Polish Pottery. I had never heard of it before we left Australia. In fact, I didn't care much for pottery. It looked fun to make, but as for the plates, bowls and cups in my life, I can't really say that I'd ever given them much thought. I am definitely crafty, I have an excessive fabric collection that I use for all sorts of crafts and I am always doing something with my hands; painting, sewing, cross-stitch, crochet...but I'd never had the chance to learn pottery. As far as anything ceramic for a souvenir, that's just a dumb idea. It might break! And I have never been drawn to buying it anyway, I'd rather get some jewellery, or fabric, or a completely impractical cuckoo clock as a memento.
BUT...one day early in our trip we had been invited to eat dinner with a lovely family in Munich. As soon as we sat down to eat and the lady was serving up, I was captivated by my plate. I remember staring at my dish and exclaiming;
"What am I eating off?!!!"
They were the most beautiful dishes I had ever seen. They were painted in a variety of colours, mostly blues with a dominant gorgeous peacock blue. Our host had an entire collection, everything on the table was a similar theme. They didn't exactly match, but each unique piece suited the whole. It was then that I first learned about Polish Pottery. She told me tales of how she had organised a whole trip to Poland with friends so that she could add to her collection. They loved the stuff, and so did I!
Again when we were in The Netherlands staying with friends in Rotterdam, my good friend Annie had some of the same dishes!
"I know what these are!" I'd cried excitedly.
We then went off on long tangents about how beautiful the pottery was and how much it cost etc. She also had stories, fun exciting shopping stories of how she had hired a big van and her and a couple of friends had driven all the way to Poland and back with a van full of pottery goodies. I was enthralled. Maybe one day that would be me! Of course I couldn't drive any pottery home to Australia, but my general motto in life is; 'where there's a will, there's a way', and so I started scheming...If we ever made it to Poland...maybe I could post some home...
As it turned out, I did in fact make it to Poland. And even better, we were living only about an hour and a half from Boleslawice, the home of the fabled Polish Pottery. The motherland of my new obsession. It was a sign.
It was my birthday during the month of our stay there, and Annie and I organised for her to come and visit! We planned our own pottery extravaganza!!! She flew from Rotterdam to Prague, hired a car and drove her way up to our little blue house near the village of Borowice. I dressed in my cutest dress, donned my adorable but impractical foxy shoes and grabbed my overnight bag. I jumped in the car, kissed the hubby and kids goodbye, and set off excitedly for a whole three days of much needed girl time and lots of less needed Polish Pottery.
I went in prepared. I had composed a list. Not just any list, but a list of every piece of Polish Pottery that I would need for my whole life - baking for the family, important visitors, retirement...you get the idea. This might sound ridiculous to you, but I'm telling you, it is a thing. The Polish pottery obsession was going strong amongst the American expats in Germany and surrounding countries. Like I said, whole international girl trips in large vans full to the brim with Polish Pottery. Since I had no idea when I was coming back, if ever, I figured I'd better do the sensible thing and get a life-time's supply.
Annie and I had two glorious nights away. Our first night was at the famous Blue Beetroot in Boleslawiec. I say famous because it is the place for pottery obsessed foreigners to stay. They provide a detailed map and layout of the town, highlighting all the different shops. They also spoke great English and had a restaurant. The most delicious borscht in the world is served there. OK, so if I ever get to Russia I might have to amend that statement, but as far as I have experienced, it was amazing!! The best! I still think about it sometimes and wish I was back...eating perfect borscht...buying Polish Pottery...
Fueled up, we headed out on a day full of mad pottery delight. We began the experience with a full tour of the pottery factory at Manufaktura, one of the biggest pottery shops. It was fabulous. If I was a fan before, I was a raving addict afterwards. I was totally sold on the craftsmanship and excellent quality of each piece that they created, truly it was impressive. We were shown the whole process! We touched the clay, saw the different moulds, watched the artisans hand paint each piece and then saw the kiln and glazing departments.
I was so impressed that each piece is hand stamped and painted individually. They have to initially paint in pale pastel colours, and then once it is fired in the kiln it transforms into those beautiful rich peacock blue colours.
It is a work of art.
And I wanted to show my appreciation for the artistry and hard work. I didn't want all that hard work go to waste. I mean, the least I could do was buy everything in sight. Right?
It was seriously so much fun. It was like the ultimate treasure hunt. Each manufacturer produced their own styles and designs. We found our favourites and gushed over how pretty everything was. We compared prices and looked in every shop until we almost dropped. We bonded with strangers who were doing the same thing. It was a mini pottery world of shopping delight. It was bliss!
We were experts. we analyzed each pattern and critiqued whether it would be practical in the kitchen and look good with our collection. We hunted down different designs from different shops, and I tell you, it was a veritable treasure hunt.
The funniest part was that you could almost get anything made out of pottery! Not just dishes, but toilet brush holders, key chains, vases, lamp shades, side tables, egg holders....the list was endless. Would you like a chicken shaped Polish Pottery dish to cover your cooked chicken? Then you were sure to find it.There were also a few things that we had no idea what they could be!
The second night we stayed in a strange hotel that had a disco room downstairs and weird statues greeting us when we left the next morning.
Our last meal was in a magical restaurant called Chata Opalkowa. It was dark and hard to see all of the detail outside, but inside was warm, delicious and full of fascinating decorating, I knew I HAD to go back.
