As you have already learnt from my previous posts, Polish winters can be cold, snowy and icy. Still there are many ways to tame this apparently unpleasant conditions and enjoy oneself! Winter swimming is one of them. In Poland we call it morsowanie. The term derives from the inhabitant of the Artic Ocean of the North Pole - the flippered marine mammal walrus. It comes as no suprise then that some call the female passionates of this winter activity - the phocas ;)
Before you undress and jump into the water, warm-up. Alone...
...or in a group. Winter swimming is best if practiced in a group. Remember to keep yourself moving all the time until you finally jump in the water.
SWIMMING IN AN ICE HOLE
Some believe that the essence of winter swimming is to jump into the water in a specially cut ice hole. Personally I believe that the sea or lake do not necesarilly have to be frozen in order to enjoy winter swimming. This year the thickness of ice on the suberbian Zegrzyńskie Lake was 25 centimers. Impressive, indeed.
HOW TO PREPARE TO FULLY ENJOY ONESELF
Many winter swimmers swim with standard swimming costumes rather than with wetsuits or other thermal protection. However, it is worth making an investment at least in neoprene shoes or socks, at best also in neoprene gloves. Just as the ones used by divers. It will make winter swimming much more pleasant, indeed. It is also worth wearing a cap. Feet, hands and head are said to be the body parts most vulnerable to loose heat. Therefore, you should take special care to protect them properly. After swimming better have your things prepared and ready to change quickly. A thermos full of hot tea would also do you well!
WHERE CAN YOU PRACTICE WINTER SWIMMING
You can practice winter swimming practically everywhere. Groups of winter swimmers function practically in every Polish city and usually are open and free of charge to everyone: children, youth, elderly people. Everyone can try winter swimming out! To find out more about winter swimming in Poland, check out the publications on this website: https://www.facebook.com/groups/498787166845867/ or write directly to me and I will help you out with all the necessary information.
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The pine forest aparently looks least attractive at this colorul autumn period in Poland when the heads of the deciduous trees turn yellow, orange and red. However nothing gets lost in nature and other plants benefit in this modest entourage. Hopefully also mushrooms!
Heathers grow abundantly in clearances in the woods. Their pink carpets look especially impressive when they expand on the vast forest meadows.
Blue Juniper berries are a spice used in a wide variety of dishes. Especially in meat dishes. They grow everywhere in Polish forests and in their shapes remind me of the cacti on the dessert. I collected them to comfort myself just in case we do not find any mushrooms today.
Cladonia fimbriata. The stalks of this fructicose lichen take the unique shape of cups. Lichens are pioneer species, among the first living things to grow on bare rock or areas denuded of life by a disaster. Lichens are often used for the sake of monitoring air quality as they can accumulate several environmental pollutants such as lead, copper, and radionuclides.
Finally, mushrooms. Quite a discovery on this battlefield! Lazy bones we are! It took us long to finally set off on our hunt, so probably most mushrooms have already been picked. However, we ended up with six quite descent mushrooms that day. Just enough to make tweaked scrambled eggs next morning.
Never enough of admiring the beauties of the forest.
Though poisonous these downy hats reminded me of the famous Swan Lake
and its ballerinas dressed in pure white.
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One of the many sleepy off season Polish cities. A city with a very long history and a not much shorter Old Town market. Reputedly the longest market square in Europe. 380 meters! But it was not the market itself that made a lasting impression on me...
...but one of the old tenement houses...
...with a baroque facade of columns and bronze lion heads...
...a shelter to a shop which looked almost as if time has stopped...
...if only it was not a watchmaker's workshop.
If you walk down the market square you will reach the green gates of the Polonia Castle.
The courtyard is a one big rosary. Pułtusk, in my opinion, deserves attention for high quality landscape architecture. All green areas from a small roundabout to the castle's courtyard are here neatly and richly kept.
Polonia Castle is nowadays an exclusive hotel and restaurant. Many guidebooks praise its gastronomy worth a respectful gentleman. If you dare to go in, you must try the crayfish bisque! A local speciality!
After a lavish dinner it is for sure recommended to take a walk down the alleys of the castle park and sit down on one of the benches with a view on one of the green gates...
...or explore mysterious nooks and crannies, which will take you in a journey in time and space. Depending on your imagination to an Aztec temple...
...or a Roman amphitheater.
This is for sure a unique opportunity to finally have one's own day! An oratory worth a true speaker!
However, if you are looking for a romantic corner, you will find it for sure on the picteresque banks of the Narew channel. A view to which Pułtusk undoubtedly owes its seemingly pompous title of the Masovian Venice!
In my opinion, Pułtusk is a beautiful place, but this beauty is not that obvious. It demands a little bit of effort on the tourist who visits the city. At first sight Pułtusk might seem sleepy and gloomy, especially off-season, and this mood might influence your impressions of the place. It needs time, a longer and patient walk to get accustomed to it and be able to notice small idiosyncracies here and there. For sure, it is best to visit the city in the holiday season when different festivals take place and the city attracts guests from outside of the city. Off season better come here on Saturday or during the week, when you will be able to go in the small local shops, such as the above mentioned watchmaker's workshop. The only lively place on Sunday is the Polonia Castle. Of course, at a high price. Some also claim that the title Masovian Venice is a bit pompous, because the city is as if closed inside out to the Narew canal surrounding it, but I guess it is just a question of expectations. The first idea that came up my mins when I saw the canal was Venice and it immediately influenced my impression of the city without even the knowledge of its proud title and I guess it is the best title one could ever come up with. Let's not be that petty!
