Poland is a country that’s been on our travel radar for quite a while, although until May this year we unfortunately hadn’t yet managed to take a trip there. When searching for places to go for an inexpensive couple of days away, we found Szczecin almost by accident. What we didn’t expect was to enjoy one of the most delicious trips of our lives. Feasting on the food in Szczecin for four days was a nonstop pleasure which we definitely plan to repeat.
Szczecin is a small city in the north west of Poland that’s incredibly close to the border with Germany, pronounced ‘Stetsch-een’, or ‘Schtettin’ in German. With Poland’s popularity rising (particularly Wroclaw and Gdansk), Szczecin is perhaps not the first choice you’d make when it comes to seeing the country for the first time. However, we would definitely recommend it; it’s around six hours from Hamburg (including a 45 minute change in Berlin) by the always excellent Flixbus, and it’s bargainously cheap to get to as well. We paid around €80 for our return trip, and that was at fairly short notice, too.
Visiting Poland on a budget
If you’re travelling to this part of Poland from Germany’s capital, the Berlin to Szczecin bus journey takes around two and a quarter hours. Better still, if you want to take a trip to Poland at the very last minute, with Flixbus you can book a ticket from Berlin to Szczecin on the very day you want to go for under 15 euros one way.
We make no secret of our love for great food – I mean, why should we? – and a crucial part of any travel experience for us, wherever we are, has always been to try traditional local or national food and drink. We very much believe that delving in and doing as the natives do, so to speak, is an ideal way to absorb oneself in a culture. The culinary part of our first Polish adventure fell into two distinct camps; one very traditional and one, shall we say, not so much. In our experience though, no matter what we tried, the food in Szczecin was tremendous.
Beginning with the traditional, we were aware of course of pierogi; traditional Polish dumplings, available with a massive variety of fillings. Our first experience of these was at Pierogarnia Kaszubska Centrum in the centre of Szczecin. We opted for six each, I chose smoked ham and potato from the myriad of fillings available and Amy opted for haddock and bacon. The latter, perhaps surprisingly, was the most subtle choice, the haddock and bacon offering a momentary hint of smokiness which perfectly accompanied the flavourful fish.
Traditional pierogi: potato and smoked ham on the left and haddock and bacon on the right.
Later in the trip, we decided to partake of lunch in Szczecin’s old town before venturing into the Crooked Forest for the afternoon. We ate at Bachus (twice, because it was so good). The first time we went we ordered garlic prawns and bread to share, but on our second visit we properly delved in to Polish fare. One of our choices was żurek, a traditional Polish hot and sour soup, containing hard boiled eggs and Polish sausage. We ordered it on something of a whim, but it was utterly divine. The other was a mash of spinach and blue cheese, served with crisp, aromatic garlic and rosemary bread. We seldom choose drinks to complement our food choices, but in this case we made an exception; I went for a Żywiec (a Polish beer), and Amy had a favourite we’d discovered some years before in the UK; Żubrówka (bison grass vodka) and apple juice.
Food in Szczecin of the less traditional variety
On to the less ‘typical’ Polish food now. On the first night in the town, after having a wander around (and a refreshing beverage or two), we went in search of some late night food. This is often a risky undertaking; late night offerings in most places can be a minefield of questionable taste and quality. Happily, not so here. We’d spotted a burger place, Krowa na Deptaku, just across from the bar we had been sitting in, and decided to give it a go.
Amy opted for beef, served with blue cheese and a delicate honey mustard sauce that was an excellent complement to the intensity of the cheese. I chose a buttermilk chicken breast, served with bacon with a rich barbecue sauce. Both were beautiful; filling, made with decent ingredients and packed with mouthwatering flavours. One tip – make sure you have several napkins as even the neatest eaters will make the most unholy mess here! Trust us though, it’s totally worth it.
We honestly weren’t expecting to find some of the best pizza either of us has ever eaten when we visited Poland, but my God, did we ever. At mąka.bar on Księcia Bogusława and just opposite Krowa na Deptaku, we were treated to exactly this; a thin, immaculately cooked base topped with lightly smoked salmon, garlic, juicy capers and smooth, creamy mascarpone cheese.
Another delicious surprise we found was Bajgle Króla Jana, a bagel place in the old town we had heard about before travelling. The salt beef this place serves up was referred to on TripAdvisor by one reviewer as “the best they’d had outside Brooklyn”, and as I have something of a weakness for salt beef, Bajgle Króla Jana was on our must do list when we arrived. They bake the bagels themselves fresh onsite daily, and it shows; they’re crisp on the outside and squidgy on the inside, and if you choose one of the flavoured options (sesame, rosemary and garlic, onion or simply ‘everything’) then the taste is complemented rather than dominated. A crucial consideration though, should you pick a more subtle filling.
On our first visit, I selected the Reuben bagel with double pastrami, sauerkraut, cheese and a slightly spicy Russian sauce. Amy opted for the more traditional ‘New York’ one filled with smoked salmon, cream cheese, capers, rocket and lemon juice, with a latte macchiato each (our usual go-to when ordering a coffee). It impressed us so much that we ended up going back twice and sampling more of their extensive menu. Obviously I had to sample another (lighter) salt beef option, the Król Jan, and Amy ordered the Mistral, which comes packed with roast pork loin, cheese, aioli dressing, dill pickles and spiced pear chutney.
The Szczecin food scene includes (the best) doughnuts
For those of you who have a sweet tooth, Szczecin is home to some of the tastiest doughnuts either of us has ever eaten – they’re called pączki and are a popular snack among locals. There are little huts all over the city that make them fresh in a handful of deliciously decadent flavours. We tried a salted caramel one, and it was served to us piping hot – remember those doughnuts you get from the seaside? Well, these were the same – slightly crispy with hot, fluffy dough underneath. Unlike the five for a pound seaside doughnuts though, the dough here is encrusted with sweet, sticky icing and envelops a sweet, molten centre which bursts in your mouth as you take a bite.
In the interests of full disclosure, our trips aren’t ever really centered around food (this particular trip was no exception) however, we didn’t eat one single bit of food in Szczecin that was anything less than sublime. Naturally then, we felt the culinary side of this particular trip simply had to be documented.
We also very much appreciated the added bonus that the euro to zloty exchange rate was certainly in our favour. At the time of writing, one euro is worth just over 4 Polish zloty. Happily, this allowed us the opportunity to enjoy the vast range of gorgeous food in Szczecin without worrying about cash – food we wouldn’t necessarily have been able to enjoy in Germany.
If you’re a food lover and visiting Poland on a budget, we can’t recommend a short break to Szczecin enough. Your taste buds and bank balance will be eternally grateful.
All images © Two Wild Wanderers