On the road – Finding truffles (l’Or des Valois) with Elf, the lagotto romagnole

At Château d’Entre Deux Monts – the truffle farm (truffles are “the gold of the Valois” or “l’Or des Valois”)

At the Château d’Entre Deux Monts Thierry Bézeux and his family grow truffles, convert them to truffle delicacies (sold in the boutique) and in addition show tourists their truffles (visits to their orchard and truffle tastings). Tripadvisor gives good reports. Larissa has visited and liked this place before and has arranged a visit with us.

The Burgundy truffles are also called “the Gold of the Valois”” or “l’Or des Valois” (The Valois were kings of France from the early 14th to the late 16th century, then the Bourbons took over with Henry IV).


Finding the Château with l’Or des Valois

There is a mysterious mist lying over the hills above the Côte de Nuits and the village Nuits-Saint George.


Hidden in the mist is the Château d’Entre Deux Monts de Thierry Bézeux.


The boutique is open and Thierry Bézeux welcomes us.



Looking for truffles in the “truffle orchard” – with Elf

The son of Thierry and his dog Elf take us to their “truffle orchard” planted with trees that truffles like. I later found a study about growing truffles in the US, and they say that the Burgundy truffle is well suited for plantations, in particular with trees such as hazelnut and oak, but can only be harvested with a dog, as they grow under the ground.


Elf is a lagotto romagnole, similar to a poodle. When Yann opens the gate to the orchard, she starts to run around and immediately finds the first truffle hidden under the ground. Elf loves truffles and wants to eat the black ball it found, but Yann stops her and gives her a dog bisquit instead. Maybe the bisquit has a truffle taste, at least?


Elf continues to look for more truffles. Sometimes she loses interest in truffles and sniffs around the trees. Perhaps a badger (blaireau in French) has visited the orchard and Elf is reading what the bagder has to say. In the end, we have a handful of truffles to take home. Thank you, Elf.



Back in the castle, we taste the truffle delicacies

Back in the château we find the table set for our truffle tasting: Mustard, terrine of rabbit and pintade (guinea fowl or цеcарка), cheese, sauce aux truffes d’Italie, some slices of fresh truffle, ham with parsley (jambon persillé), saucisson, ice cream (glace) and Ratatruffe (Marc de Bourgogne marinated with truffles). The Ratatruffe may have influenced my camera… in the internet there are bettter images of this tasting set.




My thanks in the Château guest book

There is a guest book on the table and I leave this entry: « Merci, Elf, tu as bien travaillé, et j’aimerais bien savoir ce que le blaireau t’as raconté. La degustation était délicieuse. Petra de Bâle en Suisse.” (Thank y ou, Elf, you have worked well, and I would like to know, what the badger has told you. The tasting was delicious.)


On the road – our Sunday tastings in Chablis: William Fèvre and La Chablisienne

Our first day in Chablis was a Sunday. A  few wine making places are open on Sundays, amongst them the boutiques of La Chablisienne and of William Fèvre. No reservations are needed. Great.

On that Sunday, we also visited the Chablis market…


… and Auxerre with its beautiful gothic church of St. Etienne.



La Chablisienne – valued in Pocket Johnson and surely worth visiting with its broad selection of wines



La Chablisienne is a Cooperative that makes wines for about 300 wine growers. They are the largest wine maker in Chablis. They offer wines from a broad variety of climats (about 30 different Chablis wines), and they own the Château Grand Cru “Grenouilles”, the smallest of the seven Grands Crus terroirs (they acquired the quasi-monopole of Grenouilles in 1999).

Jean-Michel guides us through our tasting – with a lot of charm – listening and reacting, e.g. by bringing another Grenouilles from a different year… This is what we tasted:

  • Beauroy 1er Cru: Fruity – perhaps quince. Nose is more pronounced than taste.
  • Vaulorent 1er Cru : Fruity – perhaps quince and nuts. Nose also stronger than taste.
  • Fourchaume 1er Cru 2013: Young, fruity – orange, both nose and taste. Would like it with shellfish. Liked it and bought a bottle.
  • Montmains 1er Cru 2009: Liked it and bought a bottle.
  • Les Preuses Grand Cru 2011: More yellow than 1er Cru, less acidity, flowery, can imagine it with Asian food. Can age more.
  • Les Grenouilles Grand Cru 2007: Ready to drink, salty, mineral note, but somewhat ponderous (on “heavy feet” or “schwerfüssig”). 2010 is fresher than 2007.