I returned home full of delightful and enthusiastic tales from our wondrous shopping escapade. It was so magical in fact, that I insisted my whole family needed to experience this great Polish tradition. It was what we were doing there anyway, cultural experiences! Plus, there was a particular soup tureen that I had eyed but talked myself out of...it was calling me.
I booked our family for the pottery tour and looked forward to sharing with them my insane but totally understandable obsession. At least it was a useful obsession, I mean, you have to eat off something, so it might as well be gorgeous hand-painted Polish Pottery.
We almost missed the tour, and for once, it wan't my fault. We were delayed on our journey because of a couple of wild free-running horses on their way somewhere. They looked like they were late too.
The kids LOVED this!
Pottery love continued. We went on the tour and everyone was thoroughly impressed. We strapped our baby into the pram and hoped for the best. I was a little nervous - a whole factory full of precious breakables...eeek!
The kids all got to paint their own Polish Pottery at the end of the tour. For my artsy kids, this was fantastic!! They wanted to stay for hours and they all fell a little in love with pottery.
The tour was great, but the shops were terrifying. Endless rows of breakable dishes, oh boy. We had a little look around, I nabbed that soup tureen and then we were outta there.
Levi - "Hey Mum, this row is 30% off, do you want to buy the whole thing" (Thinks he's hilarious)
Me - "Maybe..." (Considers the possibility)
Our magical family pottery day ended on a high note. First of all, no one broke anything, so that was pretty great. And then we went to the magical restaurant that I insisted would be worth it. It was. I like it when I'm right.
It was the most amazing place! It took us a while to get inside to eat, we were so fascinated with the outside!
I always love it when I see something that looks as if it came right out of a storybook! The inside was just as magical. I had only been to the downstairs area with Annie, but my family was ushered upstairs and it was so cosy and adorable.
The food was amazing, such a special experience. We ate pierogies, borscht, and goulash, plus a few things that were new. We tried desert pierogies and ate thick traditional hot chocolate with a spoon, it was wonderful! It felt so traditional and cultural...except for Mariah Carey serenading us throughout the meal with her 'Dreamlover' CD from the 90's, haha.
I was the proud owner of an insane amount of Polish Pottery. I did in fact have everything that I would ever need for my whole life. I didn't go so far as a chicken shaped chicken dish, but I had definitely gone overboard. I tend to be a little wired like this - all or nothing. I had no interest in pottery, and then suddenly I had to own every possible dish.
I had some solid justifications for this sudden obsession;
- It was so cheap in Boleslawiec, that for the price of one platter bought in an American store with inflated prices, I could buy a whole stack of plates in Poland. I got an incredible bargain!
- It was cheap and it was useful!
- I was going to make a impact on every guest for the rest of my life when I served them delicious dishes on the most beautiful ceramics in the world.
- If I ever got old and sick and I couldn't travel anymore, I would look at my beautiful plates and remember Poland.
- My old dishes at home were old and falling apart anyway.
- I make a lot of soup. So now I could put that soup in a polish pottery soup tureen and serve it with a beautiful matching Polish Pottery ladle.
I am being terribly vulnerable here with my own ridiculousness. Thank heavens my husband has a sense of humour.
I laid all of that glorious pottery around me on the floor and I was a little shocked to see that it covered the whole space. Well, I was shocked and happy. Amira and I played with different sets, matching them up and gushing over how gorgeous everything was. I was totally, completely, ridiculously over-the-top.
I'm sure that at some point in this story you have wondered about what the heck I did with all of the pottery??!! We certainly couldn't fit it in the car. I was basically cradling the cuckoo clock on my lap as it was.
Not to worry, I had a plan.
I sent Ross off to the post office and inquired about sending it all home. He returned with a heap of boxes and bubble wrap and we got to work. I was sure that after a few years of traveling, I would want to set up a home full of glorious Polish Pottery. I had bought presents for friends and family, and I had decked myself out for a lifetime with every needful kitchen dish known to man.
We packed and wrapped and squeezed it all in to 5 large cardboard boxes. I Googled the Polish word for fragile - it was 'Krunchy'. I wrote the word in Pemanent marker all over it and excitedly shipped it off to my sister-in-law's home in Australia.
Fast forward months later.
It all broke.
Well, not ALL. But most. Gone was the soup tureen with the matching ladle. Gone was the lasagna dish and the 3 brownie pans. The salad bowls, the milk jug and the water pitcher...gone. I was left with enough plates for our family, a butter dish, a couple of bowls and a muffin pan.
Oh my goodness!
I grieved a bit, and then eventually laughed and admitted that I totally deserved the outcome. I had been so ridiculously greedy. I had succumbed to Polish Pottery fever and had gotten totally carried away. I had been so excessive!
All the gifts I had planned for others had survived. It felt like Karma. I gave them away and let the recipient know that they were very special dishes!
So moral of this story -
um...I don't know.
Maybe - 'don't go too crazy over pottery if you're a traveling Australian'.
Or - 'Excessive greed will bring breakages'.
Or perhaps - 'Watch out for the Polish postal system, it's Krunchy.'
My Polish Pottery was all krunchy, that was for sure. Hmmm, I see a future in moasics...
- If you're contemplating a fun filled pottery extravaganza of your own, I found this blog post by Javacupcake to be immensely helpful. She has the map as a downloadable option and talks about the many different shops, currency needed, gas and restaurant options - everything you need!
- The Blue Beetroot is a wonderful hotel in Boleslawiec. Just make sure to eat some Borscht while you're there!