Queues, tents and all that jazz at summer festivals

I don’t know if I would ever have been to a summer film festival if it wasn’t for my friend – Magda. One day she just rang to say to pack my bags – backpack and a sleeping bag to be exact – and get on a train to Kazimierz Dolny, a picturesque town in the eastern part of Poland, now famous for its summer film festival. We were first year students craving art and adventure. As it was a spontaneous trip we have nothing prearranged and, in fairness, it did not bother us in the least. We got the train tickets at the station. We jumped off the train on this one of in-the-middle-of-nowhere stations and took the connecting bus. We got a map of the town at the tourist office and with backpacks on briskly walked to the adjacent camp site. It was full at this stage, as the festival started the day before, yet we still managed to pitch our tiny borrowed tent on a little slope just 2 meters from the Vistula river.

With all the basics sorted, we could just focus on the festival. Aw well, we still needed to get the tickets. And the key to the tickets was the queue. But for a few shows on pre-sale, most of the film tickets were on a first-come-first-serve basis. The sheer beauty of it was that we only needed to choose the show a few hours in advance and make sure to be on the queue for the right spot.

Lato Filmow Kazimierz Dolny 1999
The official poster of the 5th Summer Film Festival. Author: Krzysztof Kokoryn. http://www.kazimierzdolny.pl

So each morning started in the same way … Get up and get out of the tent. Stretch your arms, breathe in the river breeze and feel the sun on your face. Get into the queue for the shower. Now, that took a while. An hour and a half to be exact. Still, you would not miss on your daily hygiene, even if you are a student on a summer festival. So we queued.

Then, one day we had a brightest and most brilliant idea and decided to outsmart everyone and beat the morning queues. We set the alarm clocks (and I do mean the real ticking clock) for 5am – just after the sun rise, half asleep crawled out of the tent and meandered through the camp site to the wooden cabin where the showers were. On the bright side the queue was reasonably smaller and with only three other sleepy heads in front of us we got into the showers in less than a quarter. On the not so bright side the water was freezing cold and it took a lot of mental strength to talk myself into washing my hair. No need to say how very quick this early morning shower was and how great it felt to snuggle up in the sleeping bag again.

Kazimierz Famous Bakery
Image from Sarzynski Bakery – http://www.sarzynski.com.pl

And each morning continued in the same way. We went to the town centre, got some fresh artisan buns from the local and renowned bakery and sat down at the sun-splashed  town square for a coffee and a daily read of the newspaper.

In front of the cinema

The cinematic experience was extraordinary. The evening shows in the open air, the close-up meetings with the directors, producers and actors and finally the unforgettable cinema itself – small yet grand, furnished in the old wooden and stone Jewish synagogue it was the place to be. It was a place to queue for.

The festival life experience was equally exceptional. Joining in the eloquent and critical conversations. Celebrity spotting. Interacting. Defining ourselves. Celebrating tasty food in tranquil surroundings. Living a week devoted to film watching. That was the Big Life as we knew it.

KazimierzDolnyLatoFilmow1999 x


PS: The summer festival inspired theme will continue in the next post but for now a very happy Friday.

Tour de street

Ready. Steady. Go. And they are off. The bottle caps. Rushing through the pavements of the estate. France is overtaking Greece. Ireland couldn’t make the bend and is off the track. Germany and Poland going side to side. The others not far behind. Who will get the final push to cross the finishing line?

That’s what we – Generation X – played in the summer months of the 90s. First you needed to get a bottle cap – as flat and undamaged as could be. We filled it with some plasticine (nowadays bluetac would do just fine) and decorated with some cut-out country flags.  The trick was to get this perfectly balanced cap that was neither too heavy nor too light, easy to move forward but not too jumpy. Once your cap was ready, tried and tested all you needed was a bit of chalk to draw the route. Pavements were easy. Kerbs were tricky. Puddles were challenging. So were tunnels, if you could find any.

bottle caps at the start

The rules are simple. Each racer gets their own cap and places it on the start. Then one by one each takes their turn to move their cap by flicking the fingers. There are 3 attempts in each turn. If you master the game you can really move forward quickly. If you are off the track you need to go back to your previous spot. The first cap to cross the finishing line gets all the glory.

bottle caps at the finish

The game does not get old, even though we might, and we still play it with the kids in the street outside the house every summer. Having great time. So get your caps. On your marks. Time for tour de street.caps street gamecaps street game



Princess Courgette

Courgette sounds to me like a name of a princess. A princess, that would be a perfect heroine of a Five-A-Day story like this one.

