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    News / Foamy Stories

    Foamy Stories
    The beer trivia hunter

    A true Silesian through and through, woman of many talents, colorful and exceptional personality, long-time tour guide at Tyskie Browary Książęce. She shared with us some stories of the coincidences in her life, ideas that come to her from outer space, and a few of the dozens of anecdotes that entertain visitors to the Tyskie brewery.

    Published 02.10.2023

    Photo credit: Marek Ogień

    Beginnings at the brewery in Tychy

    How did I end up at TBK? They were looking for a guide who would conduct tours in German. I was convinced that I knew German, but when I received a list of 300 brewing- related words, I was a bit overwhelmed. I had to learn new vocabulary - before that, I had never needed German translations for words like "wort”.

    About tours around Silesia

    How did the idea of conducting tours in Silesian dialect come about? We came up with it ourselves. At the beginning, it was pretty epic; we played musical instruments and had our own Tyskie anthem.

    Our Silesian Tyskie beer is yummy
    People enjoy it worldwide like honey
    Only fools say no to this brew
    So you, my friend, drink up too
    Once you've finished the beer
    You'll live better, have no fear
    Even when life is tough
    Tyskie cheers you up enough

    We created this project several years ago. First of all, we had to prepare clear Silesian dialect translations of the texts. However, it wasn't just a direct translation; we adapted the text we use for tours in Polish into the Silesian dialect. In the end, it was reviewed for accuracy by the historian Tomasz Wrona.

    The texts were translated by four „Silesian" guides, who encountered some surprising challenges. They told me, "Since you are a technologist, you should translate the modern terms." Meanwhile, they stuck to the phrases they were familiar with. What did we find out? Even though we are all from the same region, with Ewa from Piaski, Dorota from Tychy, me from Hajduki (today's Chorzów-Batory), and Michał from Mysłowice, we argued over single words. That is exactly why there is no uniform Silesian dialect - there are significant differences within it. Take a word like ‘rogolka’. It is used here (Tychy), but where I am from, we say ‘kwyrlok’. I once had the pleasure of giving a tour around the brewery to Janusz Gajos and his wife. After the tour, I mentioned the same thing, and Mr. Gajos' wife said, "In Wrocław, we call it 'kwirlejka'". It turned out that even a simple item like a whisk for stirring sour milk has many names in different regions - in Krakow, for example, it is called ‘kołatka’.

    I also struggled with ‘tankofermentors’ which are fermentation tanks - how to translate that name? So, I created a word, and it later made it into the "Competition for the Most Beautiful Silesian Word" almanac. A fermentation tank is a large metal vessel, which we call ‘putnia’ in the Silesian dialect. And since it is used for the purpose of fermentation, which for us is ‘gerowanie’, it became ‘putnia gerowa’. My boss at the time suggested that it was so cool that we should add a description and submit it to the competition. We sent in our entry, and ‘putnia gerowa’ made it into the almanac. It did not win, but it is there – along with a drawing of fermentation tanks.

    I also give tours in German. I do know the language, I passed exams at the Goethe Institute, and I attended a course in Hamburg, so I am able to separate the Silesian dialect from Germanisms. Wherever possible, I simply use native words to replace them. Unfortunately, sometimes it is not possible; for example, ‘lajtung’, which means cable, is a typical Germanism. Moreover, if you look closely, there are plenty of Germanisms in the Polish language. ‘Burmistrz’ (mayor), ‘ratusz’ (town hall), ‘ślusarz’ (locksmith) – all of these come from the German language. Language is fluid. Nowadays, we use many Americanisms, and my generation introduced Russian words into our speech. Language is alive, contrary to Latin.

    The thing about the Silesian dialect is that certain ideas can be expressed directly, which may not always be appropriate in Polish.

    Tours around Silesia often attract people from outside the region, who listen to the Silesian dialect with respect and great interest. Meanwhile, visiting Silesians want to prove that they are better than me. Those from outside of Silesia are usually delighted, and when I occasionally suggest that I will speak partially in Polish, they strongly object.

