Polish Culture

POLISH CULTURE

The culture of Poland is closely connected with its intricate 1000-year history. Its unique character developed as a result of its geography at the confluence of various European regions. With origins in the culture of the Early Slavs, over time Polish culture has been profoundly influenced by its interweaving ties with the Germanic, Latinate and Byzantine worlds as well as in continual dialog with the many other ethnic groups and minorities living in Poland. The people of Poland have traditionally been seen as hospitable to artists from abroad and eager to follow cultural and artistic trends popular in other countries. In the 19th and 20th centuries the Polish focus on cultural advancement often took precedence over political and economic activity. These factors have contributed to the versatile nature of Polish art, with all its complex nuance. Nowadays, Poland is a highly developed country; however, it retains its tradition.

Traditional Dress

Traditional Polish folk costumes vary by region but are typically brightly coloured and decorated with embroidery. Poland's folk costumes are sometimes still worn for special occasions, like weddings, or in the most rural parts of Poland by members of the older generations. Traditional dress in Poland varies by region. Headdresses range from hats to wreathes of flowers, fabric colours vary greatly, and aprons, vests, and ribbons are used depending upon the origin of the costume.

Language

Polish is the official language of Poland. The Polish alphabet corresponds to the Latin alphabet with several additions. It is the second most widely spoken Slavic language and is one of the most linguistically homogenous countries, with 97% of people declaring Polish to be their mother tongue.

Cuisine

Food in Daily Life. The mainstays of the Polish diet are meat, bread, and potatoes. For many Poles, dinner is not dinner without meat, primarily pork. Bread is consumed and treated with reverence. In the past, if a piece of bread fell on the ground, it was picked up with reverence, kissed, and used to make the sign of a cross. Peasants trace a cross on the bottom of a loaf of bread with a knife before slicing it. Poles consume three-hundred pounds of potatoes per capita per year. Vegetables consumed are local cool weather crops such as beets, carrots, cabbage and legumes (beans, peas, lentils). Another important source of nutrition is milk in various forms such as fresh or sour milk, sour cream, buttermilk, whey, cheese, and butter. The Polish daily meal sequence is dependent upon the family and the season; however, typically it starts with a substantial breakfast eaten between five and eight A.M. Eggs, meat, bread, cheese, and cold cuts may be served. Between nine and eleven in the morning, people may have a second breakfast similar to an American bag lunch. Dinner, the main meal of the day, is served between one and five in the afternoon and contributes 40 to 45 percent of the calories for the day. It consists of a large bowl of soup, a main course, and dessert. Salads, when served, are eaten with the main course. On Sundays, appetizers may start the meal. The last meal of the day is a light supper eaten between six and eight in the evening. It may be a repeat of the breakfast menu or include cold fresh water fish, aspic dishes, and cooked vegetable salads. Additionally, there may be a sweet dish such as pancakes or rice baked with apples or other fruit. Tea and coffee are served after meals.. Tea is consumed more frequently and coffee is viewed as slightly special. Vodka was first distilled in Poland in the sixteenth century and is consumed with food, commonly sausage, dill pickles, or herring, as a chaser.

Art

Polish art has always reflected European trends while maintaining its unique character. Distinguished contemporary artists include Roman Opa?ka, Leon Tarasewicz, Jerzy Nowosielski, Wojciech Siudmak, Miros?aw Ba?ka, and Katarzyna Kozyra and Zbigniew W?siel in the younger generation. The most celebrated Polish sculptors include Xawery Dunikowski, Katarzyna Kobro, Alina Szapocznikow and Magdalena Abakanowicz. Since the inter-war years, Polish art and documentary photography has enjoyed worldwide recognition. In the sixties the Polish Poster School was formed, with Henryk Tomaszewski and Waldemar ?wierzy at its head.

Music

Music has had few official constraints. It is founded on the rhythms and melodies of folk music adapted for performance in gentry homes and reaches back to the middle ages. A distinctive Polish church music was flourishing during the Renaissance. The first major Polish opera was staged in 1794. The famous composer Frederic Chopin is considered the musical embodiment of Polishness. After World War II, there was a lively revival of music in Poland. All branches of music are well represented. Popular music is strongly influenced by western styles. Polish jazz is excellent and has a reputation for experiment.

Literature

Oral literature was the earliest genre. In the preliterate days and among the peasants much later, folk songs, legends, poetry, jokes, and riddles were important artistic expressions. Folk songs dealt with universal themes such as love, sorrow, and lack of freedom. Tales and legends dealt with the doings of kings, contests between knights and dragons, and the exploits of ancient robbers and bandits as well as with the lives of saints. Political jokes and stories and urban legends deal with current events and circulate nationwide. Initially, Polish literature was written in Latin and can be said to have begun with the annals of the tenth century. Literature in Polish began and enjoyed a "golden age" in the sixteenth century with the writing of Mikolay Rej, who wrote exclusively in Polish and has been called the father of Polish literature, and Jan Kochanowski, the first genuine and great Polish poet. In the seventeenth century, Wespazjan Kochowski wrote the first messianic interpretation of Poland's destiny, a theme developed during the romantic period by Adam Mickiewicz, Juliusz Slowacki, and Zygmunt Krasi?ski. In the twentieth century, three Polish writers were awarded Nobel prizes: Henryk Sienkiewicz, 1905; Wladyslaw Reymont, 1924; and Czeslaw Milosz, 1980. Between 1940 and 1989, there were severe political restrictions on what could be published. At the end of the twentieth century the main constraint is economical, based on what the public will buy.

Religion

Approximately 95 percent of Poland's inhabitants are Roman Catholics, with about 75 percent attending church services regularly. The other 5 percent are Eastern Orthodox, Protestants and other Christian religions. Judaism and Muslim are the largest non-Christian religions.

Sport

Poland's sports include almost all sports, in particular: track & field, basketball, boxing, fencing, football, American football (Gridiron), handball, ice hockey, swimming, volleyball, and weightlifting.

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