It is surely worth visiting La Chablisienne with its broad selection. On  our Sunday they also hosted a cheese tasting event. Unfortunately, the cheese tasting lady was a little grumpy.


William Fèvre – “three stars” in Pocket Johnson and a lot of enthusiasm in the boutique – for me my second tasting highlight in Chablis

William Fèvre has three stars in the “Pocket Johnson”. For lack of family heirs, he sold his business to Henriot in 1998. He has the largest Grand Crus possessions in Chablis.

His boutique is nicely set up. To illustrate the terroir, there are brochures and samples of the Kimmeridgian soil. I enjoy the enthusiasm that the boutique assistant shows when explaining the Kimmeridgian stone samples to us. I ask him why William Fèvre is called “William”, though the family has long lived in Chablis – no Anglosaxon background. He smiles. And then tells me the story: When William was born, his parents could not agree on his name. After three days, the mayor reset the date of birth and gave him the name “William”. The assistant sees the “Pocket Johnson” in my hands. “May I see, what Johnson has written about us, I have not checked this out recently”, he says and then adds: “I have met Johnson once, he is an impressive person.”

This is what we tasted:

  • Petit Chablis 2013: Fresh, brisk, on “light feet” (“leichtfüssig”)
  • “Plain” Chablis: Almost no nose, a little more dense than the Petit Chablis
  • Chablis 1er Cru 2012, Montmains:  Round and crispy, I liked it again (liked it already at Chablisienne)
  • Chablis 1er Cru 2012, Mont de Milieu: Mineral taste, I like it less than Montmains.
  • Grand Cru Les Preuses: They assemble the wine from two vineyards in this climat, the one having more sun in the morning, the other more in the evening.
  • Grand Cru Les Clos: Touch of peach, sold out, but still some half bottles from 2010 left .


I buy a half bottle of Petit Chablis (great for an apéritif in summer), a half bottle of Les Clos and a bottle of  Montmains. The assistant packs my buyings carefully into boxes, whereby he fixes the half bottles with a “collar” to prevent them from bouncing in the box. I like these details. To me it shows that the winemaker is caring about his wines and his clients.

On the road – my Chablis tasting highlight: Patrick Piuze

Finding Patrick Piuze

When doing my research about Chablis, I came across Patrick Piuze . The “Pocket Johnson” mentioned him and on the Internet there were great comments.

Larissa was also impressed. I wrote an email to Patrick referring to the comments found. And the next day, I called. Patrick and his partner were very welcoming and we arranged a tasting for Wednesday morning, our last day in Chablis.

This is Patrick’s address: 25, rue Emile Zola in Chablis. We have found the address, but there are no signs, and no plates – nothing. Eventually, we see the label on the letter box: “Patrick Piuze”, in small letters. That is all. I ring the bell, and Patrick opens the gate. He gives us a friendly welcome and makes things clear right away: “You cannot buy any wine – I am sold out for 2014, but for the tasting, there is no problem.” And later he adds: “Usually, I do not make wine tastings for private people, but Petra was really insisting by writing and calling…”

Patrick has an interesting background – and I think that explains also his approach to winemaking. In a way he is an outsider in Chablis. He grew up in Canada, did not like school and traveled – working, when he needed money. He learnt about the wine growing business in Australia, South Africa and then came to Chablis, where he worked for Brocard.

Some years ago, Patrick started his own business buying grapes (often harvesting them himself) and producing his own wine. One of his specialties are (plain) Chablis wines from one terrain to bring them to a higher level. And he makes also 1er and Grand Cru selections. Patrick sells his wine to wholesalers in 30 countries.


The tasting: Patrick has prepared this “barrel” table for us


These were the wines we tasted (with my own personal impressions):

  • Terroir de Fye 2012,  2010 (“plain” Chablis from one climat): Round, herbs, acidity.
  • Vaillons, Melinots, 2010 (“plain” Chablis from one climat, warmest corner of Chablisienne with clay): more fruity.
  • Vaucoupin 2009 (1er Cru – slope exposed to the west, as I remember from the explanations): Flowery, metallic, “round”.
  • Bougros (Grand Cru): Rich, dense, fruity, good for aging.
  • Les Clos, 2012 (Grand Cru): fruity, “more heavy legs” (“schwerfüssiger”), for ageing.

I am overly happy to see my friends smile, when tasting the wines of Patrick. They never frown. For each glass they try I see a nodding compliment.