    During the tours, there is one recurring situation I find quite amusing. When we are in the brewhouse, and I encourage the visitors to pay attention to some unique tiles, but since they do not understand the sentence in the Silesian dialect, they just look and look... And I finally switch to Polish and say, "Ladies and gentlemen, please have a look at these columns with tiles at the top", they often burst into wild laughter.

    Visitors often have their own theories. It is truly incredible! It might not be a romantic place, since these tanks are cold, but it is definitely hygienic. There are 1,000 checks throughout the entire beer brewing process, which is quite amazing! Yest visitors will still say that beer from a barrel was something special. Not true! Brewers say that after emptying the barrels, they smelled bad! They had to be cleaned and sealed - yet many guests talk about how beer from a barrel used to be the best.

    For us, the guides in Tychy, the tourist season is officially open when someone from the visitors asks if we are still adding bile to the beer. I have no idea where this even came from. It is a myth that originated during times when meat was rationed.

    Moreover, it is a common occurrence that homebrewers come for a visit to test my knowledge.

    About a group that left a lasting impression on me

    I remember one specific event with a group of seniors from Krakow – retired professors, lawyers, and doctors. I said to them, "If anyone needs to go to 'haźla,' it is down there and to the left," and one of the guests asked me, "What is 'haźla'?" I replied, "Oh, you poor ‘gorole’ (non-Silesians)."

    The group was thrilled with the tour, and I kept addressing them as "my gorole". When we became more friendly, one of them asked me, "Could you please tell me what 'gorol' actually means?" I replied, "Well, folks, in one word, in one sentence, let's say, a resident of Madagascar is also a 'gorol'." At that moment, they burst into laughter, even though what I said was not particularly funny. When they finally stopped laughing, I asked, "Why were you laughing so much?" The one who had asked me said, "This lady who is going to pay for this tour has an uncle in Madagascar, and he is a monk there." At that moment, I thought if I played the lottery as well as I make gaffes, it would be fantastic!

    The group from Krakow enjoyed the tour so much that their leader (and it was a group exploring Poland without the use of travel agencies) asked me to create a tour in the Silesian dialect to take them to places not covered by any travel agency. So, I organized three different tours for them, including a theater performance in Orzesze, all in the Silesian dialect.

    The wow factor of beer

    At first, I felt quite lost at TBK. If I were to give myself a logo, I would have a neon sign above my head saying ‘why?’. And there are a lot of ‘whys’ when it comes to beer and its history." I got hooked! It all started when I encountered a problem translating ‘diatomaceous earth’, used in the filtration process. I wondered how people came up with that specific name? I started to trace it back and discovered that people at the very beginning struggled to achieve high temperatures to heat something up. They created clay balls, heated them in a fire, and then threw them into the wort. Some of the balls would break apart, and where a ball broke, the beer was better filtered. And from there, it just took off.

    Once, I gave a tour to a representative of Pilsner Urquell. I asked him why copper is used for brewing and distilling, and he replied with a question, "What did our grandmothers use to make jams? Well, copper pots!" Copper speeds up caramelization, which means extracting sugar from the solution. I followed the trail of copper, and to this day, the bottom of the mash tun is made of copper. Copper is also essential for the body, e.g., for the proper functioning of the eye's retina. So, I searched and dug, and finally, I discovered that every fourth medieval prescription contained beer.

    I started organizing all the information, ultimately creating my collection of anecdotes that spice up the tours. For example, in 1955, Americans gathered all their canned food (including beer) and subjected it to nuclear radiation to see what would survive a potential nuclear attack. It turned out that only the beer did not change its properties!

    All that gives beer a true wow factor. “We did not know that. That is so cool!” – that is the best thing I could ever hear from visitors.

    I also created a separate section for saints responsible for beer. Pope Clement VIII, who was the papal nuncio in Krakow, fell in love with beer. When he was already sitting on the papal throne, he fell seriously ill and was nearly dying. When asked what his Holiness desired, he replied, "Beer from Poland." Those gathered around him thought he was referring to some St. Beer and began to pray, "Holy Beer from Poland, heal our Pope." When he heard this, he laughed so hard that the ulcer he was suffering from burst, and the Pope recovered.

