POLSKI PIWO

       It was about time for another European beer
adventure and although she had been there several
times, my wife suggested Poland, thinking I might like
Krakow. As it turned out, Krakow is now my favorite
European city and I’m looking forward to a return as
soon as possible. While not as well noted for their beers
as are the English, Scots, Germans, Czechs or Belgians,
the Poles have nothing to be ashamed of in the malt
beverage department, not only for the quality, but also
because unlike the US, our favorite beverage is available
almost everywhere. And Krakow’s main market square is
the biggest and most beautiful I’ve seen anywhere.

       We had business first class seating on the flight
from Newark to London from where we were to make
connections to Krakow, and the beery aspects of the
trip started out on a high note as the first class lounge
offered LAGUNITAS 12TH OF NEVER ALE while waiting
to board. We arrived in London uneventfully and had
the opportunity to freshen up, including a shower in the
first class lounge at Heathrow, which was greatly
appreciated since the connections to Frankfurt and on
to Krakow were terribly delayed due to weather. We
didn’t arrive in Krakow until 7:45pm but, mercifully,
some WARSTEINER PILS was available on the Lufthansa
flight. A short train ride brought us to Krakow Central
Station which is directly across the street from our
hotel. After a delicious and much needed ZYWIEC
draught in the hotel lobby, I walked back to a grocery in
the station and picked up some brewskis (seems like an
appropriate nickname while in Poland.) BRO KIERCZA
THE ALCHEMIST AMERICAN IPA, BRO KIERCZA THE
FIREFIGHTER IMPERIAL IPA and BARBAKAN PIWO
CIEMNE were slyly stowed in the hotel room’s mini
fridge, while other, lesser Polish beers and bottles of
mineral water were removed and stored in a dresser
drawer, to be returned to the mini fridge upon our
departure, after the “good stuff” was consumed to
make room for them.

       The next morning we arose early for breakfast in
the hotel and walked all over Old Town on the way to
Wahwel Castle and the basilica. Walking up the long hill
to the castle we observed the commemorative stones
embedded in the surrounding wall to honor the donors
who had contributed to the castle’s restoration. A good
many of the stones pay tribute to donors from Buffalo,
Chicago, and other Polish enclaves in the US, making
me, again, proud to be an American.

       Heading toward Jewish Town we were attracted to
a small pub, Pod Wawalem, displaying a vintage beer
truck parked in the adjoining garden, so we stopped in
for a late morning pick-me-up of a half liter of
KSIAZECE CIEMNE LAGODNE, and to use the restroom.
And what a restroom! The men’s room had an orderly
row of urinals with signs over each reading “Piwo”
(beer), “whisky”, “wino” (wine), “wodka” and
“schnapps”, indicating which urinal to use depending
upon what you were drinking. I was certain that  this
was simply a joke, but just in case, and not wishing to
act like an ugly American, I dutifully lined up behind the
only other patron, at the “piwo” urinal.

       We took an audio tour of the most beautiful
church in Krakow, St. Bernadine’s and went into
another basilica. The churches we saw in Krakow were
just as breathtaking as any we’ve seen anywhere else in
Europe. Leaving the basilica and walking through Jewish
Town, I noticed a little sandwich board type sign
advertising that at the little outdoor tables adjacent to
the sign one could partake of the “best craft beer in
Krakow”. The place is actually an outlet for the Ursa
Maior brewery, located near the Ukrainian border and
had six beers on tap. I tried a MEGALOMAN AMERICAN
IPA and an AGA’S SPECIAL ULTRA RUNNER, before I
realized that flights were available. I could have tried all
six if I hadn’t been so thirsty that I grabbed the first
outdoor seat available and ordered up, before venturing
inside and seeing the “Try one of our flights” sign that
was written in English as well as Polish.

