Take a sip of lager. Bright clear light gold color. Mild, toasty aromas and flavors of banana nut muffin, corn nibblets, and white grapes with a supple, crisp, effervescent, dryish light-to-medium body and a tingling, compelling, breezy pepper, nuts, and lettuce greens finish. A very nicely balanced and super sessionable pilsner. And now when you have already tasted Polish “gold”, I am taking you onto a trip in our minds to Żywiec, the capital of Polish beer which is also…
… paradise for skiers.
It`s November, winter is coming and the ski season will be open soon in Polish mountains. Żywiec is a winter sport city in southern Poland, situated southwest of Kraków, the early capital of Poland and very near to Bielsko-Biała, one of the most important cities of the Beskids Euro-region and the main city of the Bielsko Industrial Region. The most famous Polish beer Żywiec is made there. The city is in the Beskids and this part of the second highest range in Poland is named after the city Żywiec Beskid (1725m). As mentioned above, it`s a paradise for skiers and what`s more important local nature is almost unspoilt. There is also a big lake in the town.
One of several attractions is the Żywiec Landscape Park which was established in 1986. It covers a relatively large area. The park mainly includes the Group of Wielka Racza and the towering mountain range comprising the massif of Pilsko with the peaks of Lipowska and Romanka. The natural features, scenic landscapes with picturesque mountain ridges and a network of trails and mountain lodges make this area one of the most attractive parts of the country.
But first of all …
… Żywiec is the capital of Polish beer
Upon the First Partition of Poland in 1772, Żywiec became part of the Austrian Kingdom of Galicia. In 1810 it was purchased by Prince Albert of Saxony, son of King Augustus III of Poland and again ruled with the neighbouring Silesian Duchy of Teschen. When he died in 1822, his estates fell to Archduke Charles from the Austrian House of Habsburg-Lorraine.
Żywiec was founded by Archduke Albrecht Frederick Habsburg in the mid 19th century. The plant was built from scratch in the village of Żywiec. The brewery was built in the very middle of the Żywiec Valley mainly on account of free access to clear mountain water with its source in the Skrzyczne mountains. The year 1856, which is the company’s registration date, is regarded as the beginning of the brewery’s activities. This is when the first hectolitres of excellent beer were brewed and successfully sold.
Żywiec Brewery started to export its products in 1913 when the brewery extended its distribution channels to other towns of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, including Budapest, Ostrava and Cieszyn. Moreover, it is worth mentioning that Żywiec beer accompanied the Poles all over the world to such countries as France and Great Britain, along with subsequent immigration waves. Żywiec Beer has become a symbol of Polishness for many Poles and members of Polish diasporas throughout the world.
In the 1990s, the brewery was thoroughly modernized and is currently considered to be one of the most modern breweries in the world. Żywiec beer is still brewed by means of traditional methods using all-natural ingredients and mountain spring water. Today, it`s the best selling Polish brand in the premium segment. Żywiec beer also matches well with the local specialities of the Beskids cuisine, like oscypek, a smoked cheese made of salted sheep milk exclusively in the Tatra Mountains region of Poland. It`s absolutely divine taste.
In the past Żywiec belonged to the Duchy of Oświęcim, known as Auschwitz during WWII
Żywiec was first mentioned in a written document in 1308 as a seat of a Catholic parish. It was originally located in the place later known as Stary Żywiec (“Old Żywiec”). It belonged then to the Duchy of Teschen, and after 1315 to the Duchy of Oświęcim, much later known as Auschwitz, which in 1327 became a fief of the Kingdom of Bohemia. The town was a focal point for the development of thus far sparsely populated Żywiec Basin. The area of Old Żywiec was prone to flooding so the town was moved to the current spot in 1448. In 1457 the Duchy of Oświęcim was purchased to the Polish Crown. In 1624 it was acquired by Constance of Austria, queen consort of the Polish king Sigismund III Vasa. During the Deluge, Żywiec was plundered and destroyed by Swedish troops in 1656. From 1672 it was a possession of the Polish chancellor Jan Wielopolski, nobleman, aristocrat, politician and diplomat.
The landscape park established initially in the 17th century
The Old Castle is believed to have been built in the mid-14th century however it was first mentioned in 1467, so hundred years later as destroyed by an army, under king of Poland Casimir IV Jagiellon’s command against the House of Komorowski, with the Korczak Coat of Arms, recorded by Jan Długosz, best known for his “Annales seu cronici incliti regni Poloniae” (Annals or Chronicles of the famous Kingdom of Poland), covering events in southeastern Europe, but also in Western Europe, from 965 to 1480, the year he died
Casimir IV Jagiellon was one of the most active Polish rulers, under whom Poland, by defeating the Teutonic Knights in the Thirteen Years’ War recovered Pomerania, and the Jagiellonian dynasty became one of the leading royal houses in Europe. He was a strong opponent of aristocracy, and helped to strengthen the importance of Parliament and the Senate.
The castle has undergone several restorations and boasts a number of styles of architecture and decoration, including Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque. Żywiec’s Old Castle is encompassed by a 260,000 square metre landscape park, which was established initially in the 17th century.
Since 2005, the Old Castle in Żywiec hosts the City Museum in Żywiec. Its permanent exhibition includes an ethnographical exhibition – which completes the Wooden Architecture Trail in the Silesian Voivodeship in Poland.
14th century`s church
The Church of the Holy Cross was built towards the end of the 14th century, and expanded twice, once in 1679 and again in 1690. In the 18th century, a Baroque church was later constructed on the site and still stands today. A second noteworthy church, the Cathedral of the Virgin Mary’s Birth, was constructed and expanded during the first half of the 15th century, before being renovated in Baroque fashion after a fire in 1711.
Having belonged once to the Duchy of Oświęcim, much later known as Auschwitz Żywiec casted its lot with the rest of Poland during WWII
Following the 1939 Invasion of Poland, Żywiec was occupied by Nazi Germany. The last Habsburg owner Archduke Karl Albrecht of Austria refused to sign the German Volksliste, whereafter he was ousted and arrested.
Between September and December 1940, the Nazi authorities deported 17,413–20,000 Polish inhabitants from around Żywiec county in the so-called Action Saybusch conducted by Wehrmacht and Gestapo. The expelled Poles were taken to the General Government, a different region within Poland under German military occupation. The incident formed part of the Nazis’ efforts, led by Reich Minister Alfred Rosenberg and his deputy Alfred Meyer, to develop the Occupied Eastern Territories for settlement by German migrants.
Getting back to Polish “gold”, Żywiec beer has a unique front label with the Dancing Couple. The logo includes all of the most important historic symbols of the brewery. The Kraków dancing couple, known as Krakowiacy (being a plot of Polish famous Opera “A Supposed Miracle or Cracovians and Highlanders” first staged in 1794) holds a coat of arms adorned with the crown. There are three Spruce trees and the year 1856 on the coat of arms. The name Żywiec is placed on the red sash with the golden trimming in the lower part of the mark. The Żywiec logo is the most famous mark or a brand of beer in Poland and the trademark of the entire brewery.
If you decide to spend winter holiday in my country, don`t bypass Żywiec. It`s really worth visiting.
See you there!
By Agata Szostkowska
Photos: Joanna Rumińska
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