    The beer trivia hunter

    In ancient Egypt, brewers were exempt from military service but had to treat people. The reason was twofold. Firstly, if they killed a brewer, who would then brew the beer? And secondly, it indicated that beer had medicinal properties.

    I do not really collect beer mugs, but I have a few interesting ones. Once, I managed to buy a metal one with a glass bottom. I was curious why the bottom of this mug was made of glass. I started digging, and I found out that in England, you can buy mugs with a shilling embedded in the bottom as a souvenir. Nobody really knows why it is done that way. I uncovered information that when top-fermented beer was brewed, it was cloudy. There was no shortage of recruiters who were gathering people for the army or for work on a ship for many years. They did it in a very cunning way, taking advantage of the fact that people could not read or write. The only sign of signing a contract, this ‘cyrograph’, was accepting a beer mug from an unknown person. Recruiters would look for those who wanted a drink and offered them beer. And they would drop a shilling into the bottom. Someone would drink the cloudy beer, not seeing the bottom, and would drink the beer with the shilling, thus signing the contract. That is how they started making mugs with a glass bottom, so they could lift it and, when a stranger offered them a drink, check if there was a shilling there.

    What was the purpose of putting lids on beer mugs or pots? This was a decree from the Pope after the plague related to the fact that fleas, which inhabited rats, transmitted the plague. Later, bells or whistles appeared on beer mugs. The history of beer has completely captivated me. I am in love with this place, and it is wonderful that I get to work here.

    About the people of Tyskie Browary Książęce and respect for the Duke

    People who work in breweries often come from the third or fourth generation of families involved in brewing. You can find traces of their ancestors' profession in their surnames. Names like Chmiel (meaning "hops" in Polish), Chmielarz (hops worker), Piwowar (brewer), Piwowarczyk (brewery worker) are quite significant in this context.

    I have great respect for the Hochbergs, especially Jan Henryk XI, who purchased the brewery in 1861. One could say he had quite a bit of fun with it. What is remarkable is that it was electrified just 11 years after Edison invented the light bulb, which was still in the 19th century.

    When Duke Hochberg visited the brewery, it is said that each of his employees received one zloty. I checked the value of zloty from that time: with 2 zlotys, you could buy a pair of shoes, so after the visit, everyone had enough for one shoe. I also remember that at the bus stop near the flower market, where I often used to commute from, I would hear water pouring behind my back. This was 40 years ago. I wondered what was that all about. Later, when I entered the brewing industry, I learned that it was related to the first cooling system and icing.

    Today, there are fermentation tanks in that place. I witnessed with my own eyes how more tanks arrived, and with them, more order and quality. I can see everywhere what a beautiful, well-maintained facility we have here. I am a perfectionist, and I was annoyed by the two asphalt streets. When Asahi took over, the first thing that happened was the reconstruction of both of those streets. The cobblestone returned, and it was done with great care and respect for the principles of art. The return to that atmosphere really impressed me.

    We have a lot of interesting stories here. Often, when I guide someone around, they share their own memories and tales. Once, when I was leading a group, we were passing by the malt house, and one gentleman said, "That is where my great-grandfather Anderko worked; he was a nurse."

    About the friendship between the Duke and the brewer

    The Duke was friends with Julius Müller, who was the head brewer here and introduced lager to the brewery in Tychy. I have traced his biography. When he turned 16, his parents told him he was now an adult and needed to find work. In some German regions, there is a tradition called "wanderschaft" – instead of going to vocational school, apprentices go on a journey to learn from a master craftsman. The apprentice wears a "tracht," a specific outfit, which signals to people along the way that they are on a learning journey. People are obligated to provide support to such a young person in the form of lodging and food. Müller, who came from Grodków in Opole, had such a "wanderschaft." I have followed his route, and he traveled to truly distant places. He passed through Wrocław, Mohylew, and probably Vienna. There, he worked with a brewer who developed bottom fermentation, and Müller apprenticed under him. Then, while in Hamburg, he saw an advertisement that a brewer was needed in Tychy. He initially came here as a brewer and later became the director. For 30 years, the Duke treated him as a friend and visited him regularly. The Duke and the brewer came from two different worlds, but they really were friends.

