Rishi Sankar: Ah Trini Travelogue

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Wednesday Photo Nights #9 : At night in the Warsaw Christmas Market

Posted by Rishiray on December 21, 2012


You’ve read the books, seen the movies and heard the stories … so we can all get on board : Warsaw hasn’t had it easy. As a city, Warsaw would be the “Rocky” of cities … knocked down over and over, but it always gets back up again. After all the trials, there’s been a heavy make-over in the city and of course with any makeover, you want to show off a bit.  With big, glittery balls and low-slung lights topped off with a huge tree – I think that Warsaw is definitely the face of Christmas celebrations.













Every year, there is a Christmas Market in the heart of Warsaw but only in the last 2 years, have they gone into Christmas overdrive. From December 1st on the south-east of the Palace of Culture, the Christmas Fair begins, referring to its unique style and character of the most well-known and visited European markets. This market goes on for five weeks till 6 January. If you like Christmas light … then Warsaw is your kinda city … seriously … it’s like Christmas lights met bunnies and replicated.  All lights are around the Palace itself.



And it’s even more pretty, when you have lightly falling snow, making the entire scene like something out of a fairy tale in winter.



Aside from all the lights, walking around the Old Town to the market square is going to make you hungry.  That being said, where else but a  Christmas market would you find stalls of traditional Polish products from wooden toys, furs, and ceramics to gingerbread, sausages, cheeses, candied fruits, mulled wine and shots of Polish Vodka.




In the market,  you will be able to enjoy the senses sophisticated aromas and flavors of mulled wine, beer and liqueurs after the traditional Christmas pastries and delicacies. So all that sophistication is nice … right? Well in the end, I couldn’t care less about looking fancy but instead just ploughing into plates of pierogies … meat, spinach and potato, potato – no cheese pierogies mind you … my stomach couldn’t deal with those … but if you get some cheese ones, feel free to comment and let me know if you liked them.







After that huge carb load, then you have to wash those pierogies down with something … right? So why not some Polish honey vodka … yep that’s right … honey and vodka … together … in a bottle. Boom!



After the vodka, you might get a bit hungry again … or maybe you didn’t have your fill … so why not have some more food. There’s a couple stalls that should be selling Bigos (pronounced Bee-gosh). It’s some pretty heavy stuff … this hearty, cabbage and pork-based stew has been called the national dish of Poland. It definitely has an Eastern European feel to it: Cabbage and sauerkraut, lots of different meats – many of the them smoked – and a variety of mushrooms. I had two types … the first one had more wild boar in it, and the other had a lot more smoked sausage. I wonder why there isn’t a national epidemic of constipation with all this meat … maybe there is.



Anyone who knows anything about Eastern Europe knows they are mad about mushrooms. Apparently the original bigos was made with wild game, but over the centuries – the dish is said to be close to 700 years old – it has become a stew of many domestic meats. Smoked sausage, mostly kielbasa, is a given, as is either bacon or a smoked ham hock. Fresh sausages, pork shoulder, veal or beef are also used. You should know that there is no one set way to make bigos. Every cook has her own secrets, and so far as I can tell, the only constants are: many different meats, cabbage, mushrooms and black pepper. There are two main branches to the dish, one using tomatoes and tomato paste, the other using prunes. I didn’t try anything with prunes … simply because that just sounds like it wouldn’t agree with my palate. (Disclaimer : I am not a fan of prunes at all)



Since I was still hungry, I ended up snacking on a bowl of Hungarian Goulash and then a bowl of Zurek. I think everyone knows Goulash, but Zurek is a very traditional Polish soup. A distinctive feature of this exclusive food is its sour taste. However, this is not like the sour taste of a lemon. Zurek soup is much more delicate and not tongue-annoying. The taste of this Polish soup comes from so-called sour leavening, originating from fermentation of rye flour and bread crust – so for a Trini, you can imagine that it’s a bit different from our flavour palate.





After all that food and walking in the cold … I’d say you can finish up in a nice Polish bar in the square and rest up for later on, if you’re going out that night.







I would definitely suggest that Warsaw requires at least a long weekend in the winter, to really see all of the light and the market. If you can only be there for one day and night, then the Old Town which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site is a good place to start.

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