Monthly Archives: June 2013

Polish dog breeds

Polish dog breeds

Did you know there are five dog breeds indigenous to Poland?

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First, there’s Chart Polski, the Polish Greyhound – so called, but actually no relation to the greyhound found elsewhere. This one is thought to have been bred  from the aisan sight-hound (think Saluki).

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Ogar Polski, the Polish Hound, is a handsome hunting dog. Unlike the Greyhound, the Hound is a scent-hound.

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Next up is Gończy Polski, the Polish Hunting Dog (can you see a theme running through this?). Another strong scent-hound.

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Four is Jurek – or at least his close relative, the Polski Owczarek Nizinny or Polish Lowland Sheepdog. This breed almost died out during WW2, but lives on as a show, pet and working dog.

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The Owczarek Podhalanski – Polish Tatra Sheepdog is a big white beauty! True working dogs – the shepherds even cut the hair and made wool from it – this Sheepdog is also trained as guard, rescue and police dogs, despite being decimated in WW2 and still a rare breed.

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About bloody time!

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The US Supreme Court has at last ruled on DOMA – the Defence of Marriage Act, which denied same sex, legally married couples, the same rights as heterosexual married couples.

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At the same time, they refused to rule on California’s Prop 8, opening the door for the State to reconsider this piece of legislation which took the right of same-sex couples to marry away from  them!

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It’s a good start, but the ruling only affects those in states where gay marriage is legal – look how far there is still to go!

Gay marriage and all similar unions are STILL banned in 30 states.

Polish ravioli, cabbage and beetroot

Pierogi, gołąbki and barszcz

What’s the best way to describe Pierogi? Polish ravioli, perhaps?

Small parcels of pasta, containing a savoury or sweet filling, Pierogi are very much a staple of Polish cooking. John is still getting his head around the idea of eating ravioli without a sauce, but as is the Polish way he now eats his either boiled then fried with chopped onions or bobbing in a sea of barszcz (not the sweet ones, obviously!).

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In general, Pierogi will be filled with one or more of:

–       mashed potatoes

–       fried onions

–       cheese

–       cabbage

–       sauerkraut

–       ground or minced meat

–       mushrooms

–       spinach

or:

–       fruit

–       jam

–       sweetened curd

–       soft cheese

On Xmas eve, it is traditional to eat a meat-free pierogi dish, either normal sauerkraut and mushroom filling or smaller, mushroom, pierogis served in delicious barszcz.

Gołąbki

This is one of those foods which is SO much better than it sounds. How would you feel if we offered you “cabbage parcels”?

But gołąbki are so much more.

They’re basically parcels of lightly boiled cabbage containing minced pork, beef or chicken, chopped onions, mushrooms and rice or barley, baked in a tomato sauce.

Served with mashed potatoes (watch out for the dill) they’re a cheap filling meal on a cold day.

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Rajmund grew up eating foods like these (and loving dill). John’s getting used to his “dry ravioli” but his favourite Polish meal is gołąbki and mash.

A favourite of both J and R is barszcz. The proverbial beetroot soup, known as bortsch further east.

We make it from scratch, and it could hardly be easier. You need:

–       beetroot

–       chicken or vegetable stock

–       water

–       salt and pepper

Peel, then grate your beetroot. Whack it into a pan with lots of water and 4 chicken stock cubes. Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 2½ to 3 hours.

It’s then a matter of checking the beetroot is cooked and tasting to test the flavour of the liquid. Too weak, continue to simmer, with the lid off and/or add stock cubes.

When you have the right degree of beetroot flavour in the liquid, add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve, with sour cream, mashed potatoes or pierogi.

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Of course you can (we do) pickle beetroot. To get to an English flavour:

–       clean the beets. Cut off any skanky bits

–       bring to the boil, the  simmer of 3 hours

–       allow to cool

–       peel and slice your beets

–       fill a jar with your sliced beetroot, then add vinegar to which you’ve added some peppercorns and any other spices you’d like to try.

Put the lid on, leave it for a week, then consume! In the meantime, you’ve got clear barszcz to drink

Rajmund prefers beetroot salad – follow the barszcz recipe then strain the grated beetroot out of the soup (which you can still drink), add some chopped apples and anything else you fancy and a light dressing.

When the weather over-rules fashion

Someone – I won’t say who – once asked me if we saw the Northern Lights from Poland. I explained that we are actually south of all the UK, save for the Channel Islands so he was more likely to see the Lights from his home in D***yshire.

Then today on TA someone asked how the weather would be in mid-October … never having been north of the UK, she was uncertain what to pack. It was calmly explained that in fact her home, in Nottingham, is a fair way north of here destination, Kraków.

This gives me a very tenuous link and excuse to show you some pictures from my 2006 Hurtigruten trip in Norway, sailing from Bergen to Kirkenes and back.

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That was late September – mid-October.

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Bergen is sort of where the gulf stream ends – the last of the warm water brought over the Atlantic – so it has a decent climate.