    About Silesian costumes

    We ordered our first Silesian costumes from a seamstress specializing in those kinds of costumes. It was Dorota Celińska, Ewa Wawrzyczek, Michał Kopeć, and myself who got them. Dorota and I were the ones who got really enthusiastic about it, and later, Ewa joined in – so much so that we wanted to have truly authentic costumes. We started looking, and I found costumes that belonged to my grandmother.

    I came across a man who revived the tradition of going on a pilgrimage to Anaberg (St. Anne’s Mountain) and of wearing Silesian costumes for the Corpus Christi procession. Initially, only three people were involved, but today there are hundreds. He is also a tailor, and his wife, son, and mother-in-law, create these costumes in a small room. I remember a little 4-year-old boy who, upon greeting us, asked, "What kind of costume would you like? Men's, women's, or for a child?" Quite the manager! I myself bought many costumes from Mr. Grzegorz Stachlak, and then it just took off, and today people come to me to get their own.

    I often invite people to cultural centers where I talk about Silesian costumes. I launched a project called "Silesian Costume as the Ancient Facebook" because by looking at someone's clothing, you can tell where they come from. You can make distinctions even just by examining the sleeve, whether it is puffed or flat. You can assess a woman's age based on the color of her "jakli" (a woman's jacket), and the width of her apron might indicate her socioeconomic status, whether she is rich or poor, whether there are patterns or not... I started to recognize those things and rediscovered what had always been in my DNA as I am the seventh generation of Silesians.

    From time to time, I like to have some fun. I put on a Silesian costume, hop on a bus, and go to Katowice – and I observe how people react. They are always fascinated and ask what kind of outfit it is and what it signifies.

    About competitions and a video project

    A few years ago, I did something a bit crazy. I got rid of the old PRL-era wall unit from my home. I replaced it with a complete set of art deco kitchen furniture from the 1930s, a so- called ‘bifyj’, which is a traditional Silesian buffet. I restored it myself. So in the room where people typically have normal furniture, I have a completely different interior design. In that room, there were always portraits of loved ones - my grandmother, grandfather, mother, and her sister - when they were little. Silesian culture has always been visible at my place, but now it is better highlighted.

    Michał Kopeć, a colleague with whom I give tours in the Silesian dialect, suggested that this ‘bifyj’ could become the backdrop for videos. He said, "Listen, you speak Silesian the best out of all of us, you use this language every day. Do something with it!" And that is how it all started. So far, we have made over 300 videos together with Michał. I decided to find successful people who are Silesian and speak the language. It wasn not easy at all. I reached out to actors and various creators, but either they were shy about speaking Silesian or it turned out they no longer could. What was even sadder is that the person who spoke ‘perfect’ Silesian, Darek Niebudek, is not even a Silesian; he is from... Kielce! Reaching out to him was a moment that I remember very fondly – it is an offshoot of my "People with Passion" channel.

    The second spin-off of my "Bifyj" project is "Przy żeleźnioku" (By the Iron Stove), where I tell stories, including those passed down by my ancestors. The ‘żeleźniok’ is an iron stove for heating rooms, and since I live in an apartment, obviously, I did not have one. But I bought one specifically for these recordings. Unfortunately, when the courier delivered it to me, the elevator broke down, and he had to carry it up to the fifth floor. The stove was the setting for several films about what I heard as a child, as a similar on stood at my grandmother's house. Interestingly, it was rented out at that time, and I used that motif to write a fairy tale.