Patrick explained that he does not look for specific tastes such as lychees and quinces for “fruity” or violets and roses for “flowery”. He is just interested in the texture and whether he finds fruit, flowers, herbs or acidity. This makes him down to earth for me, and his honest modesty might also be part of his success. Modesty also speaks from Patrick’s Website: “Je tiens par-dessus tout à respecter le travail des ancêtres qui ont dessiné ce terroir, et j’essaie de trouver avec humilité mon identité de vigneron dans la splendeur et la diversité du terroir de Chablis.” (It is most important for me to respect the work of our ancestors that have shaped this terroir and I aspire  humbly to find my identity as a winemaker in the shine and diversity of the Chablis terroir).


Where to get Patrick’s wines

Back at home I searched who sells the wines of Patrick in Basel and found that DuBonVin has them. I will surely visit this shop very soon to have some of his wines in my cellar.

On the road – The jurassic Kimmeridgian is the secret of my favorite Chardonnay, the Chablis wines

After thirty years it was great to be back in Chablis in 2014 and to reexperience my favorite Chardonnay that grows on the rocks from jurassic times called Kimmeridgian.


My memories of Chablis from 30 years ago – an unplanned happy event

In the 1980’s and in my thirties, we visited Chablis on a Sunday. Only the bakery was open. There was a long queue – the French do not forgo their baguette on Sundays. We asked, whether it would be possible to taste wine today. “Yes”, one of the men standing in line says, “my cousin is a winegrower. He has 1er Cru wines, not here in Chablis, but nearby in Milly. I can take you there right now.” “No, no, we have enough time, please buy your Sunday baguette first and then we will follow your car”, we answer happily. He buys his baguette and then we follow him to Milly. Henri Coulaudin opens the door, welcomes us by taking his hat off and bowing down, as if we were the king of France. We follow him to his cellar and taste his wines. I liked the clean crispiness of his 1er Cru. For years I had his 1er Crus Côte de Léchet and Côte de Tonnerre in my cellar and we exchanged wonderful letters (French is a beautiful language). Then we lost one another out of sight. As I am now in my sixties, he must be in his seventies. I keep this great memory of our visit to Chablis that we experienced thirty years ago…


Now I am back in Chablis with my Russian friends – the town has become more organized

Now I am back and notice that Chablis has received this pretty plate announcing “la Ville de Chablis” (the town of Chablis)…


… and that the streets have become calmer – there is “zone 30”.



What is Chablis? It is Chardonnay wine growing on jurassic rocks

This is the map of the wines around the town of Chablis, as shown by Johnson. The Grands Crus are dark purple. Les Clos is the largest climat. The 1er Cru climats are light purple with terrain names. Without terrain labels the wines are Chablis or Petit Chablis.


Source: Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson: “The World Atalas of Wine”, Mitchell Beazley, 2005

The soil of the Grand Cru and (most) 1er Cru wines is the older jurassic Kimmeridgian formation consisting of limestone, clay and fossiles, while Chablis and Petit Chablis grow on the younger (also jurassic) Portlandian sediment (both named after places in England). It is said that the organic fossiles create the mineral/flintstone character of the Chablis wines. Typically their color is yellow-green.  (Sources: Wikipedia, “Johnson World Atlas”, “Pocket Johnson” and Laure Casparotto: “L’Atlas des Vins de France”, Editions de Monza 2012).

To get an overview of the vineyards, Katja drives our car to the Grand Crus climats. Some few grapes are still hanging on the wines. We know that nobody is going to pick them – it is November now. Hence we dare taste them. They are deliciously sweet!



 “Chablis” sometimes means “cheap wine” – perhaps this is better for us

Larissa tells us that in the US “Chablis” means “cheap wine”. I came across that in Ushuaia (Argentina) as well. I found “Chablis” on the menu of a small restaurant, asked the waitor, whether this was Chardonnay from Chablis, and was not understood: “This is just “Chablis””, was all the explanation I could get from him. I ordered that Chablis wine and was disappointed. Now I know why. Wikipedia says that the Chablis trademark is not recognized across the world, but often means “almost any white wine”. Perhaps we should not change this and keep Chablis as a secret for us.


