Poland is breathtaking! Our culinary trip to Lower Silesia
‘Omg, stop the car, we have to take a picture’!
‘Look! The view is sooo amazing. Can you smell the air over the meadow?’
‘How is it possible that we’ve never heard of this town before? There is so much to see here.’
‘Travelling through Poland is awesome. This is truly beautiful! We have to show it to others!’
This is what you could hear us shout when we were coming back from Krakow 2 years ago after launching the second branch of Eat Polska. It is 2016 now and we’re lucky to have a team of guides big enough to allow some of us to leave the cities and explore regions of Poland that have lured us forever. This is how we (Beata and Michał) have recently spent a week village-and-palace-hopping in Dolny Śląsk (Lower Silesia) which is one of the most mesmerizing regions of Poland you absolutely mustn’t miss when visiting our country.
DAY 1: REUNION IN WROCŁAW AND CHARMING ŚWIDNICA
We were welcomed in Wrocław by one of our former guides, Tamara. Lifestyle magazines praise her bistro as ‘a jewel in the Wrocław culinary scene’. W kontakcie is her dream coming true, a small breakfast-mezze spot she opened after saying bye-bye to 9-19 corporate job (so now she has enough time to work 6-22 in her own business;). Food is simple, tasty and with a personal touch, ask the stuff and they will tel you who baked the bread and where exactly the tomatoes are brought from. The interiors deserve an award for the best re-use-an-old-wardrobe-and-make-it-architectural-digest-quality-design (big wow for Tamara’s family and friends!)
As much as we appreciate artisan beer from Browar Stu Mostów, we just want to forget a totally disappointing brewery tour and the service that day, so we will focus on drinking their craft booze only. Cheers!
Reaching Świdnica helped us to overcome the distress. This picturesque and calm town, with an amazing barocco decoration and outstanding, UNESCO-listed wooden churches proudly presents a beer cake as its staple dessert. It helped to solve a serious military conflict back in the Middle Ages. Seriously! The duke of the stronghold, Bolko the Little, offered it to the Czech king who besieged the city, to show how rich and powerful he was. Bolko had to take a bite first though, to prove it’s not poisoned – and again, cakes connecting people😉
Versant hotel we reached in the late evening was a lovely island of relax in small Dzierżoniów. Steam bath filled with pine branches and cooling down in a salt cave room was a perfect end of the looong day.
DAY 2: HOW SAUSAGE IS MADE, FINE DINING AT A CASTLE AND TRACING SECRET NAZI CITY
We started with a hearty (yet healthy!) breakfast at Versant hotel and off we went to Niemcza to meet Jarosław Węgłowski, the owner of a butcher’s shop, locally famous for its highest quality meet products. It was a Sunday so we didn’t have a chance to get our hands on the kiełbasa-in-the-making but it was enough to talk to Mr Węgłowski to get a feeling of how much heart, time and passion is put into every product leaving his establishment. The guy himself is a wonder, by the way: take Polish heart and American attitude and you get a lovely mix of care, humour and professionalism that makes talking to him a real pleasure. As is usual in Poland, a nice conversation is often concluded with drinking some vodka but as it was still quite early in the day as we were talking, we even ended up getting instructions on where to buy some great home-made infused moonshine.
Next came the time to sit down to eat and we definitely didn’t want to leave the area without having dinner at Uroczysko 7 Stawów. The restaurant takes a big part of the ground floor of a meticulously renovated renaissance palace-turned-luxurious-spa-and-hotel and is run by Tomasz Połom, who has been recently named Chef d’Avenir (Chef of the Future) of the Lower Silesian region by the prestigious Gault et Millau food guide. The food we had exceeded the expectations. First came cold soups: cucumber gazpacho with watermelon and chłodnik, traditional Polish/Lithuanian cold beetroot soup based on light dairy like kefir or yoghurt. Then the mains: soba with chanterelles and butter-wine sauce and ribs in gravy with sweet potatoes, marinated carrots and chanterelles, too. Rich, intense flavours, well-balanced textures, stunning presentation – this is how you want to dine in style. We regretted so much we didn’t have space for dessert!
After the culinary part came we wanted to face history and you need to know that in Lower Silesia history inevitably has to face nature so this is how our route led us to Osówka where we spent an hour or so wandering down the secret underground Nazi-built city hidden underneath Sowie Mountains. Did you know there’s allegedly a train full of gold hidden somewhere there? Nope, we didn’t find it. Not even a trace.
A bit disappointed we headed for Wrocław to spend a night at the highly-hyped Puro hotel which turned out to be your usual three star chain hotel pimped with useless electronic gadgets, still charging the price of a four star hotel (seriously, do you really need a panel to change the led lights in your toilet from pink to blue to green?). It’s also a place where somehow they think that putting a bathroom behind glass walls in the corner of a room will work. For the record, it doesn’t, guys.
