Elizabeth and I stumbled into an exquisite exhibit of Nativity Scenes at the Krzysztofory Palace Museum–and couldn’t tear ourselves away. As many as a hundred towering structures, many larger than a full grown man, were strung with lights and moving parts and populated with the most beloved traditions and history of Krakow–its dragon, its architecture, devils, grim reapers, Tartars, peasants, kings, queens, nobles, merchants, in many cases you really have to look sharp to find tiny little Mary and Joseph huddled over a little crib. This was the 66th year that artists of all ages created their entries and lined up at midnight on the first Thursday of December to parade to the palace. Lucky Elizabeth and I caught the very last day the scenes were on view.
And, lucky again, one good parade led to another. Polskie Jadlo Compendium Culinarium, close to St. Florian’s Gate, literally offered a “Parade of Soups” (Defilada zup Polskich)–I got to choose 4 out of 11 traditional Polish soups for 15 zlotys ($4.50). Imagine! There was classic sour white barszcz, “white soup” (whey boiled with cream and served with ham, bacon, eggs, and fennel), “ziober kwasnica” (sauerkraut soup), mushroom soup, chicken soup with meat dumplings, barszcz with yeast knish, Christmas barszcz, clear red barszcz, beef tripe soup, bread top soups, and chicken noodle soup. Here you see my choices, clockwise, the Christmas barszcz served with mushroom pierogi; the sauerkraut soup, boiled on the shoat’s snout, I was told; classic sour white barszcz with white sausage, eggs, and potatoes; and dense mushroom soup topped with thick cream. All absolutely sensational.
And please know that the restaurant was darling. I was greeted warmly at the door, seated, and brought a loaf of Polish village bread, a clay pot of homemade lard stuffed with meat bits, better not ask what, and mined salt for sprinkling. The walls were bright turquoise and decorated with embroideries, jars of pickles and preserves, copper lamps, religious pictures, and a large crucifix just under the arched ceiling. All the tables and benches were rough hewn. Lively drinking music pulsed. And tables of men and of couples were red cheeked from the snow and the beer.
Do I recommend this place? You know I do–and I hope to return myself one of these fine days.
Polskie Jadlo Compendium Culinarium
ul. Sw. Jana 30
+48 12 433 98 25