Our tasting plan

Larissa has planned our wine tastings carefully. Our sources were Larissa’s friend-sommelière, Alina, the “Pocket Johnson 2014” and the Internet. We came up with this list of domains to see: Règnard, Brocard, LaRoche, La Chablisienne (cooperative making almost one third of all Chablis wines), William Fèvre (“three stars” in Johnson) and Patrick Piuze (a newcomer, sometimes compared with the top rated Davissaut and Ravenaud). This is just a small selection of domains, but we could not fit more into two and a half days.


Result of the tastings – Chablis confirms to be my favorite Chardonnay

30 years ago, Chardonnay from Chablis became my favorite Chardonnay, and I found this confirmed now. I will come back sooner than in another thirty years – for sure!

Let me summarize my highlights and impressions from the tastings in the next blogs.



On the road – a quiet day in Noyers-sur-Sérein

While my friends drive to Champagne early in the morning, I decide to stay in Noyers-sur-Sérein to recover from my cough. I sleep in the morning, get some medicine and some honey toffees from the local pharmacy and then I set out to discover Noyers-sur-Sérein.

This is the town map. Noyers is surrounded by the river Serein. There are remains of the town wall with the gates.

stadplan noyers

Source: Noyers-sur-Serein


Noyers-sur-Serein is a gorgeous medieval town

This is the southern gate, called “la Porte Peinte”.


There are half-timbered houses – 78 of them are historical monuments from the 13th to th 19th century. The streets are narrow and cobbled …


.. some hidden behind small passages.


Above the town are the ruins of the castle. Like in Châtillon-sur-Seine, this castle has been destroyed by Henry IV. Yes, Henri was the grand-father of Louis XIV and fostered the power of the French king paving the way for his grand-son.


The river Sérein makes a natural water ditch that protects the town on three sides.



The recommended walk outside the city

In front of the southern gate I find a poster that announces signed round walks. They promise houses with dry stone walls which have remained from the vineyards that surrounded Noyers until the late 19th century. After having been hit by the phylloxera, these vineyards have been abandoned, but the dry stone houses are still there. I would like to see them…


… and set out to follow the signs. I can see the village with the surrounding hills that were vineyards.


The next sign directs me into an “impasse” (or “dead-end street”).


I get lost in a large garden with an open gate. I oscillate a bit, and eventually find the sign where I should have turned left (it is all at the bottom and has become faint)..


The sign directs me to this garage. To the left there is private garden and to the right nothing but mud.


The hiking trail is disappearing in the middle of nowhere. This can happen in France. I change my plans. I will surely find a charming place to have a tea or coffee in Noyers.


The “Centre pour les Arts” with the large selection of tea and coffee

The “Centre pour les Arts” is just opposite of  the townhall. It is run by a friendly couple. I enter to sit down and enjoy the tasteful ambiance. I order a cup of hot chocolate. “How do you want your hot chocolate, with water or milk?” the owner asks me. “You make hot chocolate with water? Then I want it with water. Like I know it from Mexico, but this is so difficult to get here,” I answer happily. The eyes of the owner shine bright: “So you want to drink the chocolate as it should be, you are a connaisseur.” I sip my hot chocolate with a tasty biscuit. I study the menu. It has coffee from various countries in Latin America (such as Costa Rica) – a great selection. They also have tea. They assign tasting notes, like we do for wine.


I rest, read and recover in this welcoming place that also has good reviews in Tripadvisor. I should perhaps add another review.


“This car does not disturb ME” – a wonderful market appears in Noyers two days later and gives us another charming French experience

Our cars are parked on the Place de la Mairie. I come down in the morning to load my car, because we intend to leave for Beaune today.  I notice a lot of activity. A stand is emerging around the car of my Russian friends. “Is this your car”, the stall owner asks me. “No, THAT is my car”, and I point to my Audi. “Cette voiture -là ne me gêne pas”, he says (that car does not disturb me). When Katja comes down to repark her car, the fish seller drives in with his lorry that opens up to become a stall. He frowns at me. I say  that I had been told that my car is not in the way. “Well may be your car does not disturb HIM, but THIS is is my place.” he says pointing to my Audi. So, I move my car away as well. More stands are being installed. This is a wonderful small market with local products. We leave nevertheless, as we are have arranged to meet Patrick Piuze in Chablis.


On the road – a short stop over in Munich

After having recovered from my 6:35 flight from Kraków to Munich (oh Lufthansa…) in the house of my friends, I take the metro U5 to the Munich city center to say hello to some of my favorite places here.

