Monthly Archives: December 2009

Dear Santa….

I just want one CD for Christmas. I know it’s almost a year old, but I’ve only just been told about it. (Yeah, thanks, ‘friends’ for keeping me up to date). And I instantly fell in love with it.

Mieczyslaw Fogg was a very famous Polish crooner, whose career spanned half a century. He first started singing before the war and kept performing well into the 1980s. Always well-groomed, well-mannered, he appealed to the melancholic middle-aged ladies, who always dreamed of having a husband like him.

Needless to say, when I was a teenager it wasn’t particularly cool to listen to him. Actually, it wasn’t cool at all.

Fast forward twenty-odd years to 2008 and Fogg is back in fashion, but this time among the hip, twenty-something crowd.

Several young Polish artists re-recorded or remixed some of his old songs and released an album called Cafe Fogg. If you’re familiar with the Verve Remixed series, Cafe Fogg is in many ways very similar to that.

Here’s my absolute favourite, Bo to sie tak zwykle zaczyna (That’s the way it usually begins). The original song was remixed by The Bumelants and I love it:

Here’s another one I like – a song called Kiedy będziesz zakochany (When you’re in love), re-recorded by Novika:

Dear Santa! Got it?!

More from Cultural Beast

Celebrate Frederic Chopin’s birthday

Frederic Chopin statue in Warsaw © Patrick F via Flickr

This one is for music lovers planning a trip to Warsaw.

To mark the bicentennial of Frederic Chopin’s birth (yes, he was Polish), the Polish capital has published a Chopin audio city guide.

Available in eight languages, the guide will take tourists to some key locations related to the great pianist.

You can download the audio guide from Warsaw City Hall’s website (in English and other languages) or you can get in while walking through the capital as there will be several ‘music banks’ with special codes, which you can scan using your mobile – and get the audio files this way.

If you are a Chopin fan, you’ll be pleased to know that next year over 2,000 evens are planned across the globe to mark the 200th anniversary of his birth – and over half of them will take place various cities across Poland.

Just remember that – as Chopin was born to a French father and Polish mother – his name will often be spelt in two different ways in Poland. Frederic Chopin is the internationally recognised spelling of course, but Poles will refer to him as Fryderyk Szopen. The pronunciation is similar, just swap the French accent for a Polish one ;)

So, if you haven’t been yet, it looks like 2010 might be a good year to visit Poland at last!

Frederic Chopin Statue in Warsaw – image © Patrick F via Flickr, used under Creative Commons licence

Stamps and stockings

Polish stamps

I should perhaps dedicate this post to everyone who still complains about the Royal Mail in Britain.

Have you ever tried its Polish equivalent, Poczta Polska? No?

I’ve just read a post on one of the Wall Street Journal blogs dedicated to Central and Eastern Europe about the weird experience that is Poczta Polska. And I couldn’t agree more.

Malgorzata Halaba describes her frustrating experience of using Polish post offices, which somehow have failed to notice that the Communism collapsed some 20+ years ago.

Just to clarify, I think that Poland has largely made massive progress when it comes to customer services, something we all thought would never happen.

Every time I go back I am mostly positively surprised by how some places – even within the public sector – have changed and improved their services. There’s still a long way to go, but, unlike even 15 years ago, it’s not unusual to be greeted by a polite smile and served in a nicely lit, clean office.

However, it would seem the Polish Post Office is till trying to catch up. Quite often the service is still bad, and many post offices – presumably to improve their income – have turned into part-time markets, selling everything from stockings to board games and washing powder.

The author of the WSJ post compares her experience of using post offices in Warsaw to a journey in time – back to the 1960s:

It warms my heart every time I have to pick up a registered letter. Usually, after waiting the required 20 minutes, I approach the window and hear an angry bark: “What the does the letter look like? Is it large?”
How am I supposed to know? I wasn’t the one who sent it. I watch the nervous clerk produce three cartons of letters and start to shuffle through them in search of mine – sometimes without success. “Come back in an hour, or better tomorrow,” is what you might hear in the case of misplaced letters.

Yep, sounds like the post office I remember. Although I have to say, I found the post offices in Warsaw particularly bad, so hopefully things have in fact improved elsewhere.

But just like the Royal Mail lost its monopoly in 2006, its Polish equivalent will go through a similar process in 2013. So expect some changes there.

Until then, don’t be surprised if instead of stamps and envelopes your local branch will try to sell you some lovely stockings.

Image of Polish stamps © Florence Craye, Flickr, used under Creative Commons licence

More Polish food at Tesco

While browsing through my enormous backlog of unread blog posts I came across a short post on Bar Mleczny, another UK-based Polish blog, about Polish food in the UK.

Well, there are two pieces of news to share in fact.

First, Tesco has decided to double the amount of Polish food it offers as its customers are now buying 15% more Polish products than a year ago.

The decision follows an earlier move to cut back the number of Polish items on Tesco’s shelves after large numbers of Poles decided to go back to Poland.

An article in the Daily Telegraph quotes Tesco’s Polish foods buyer Tomasz Zarebinski, who explains the decision:

“When jobs began drying up some Poles returned home in order to try and find work but many found it equally hard over there and have decided to come back to the UK.

“With unemployment currently higher in Poland than in the UK many of those who left are more hopeful of finding work over here.

“That has directly led to the first rise in demand for Polish food here for nearly a year and as a result we have now decided to extend our range.”

The second piece of news is that you can now get your groceries from Tesco’s website in Polish as well as in English. They’ve launched www.tesco.com/polski presumably to make it easier for Poles residing in the UK to order their groceries.

I only hope that this blog has also contributed to the popularity of Polish food in the UK.

Polish Christmas food