be placed in the oven so that we would walk around the museum. The only downside to this- it’s not an edible but decorative gingerbread which may be a good thing. At least it could end up as a Christmas tree decoration, rather than being eaten in 2 seconds 😉

It was fascinating to listen to the tour guide telling us a little about the history of gingerbread production in Toruń. The spices that were needed for it were transported from far, far away and were very expensive. Supposedly at some point in Toruń, you could buy your own house for just a few nutmegs or pepper corns. Can you imagine that?? Now we take pepper for granted and don’t consider it a valuable thing. Times change and we change but maybe we should start appreciating such small things more, especially once we get a bit more knowledge about them. Why living whole life without learning such exciting facts? A huge waste…

I was also very lucky to stumble upon a Real Man 🙂 Gustaw Weese. He and his family actually owned this 19th century gingerbread factory which later turned into the contemporary Confectionery Factory “Kopernik”. (that’s were I get all my chocolated coated gingerbread from) Gustaw was a real gentleman, he invited me for a coffee and then to his office. He was a bit surprised by the choice of my hat..but I told him that we need to go with the flow and he agreed. He was a true buisnessmen who travelled around the world and he knew that progress was part of human existence.

Gustaw Weese and me 😉

In his office, he had to a few things so while he was working, I was answeting the phone, taking new orders for gingerbread. After all, Weese’s products have been known all over the world since the 19th century and they were even exported to such remote countries as Japan and Australia. It is thanks to him and many people over the years involved in the production of ginderbread we can now enjoy the taste of Toruńskie Pierniki.

Gustaw Weese’s office and his assistant

I also managed to see the different wooden forms, carved out so beautifully by very skilled men, some of which looked like old Toruń townhouses or carriages or angels (Toruń symbol) I also met this young boy whose job was to measure the exact time was needed for the gingerbread to bake in the oven. Since they didn’t have clock there, he had to stand there and say many Saint Mary’s to measure the time…what a job!

I was then asked to cook some dinner but..I wasn’t sure how to use this old equipment work so I just smiled and said..Next time 🙂

When I saw this lady I thought she was holding my baked gingerbread heart but I quickly realised she was just selling them out of the box. I was very impressed by the till she used, not sure I would know how to!

Before we finished our tour, I had to jump into the classic Żuk car and shout; ‘Get out of my way! Polish Girl is on its way to rescue the world from the lack of self-love!

And finally the moment of truth about my gingerbread baking skills arrived. I hope you agree- I am quite good at it, especially with carvig inspirational words on it #pokochaj siebie #loveyourself

Having finished my tour around the Museum of Toruń Gingerbread with a bag full of all types of chocolated coated beauties, I stopped by my Guardian Angel…I must say I was very happy for him to show his presence to me, reminding me that he is alwasy there when I need him. I know I should know that without his reminders but sometimes we do need a bit of a visual to just..know 😉 I hope you enjoyed joining me on my Christmas visit to Toruń and the museum. If you ever get a chance to do it, don’t hesitate 😉

Poland Travel

TORUŃ – GINGERBREAD AND ASTRONOMY

Toruń is one of the oldest and most beautiful cities in Poland. Picturesquely located on both sides of the Vistula River at an intersection of ancient trade routes, it has been promoting its vibrant cultural heritage to the world for nearly 800 years. I love walking along the beautiful streets surrounded by majestic Gothic buildings at least once a year, or each time I go back to Poland, and the relaxed atmosphere never ceases to surprise me. Summer or Winter,  Toruń truly is a magical town. Here are a few things that you may not have known about it.

thumbnail_IMG_20180918_144429_135The Gothic buildings in the medieval Old Town were added to the World Heritage List by UNESCO in 1997 and I am always very happy to be walking along the same streets that the merchants and bakers used to walk along in the medieval times. If you wish to experience time travel, just come here.

thumbnail_IMG_20181026_194556_879The city is the birthplace of the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus whose statue stands prominently in front of the Town Hall. Why was he important enough to receive a statue? Well if you know Latin, you can easily find out from the inscription: “Nicolaus Copernicus Thorunensis, terrae motor, solis caelique stator“. But if you are like me and can only speak two languages, neither of them being Latin, it simply means: “Nicolaus Copernicus of Thorun, mover of the earth, stopper of the sun and heavens”. Copernicus introduced the idea that it was the Earth that orbits the Sun and not the other way round as it had been thought of until then. He published his theory on his deathbed and supposedly passed away shortly after reading it for the first time in print. Now that’s both a happy and sad event. Happy that the author was able to see his book published and sad it was for the first and last time in his life.