DAY 3: CHURCH OF PEACE, GRANDMA-STYLE DINNER AND THE SOUND OF SILENCE
Day 3 took us outside the big city again. We took a little break from driving in Jawor to see another of the UNESCO wonders of the world: the biggest wooden church in the world, a breathtaking architectural outcome of the Thirty Years’ War. Unfortunately the Church of Peace is not as well kept as its aforementioned twin in Świdnica but still completely awe-inspiring.
We couldn’t linger too long in Jawor as there were more goodies ahead of us. Only 30 minutes drive away lies the peaceful Dobków village where you can let yourself go at Villa Greta run by the lovely Rozpędowski family whose ancestors bought the house over 100 years ago. This is truly a place to lay back and watch the world go by: children swinging, birds singing, cats chasing dogs chasing cats. A perfect harmony. If you hadn’t booked your room well ahead of arrival, you can (and definitely should!) have your meal there. Don’t miss the perfect Polish summertime comfort food of sunny side up eggs served with new potatoes, fried cabbage and a glass of fermented sour milk (you may thing “yuck!” but only until you try it:). Most ingredients come from the owners’ garden or are sourced locally. We really didn’t want to leave. But hey, that’s what Lower Silesia is, there aren’t many places there you just want to forget about. We remember, like, none.
Just across Mount Żeleźniak (the Iron Mountain) lies Radzimowice. If Villa Greta was not enough for you in terms of quiet rustic paradise, you should worry not, we’ve got something for you! Radzimowice is where we meet Mr Wiktor Urbańczyk who moved there 30 years ago. He grows spelt, an ancient cereal first grown 5000 BC and the Keira Knightley of wholefoods, which is now gaining popularity again because of a broad spectrum of nutrients it contains. Life goes slow here and you can feel it. You can hear it too, because, as soon as conversation stops, all you can hear is silence. Pure, calming silence. Amazing. Mr Urbańczyk takes us around his estate showing where and how his bread and other spelt products are made. No need to add, they taste delicious. Also washed down with a little sour blackcurrant wine we’re treated to. On the way back to civilization we stop at a hill pass just below the village. Blue skies, setting sun, spelt fields, green meadows; we cannot take enough photos!
We continue to Wojanów to spend the night at the beautifully restored palace there. The place has had its ups and downs and by downs in post-war Poland you almost always consider the communism. In this case the building and the premises served as a state-owned farming enterprise which lead to dramatic decline of the palace. Acquired by a private investor some years ago, the palace is now a nice resting place with a small indoor pool and spa, visited by many tourists coming to the area. As much as we recommend to visit the palace itself, we definitely say no to the local restaurant: the palace-level prices definitely don’t correspond with the roadside-level food quality. But there was more to come regarding that, unfortunately.
DAY 4: GOATS ATTTACK!, BREWERY IN A TOWN THAT DISAPEARRED AND MORE PALACES
Wtf. Seriously, wtf. It was one of the worst breakfast we have been ever served in a hotel. Anything we tried was even worse than the previous thing. Lettuce soaked in a dressing made of Vegeta. All cold cuts had the same I-do-not-want-to-imagine-what-is-it-made-of bland flavour. And to top it, the fritters not only dripped with reused oil but were so thick that it was literally hard to even chew them. A big NO.
Lower Silesia is a forestry region of hills and mountains and as we were travelling mostly through villages the GPS would not always handle it correctly The small Ford Fiesta went through hell when we followed the directions to Kozia Łąka in Łomnica and ended up on a dodgy meadow road only tractors ever drive. But the moment we saw a big herd of goats on the horizon we knew we are on the right way. Born from a need to start their life again in a peaceful place after decades of working in a city based company, the small farm of Sokołowski family embodies the idea of eco-bio-local type of farming. Goats approach the owners and get stroked as cats, a kitten jumps around us when we’re talking and tries to steal a bit of a cheesecake and we discover how wide is the range of products made of goat milk can be. Ricotta-like cheese, fresh cottage, smoked cheese, seasoned with herbs cheese, halva, milk and horseraddish soup, cheesecake…the list is really long! The Sokolowski family is really passionate about their products, which have been apprieciated by top chefs and VIPs. But shhhhh;) Have we mentioned the cheescake already? It was soft, creamy and light and altough a common opinion suggest a harsh smell of goat’s milk, it carried only a luring smell of awesomeness.
Łomnica itself has more to offer than sery łomickie only. A palace in the town, which is a hotel as well, offeres very decent cuisine (altough palace priced) and if you need a place for a short break you cn see the interior of the manor (the old kitchen with its utensilia especially) or do the shopping in the old barn and stable, turned into a huuuuge linen store.