Princess Courgette collage

Once upon a time there lived a princess of a slightly-pear-yet-slender shape and deepest green shade of skin. She was called Courgette. She was a very delicate and tender young lady. She cared for the others and was always kind to them. Other vegetables admired her beauty but while they might get green with envy,  Brussels sprouts were still a bland green, French beans were too slim and the broccoli could not contain himself. And the cucumber? The cucumber just could not take his eyes off her. He silently adored Princess Courgette longing that some day he could be near her. What a great combination of greens that would be.

Sadly enough, the princess never really noticed any of his feelings as her heart was already full of love for the reddest of them all – the tomato. His juiciness and plumpiness completely captivated her and all she could do was to dream they will be joined in the most romantic dance of the last Ratatouille. So the tomato grew bigger and bigger and fuller of himself basting in Princess Courgette’s love, while the poor cucumber got thinner and leaner and lost all his gleam.

And so the Ratatouille day came and Courgette and Tomato got picked. But it was nothing like the princess had imagined. There was no dance and no passion.The pompous tomato stood there in his red glory. “Green looks nice next to me,” he said “it complements well my carmine colour.” It was only then that Princess Courgette saw the miserable green shape and desperate look and realized that Cucumber was in love with her. Courgette thought of all the time they wasted and what a great pair they would make. But now it was only time left to say goodbye and so Courgette blew him a farewell kiss and Cucumber grinned with bitter-sweet joy.

Princess Courgette collage 2


For a long time I was blissfully unaware of what courgette was. As a child I would not pay any attention to the unappealing green vegetable that in fairness very rarely appeared on the menu. Indeed, I only discovered its potential when I got my first cookbook by a Polish-French cook, Pascal Brodnicki. Half out of curiosity and half out of boredom I decided to give courgette fritters a try. And it was a hit from the very start. The little fritters are perfect for sharing and are sure to be all gone off the table. I would usually make them when expecting a bunch of children to come by around dinner time  and like to serve them with a generous bowl of tzatziki to give it an even more summery flavour. And because I do believe courgette and cucumber make a great pair.

Courgette fritters with Tzatziki

For the fritters:

2-3 medium courgettes – unpeeled

3 spring onions – finely chopped

4 eggs – bitten

250g flour

1 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

1 tbs walnut oil

1/2 cup sunflower oil for frying


For the Tzatziki:

2 cucumbers – peeled

2-4 garlic cloves

1 cup natural yogurt (ideally Greek yogurt)

a mix of favourite herbs – basil, mint, dill, chives

salt and pepper to taste


First – prepare your courgettes. Wash, dry  and cut the ends off  but do not peel them. Coarsely grate them in a big mixing bowl and leave them for a while as you make Tzatziki.

In a medium bowl coarsely grate the cucumbers. Season with salt. Add yogurt with as much pressed garlic as you wish (we like it quite garlicky) and finely chopped herbs. Mix together and set aside.

Go back to your courgettes. Add the bitten eggs, and the flour mixed with baking power and a pinch of salt. Mix together – your little helpers can use their hands for that – and stir in the walnut oil and finely chopped spring onion. Add salt and pepper to taste.

On the frying pan heat enough sunflower oil to fully cover the bottom. Use a tablespoon and carefully drop the mixture into the hot oil. Make sure the oil is just right. Too hot – and the fritters will burn. Not hot enough – and the fritters will soak up too much oil. If the oil is just the right temperature the fritters will get golden brown after a minute on each side. Once nicely browned remove from the pan, dry the excess oil on a kitchen towel and pile them up on  a serving plate or bowl.

courgette fritters

Make on a nice sunny day, share and see them gone in minutes.


Sonia (with some help of Natasha)