thumbnail_IMG_20180918_144717_528Did you know that gingerbread comes from…Toruń? Or most likely from there since that’s what the city is famous for. The visit to the Gingerbread Museum is a must because that’s where you will be able to make your own gingerbread dough according to the medieval methods and then bake it in the traditional mold. Now, how cool is that?

thumbnail_IMG_20181108_114144_481You can also just buy tons (if you wish to 🙂 of different flavours of chocolate or glaze coated gingerbread in the official Kopernik shops in the Old Town. I always leave with a bag of my favourites; Katarzynki (the heart-shaped gingerbread) and the ones with strawberry and apricot fillings. They are soft and flavorsome, and the chocolate melts on my fingers before I eat them. Just one of the simple pleasure in life. Nothing better to improve the mood than some chocolate, right? The factory is proud of its 250-year-old traditional method to make them. Now that’s a heritage to be pleased about.

thumbnail_IMG_20181108_114355_638Once your bag is filled with gingerbread, you can have a photo taken with the statue of a gingerbread lady who also has a basket filled with these delicious treats, apparently to commemorate the biggest gingerbread factory opened in 1751. Another time travel experience. Two women with baskets filled with gingerbread, only a few centuries apart…

thumbnail_IMG_20181106_202415_519The donkey with a spikey metal on its back may look like a cute attraction but in fact, it was designed to look like a similar wooden donkey which was used as a torture device for soldiers. They were forced to sit on it (and obviously suffer in a certain area) as a punishment for disobeying or other smaller crimes. Not the most humanitarian way to treat ‘bad guys’ but hey, medieval times had its own rules…

thumbnail_IMG_20181106_202514_714I always look forward to one more experience whilst visiting Toruń. Dinner in the best pancake restaurant in the world, Manekin. The choice of pancakes filled with savour or sweet filling is simply mouthwatering and after having my favorite one with kebab and a tomato sauce, I always share a chocolate banana one with whipped cream with my mama.

 

39982776_10211397267476611_1520763282888065024_n.jpg

Within a short walk from the city centre you find yourself on the river bank of Vistula River which at night reflects the beauty of the town buildings in its calm waters. It is very lively in the summer when the locals enjoy their evening strolls alongside it or have a drink in one of the bars located on board the static ships. It is also a great way to burn off some calories from the pancake feast!

thumbnail_IMG_20181108_122004_629The remains of the Teutonic Knights’ living quarters along the other side of the river are a beauty to look at and the legend has it that the flying dragon used to hide in these walls. Now that’s a mystery to be explored by the adventurers!

thumbnail_IMG_20181026_195057_264The Old Town at twilight turns into the spectacular show of lights. Now that’s the time to really admire the beautiful architecture of the Gothic buildings while sitting in an open-air cafe, sipping a cocktail or a traditional Polish beer.

40269687_10211424237390842_1187309795917430784_nThis year I was lucky enough to experience the yearly event called the ‘Bella Skyway Festival’, or simply the festival of light. What better place to turn into the fairy tale magical display of lights than the streets of Toruń! The light installations turn buildings into stunning light shows and the real fire and water installations from international artists around the Teutonic castle grounds were breathtaking. I could feel the heat from the torches as I walked by and the white vests with inserted candles which were hanging on the trees seemed out of this world. I would have never expected that! So if you can plan your trip to Toruń around that time, the festival will make you gasp from amazement. Unlike anything, I have ever seen.

39942834_10211404313452756_1155841940634206208_nThere can be many things said about  Toruń but there is one thing I can say with confidence. It is a truly magical place, full of history and it’s worth visiting at least once. If you feel like going back in time when strolling through cobbled streets, there is no better place in this part of Poland. The closest airport is Bydgoszcz. So what are you waiting for? How about some gingerbread, Polish beer and a medieval vibe?

 

thumbnail_IMG_20180918_144858_551