Krakow has one of the largest and oldest shopping squares in Europe, and within that, one of the largest, oldest, and best preserved market halls. Behold: Cloth Hall.
Within, there are booths with vendors with treasures ranging from Polish eggs, Polish pottery, amber jewelry, wooden boxes and hand-crafted chess sets, to keychains and little baubles. Veronica and I made a lap before deciding on anything, and Mum was immediately caught-up in the Polish amber jewelry.
We moved fairly quickly because the open-air market in glove-less hands meant we were freezing. Never fear, though. We just stopped multiple times, so had multiple rounds of treasure hunting. It's really nice when the exchange rate is in your favor.
Pinsanka - Polish eggs
These eggs were once real; they're not wooden or plastic. That's an important qualifier when people might think I feel into a tourist trap. The egg is hollowed, painted, then dipped in wax or something (I think one vender was trying to tell us porcelain, but the language barrier was getting in the way and I can only say 'thank you' in Polish) to provide extra support. I chose the Polish eagle, adorned with flowers and Poland on the back. I want to find a way to hang it on my travel tree, but the hole (where the egg was blown out) is on the bottom, and I can't risk trying to finagle a hanger on top. I would break it and cry.
Did I tell you about my travel tree? I started this in April, or mid-way through my trip in April. In my never-ending quest to rationalize my exorbitant travel shopping, I decided I'd start buying ornaments in every location. At Christmas, then, I'd decorate my non-existant tree with relics from my travels and relive my journeys. I've started quite the collection, and one day, I'll have quite the tree - maybe I'll write a catch-up post on that later.
Otherwise, I need some help figuring out how to display my Polish egg. He can't just roll around. Do you know of anything? Do I need an acrylic egg cup so you can see all his details? Is there such a thing as an attractive birds nest that this guy could hang out in? Is is too weird and literal to have an egg in a birds nest?
Mum told us these were wooden dowry boxes, but my googling is not confirming or denying this claim. So we'll just stick with what the interwebs can confirm - the wooden, handcrafted, and decorated boxes have historical ties to southern Poland. Farmers would spend their winters crafting, carving, staining and decorating these boxes and would later use them to secure items or for trade.
There were tons of variations of these, ranging from brightly painted cityscapes of Krakow to the more traditional patterns with stain. I opted for the later, obviously, partly because I love that key.
Polish pottery ornament
I love Polish pottery. The blues are the perfect shade of blue, in my opinion, and it's just so pretty. I can't explain why I'm so enamored.
After our first round of the booths, I hadn't spotted any ornaments that I liked. These was one stand with some egg ornaments or giant balls with a cityscape, but I wasn't excited about them. Mum was lost in a booth, advancing from amber jewelry to Polish pottery, and while she was debating over milk pitchers, I spotted ornaments in a back corner bowl. The lady didn't understand what I wanted with them, and tried to dissuade us, explaining it wasn't Christmas, and I couldn't figure out how to assure her that I wouldn't hang them up now, but I would wait for next Christmas, as this seemed to be her concern. She was happy with a purchase nonetheless. So that language obstacle was jumped, and I seal-clapped for success, which is awkward when you're trying to be delicate with the handling of objects.
Then Mum tried to convince me that I needed a milk pitcher. I was torn - it was Polish pottery, but I drink my coffee black and don't have a coffee maker, so I'm never serving coffee. Then I spotted this dish. Yes. I needed this dish, to serve bread, to make shallow casseroles, and to do other domestic things that I don't usually do. This dish would inspire them all.
Fun fact - you can identify authentic Boleslawiec pottery (which is the region from which the pottery originates) by the stamp that should be on it. Prior to 1996, pieces were stamped with a castle and the letter B. After 1996, the letter B is enclosed in a teapot. They all usually say 'Handmade in Poland' too. This isn't a end-all-be-all test, but I'll be showing the castle on the bottom of my disk to anyone and everyone. I didn't take a picture of it because there were enough pictures in this post already, and it looks just like this. I have a Polish dish at home that I'm dying to check upon my return.
Veronica gravitates towards strange things. That may sound wrong, but it's true. Wonky gadgets and creations are her jam. She went for these bird whistles, and I was again torn between their Polish pottery painting and really not needing it. After hearing someone demonstrate the whistle, though, we did need the whistles. I've since woken Veronica up with it on multiple occasions.
That rounds up the Polish treasures, or what I can share without spilling secrets. I love that they all have their roots in tradition. Check out our travels in Poland over here and here. And PS - I started this sort-of series with shopping in Sweden. There's more of an intro there as to why I seal clap and over-purchase in foreign countries.