It all begun some dreary night twenty odd years ago at a friend’s 15th birthday party staged at Lily Sugars, Creek road, Hayling Island, a tiny watering hole where the yokels usually sipped some waterered down pish by the sea. A hotspot for tourists’ kids who loitered around playing arcade machines or on the hunt for some cheap trollop who would spread her legs on the beach. Both were easily found. We might have even been at my sister’s 16th birthday, unbeknown to us, and we were gate crashing, the most notable recollection being – it was my first introduction to alcohol: cream sherry.
Some mate’s mate was called to aquisition the said item, a college dude of older age sporting some daft facial hair and crap jewellery, of all the choices of booze to lose your drinking virginity to – fortified fruit wine was chosen. Surprisingly, the smooth, sickly substance slid down the gullet well and a strange, fuzzy feeling took hold. The hours passed by in a warm, hazy, blur; bad dancing, accosted attempts on the female species (primarily leg rubbing on the dancefloor) and a lasting memory of a school mate, Jimmy, lying unconscious in an alleyway opposite the pub being cajoled and consoled by friends. His vomit spilling out all over him, cascading into the street and sliding down the drains with all the other sickening deitrus of life. The evening neared and Jimmy was askewly positioned in the revovery position and monitored before waiting for him to be carted off to hospital to be one more teenager to have his veins punctured by a drip and stomach vacuumed of alcohol. Welcome, one and all – this is England.
Not much has changed in the 20 following years. Take a gander at any strip of bars in England or for that matter anywhere in Europe where the colonies have bitten and you will see the depraved decadence of Angles abroad – pishing, spewing, copulating in the streets is the order of the day – and, it seems, without a modicum of shame.
However, wander across the German border into the eastern realms, into Poland, and their relationship with booze is slightly different; the decadence is a more complicated beast, a harder, refined more personal relationship eminating from communism. I experienced this first-hand whilst joining forty men on a stag weekend to Wisła, a quaint, skiing town which sits in the Beźkidy mountains south of Poland and the go to place for a quick jaunt on the snowboard.
It all started at rougly 2pm outside the new Ratosz, (city hall) or Fraktal, which is the local haunt for students and the go-to place for a quick vodka and a punch in the noggin. Only in Poland can you find a drunken, xenophobic hangout below the local civic building.
We all bundled into the coach, accustomary T shirt divied out and the first bottle of Gorski Zołakowy vodka, compulsorily chilled to a frosty -10 temperature and served to the salivating stag followers. Carnage doesn’t come close.
As the vodka flowed and the crowds’ inibitions diminished, the banter and foolishness followed swiftly. The Poles are renowned for their hospitality and if you are ever invited to a local’s abode, do not decline, they are superb hosts, and, will most definitely put on a welcoming spread. It’s known folklore that on Christmas Eve households set an extra place at the table just in case a wanderer comes a wandering on a brisky night, and by doing so are welcomed in with open arms to the 12 dishes of Polish cuisine. All rather scruptious bar the bottom-feeding-carp, of which was served entombed in jelly at my last Christmas dinner – as you can imagine, it went down like a pair of rotting, hairy testicles. I like carp, on occasions, just don’t ensconce it in gelatine. Great hosts none the less.
The coach pulled into the camp site around 4pm and the gents stumbled out half cut and ready for action.
The location: a field.
Accommodation: socialistic, rotting, wooden cabins.
Entertainment: vodka and 40 men.
You will find in poland that just a sparse field and a hut is enough to past the time. Give me a shelter. Give me a mountain. Give me a flazka (a bottle) and I will mount that son of a bitch. I don’t like walking, unless there’s a payoff that tops seeing the Andes, but I like that attitude.
So the stag and friends unloaded the crates of vodka which immediately began gushing into our Kalisziki (shot glasses) and we huddled around benches listening to Polish rock and kicking a ball in the mountain sun, literally, with the mountain face on our back.
Two hours later: six men are in the river, balls deep, throwing a ball about and wrestling one another with body parts flapping all over the place. Now, I like male company, but that’s stretching it.
5 hours later: I managed to locate a crispy, half-burnt sausage to munch and had to put myself to bed. The BBQ started 3 hours too late and having not eaten a wossit to soak up the vodka I passed out rather swiftly. The first to bed I believe. Without braggdocio, there’s been a few people who have out matched me on vodka, even Poles, but with little to eat, I know my limits. Unfortunately, this is not the case for Polish men.
As I emerged from my creaky, hardened 80’s bed around 10am having slept terribly, suffering a crooked back and having missed the Polish entertainment involving two mountain girls and little else; the party seemed to be still in full flow and the vodka was still being poured. “Dziwczynki, musze pić” (girls, you must drink) as a group of 15 or so men sat around a bench finishing off the horrid stuff. It was at this point that I realised that ‘The Angli’ have nothing on The Poles; young men drink stupidly, but, I believe, they mature and grow out of this moronic recklessness in England. The Polish, however, do not. The sight of these men so absolutely obliterated by vodka having drunk for most of the day and night was a little astonishing. As the vodka continued streaming into glasses and toasts were made to the stag and thrown down the hatchet; one guy was wretching liquid vomit, yet still continued drinking, a couple of guys were strewn over benches, some lain on the grass like gunned down war heroes. One man was asleep whilst standing, piwo (beer) in hand, an amazing feat by anyone’s standards, and as the morning wore on and the vodka kept trickling down throats the men’s cognitive skills took more and more of a battering. Breakfast and lunch passed with some scrumptious ‘schab kotleti, perogi and borazcki’ (Pork in breadcrumbs, gnocchi like dumplings and beetroot) and the men’s abilities became a little more alert, yet some were destined for permanent mental destruction. The vodka continued flowing like the perpertual stream from the mesmerising Wisła mountains.
As we boarded the coach at 3pm one man was so mentally eviscerated that he lost all walking ability and was stumbling and swaying like a pummeled boxer. I watched cowardly from the ringside as others tried to drag him onto the bus, unaware of his shame, idiocy and complete danger to himself. But he continued resisting, not ready to leave the fun behind, running from the bus, falling and swaying from side to side as others tried to catch him in a drunken race. TV is not this good.
24 hours later the bus pulled away from the Wisła mountains and the vodka continued to evaporate with song and jeer accompanying our journey home. Feeling a little bruised with sore heads and 80 bottles left behind in our wake, I certainly have some fond memories to be treasured for the future.
Welcome one and all – This is Poland!