. Citycenter1

Karlsplatz or Stachus

The Stachus is the entry gate to the city center. The Christmas market starts here with an ice rink. I have never seen wheeled walkers (in German: Rollatoren) that support ice skaters… “Ja, sind die nicht nett?” (Yes, are they not cute?), my friend asks me, when I am back at her place.


I buy a cup of hot wine (Glühwein) and watch the ice skating scene for a while from the terrace.


Shopping at Stachus and in Neuhauser-/Kaufringstrasse

I try some large shops and then enter Biebl at the Stachus. I buy three cheese graters from Alessi. The shopkeeper frowns: “Now there are just a few Euros missing for your gift… let me give you a knife, you deserve it and it is Christmas time.”  Then he drops a small kitchen knife into my bag with the graters. Nice. I like smaller shops.


In Bayern it is perfectly okay to wear a dirndl – in the theatre, at the party, at the business reception or at the wedding. There are shops selling just dirndls. When I look at some of them, I feel sad not to live in Munich. In Basel it is not possible to wear a dirndl – except perhaps at the Basel carneval when the dirndl dress matches a specific “sujet”.


From Stachus to the Viktualienmarkt, there is one huge Christmas market with wooden stands selling everything from Christmas decoration to cloths, and of course there are many stands with hot wine, sausages, Reiberdatschi (small potato omlets) etc etc. There are many tourists and – like on the Christmas market of Kraków – I hear Russian, Swiss German, English, French and Spanish around me… there seems to be a real Christmas market tourism going on in Europe.


Frauenkirche (Cathedral of Our Dear Lady)

I look for a more quiet place away from the busy Christmas market scene and turn to the Frauenkirche. One of the towers is being renovated. Is the church open? – Yes it is.


I love the Frauenkirche. It is an exceptional church in Bayern. All churches in Bayern that I know are full of decoration and a lot of gold. The Frauenkirche has suffered severely in the second world war. It has been reconstructed in the old gothic style with adding the decoration that has been saved in the war. This is not much. The decoration is unostentatious and breathes a touching solemnity that also reminds us of that ugly war.



Alter Peter (Peterskirche or St. Peter’s church)

Most church towers have a regular shape and four clocks – one on each side. The Peterskirche is different. The tower is “flat” and an additional clock is hanging on the roof. They call this tower just “Alter Peter” (Old Peter). For me it is a symbol of the charming stubborness of the Bavarians that I love.



Asamkirche (Asam Church)

The Asamkirche is on Sendlingerstrasse. It is a late baroque church built by the brothers Asam and it hides memories for me.

I came across the brothers Asam in Weltenburg – my mum took me there, when I was a teenager. It is a monastery located on the Danube, and I was impressed by the baroque church that the two brothers had built – as legend says, because they were in trouble in their boat, and, when saved, built this church out of gratitude. I was very impressed by the cupola that seemed to float high above me. I had never seen such a floating cupola before.

The brothers Asam also built the Asam church in Munich. It was first their private church and was then opened to the public. As a teeager, my mum introduced me also to this church –  and much later I came back several times with Ernst. Now I am here again, with my mum and Ernst in my heart.




Dinner in the Il Sorriso with my friends

In the evening my friends take me to their favorite Italian restaurant, Il Sorriso. We have spaghetti with clams and noodles with truffles. We do not select the best Nero d’Avola, perhaps we should have asked for another bottle (would not have been a problem). The place is friendly and has a selection of postcards that guests can take with them as a souvenir. Here is an example – this card is useful for someone who is in love.


It says: “When do we meet again? I can barely await it.”


Back to Basel by train from Munich-Pasing

How lucky I am that I had planned to take the train to Basel instead of flying Lufthansa. Lufthansa is also on strike on Tuesday – today. Yesterday I had bought my first class ticket at the Munich main train station for 120 Euros. My SBB “Halbtax” entitles me to a discount of 25% for German trains. The lady at the counter was sighing. I was the first client that was friendly with her – before me she had been confronted with many frustrated Lufthansa passengers.

After a long evening entrenched in vivid debates with my friends, a quiet night and a wonderful breakfast, I catch the train in München-Pasing at 1 pm, settle in first class and I arrive in Basel shortly before 6 pm.

It was great to stop over in Munich on my way back from Kraków – I will do that again. And I will avoid Lufthansa…

On the road – a chilly November weekend in Kraków – the finale: Lufthansa on strike

All seems okay and I get ready to leave for Munich -on Monday  with Lufthansa…

On Sunday, I have received my boarding pass for my Monday flight.


