And, to be honest, I “suck it up” because this forum is being held in a place I have never been…and, ya never know, I just might learn something. And speaking of learning something, I find it is always better to learn a bit before I arrive, so come and take this virtual journey with me!
In mid-November, I will be traveling to Poznan, Poland for such an event: The European Travel Agent Forum. I mean I have never been to Poland, I have an Eastern European Jewish heritage and I was able to add a three-day post-forum tour of Lodz and Warsaw, Poland.
Interestingly (at least for me) the Forum has requested I participate in a panel discussion on Culinary Travel. Imagine that?! Of course, I will and hopefully it will be an opportunity to not only share some of my knowledge but to gain some new relevant contacts…because it is important for me to “know a guy” wherever my clients may want to travel. There are going to be presentations not only about Poland, but Russia and suppliers from Eastern Europe that I otherwise probably would never encounter and might well be of interest to my clients who like to travel off the beaten paths.
Speaking of travel…I know! I know! Where the heck is Poznan, Poland, how do you get there, and what is there?
Poznan is located in north-central Poland, on the Warta River, about three hours from Gdansk/the Baltic Sea and an equal distance from Warsaw and not much further from Berlin, Germany. It is known for its old town with Renaissance-style buildings around Old Market Square and an apparently famous town hall clock that has two rams butting heads at noon. There are also a number of universities and churches. So far, so ho-hum. But Poznan was also the location of some pretty horrific Nazi atrocities including running experiments with gas chambers on the mentally ill. (Apparently one can visit a gas chamber; something this Jewish guy isn’t exactly excited about.)
On the brighter side, and as I have said oftentimes, cuisine is a doorway to understanding local cultures. There appear to be some pretty awesome culinary opportunities that I can try out before the forum begins. Knowing cabbage, pig’s knuckles, kasha, and pierogis are most definitely old-school Polish cuisine (and who doesn’t love a pierogi?!), it harkens back to a relatively poor farming life…which is why soup (one of the great extenders of proteins and vegetables) has deep roots in Poland. Fortunately, Poznan appears to have elevated its culinary opportunities with a number of small, high quality and creative restaurants which play off of its heritage. And, of course, I will have to try one of the many local fruit-based liquors including many varieties of nalewki (fruit, sugar, honey or herb-based), vodka and beer.
While I am in Poznan I will be staying at the Novotel Poznan Centrum, which is, fortunately, located near the old town. It is called a four-star hotel, and appears to be quite modern, but I am not so convinced. That is part of the adventure and, most certainly, not my main reason for this trip.
I will be staying at the Hotel Puro, a modern four-star(ish) hotel conveniently located next to the Manufaktura; Lodz’s largest shopping and entertainment complex created out of an abandoned textile mill (which was the main industry in Lodz). I hope to have time to find a culinary adventure there.
After my one night in Lodz, it off to Warsaw for two nights, staying at either the Intercontinental or Double Tree. Hopefully, it is the Intercontinental (bet you never thought I would say I wanted to stay at one!) as the Double Tree is a bit out of town.
Like much of Poland, Warsaw – the former “Paris of the North” – was mostly destroyed during World War II. with much being rebuilt in the stark and utilitarian Soviet-era construction techniques. But the Old City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and since joining the European Union its economy had been on a steady rise. But…and it is a big BUT…there has been a rise in Ultra-Conservative politics with troubling nationalism being at the fore. I am very interested to see and feel this disquieting movement.
Regardless, a Chopin concert in the Old Town on the first evening should be an nice experience. On my second day I will be given a guided tour of Warsaw’s highlights including the Old Town, Palace of Culture and Science, the Jewish Ghetto, Copernicus Science Center, Lazienki Royal Park, the Museum of Life under Communism and the Museum of Warsaw Uprising. (The treatment of the latter two based upon the recent ultra-conservative movement should be most interesting.)
With an early morning flight my time in Poland will come to an end, but hopefully I will be just that much more enriched from a culinary, cultural and supplier perspective.
Interested in traveling to Poland? Please give me a call, drop me an email or send me a Facebook message!
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