Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Thing on the Way to the Restaurant

A week ago, my pal and I were hurrying to get to Piwna Kompania (one of my favorite restaurants in Warsaw.) On the way there, we happened upon a modern dance performance. So, being the curious lads we are, we stopped for a few seconds (mind you, we had already had a few) to watch. The results are below:

As you can see, they're both a little strange (modern dance, what else is it going to be?) We watched for a bit, then hurried on our way.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

At The Gesslers'

It's impossible to sample the finest of Warsaw's gastronomy without running into the name Gessler. Magda and Marta Gessler, both ex-wives of a Mr. Gessler, run competing networks of restaurants, which are in a perpetual battle for the title of the utmost swank. Both Gesslers' restaurants are high-class and mostly serve fine dining food (the prices reflect as much.)

The most famous Gessler restaurant is U Kucharzy. It's noted for having the best steak tartar in the city (possibly in Poland.) Now, I've never been, and I've been promising a certain someone to go there for quite a long time (since I heard about it way back in 2008) but I have read some reviews; looked at the menu; decided that I needed to make about twice what I make now to consider dining there. As said stated before, these prices are not for the weak of wallet.

My most-oft frequented watering hole in Warsaw has got to be Przekąski Zakąski. It's a twenty-four hour snack bar that serves as a sort of annex to U Kucharzy. Every drink (beer, vodka, tea, coffee, wine) is priced at a reasonable 4PLN or 1€. The starter dishes (the only food they have) are priced at a very reasonable 8PLN or 2€. While the beverages are actually what you pay for, i.e. second-rate beer and vodka, their food is a bargain. The portions are exactly what the name implies, appetizer-sized, but are both tasty and classy. Dishes such as the sledzie (herring) and gzik (white cheese with potatoes and tomatoes) are my favorites (I've never been in when they have offered tatar, but it is up on their wall.) The selection also includes sausages, pate, pork knuckle in aspic, amongst other things. The atmosphere is almost that of any other bar (smoking is outside.) It's perpetually packed and there is barely any seating (expect to eat upright if you go in evening hours.) The service is quick an efficient and they always have more help than they really need.
A small shot of the bar as the keeps dish up food and drink.

The only other Gessler establishment which I have patronized is Qchnia Artystyczna. Located in the dismal-looking Zamek Ujazdowski, QA tries to boast the best view of all the Gessler restaurants with its terrance. The service there is most wonderful.
It's a pity I don't have a picture of my pistachio-ed chicken salad with creamed avocado sauce and a delightful ginger-carrot chutney (which you can buy at their shop.) Qchnia Artystyczna is probably the only real reason to visit Ujazdowski. I remember a second-rate modern art museum being stationed there, but by the looks of it, the Zamek might be condemned any time soon.
One of the best bowls of chlodnik I've had in Poland.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The News About

The news buzzing throughout the blogosphere and on the all the media outlets is the outcome of yesterday's election. Well, most everyone knows by now that a runoff will be held in two weeks' time as none of the candidates won an absolute majority. Komorowski garnered the most votes with a little over 40% of the vote.

Yesterday, however, I slept until past noon, so I wasn't really on top of the election madness. I, instead, went to see the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra at the Opera Narodowa. What a thrilling show! It's lead by fro-headed conductor, Gustavo Dudamel. The orchestra is made up of poor youths, who have been granted a way out of their poor social backgrounds through music.
Anyway, it was an amazing show (they played three encores.) Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring was played in the second half, while the first half was made up of Margariteña by Inocente Carreño and several dances from Estancia by Alberto Ginastera. For the encores, they played some Hungarian waltz, and some mambo. They completed the effect with the last two songs by twirling their instruments; standing up and moving about; and swinging to-and-fro with the music. Dudamel even switched roles with a violinist, playing violin whilst the lad began conducting. It was a pretty impressive performance all and all.
They take in the rightfully-earned applause.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Coming Weekend

Last night marked the start of the Chopin Festival here in Warsaw. This year has been dubbed "The Year of Chopin", marking the 200th anniversary of his birth. Last night, the Chopin Open concert was held at the National Opera. It wasn't a purely Chopin performance, as there was Schumann and Bach, but then again the Mostly Mozart festival isn't 100% Mozart, but mostly is. Aside from the traditional orchestral pieces, there was an accordion trio playing an arrangement of Chopin. They didn't look like the typical classical musicians; one had ass-length hair (dreads?) pulled back in a ponytail, while another had a shaved head, the third looked generic. The piece was… interesting, and enjoyable at some parts. The accordion is an instrument that is surprisingly versatile. The shaved head was getting really into the music, bucking and stomping his feet. He looked like he was either involuntarily having his liver removed or having the most intense orgasm of his life.
A ticket cover to the concert.

Oh, and for those who don't remember or don't care, yesterday was the opening of the FIFA World Cup. It's sure to be a snoozefest, and I'm actually kind of glad that Poland isn't in it (it means less Polish hooligans and assholes on the streets.) For those of you who haven't noticed, I find soccer to be the dullest mainstream sport.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Blessed Popieluszko

Yesterday it was bright and sunny and a little bit hot. It was also the day of the beatification of Jerzy Popiełuszko. It was held at Pilsudki Square, the same site as the ceremony remembering those who perished in Smolensk over a month ago.
Popieluszko was a Polish priest who was assassinated in 1984 by the Communist Secret Police. His was heavy associated with Solidarity and a staunch anti-communist, which made him an enemy of the State. His assassination caused a national uproar, and today he is considered a martyr of the Catholic Church.
Popieluszko adorns the cover of a pamphlet handed out.

I got there right as it was beginning—11:00AM—so I wasn't in the best position to see anything. In fact, I saw nothing. I was in the trees, so the branches and leaves obscured my view of the giant screens, but I could hear everything nicely. It started out with a recitation of (what I think was) all the Polish saints. There were speeches, a Mass, and a beautiful choir. The sun was bright and hot, and I think one elderly woman had to be led out of the crowd to heatstroke. Also, the crowd got pushy trying to get to the communion stations.
It was much of the same experience of the Kaczynski Memorial, but on a smaller scale. There was the crowd, the scouts, the barricades, but there were no giant water stations, or enormous screens in the Saxon Gardens. Afterwards, there was another event in Wilanow (one I did not attend.) People came from all over, supporters of Solidarnosc with bandanas around their necks with lettering such as "Solidarnosc Lodz", etc. People waved Polish flags, usually emblazoned with symbols of Popieluszko and Solidarity.

The field before Pilsudski Square the day before; they were setting it up.

The crowd jostling to get to communion.

Some hip monks in the Saxon Gardens.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Trilling and Dancing

A few weeks back, there was a free concert showcasing traditional Polish folk dancers and singers. The whole ensemble was accompanied by an orchestra in adorable costumes. The dancers (see below) were very entertaining. I was quite captivated by the girls' trilled whoops (see if you can hear them do it in the videos.) The costumes are straight out of a Polish logo (Zywiec, or some butter company, etc.)

I wonder if Polish Folk Dancing will ever catch on the way Irish Step Dancing did. Maybe it's due for a renaissance.

Now, I was shooting this video blind and standing at the very back of the crowd. Please excuse me if the camerawork kind of sucks.