Around 9 pm on Sunday an email confirms my flight with Lufthansa.


Then: Flight canceled

At 9:17 pm on Sunday I receive this SMS:

“We apologize that your flight LH623 KRK-MUC 01Dec 01:10 PM has been cancelled. Further information is available on https//m.lh.com/MjAzNTk3blFmMQ”.

Wonderful. What now? I find out that the pilots will be on strike from 12:00 PM on Monday until midnight on Tuesday. I also find a link that says “your flight has been rescheduled to 6:35 am.” Wonderful. I pay for my hotel room immediately and order a taxi for 4:30 in the  morning. This will be a morning without breakfast.


On standby at the gate 7 on Kraków airport

On Monday 1st of December, shortly before five a.m., I stand in front of the Lufthansa check-in desk at the airport. “No,”, the lady at the counter says, “you are not on the list. Please go to the ticket office over there and stand in line to buy another ticket.” I refuse to stand in line and buy another ticket. She walks over angrily and comes back with a standby ticket. She tells me that the flight has been overbooked and my chances are not good to catch the flight, but I could give it a try. Wonderful.

I wait at the gate – I wait for an hour. At six, a friendly clergyman comes and he looks much more optimistic. A few minutes later, check-in has closed. I understand why he was more optimistic – he knew better. He gives me a boarding pass for business class, but without the right to have breakfast. We are about 4 passengers with such standby boarding cards for business class.


Now in business class

The business class area is half empty – even with the standby passengers that are escaping the Lufthansa strike. The plane takes off. The stewardess serves breakfast. She passes me a tray. “No – thank you”, I say, “I am not allowed to have breakfast.” “Of course, you can have breakfast,” she says. The world brightens up and I enjoy my business class breakfast with a good cup of coffee.


And then – recovering in Munich

At eight we land in  Munich. Around ten I have a second breakfast in the house of my friends… and then I go to sleep for another hour.

Why are these Lufthansa pilots constantly on strike? I later read in my newspaper NZZ that the business model of Lufthansa will change. They plan to have luxury services with the label “Lufthansa” and cheaper flights with the label “wings” (NZZ 4.12.2014, “Lufthansa setzt weiter auf Hochpreissegment”). I do hope that the label “Lufthansa” has not been damaged too much due to the repeated strikes. I fear that the brand “Lufthansa” does no longer stand for “very reliable” and no one wants to pay a luxury price for flying with them…


Well, this was a happy end

Great, I have just managed to get to Munich before the great chaos. Kraków, no need to hold me back by asking the Lufthansa pilots to go on strike – I will come back for sure next year!


On the road – a chilly November weekend in Kraków – looking for warm places

Let me continue sharing memories from Kraków. Under an intransparent grey sky cover, Kraków was chilly and windy. I was freezing. It is great that Kraków has so many comfy tea/coffee houses and restaurants, often hidden in basements. Thank you, Radek, Iwona, Agata and Asia for warming me up at great places.


The restaurants that we visited for lunch or dinner

Deterzer: Iwona takes me to this small restaurant in Bracka south of the Rynek. I like the atmosphere and my mushroom salad. Iwona has a hot pot with mushrooms. (see also Tripadvisor ).


Miodowa: Radek takes me to the Miodowa that has just recently opened. I have trout (pstrąg) with butter and a local wine – very good (rated superb in Tripadvisor).

No 7  is located in a cellar behind the Rynek. I have delicious Bigos Małopolski. This is stewed meat with sour cabbage, a Polish meal that Radek’s mum cooks when she has a lot of guests (see Tripadvisor ).


Wesele: Wesele means “marriage” suggesting that marrying is a joyful event (wesoły).  This is not my favorite restaurant, because it is a little “touristy”. But Iwona and I feel too cold to look for another place. We have goose with redbeet, dumplings and tasty tiny apples – and  it was excellent. Tripadvisor also gives good reviews.


The tea and coffee houses that warmed us up

Kraków has a very welcoming tea and coffee culture. We spend hours here.

Cupcake in Bracka – south of the Rynek: This is Asia’s favorite place. We escape from the cold temperatures to warm up with hot chocolate and one of their delicious sweet bakeries (see Tripadvisor)

Magia: Iwona has introduced me to the Magia a year ago. I loved to come back for breakfast after having arrived early in the morning. I have a delicious yoghurt with honey, walnuts and berries (see Tripadvisor).


