5 Coolest (haha) Ways of Staying Warm in Poland
Those who’ve never stepped foot on the Polish soil may envision it as a land of permanent frost and polar bears running rampant from one Soviet-style building to another frightening the s*** out of mustachioed elderly – because the young ones have emigrated to the UK – ladies wrapped in floral scarves on their way to rural vodka and dumpling factories. However, since we meet here it is obvious that you are not one of those people. You are a keen explorer interested in disarming those awful stereotypes that have nothing to do with reality: no polar bears, no permafrost, four distinct seasons and streets filled with fresh faced, if a bit grumpy, young and old sartorially aware Poles. Nevertheless, four seasons means that at least two of them are less than tropically warm: though we do well in the humidity department. In autumn and winter the temperature drops, the sun is rarely seen, and more people choose indoor activities. But don’t be misguided! Cold on the outside, makes us warm on the inside: a virtual reversal of a Baked Alaska. Being a naturally inventive nation (kerosene lamps, bulletproof vests, windscreen wipers), we have found many ways of staying warm and enjoying ourselves in the process.
Disclaimer: This post will contain some boozy recommendations because there is a grain of truth in every stereotype. Be advised that consuming large quantities of alcohol outdoors though initially will make you hot hot hot, may eventually accelerate hypothermia!
01. Hot tea, hot coffee, hot chocolate
Warsaw is filled with modern and old school cafes where you can taste anything from a cold brew fair trade cup (check out Relaks) to what we call “plujka” (the spitting coffee), i.e. ground coffee beans topped with boiling water at Bar Kawowy Piotruś (just remember to check your smile afterwards). For best hot chocolate check out Pijalnia Czekolady Wedel, and the best tea is available at Same Fusy.
02. Mulled wine and beer, and mead
Though we drink our vodkas ice cold, we also know how to heat our liquor. You’ve probably heard about mulled wine, but beer? Let me tell you that it is amazing. Spiced with cinnamon, honey, cloves and chunks of orange mulled drinks are to die for. In winter season you shall find it at any licensed cafe or restaurant, but we recommend Między Słowami and Cafe Kulturalna.
03. Soups, soups, soups
We have a few obsessions in Poland, and soups are one of them. We serve soups that signal Catholic celebrations: barszcz (beetroot soup, see pic above) for Christmas and żurek (sour rye soup) for Easter, and soups that cure all illnesses: rosół z makaronem (chicken soup with noodles). Most importantly, however, there is no better way to get warm than eating a bowl of steaming hot soup. You may decide to go for some of Polish classics: pomidorowa z ryżem (tomato soup with rice), krupnik (barley soup), kwaśnica (sour cabbage soup), or ogórkowa (fermented cucumbers soup). The best way to experience soups in their classic glory is to check out a milk bar, such as Bambino or Familijny). But you’ll find that the Vietnamese pho (at the city’s beloved Toan Pho) or Japanese ramen (supreme at Uki Uki) that reign supreme among Warsaw’s professional classes will also serve its purpose.
04. Zupa mleczna, or the Polish kindergarten institution known as the milk soup
How quickly the trauma of everyone’s childhood became the epitome of comfort food. If you just know cornflakes with milk or porridge than you have not lived! As much as we like our meat and veggie soups, we have also created warm and hearty breakfast soups based on warm milk and special pasta or cereal. It is easier to get them from a Polish host than at a hotel, but to give it a try check out milk bars – state subsidized canteens specializing in milk soups and all things starchy! Check out Prasowy. If you fancy a different vibe, you may try Bułkę przez Bibułkę.
05. Never-ending family parties
One way of staying warm is to stay in, and Polish celebrations make it easy. Once we plop ourselves at a table we do not move for at least five to seven hours (yes, we have bladders made of steel). But why would we move when a Polish celebration entails a food and drink bonanza?
Regardless of the season come to Poland and check out its amazing food and drink! We also do well in the historical site department! Not too shabby at all.