Friday, January 31, 2020

Restauracja Zapiecek - Warsaw, Poland

We loved the food in Poland and one of my favorite restaurants was actually a chain, known as Restauracja (or Restaurant) Zapiecek. We had it recommended to us by a Polish friend of ours, who knew our son in Warsaw, and who now lives in the U.S. When we mentioned it to our guide in Warsaw, he said it served his favorite pierogi. Our guide took us there for lunch and we liked it so much that we went again another time on our own for dinner. It is a chain of three restaurants in Warsaw and we visited two of them. 

Judy ordered pierogis (Polish dumplings) filled with forest blueberries. She got a topping of sour cream which was dabbed on top of each one. The filling was generous and the blueberries were whole.

She also got a dried fruit compot (cold) which included apples, pears, dried plums and raisins, steeped in water to get the juice out, then cooked with cloves, cinnamon and lemon peel. It was tasty. 
I ordered fried pierogis, which I liked better than boiled. They had a brown crispy texture on part of the outside which combined nicely with the softness they still retained. I had a bunch of options to choose from and I got the minimum of nine pieces. I believe I got two with spinach and feta, two with forest mushrooms (boletes with steamed onion), two with Camembert and Dor Blue cheese, and I believe the menu has changed since we were there so I can't identify the other three. I think two were another cheese of some sort. They were packed with filling, partially crispy from the frying and nice and warm. Best pierogis I've ever had (and I've actually had quite a few of them). 

I also ordered a pork white sausage spiced with garlic and marjoram and served on a bed of fried onions. It was wonderful as well. 
When we went back for dinner, Judy ordered fried potato pancakes smothered in pan fried mushrooms with garlic and onions in a heavy cream. It was divine. 
I got baked pork ribs served on roasted sauerkraut which was very good. 
These meals epitomized what we loved about Polish cooking - hearty, heavy and full of lots of basic quality ingredients. 

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Mute Swan - Copenhagen

The mute swan is a gorgeous bird I've seen before in the Netherlands, along the Rhine River and in Slovenia. We saw them in the canals of Copenhagen last June. The cygnets (young swans) we saw were older than the cygnets we saw in Slovenia. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Iceland: Natural Landmarks

In June 2019 we spent several days in Iceland and saw some beautiful natural landmarks. Rather than spend much time on any one, I'm going to briefly describe each one, provide a photo or two, and then move on. 

Thingvallavatn Lake is the largest natural lake in Iceland and the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet beneath it. 
This photo is from the southern edge, looking north.
This photo is from near the same place, but looking more west.
Thingvellir National Park is near the far north end of Thingvallavatn Lake. Here the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates is clearly visible. 
A fissure, or gap in the plates, I'm not sure which, in the foreground and the lake in the background. 
A fissure line evidenced by tall bands of rock. 
A small stream in the area.
Gullfoss (golden waterfall) is northeast of Thingvallavatn Lake on the Hvita River. It has two stages: the first drop of 36 feet over a three-step staircase, then the second drop of 69 feet into a crevice that is 105 feet deep. The crevice is 66 feet wide and goes for 1.6 miles. It carries 4,900 cubit feet of water, per second, in the summer. 
Gullfoss Waterfall
The first drop.
The second drop into the crevice. 
Faxifoss (horse mane waterfall) was much smaller, southwest of Gullfoss, but still beautiful. It had a 23 foot drop and was about 260 feet wide. It also had salmon steps along the left side of it. 
Flaxifoss with the salmon steps to the left side.
People to the bottom left give perspective.
About three-quarters of the way from Reykjavik to Vik, the southernmost point of Iceland, we encountered Seljalandsfoss, a 197 foot tall waterfall, that we were able to walk behind.
A front view of Seljalandsfoss.
From behind.
From an overlook to the side.
Further along the road to Vik, we encountered Skogafoss (Forest Falls), which also has a 197 foot drop but is much wider and has much more volume than Seljalandsfoss. We couldn't get too close to Skogafoss without really getting wet because of the spray.

This was about as close as I could get without completely drenching myself and camera. 
Getting closer to Vik, we turned off to hike to Solheimajokull Glacier, an outlet glacier of the Myrdalsjokull Icecap, Iceland's fourth largest icecap. It was about a 20 minute walk from the parking area, evidence of the melting glacier which has receded dramatically. 
From a distance we could see the icecap behind the glacier.
As we got closer, the view of the icecap faded and we saw a large lagoon full of glacier melt water. 
People to the far right give perspective to the size of the glacier front. 
A man standing on some glacial silt in front of the front wall. 

Near Vik, the southernmost point in Iceland, we went to Reynisfjara, a black sand beach, and saw Reynisdrangar, 220 foot tall basalt towers in the distance. 

We drove a little bit and came to Halsanefshellir, a triangular peak with a base of basalt which reminded me of Hallgrimskirkja in Reykjavik, or I guess really, Hallgrimskirkja appeared modeled after this site. 
We drove a little more to a plateau which holds the Dyrholaey Lighthouse. From there we could see a massive stone arch extending out from the plateau and got a beautiful view of black Reynisfjara Beach. 

Monday, January 27, 2020

Greylag Goose - Iceland

I've posted on the greylag goose previously, having seen them in Denmark and along the Rhine in a number of places. In Iceland, outside of Reykjavik, near the summer residence of the president, we saw quite a few of them in a field making a huge racket. I share a couple of photos. They were quite wary, not letting me get too close. 

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Hallgrimskirkja - Reykjavik, Iceland

Hallgrimskirkja (Icelandic), or church of Hallgrimur, which I have been incorrectly calling Reykjavik Cathedral, is named after an Icelandic poet and clergyman Hallgrimur Petursson, who lived from 1614 to 1674. Petursson wrote the Passion Hymns, a collection of 50 hymns, one to be sung each day during the seven weeks of Lent. Each hymn references some part of the Passion of Christ. 

Hallgrimskirkja is the most noticeable landmark in Reykjavik, sitting on the crown of a hill in the center of the city. 
It was built from 1945 to 1986 and designed by Guojon Samuelsson to resemble the rocks, mountains and glaciers of Iceland. At 244 feet tall, it is one of the tallest structures in Iceland. 

Rocks on a beach in southern Iceland, near Vik.

It is a parish church of the Church of Iceland, or more formally, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland, which is Lutheran and a member of the Porvoo Communion. The Church of Iceland has one diocese headed by the Bishop of Iceland, as well as two suffragan dioceses, and is the official Christian church in Iceland. 

The statue of Leif Erikson, who lived from 970 to 1020, was a gift from the U.S. to Iceland in 1930 in commemoration of the 1,000th anniversary of Iceland's parliament at Thingvellir in 930. Erikson is believed to be native to Iceland and was the first known European to reach North America (Newfoundland) before Columbus. He also spent much of his life in Greenland, and died there.