Czajownia: Over a pot of green tea I had a chat with Agata and Radek. The menu of teas is huge and the atmosphere is homelike… I always come back to this place.


Czarka: To warm me up, Radek takes me to this small tea house in Florianska street. It is in the cellar and not easy to find. Students sit here and learn in groups. I enhance the average age considerably and have a green tea from Vietnam. This tea house is new for me, and I will surely come back.



I only spent three days in Kraków and I only stayed in the city center. I could stay here for much longer and find many more welcoming coffee or tea houses and restaurants. Here are some more places spotted by locals. Also Tripadvisor has a long list of places to go.


On the road – a chilly November weekend in Kraków – some sightseeing

Let me continue sharing memories, now about the sights I visited: I said hello to some churches, to the Art Nouveau around Uliza Retoryka, to the Wisla and to the Wawel castle, learnt about Galicia, discovered an excellent small wine shop and found a pretty book about Krakówian legends.


Sightseeing – saying hello to some churches, Art Nouveau around Uliza Retoryka, the Wisla and the Wawel

Kraków is the town of churches. Most visible is the gothic Saint Marie’s church on the Rynek where the hejnal signals the hours with his trumpet (I found him on youtube, he stops in the middle of the tune, because his colleague-hejnal was shot by a Mongolian arrow about 800 years ago – exactly at this moment the tune stops, as legend says)…


… also on the Rynek are the Saint Barbara’s church (same age as the Saint Maria church) and the romanesque small Saint Adalbert church. On Gródski, I like the baroque Saint Peter and Paul’s church with the adjacent romanesque Saint Andrew’s church – and there are many, many more churches. I join the prayers and stand still for a moment to meditate – on Friday to welcome Kraków and on Sunday to warm up in a double sense (my heart and my body temperature). I am particularly impressed how the Saint Peter and Paul’s church changes – sometimes there are concerts, on Thursdays, they demonstrate the Foucault pendulum – and now the priest reads his sermon with solemnity.

Art Nouveau can be found beyond the boundaries of the old city center (Stare Miasto). I say hello to some of the Art Nouveau houses around Uliza Retoryka in Piasek. The fact that this town has an “Ulica Retoryka” indicates that it is really a traditional university town – the Kraków university was founded in 1364.


The houses I say hello to are the Hutten-Czapskich Palace, the house under the Owl and the house under the Singing Frog which is part of a whole block of Art Nouveau buildings.


I discover details that I had not noticed before, such as this horse head…


… or the inscription of the architect: “Fecit Theodorus Talowski Architectus”… the Architect Theodorus Talowski made it.


Uliza Retoryka ends at the Wisla. This is the river that connects up Kraków and Warszawa.  I might book this boat tour when I come back in summer.


Crossing the Wawel hill with the castle I return to my hotel. Radek waits for me to take me out for lunch. But first he proposes some culture in a warm place – the exhibition about Galicia.



Some more sightseeing: Learning about Galicia

The International Cultural Center on Rynek has curated an excellent exhibiton about the myth of Galicia.  This is the motto of the exhibition: “Galicia no longer exists. It disappeared from the map of Europe in 1918 together with the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, whose province it had been. Yet, it still lives as a imagined space in the collective imagination and memory. The Krakow exhibition seeks to answer the question about the source and contemporary condition of the myth, trying to find out why literature, visual arts, and film still refer to it, while Galicia itself is used as an attractive brand.” The exhibiton displays art works, archive materials, and artefacts and places them in the historical context. The first part shows how the myth of the multinational region emerged in the Polish, Ukrainian and Jewish perspective. At the end of the 18th century, Poland was divided up and Galicia (with Krakow) became a province of Austria, for roughly 150 years. The detection of oil reservoirs and the construction of railways helped develop the economy of this poor and remote province of Austria-Hungary. In 1918 the province of Galicia ceased to exist. It was divided up and Kraków with Malopolska became part of Poland.

Well, in a way Galicia still exists as a label – remember the Grzaniec Galicyjski or Galician hot wine from the barrels on the Christmas market?


Great experience, thank you, Radek for this food for thought before having food for our stomachs.


Discovering the excellent wineshop “Francuski Gąsiorek”

As we expect more guests for the Fondue party than first planned, Radek takes me to the Francuski Gąsiorek to buy a bottle of crispy wine. We stand in the cold wind in front of the locked gate.


