© Muzeum of King Jan III's Palace at Wilanów
Silva Rerum   Silva Rerum   |   17.08.2015

Famous Polish hospitality

Sarmatian hospitality was famous all over Europe. Foreigners who visited the Commonwealth knew it from numerous travel journals that were written in those times that Poles were an extremely hospitable nation. The Polish nobility, who cultivated the ideals of peaceful, rustic, idyllic life and lived outside cities, did not have many opportunities to entertain themselves, so equipped with good food and drinks and having a lot of free time, they eagerly welcomed guests. The arrival of a person of the world was a nice change to boredom. Sarmatians, who did not know the term "waste of time" or the omnipresent haste, visited and revisited each other all the time. Guests who brought news from distant places were particularly welcome. A relatively realistic vision of Polish hospitality was described by the Frenchman Hubert Vautrin. His remarks about 18th-century Poland are critical of the visiting and hosting customs of the nobility: "You will find here loafers who come from far away to visit their friend, empty his cellar and eat all the food from his pantry, and party with the host in his house."

Emptying pantries and cellars of alcohol was one of the main symptoms of Sarmatian hospitality. Visitors to noble houses were always welcomed with several types of wine. If a host did not serve his best alcohol, and several types of it, he did not receive his guest in a proper manner. Foreigners staying in Poland noted that refusing to drink with the host was extremely rude. South Europeans, unaccustomed to such exuberant hospitality, found it hard to understand the mandatory drinking or even drunkenness in the Commonwealth.

Depending on the rank of the guest and the region where the host lived, various kinds of drinks were served. Before wine, drinking mead reigned the tables. However, it was dethroned in the 17th century by the growing fashion for wine. Now, the host had something to show off with. Obviously, Hungarian wines were popular all over Poland. They were considered to be the best and often served to guests. They were particularly popular in the Krakow region, where Hungarian wines were easily available. In Gdańsk, French and Rhine wines were common. In the East, before the fashion for expensive Hungarian wines, malvasia was drunk. In the 18th century, a fashion for sparkling wine from the French Champagne developed in the Commonwealth and in the rest of Europe, and champagne became the drink worthy of the most honourable guests. This is confirmed by notes of foreigners visiting Poland and staying in Polish houses.

In the 17th century, vodka arrived in Poland; outside Northern countries, it was used as medicine only. Charles Ogier, hosted by a Gdańsk merchant, was surprised that vodka was served as a drink and that, although he was in perfect health, he had to drink it as if he was ill. On the other hand, it was impossible and impolite to refuse to drink, especially if one wanted to do business with Gdańsk merchants. The tradition to host guests and to visit and revisit, accompanied by tables full of food and drinks, survived for so long that Poles are still considered in other countries to be very hospitable.

Translation: Lingua Lab

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