Just a lovely calm boxing day today – filled with friendship and treats.
Our amazing host family surprised us with a fun day out. We had a lovely time ice skating and tobogganing together, at their local stadium.
All of us had several turns on the tube slide too. None of our family has had that much experience with ice or snow (living in Perth, Australia, where it never snows) but we gave everything a go and everyone had a great time. There was a promotion by E. Wedel with a free chocolate wheel game (so we all played and won some delicious chocolate) and even their zebra mascot was skating.
Wedel is perhaps Poland’s leading confectionary company and we enjoyed quite a few of their treats on this trip. I think their flavoured hot chocolates were our favourite and very memorable.
The History of Wedel
Wedel’s founder was German born Karol Wedel, who came to live and work in Warsaw in 1845. He was already a confectioner with professional experience. Eventually, he opened his own shop in 1851 on the corner of Miodowa and Kapitulna streets. It is said, in these early days, that locals ordering up to 500 cups of hot chocolate per day. That year, he also founded his sweets company.
Wedel chocolate soon became famous and they opened up more stores. Karol gave the successful company to his son as a wedding gift in 1871. Emil, married a Pole, Eugenia Bohm.
Soon a Warsaw hot spot, the original shop was frequented by important writers like Henryk Sienkiewicz and Bolesław Prus. Wedel’s products enjoyed so much popularity that copies started appearing. To put an end to these, Emil started to mark his merchandise with a one-of-a-kind sign: a facsimile of his signature. This now accompanied the company’s logo of a boy riding a zebra, holding bars of chocolate – designed in 1926 by the noted Italian poster artist Leonetto Cappiello.
Emil’s son, Jan was born in 1874, he gained a doctorate in food chemistry from Switzerland’s University of Fribourg. He was well-travelled; spoke, Polish,German, French and English and was an expert on chocolate. He could tell the origin of a specific cocoa bean. He took over the family business in 1923 and came to be known as the “Willy Wonka” of Poland.
Jan Wedel’s accomplishments went beyond just great chocolate towards culture and workplace reform. Today, many graphic designs made for Wedel are considered Polish classics and as such can be encountered in museums. (Zofia Stryjeńska’s design for a Wedel box of chocolate, made circa 1934, was auctioned for close to 6,000 euros). At his factory, he had a theatrical group and orchestra. He even created a special performance venue which could seat 500. His labourers could even use an in-house kindergarten, cafeteria, medical centre and get interest-free housing loans. Jan Wedel’s pioneering was said to be so important to the development of Poland’s industry that he was awarded the Order of Polonia Restituta.
When the Nazis came in WWII, they forced him to produce his chocolate for Germans only. During this time, Jan refused to collaborate with the Nazis despite his German heritage. He supported impoverished artists as well as the pro-independence underground. After the Germans shut down education institutions, he organised underground educational gatherings at the factory. Even after the war, he was expelled from Poland. His company in ruins.
Jan Wedel never got his factory back and passed away in 1960. His father’s signature was used in the rebranded company throughout the existence of the communist regime and is still used today. The brand was bought after the war by a variety of famous companies including more recently Cadbury, Kraft and Lotte. Wedel products are now sold all over the world. The Polish still enjoy Wedel chocolate and shop visits are often reserved for special occasions…
All in all, there’s many great chocolates in Poland, but there’s only one Wedel.Napoleon Czerwiński (Wedel’s 1930’s factory Architect)
The National Stadium, Warsaw
The stadium itself is an impressive structure. We admired a model of it in the foyer and read about it’s construction.
The PGE Narodowy or National Stadium (Polish: Stadion Narodowy) is a retractable roof football stadium … It is used mostly for football matches and it is the home stadium of Poland national football team.Wiki
The stadium has a seating capacity of 58,580 which makes it the largest association football arena in Poland. Its construction started in 2008 and finished in November 2011. It is located on the site of the former 10th-Anniversary Stadium, on Aleja Zieleniecka in Praga Południe district, near the city center. The stadium has a retractable PVC roof which unfolds from a nest on a spire suspended above the centre of the pitch. The retractable roof is inspired by the cable-supported unfolding system of Commerzbank-Arena in Frankfurt, Germany, and is similar to the newly renovated roof of BC Place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada… It is a multipurpose venue able to host sporting events, concerts, cultural events, and conferences.
Later we relaxed at home, then Sebastian’s extended family came over and we had some great conversations about Sweden and IKEA.
We planned to head out early for a new big adventure tomorrow, in honour of Sebastian’s birthday so we were all dreaming of the morrow, as we headed to slumber …