The shop opens at twelve. A young man comes and unlocks the gate. We enter with him and find an excellent selection of wine in the cellar: French wines from Burgundy, the Loire Valley, the Rhone Valley, Languedoc and the Alscace. Just having come back from Burgundy, I feel tempted to buy the Appelation Village de Savigny-Les-Beaune (not possible in the hand luggage, when flying back). He has nice Chablis 1er Crus from Côte de Léchet and Beauroy. In addition, gems from Germany are on sale, from Franconia (Silvaner in Boxbeutel bottle) and Rheinhessen (I see Gewürztraminer and Riesling). The young wine dealer is proud of his wine cellar and knows what he has. He explains that his Gewürztraminer from the Alsace differs from the Gewürztraminer in Rheinhessen. The first has residual sugar, the second is much drier. Yes, I have experienced that as well. His eyes shine happily, when I discover the Boxbeutel; he points to the right most Boxbeutel bottle which he prefers. He proposes a Viognier from Languedoc for our Fondue and I buy his last bottle of Crémant d’Alsace for Piotrek’s new apartment.

Back home I find out that “gasiorek” means “male goose”, but here it means demijohn (in German Ballonflasche). What does a male goose have in common with huge bottles?

I find a blog about this new wine shop (in Polish). Great shop – I will surely come back.


The Collegium Maius – and legends of Kraków

I stop by in the courtyard of the venerable Collegium Maius, the university from the 14th century. A group of tourists listen to their guide – shifting from one foot to the other. Yes, it is cold.


The museum shop is open. I enter it (it is warmer here) and find a pretty small book about legends from Kraków or “Krakauer Legenden”. On the cover is the Lajkonik (the Krakówians make fun of the Mongolians that could not conquer their city).

Krakauer Legenden Titelblatt

The book contains ten legends that are nicely illustrated, among them the legend about the trumpeter of Saint Marie’s church, the Hejnal, and the legend about the towers of Saint Marie’s church (why they are not the same size, the reason is envy between two brothers). Kraków is full of legends. This book will accompany me on my next visit.

On the road – a chilly November weekend in Kraków – the Christmas market

The tradition – a Fondue from Switzerland in Kraków

It has become a tradition that I travel to Kraków in late autumn to meet my friends walking and talking in town as well as sharing a Fondue at Dominik’s place.  This time Asia and her husband also invite me to their tastefully decorated new apartment. Thank you all for your wonderful hospitality.

I would like to share some of the memories that I take back from your town: I enjoyed the lively Christmas market on Rynek, said hello to some churches, to the Art Nouveau around Uliza Retoryka, to the Wisla and to the Wawel castle, escaped the chilly wind to warm up in tea houses and restaurants, learnt about Galicia and discovered an excellent small wine shop. Perhaps Kraków did not want to let me go and asked the Lufthansa pilots to go on strike from Monday 12:00, exactly when my flight to Munich was scheduled.

Let us start with the Christmas market.


The lively Christmas market on Rynek

Last year I observed angels being installed above the Rynek, two mysterious huge barrels being dropped and wooden stands emerging on the Rynek.



These were the preparations for the Christmas market.

This year I am here right in time for the Christmas market. The angels above the Rynek are again hanging above the stands and looking down at the busy activity.


Local products such as Oscypek (sheep cheese) are on sale.


This cheese is being grilled and served with cranberries. I try it and it tastes quite good – though perhaps for me somewhat interesting.


There are stands that produce a lot of smoke: Barbecued maxi sausages, pork knuckles, giant meat skewers and potatoes are on offer.


On sale are also beautiful loaves of bread…


… and the Polish cream toffees – krówki. Krówki are made from cream that comes from cows, and this is why they are called “krówki”. I followed the instruction for self service and bought some.


The “barrels” with the mysterious inscription are also back. Radek explains to me that they sell hot wine galician style or “grzaniec galicyjski” (literally “hot Galician”).


The barrels open later. Their hot wine is in demand – people stand in line for it. I also buy a cup to warm me up from the chilly wind.


This plate says what types of hot wine you get at the barrel window of the Christmas market (kiermasz świąteczny).


There is also local handicraft such as woodware and embroidery on sale.

Around me I hear a lot of Swiss German, UK English, Russian and even some French. This charming Christmas market is a valued tourist destination. I can understand that. I love to linger around here – this market has a special charm with its products from Poland and the Rynek – one of the most beautiful market squares in Europe – makes a great setting for it.


Let me continue with some more memories of Kraków later.