Skąpane w Zielonym Odcieniem 09/08/2010Posted by brendan in Avions, Trains et Voitures.
Tags: biedronka, cuisine, history, Obsesja Smaku, pierogi, poland, rynek, tarnów, travel, Żubrówka
Tarnów was officially recognized in 1330 by King Władysław the Elbow-high, capitalizing on the town’s position as regional hub for trade between L’vov and Krakow. Portions of the old town wall remain, encircling the twisting streets that have weathered countless wars and atrocities. Expanding outward buildings grow and streets broaden. Seven hundred years pass in a half hour to where the lost ideals of middle America and Soviet communism collide.
Walking along an avenue lined with generic strip mall architecture you can buy a cell phone, get a tan and get wasted within stumbling distance of home. Just past Caffe Rock’n’Roll and Sloopy Pub a shaded stretch of pedestrianized concrete led into the looming high-density apartments. Old men staggered down the gentle slope or slumped on benches, passed by stroller pushing couples and greying ladies inured to the sight.
Closed produce market with rusting metal bins ready to receive the morning deliveries, a squat bunker housing a liquor store, shops that had been abandoned and covered in graffiti. Down steps into a stretch of parking, past metal doors and into the tower, five flights up the concrete steps.
Concrete. You can feel the drain through the threadbare carpet. Whoever owned the place had decked it out with quaint wooden furniture showcasing doilies and china in lieu of providing functional storage space. A balcony overlooked more parking, unkempt grass and into a thousand windows of identical dwellings. The apartments stretched in all directions, the only visible horizon.
Although Janice had thought ahead and picked up a bottle of Żubrówka her barren fridge made me nervous. I dropped my bag and we hit the closest market, a corrugated metal big-box retailer named Biedronka. Imagine Costco without swarms of families hunting for discounts, replace them with weary people picking up dinner or picking through the bric-a-brac. I poked and prodded tubes of tripe and pickled fish in vacuum packs, skipped through the aisles in a state of dazed jubilation. Loaf of bread, packet of cheese, a silent transaction and into the parking lot.
My first night in Poland, a country economically depressed for a night on the town. I pestered Janice for any ideas, any places she had longed to go. She took me back to the city center, to the far side of Rynek where Obsesja Smaku had recently opened. The menu listed soups and pierogis that looked sufficient for a couple of vegetarians.
It felt intrusive to bother the young waitress and the aging cook, to walk on their newly tiled floor and to sit at their intentionally rustic tables. Speaking seemed too radical an act, disturbing to the two other tables spread out across the dining room. The waitress met Janice halfway on the language, assured us that neither the potato or the spinach contained meat, brought us half-liters of beer. A little metal door set into the wall segregating us from the kitchen slid open and a woman glared at us for a moment before retreating into the kitchen.
First came a tomato rice soup that tasted as if each bowl hid a spoonful of sour cream. Our dumplings weren’t too oily but had been garnished with little bacon bits. Potato pierogis are called Ruskies in Poland. The kitchen spyhole slid open and shut once or twice as we ate but otherwise our meal passed without interruption. Cutting the last dumpling in half revealed something that looked like cat food.
Girls in uniforms had been replaced by a full orchestra and choir. Strains of classical carried through old town, drifting down narrow streets bathed in green lights, seeping into the walls of buildings that had changed little over centuries. Musicians competed with the murmur of a thousand people crowded onto cafe patios. Little kids risked twisted ankles and skinned knees on the cobblestones, older people drained beers on a couple benches, we stood at the back of what made up an audience.
A man introduced the next piece, dedicating it to the holocaust, the Katyn massacre, the plane crash that had swept a generation of modern history into the newspapers. Pink Floyd’s stagehands swung lights, angry reds and violets blinding everyone. We drifted away down narrow streets, through holes in the old town wall, past little corner monuments, and to the broad boulevards ferrying everyone to a concrete hell.