June 7, 2014: Cocks, Tigers and Stags, Oh My!

Saturday afternoon was far too pleasant to spend indoors, so we headed out to enjoy the the good weather and indulge in a little people watching.

Our first stop was Rynek Glówny (translated roughly as “main square”). It seems that there are vendors and booths set up here every day. Can’t say the selection changes much, but there’s always an assortment of souvenir booths, flower sellers and street performers posing as statues.

We wandered through the booths and came upon a cordoned off area with a stage. We stopped and watched as the group of men on stage, who appeared to be wearing medieval costume, performed some sort of presentation, occasionally punctuated by musket fire from a smaller group of men, similarly costumed, in the crowd. As I still don’t understand much Polish, I wasn’t able to ever catch the cue that these guys were going to let ’er rip. So it was just me and children under the age of 5 that were terrified by the sporadic gunshots.

The presenters.

The Medieval gunslingers.

After some research, I later learned that we were watching a pageant called the “Cock King Enthronement.” It’s put on by the Cock Fraternity, a Polish shooting club. This event is where they put on 17th century costumes and crown the winner of their yearly shooting contest.

After we had our fill of gunfire and children crying, we moved on to the other side of square, behind the Sukiennice (a large building in the middle of the square that houses a covered market that supplies souvenirs primarily in the form of baltic amber, leather, and wooden goods). On the North-West side of the building, we found a dramatically different event. Again, there was the cordoned off area and a stage. But this time, it seemed that there was some sort of singing competition going on. And the first act was a girl who couldn’t have been much more than 12, rocking out with a much older male singer. It appeared to be either a karaoke competition or showcase. I’d love to tell you that I found out what was going on later when I looked it up, but I haven’t been able to track it down. The only thing I know is that the girl we listened to had some serious pipes.

 The girl and her pipes.

After we exhausted the delights of the main square we took to Mały Rynek (translated roughly as “small square.” It’s very exciting, I know). This square has become our favorite of the markets, as it always has food booths and an ample supply of beer. We grabbed some beer (and lunch. Don’t worry, Mom. Everybody here drinks this much beer.) and found a table to enjoy some quality people-watching. We settled on roast mushrooms and potatoes for lunch, since ordering perogies would have meant waiting a whole ten minutes.

I don’t know if this is a thing elsewhere, but in Poland, mushrooms are everywhere. I’ve enjoyed many a dish that came with mushrooms or a mushroom sauce that was considered very normal. They seem to be as common a side dish as peas and carrots are in North America.

And I can’t even begin to convey how tasty our lunch was. A huge faux pas on my part, as I’m in the business of describing things. But part of my problem, I imagine, is due to the fact that few people reading this will have ever had anything cooked on something that resembles a huge wok with a griddle set in it. I’ve no idea if it was gas or charcoal powered, but the spectacle and skill of the people in that booth cooking on those gargantuan black iron basins added a flavor to our food that has yet to be captured by high end restaurants.

Thank you for the delicious lunch, Miss.

And so we sat, savoring our meal while we watched people bustle around us. That air was hummed with the murmur of the market. It was extremely relaxing, and seemed, to us, to be a very fine way to spend a warm Saturday afternoon.

Our meal disappeared faster than our beers, though. So we chatted as we worked on them. That is, until we heard a loud “WOO!” from across the street. I glanced over Adam’s shoulder and saw a large group of men that had taken over the entire patio of a cafe. There were empty beer glasses scattered across their tables, and one of the gentlemen was wearing a turquoise and purple lamé track jacket and matching shorts. It looked suspiciously like a bachelor party. As more of their beer glasses became empty, more “WOO!”s could be heard echoing through the street over the din of the market.

“I hear a lot of people come to Poland for bachelor parties.” said Adam.

“Oh, yeah?” I said.

It was at this point when a Fiat 500, covered in tiger print fur and complete with a tail, drove by the party with a man surfing on it’s roof, dressed in a ninja costume.

Sadly, we were only able to photograph this beauty the first time we saw it cruise by us in the main square. (We were both too stunned to grab a pic when it came by with the ninja on top).

We’d caught a glimpse of the Fiat earlier, but only saw enough to know that it was representing some sort of energy drink company. The fact that this smart car-like vehicle was actually covered in faux fur and being ridden by a ninja weren’t apparent when we first glimpsed it. And now, as it rolled past the bachelor party, it brought forth a series a hoots and hollers that would have made any ninja blush.

We later determined that they were British, when some of their cries of delight were clear enough to distinguish as words. By this time, we’d finished our beers and I’d captured a glimpse of them on camera, under the guise of taking a poorly framed photo of my husband.

And as we walked by them on our way out of the market, one of the gentlemen revelers bounded out of the cafe wearing a short coral dress and some sort of hairy headband that made it look like he had long pigtails. My day was complete.