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Thursday, 2 January 2014

Gdańsk Christmas Market

Gdańsk is only a train ride away from Wejherowo (where T's family is from) so we popped there for a day out over Christmas (the market is one of about three in Poland, so it's worth a look if you are there but it's small). The market was set out in the old town with lots of cute wooden cabin market stalls selling lace, pottery, ceramics, hats, beer, bread, meats, and cheeses including hot Oscypek - a very strongly smoked salty cheese with a rubbery texture (sort of like halloumi). Oscypek is traditionally produced in the Tatra mountains from sheep's milk (like Feta, it's a protected name and must be produced in its region). It has a distinctive flavour and is molded into pretty little shapes using a press. It's extremely rich and one piece was more than enough for a snack. 

This pretty gazebo covered in fairy lights was full of mistletoe - a sweet tradition made into "kissing circle" or maybe it was "kissing corner"... I forget what T told me but it's something like that. As you can see my Polish is not coming on as well as I would like... anyway it's for love and good luck at Christmas time so we were sure to try it out. 

During the winter Gdańsk is fairly quiet. Most of the tourists come during the summer months, and walking down the cobbled streets can provoke a lot of people trying to sell you a meal in their empty restaurant. We managed to find somewhere with at least a few people so there was some atmosphere, but the hustle, stalls, pavement cafés and tables from the warmer months were notably absent. The little market is enough for locals to visit, but clearly not yet a draw for many foreign visitors. Gdańsk is over 1000 years old and is so steeped in history and beauty it's a real shame to see it so deserted at this time of year. The market is only in it's fifth or sixth year I've read, so let's hope it gets a bit bigger and livelier in years to come. 

As usual we made sure to visit our lovely local bakery during our stay. I'm a bit obsessed with cakes, especially 'kremówka papieska', translated as Pope/Papal cake (which apparently was renamed as such when it was discovered Pope John Paul II loved it). It's a deliciously light cream cake made from flaky layered puff pastry, fresh cream and a thick set custard cream. You must try it if you are there. 

Full of cheese, meats, cake and (of course) vodka, we headed home to spend Christmas eve and day in London with my family. 

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