       Back at the hotel I downed an OKACIM
MISZTROWSKI PORTER before a much needed nap,
after which we walked into the market square for dinner
at the Ratuszowa Restaurant and half liters of OKACIM
WEISSBIER and OKCIM PILS. It was a lovely evening
watching the horse drawn carriages driving people
around the square while having two entrees, two
glasses of wine and the aforementioned two half liters of
beer for under thirty dollars. American money goes a
long, long way in Poland. The girls in carriage livery
driving the horses were absolutely beautiful. One was
prettier than the next. I think an interview for a position
driving a carriage in Krakow would probably find the blue
eyed blonde applicant seated behind a screen so as to
not unfairly influence the interviewer, and would go
something like this:

Q: Do you know anything about horses?
A: No!
Q: Do you anything about driving a carriage?
A: No!
Q: Well do you know anything about the Market Square?
A; No!
Q: Would you mind stepping out from behind the
screen?   
A: Okay
Interviewer: You’re hired!!!

We walked around the square for another couple of
hours before we went back to the hotel for a nightcap
of FORTUNA MILOSLAWIV CZARNE, a brew obtained on
the walk.

       After breakfast the next morning we met our
previously hired driver who drove us in his Mercedes to
Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp for a sobering (in more
ways than one) tour. Even after reading history, seeing
the old documentary films and actually standing in the
exact spots where those horrors took place, it’s hard to
imagine that they did.

       I had a quick KOZEL LEZAK in the hotel bar before
we went back  to the market square for some excellent
ribs at the         Kompanu Kuflowa restaurant
accompanied by a liter of TYSKIE Polish beer. Judy
received a gratis glass of wine for her birthday and the
strolling band played “Happy Birthday”. Somehow the
hotel knew it was her birthday (probably from her
passport) and sent up a free bottle of wine, making for
a nice birthday, indeed. But maybe not as nice as
somebody else’s we observed on our way back to the
hotel. A huge trolley car, emblazoned with festive lights
and with happy singing coming from it was making it’s
way along the tracks loaded with celebrating people and
kegs of beer. I later found out that city trolley cars can
be chartered for birthdays and other celebrations in the
off-peak hours, and , like most places in Europe, there
are no qualms about bringing beer on board. But I
wonder where they pee?

       The next morning we visited the underground
History museum of Krakow where I discovered my own
personal Polish hero, Leszek the White, Prince of
Krakow and later King of Poland. Casimir Pulaski,
Thaddeus Koszciusko and JeanPaul II are all great Polish
heroes, but they pale by comparison to the great
Leszek the White who refused to lead his Polish Knights
in the Crusades because, as he explained to the Pope at
the time, there was no beer in the Holy Land. For a beer
lover, that’s a REAL hero!


       The scores of pubs and cafes around the market
square afforded afternoon refreshers of KSIAZECE
CZERWONY LAGER, WARKA PILS, NOTECKIE CIEMNE
PELNE and KOZLAK BOCK, but beer-wise the best stop
on the square is the Bier Halle, a Bavarian style pub
where we had a dinner of wiener schnitzel and a flight of
Bier Halle MARSENBIER, MAIBOCK, PILS, and WEIZEN,
all made on premises.

       The next morning we caught a bus to Zakopane, a
ski resort and summertime vacation spot. A funicular
ride took us to the top of the mountain where we had a
lunch of goulash over potato pancakes washed down
with steins of ZYWIEC TATRA MOENE STRONG BIER.
Looking at the spectacular views made all cares seem far
away.

       Zakopane has a brewpub and guess what? I
decided that would be a great place for dinner. A flight
of WATRA HELLES, WATRA MARCOWE FESTBIER,
WATRA PSZNIECZNE WHEAT BEER, and WATRA
MIRODOWE MAIBOCK increased my beer log by four.
Who cares if you can’t pronounce them? They tasted
delicious.

       We left for Budapest the next morning , bringing
the Polish leg of the trip to a close. But I’m eagerly
looking forward to a return.


Na Zdrowie!

                             Cheers!









              Dan
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