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If you are afraid of the Warsaw hustle and bustle and you think there is nothing special there and around, let me suggest an alternative destination to those of you who look for a moment of peace and would like not only to experience it, but also preserve this peace of mind after leaving the place. Let me invite you to Juan Soriano's Sculpture Park, a sublime combination of nature and art in the forest enclave of Owczarnia. Just 30 kilometers away from Warsaw.
When you reach the gates to Juan Soriano's Sculpture Park, you are welcome by a large silver plate with information about the founders of the park. The Foundation of Juan Soriano and Marek Keller and the Embassy of Mexico in Poland. Mexico seems to be the key to this remarkable place which expalins a lot about its unique character. You will for sure not find another such place in the area as Juan Soriano's Sculpture Park. This sense of Mexican touch is very strong here from the very moment you reach the impressive gates already recalling of a hacienda type of destination. As you follow the linden alley leading to the heart of the park your eyes already get caught by the sight of the first sculpture of the cow in the light of the alley only to be naturally recaptured by the view of the dynamic sculpture of the bullfighter and his realistic adversary on your left hand side.
In my opinion, this set of sculptures, I named corida, is one of the most powerful in its magnetism from all of the sculptures you will see in the park. I took me a longer while to admire the bullfighter's dynamism from all sides, I continued my walk down the path through the woods pondering upon the nature of this sculpture only to return to it again at the end of my walk and still not to be able to grasp it. This dynamic vision often comes up my mind and stands in front of my eyes.
A walk thorugh Juan Soriano's Park is an occasion not only to admire the unique works of art, but also to contemplate nature. The park is rich in many charming spots similar to the one above. It is one of my favorite spots where you can lean against the round pillars on the small bridge over a a babbling stream winding in the surrounding woods. Another one is one of the many benches situated on the path along the large pond, from where you can admire a nice view on a small gazebo amidst the pond on the other bank. Quite a secluded part of the park where you can enjoy a moment of solitude only to be disturbed by hunting fish the pond is abundant in.
A walk further down the path leads straight to the gazebo. Upon the entrance you are welcomed by the defiant look of the siren in bronze. I guess many women could see themselves in her like in a mirror and possibly realize the remarkable power they have over men thanks to their beautiful charms. She seems as if she tried to tell you: "You are nothing to me, but I want you to admire me."
The gazebo is shelter not only to a stunning viewpoint of the pond, its green surroundings and the water busy with colorful fish, but also to a hammock, where you can take a real rest and listen to the sounds of nature.
After this moment of relaxation I am finally ready to meet the challenge of confrontation with high art.
Juan Soriano's Sculpture Park is famous primarily for the bird sculptures. There are the main theme of most of the sculptures you will see here. After a while you will, however, discover that much more abstract questions stand behind these birds.
The question of origin of life. Of fertility. Of reproduction. Of birth. The above shown scuplture of the hen attracted my attention, because it stood out from the others. A hen? - I thought - What does a hen have to do with all these majestic birds? Only then I connected this sculpture with others of similar theme - origin of life, fertility, reproduction. I still ponder over the mystery behind the question why chicks do not hatch from all eggs. Maybe I have not found an answer to my question here, but yet another visual clue that might bring me closer to solving my question. The sculpture of the hen also reminded me of the x-ray tradition in the art of Australian Aborigines.
Sexuality is yet another question Juan Soriano tries to tame... for... in us?! I have never been in Mexico, nor have I ever studied Mexican culture, still I have this feeling that there is a big gap that distances Mexican and Polish cultures in terms of attitude to sexuality. I guess Mexican culture has a much more relaxed attitude to it. Personally, I do have a very conservative attitude to sexuality. I often feel insulted and ashamed by the way Polish contemporary culture, art, media use it. Juan Soriano takes a much more subtle approach to this subject in his works. Not so insolent. The pathway leads the viewer along the works in such a way that the subject is introduced gradually and naturally starting from apparently innocent representations of birds through allusions to origin of brith to end with strong accents of sexuality and fertility.
A walk thorugh the park ends naturally in a flowery garden with decorative white benches that invite you to sit down and take a moment of reflexion. It is also possibly the best moment to admire the corrida which gains on drama in the last rays o the setting sun.
POLAND FOR BEGINNERS
Hi! My name is Victoria. Welcome to my personal travel photoblog about Poland created especially for you, my foreign friends, who are curious about Poland!
English philologist and film editor by education. Translator by occupation. A lover of my motherland Poland and globetrotter with journalist ambitions. Passionate about photography. I love traveling, active way of spending time and contact with nature. Experience and explore - that is what drives me! I am on the look for happy islands.