Gołdap a small, Cittaslow spa town famous for its pump rooms, climate, mud spa and with a complex of brine graduation towers too.

A beautiful town situated off the beaten path, in the past, it was located between the historic regions of Sambia and Natangia, Baltic tribal regions-like the American Indians had !, later on between eastern Germanic Prussia and Baltic Lithuania. Nowadays, Gołdap is situated between Masuria and Suwalszczyzna provinces and also on the current Polish-Russian border. For ages it has been inhabited by Prussians [Baltic], Prussians (German), Polish and Lithuanian. Gołdap has always been some kind of a border region so the taste in local food has, let’s say an ‘international flavour’. Polish ‘Kartacze’, in German-Keilchen, and Lithuanian – cepeliny is the most well-known dish.

Let’s start with the question-What is ‘kartacz’? Kartacz is a dish, oval shaped, a circular cross-sectional shape, which is usually 10 cm long. It is made from raw potatoes mixed with boiled potatoes. The filling of kartacz is pork very often mixed with beef, onion, marjoram and garlic. It is usually served with onion and bacon greaves. It provides you with a lot of calories but also with a lot of pleasure.

A long-standing tradition is the Regional Border Festival ‘Kartaczewo’ (Festiwal Pogranicza Kartaczewo) and it is a great opportunity to taste the best versions of kartacz from the region. The festival attracts not only Polish people but also people from all over the world. Professional cooks as well as local housewives show their cooking skills in the art of making kartacz. There are probably as many different versions of kartacz as there are cooks. During the festival ‘Kartaczewo’ over 10,000 kartaczes are eaten. Among the most praised and award-winning bars and restaurants listed are: ‘U Jędrusia na Skarpie’ bar, ‘Matrioszka Restaurant‘ from Gołdap, ‘Pod Piękną Górą‘ roadhouse and ‘Młyn’ bar in Banie Mazurskie. The ‘Młyn‘ bar in Banie Mazurskie is the only one that offers about 3000 kinds of kartacze and it has never ever been known that those kartaczes haven’t found a consumer yet.

The highlight of the festival is the ‘World kartacz Eating Championships’ (‘Mistrzostwa Świata w jedzeniu kartaczy’) which consists of three different categories: children, women and men. Last year you had to eat 2 kartaczes in 57 seconds, in order to qualify for the World’s men’s Champion’s category, and only 1 kartacz in 17 seconds to become the World Champion in the women’s category.

At the festival you can see various stalls with regional dishes as well as local handicrafts. Although, kartacze is the most popular dish in Gołdap, other dishes such as venison and game meats are worth tasting too. You should try the local honey like Tatarski or Mazury Garbate as mentioned earlier honey comes from  areas around the town which are mainly environmentally protected and some of the most pristine in Europe .

If you exceed your daily limit of calories you can use various local attractions to help reduce them. In the Spa area there are Masurian  brine graduation towers and in the building called ‘Zdrój’ there are mini brine graduation towers, a salt cave and a pump room. Zdrojowy Park is located by a lake and offers facilities including kinesio-therapy, walking and cycle paths, a public beach and pier.

In the town centre there is a ‘Kinezyterapeutyczny Park‘ which offers kinesio-therapy. The park attracts local inhabitants and tourist with its green surroundings and illuminated colourful fountains  decorated with pretty little architectural elements. It’s a place where the locals come and chat in the evenings.

The Regional Border Festival Kartaczewo (Regionalny Festiwal Pogranicza Kartaczewo) traditionally takes place on the first Sunday of August. So, See you in Gołdap then!

Stanisław Harajda

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