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As you go north, it gets cooler.

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You cross the Arctic Circle

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And you get right up to the North Cape

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And to Kirkenes, close to the border with Russia.

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Where it was BLOODY cold and the wind cut through your layers!

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Vest, t-shirt, n’other shirt, fleece and still could not wait to get back on the bus!

I still have that very fetching hat, I’m not allowed to wear it when out with Rajmund!

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Traditional v less substantial construction

I love Alexander McCall Smith’s books about Mma Ramotswe, Mma Makutsi and The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency.

For those who have not read them, Mma Ramotswe is a larger lady – or, as she puts it, “traditionally built”.

In this extract from The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party Mma Ramotswe has been offered a glass of water “A big glass. Very big”.

“She did not blink. Why did he imagine that she would want a very big glass? Was it because she was traditionally built? If so then he had no right to assume that a traditionally built person would drink more than a moderate amount of water. Traditionally built people did not necessarily eat or drink more than those of less substantial construction. It just did not follow.”

So, those of you who are of less substantial construction, remember Mma Ramotswe when you think the traditionally built among us are big eaters!

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Wooden churches

The wooden churches of Southern Poland

Everyone who knows me also knows that I’m basically an evangelical atheist, with no time at all for religion in any form – I believe that only one rule is necessary … do no harm to anyone.

Nevertheless, I was pleased to read that another four of the wooden churches of Malopolskie have, with another four close-by and eight in Ukraine, been added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

These are just some of the closer wooden churches – to whet your appetite for a tour of Southern Poland.

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Of course, not all the local churches are wooden – we have some stone beauties

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And some modern, um, things!

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Living in the foothills

Living in the foothills

Here in Kamionka Wielka, we’re in a “mountain” range called the Eastern Beskids, part of the Carpathian Mountains, and close (less than 20km in a straight line) to the Tatras and the border with the Czech Republic.

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The first thing we realised about living in the foothills is it makes getting satellite TV a bugger! Four companies assured us we’d get an excellent signal – three lied. The fourth gave us (sold us) a dish that works unless it gets clogged with snow or “atmospheric conditions” interfere with the signal.

Most of the time, it’s OK. But Polish TV is not up to much and the English language channels show the same shows and films day after day after day.

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Some Beskids

Then there’s electricity. It comes on poles (actually, ugly little concrete towers) and gets cut off in storms and strong winds. Then all the clocks and timers need resetting. About once a week.

Internet. We have broadband! It took several goes, but we eventually got wired broadband – at a speed somewhere up there with Stephenson’s Rocket and the cable comes from Gregory’s house, via a wire through the canopy of our big tree.

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Rocket – our broadband runs just as fast!

Our ISP? His name is Gregory, and he lives down in the village. His power goes off more often than ours does, and at different times. Humph.

Our water comes from a spring. When we’ve had damp weather, we get water. After a prolonged dry spell, the ground water dries up and we empty our cistern, so Rajmund, Gregory and Gregory’s brother take a big plastic tank into the forest and fill the tank with water from a spring. Then they fill one cistern after another.

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Just popping out for some water

We aren’t on mains drainage either. Septic system ‘R’ us. There are all sorts of do’s and don’ts when you have a septic system. We think ours lets everything soak into the ground. Not sure – but there’s no sign of a tank and the vendor said that in the ten+ years he lived here with his mum and dad he was never aware of an emptying.

A slight oddity is that we do not pay any local council rates/tax because the house is so old. We do have to pay for rubbish collection – which means we must buy and use bags supplied by the council. The bags which are see-through to show you’ve separated plastics, cans etc are cheaper than the black ones for those who can’t be bothered.

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When we mentioned “what a good idea” this is to the neighbours they looked askance – what, you sort your rubbish????? They all burn everything but cans – well, we’re in the country, aren’t we?

And mobile phone signals are rubbish here. Rajmund uses a Samsung Galaxy and has to go onto the porch to talk to anyone. John uses Skype through his laptop or his IPod. Neither is what you’d call convenient!

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Amazon (.co.uk) still delivers free to us in Poland – so long as you still have a UK address on file, they’ll deliver wherever you like. Mail goes into our mailbox down on the gate, but anything remotely parcel-like or official looking they come to the door (and knock on the window in case John did not hear and wants to take whatever they’ve brought without getting to the door!) But Amazon’s free delivery only applies to things they sell and deliver. Anything where there’s a third party involved will not be sent (nor will they charge postage – they simply reject your order).

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Still, living in the loghouse is wonderful; the view is still magnificent; John spent the (32 C) afternoon in the garden with two dogs, three neighbour’s children and a neighbour; we’re going to be planting tomato plants Rajmund’s sister gave us in the next few days and starting our herb bed.

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Chickens are still in our near future and Rajmund still intends to get “Shakespeare” by Xmas. Things on the goat front have gone quiet again – probably to be discussed again when someone we know has a billy they want rid of.