The Vodka Project, 2008-11

Blog 

It is what it is. A blog about vodka, chronicles of journeys through Poland over a period of years. It began with the idea of a co-operation with writer and cultural critic Iwona Kurz, visiting the back corners of cities and towns across the land, in search of the perfect vodka moment – a view of the country through the bottom of a vodka glass. That’s where it began. But I took over the writing chores as Iwona had too many other projects under her wing, as Director of Film and Visual Culture, Institute of Polish Culture, Warsaw. Still, she pointed the way.

So, by way of an introduction…

Let’s begin at the beginning. One night in a bar in central Warsaw, I talked to an old guy who told me that I was wasting my time visiting Warsaw. It’s finished, he said, it’s gone to hell. He owned property in Acton in London, which he rented out for a paltry sum. He said London was gone to hell too,  full of foreigners. Always been the way, I said. We drank vodka together. He told me he was divorced and had heart problems. He asked me where else I had been in Poland. Had I been to Kraków and Zakopane? No, I haven’t, I said (which was true at this point). Don’t bother, he said, don’t bother going anywhere in Poland, it’s finished, the Communists sucked the life out of us. He told me to go to Prague. There, he said, there you can believe in fairytales, it is still a magical city. Some people say Budapest, he said, but then insisted Prague was the place – of any place – to visit in Eastern Europe. But you’re here in Warsaw, things could be worse, he said, you could be back in London! If you need a place in Acton let me know, though it’s a Godforsaken place. As I had not visited Kraków or Zakopane, he asked me where the hell had I actually been to in Poland?

Oh, yes, I replied, for example, Sejny, Białystok, Supraśl, Resko…

He looked at me like I was mad. Why? he said, with a tone of voice that suggested the question really was: What is wrong with you? I said the first thing that came into my head. I’m visiting vodka factories. He nodded thoughtfully.  Ah, I understand, he said, This is important…

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