The region has a very rich and complicated Polish-German-Czech history and towns which once busted with life and developed around mineries can be found abandoned or tranformed nowadays. One of such place is Miedzianka, which got famous in Poland due to a reportage written by Filip Springer. We went there not to follow the traces of history but to check a brewery we found a leaflet about in Łomnica. To our surprise it turned out to be a modern, artisan brewery with a totally cool design of the labels. Jarek, the owner, was behind a bar and he told us that Browar Miedzianka beers are so popular in the region that there is always less bottles to sell that shops ask for. We made sure that some of those found a cosy place in our car trunk. Thumbs up!
We’re heading to Staniszów for the night to have dinner and relax at yet another palace. The fermented beet borscht with uszka dumplings is delicious, but the meat and fish disches we order are a bit too well done. Still, comparing to the culinary misunderstanding of the previous-day-palace, the food at Pałac Staniszów really rocks. You can feel a lot of care was put in composing the menu and sourcing ingredients. We wash the meal down with formerly-local Echt Stonsdorfer Bitter and call it a day.
DAY 5: RELAXING AT THE COOLEST POOL, SIPPING BEER AT THE OLDEST BREWERY AND… A PALACE!
Pałac Staniszów is absolutely charming. We take our time after breakfast to take a dip in beautifully located swimming pool, sunbathe lying on the grass or just having a coffee in on the palace’s terrace. Time slow downs, but not enough for us to finally realize it’s time to hit the road!
Our next stop is the amazing medieval tower in Siedlęcin. Once serving military purposes, for centuries was a residential building and is home to the world’s oldest wall paintings telling the story of one of the knights of the Round Table, sir Lancelot.
The destination of the day is Lwówek Śląski so we start heading north. On the way we pay a short visit to Pokrzywnik 11, a quiet small eco-haven for city dwellers tired of their corporate lives. We have a quick chat with the owners and set off for what is going to become a highlight of Day 5, and that is a visit to one of the oldest Polish breweries. Started in 1209 when the town got its city rights and privileges, the beer factory continues production until today. We’re shown around by a young and very knowledgable brewmaster. We get to see 150-year-old copper boiling kettles, open fermentation vessels as well as the new part of the plant that is only being equipped with new shiny tanks. We learned so much!
Our accommodation was just a few kilometers off Lwówek so we decided to have dinner there and if you’re thinking ‘is this going to be another palace?’, yup, you’re absolutly right:)
Pałac Brunów and the estate around it is spectacular. The restaurant on the premises serves great quality food (we especially loved fish: the marinated herring and trout were mouth-watering) that is great value for money. The only thing that didn’t live up to expectations were the palace’s interiors trying really hard to feel historic but not all glitter is gold and not every old iron fits a palace interior. All in all though, sipping a martini on the terrace next to a fountain, you can feel pretty chic and glamorous.
DAY 6: POTTERY AND UNSUCCESFUL ATTEMPT OF BECOMING AN ARTIST
It’s the last day of our trip to Lower SIlesia and we start to weep when the other is not looking because, yes, it’s still so beautiful here, and we don’t want to go back, and there’s a couple of other palaces, castles, cheese makers, restaurants, towns, breweries and villages we had to cross out from our itinerary because there’s just no way to fit it all in 6 days. Anyway, there are more attractions awaiting us today!
On the way back home we stop in Bolesławiec. Now even though this is actually a name of a town, every Polish person thinks THIS, when they hear the name. ‘Bolesławiec’ is just a synonym to classic, indigo-coloured pottery that has been manufactured here since the 1600s. We’re coming to see how those classic cups are made but also to make something ourselves! After visiting the factory of Manufaktura Bolesławiec, we sit down to decorate our own hand made plates which after firing and glazing will be shipped to us. That’s a lot of fun but as none of us feels really confident as a graphic designer (just look at Michał’s plate!:), we decide to buy an espresso set for our office made by an expert local decorator.
It’s time to bid farewell to this marvelous region of Poland. It’s been a lovely time, Lower Silesia, and we know we will be back! Next time for a month;)
EDIT [Nov 2016]: We actually loved the idea of travelling in Lower Silesia so much, we decided to make it a summer 2017 tour! Read more about what we’ve prepared: Polish Culinary Wonders. Discover Amazing Lower Silesia in 8 Days!
Text: Beata Godlewska and Michał Sobieszuk
We’re Eat Polska. We run culinary tours about food and vodka in Warsaw, Krakow and Gdansk. We’re also passionate foodies and city explorers, and this blog is where we share our hints with you.