Polish vodka has been drunk by kings and peasants, used as a medicine, and during World War II even served to bribe the occupying Nazi German forces. Now a museum is opening in Warsaw devoted solely to the 500-year history of the Polish national alcoholic beverage.
Housed in a 19th-century vodka factory that has been abandoned for decades, the museum is located in the heart of the former working-class Praga neighborhood that is currently being regenerated.
"Our museum is a tribute to the history of vodka production in Poland, a history spanning more than 500 years," Andrzej Szumowski, president of the Polish Vodka Association, told reporters on Wednesday.
Since Poland entered the European Union in 2004, "Polish Vodka" strictly applies to spirits that are produced in the country according to traditional recipes using local potatoes or grains.
"Poland is the cradle of vodka," Szumowski said, adding that the country's early distillation method was imported from Western Europe. "It's only 100 years later that vodka appeared in Russia," he said, wading into the eternal debate of which of the two neighbors can claim ownership of the famous spirit.
The museum, which also offers vodka tasting, features five rooms whose floors are made out of wooden staves from old vodka barrels, and which show how the alcohol was made and drunk across the ages.
fm/ks (AFP, NYtimes)
The Polish capital is a place of contrasts. Through the ages kings, conquerors and dictators have all left their mark on Warsaw, but so too have freedom fighters and artists.