    I participate in various competitions related to Silesia. There was a competition for a fairy tale in Silesian, organized by the former Regional Institute of Culture. I found myself among the winners, but it turned out that I had not read the rules thoroughly enough. It was possible to simply translate a story into Silesian – and that is what most people did. However, I wrote my own fairy tale, which was an echo of my childhood. As a child, I was convinced that the iron stove somehow had a life of its own. In reality, our two families borrowed it from each other; we were very poor. And I, as a child, believed that it had legs and could move by itself. I turned this into a fairy tale, weaving in other stories from my ancestors as well.

    About making the world a better place

    During the COVID-19 pandemic, I was on a mission. I looked at sad people and decided to change the world – because the world changes one person at a time, not everyone at once. I came up with the idea of giving people tiny envelopes with my thoughts. Since I have some artistic talent, I made these envelopes myself – the size of a matchbox. To this day, I have given away 2,650 envelopes. I produce 50 at a time, for which I need two sheets of gray paper. I didn't look for texts on the internet because that is lame for me. And because at my age people have trouble falling asleep, instead of staring at the ceiling (I do not have a TV or a radio), I would get up and write: "Don't worry," "Smile," "Life is here and now," "Love is the most important thing in life." I put whatever came to my mind into these little envelopes, got on the bus, and gave them to people. Sometimes on the street, sometimes I would go into a pharmacy or bakery and give them away.

    The technique I used is interesting. In my time, book covers were made at home. We would mix a paste with flour, paint, and then – splash! – onto paper, let it dry, and a marbled pattern would appear. I did the same for the envelopes, which made each one unique! Out of all the envelopes I gave away, only two people refused to accept them.

    I also receive feedback – for example, a month ago, an employee from the brewery approached me and told me the story of how his fiancée received one of my envelopes. He said it was a wonderful gesture, and that small act simply made her day.

    Sometimes people come to visit TBK (presumably your place) and mention how they received an envelope from me, and now it is displayed on their mantel as the most important decoration

    This is what I am most proud of. During the times when people were the saddest, I distributed nearly 3,000 envelopes, and I feel like I changed the lives of 3,000 people!

    About swimming, dreaming of becoming an artist, working in a steel mill, and studying mechanical engineering

    I have always been artistically talented. However, during the times when I was growing up, there was a prevailing belief that being an artist was not a proper profession. In my traditional Silesian home, it was said that a girl must either acquire a trade or get married. I always wanted to be an artist, but my parents discouraged it. They did not even allow me to apply to an art school; instead, they arranged for me to attend a Chemical Technical School through their connections. I ultimately graduated, even though it was not easy for me as an allergy sufferer. I was an outsider, more absent than present. I remember how my dad said to my mom, "I need to go to that school to see if she actually attends because her face is too tanned." In fact, in the mornings, I would sneak away from school and go kayaking.

    I was a very good swimmer – it was the only activity that could make me wake up early in the morning willingly. Even in the fifth month of pregnancy, I competed in swimming competitions for the Academic Sports Association. Once, during a swim camp, I met a girl who had been accepted into an art school; we knew each other from an art club at the Youth Palace. She told me that she had finished the high school and found a job. I asked her what kind of job, and she said she paints cages at the zoo. I asked, "At the zoo?" It turned out that she was given a template of a tiger and painted it. That is when I thought to myself, "My old folks were right."

    After finishing the technical school, my were pushing me towards mathematics, but I struggled to add 2+2, even though as a mechanic, I have no problem designing and calculating machines. In this case it is logical for me; these are not just empty numbers. In the end, I did not get into the mathematics program, and as a punishment, my dad arranged for me to work at Huta Batory, in the worst department, on the rolling mill, with the comment, "When you see how hard people work, you will learn your lesson and pass next time!"

    I was not upset; I had my own money and could spend more time kayaking. In the meantime, I searched for a university far from home and with a fun atmosphere. I chose Krakow. I got into the mechanical engineering program at the Higher Pedagogical School. I joined a group where having fun was a priority, but we also had to study. There were 103 people in the first year, then 40, then 30, and very few of us graduated. We still keep in touch. They are great people. All a bit crazy, like me. Most of us are self-proclaimed artists; for example, one of my friends is a sculptor.

    "A person is happy when their work is their hobby. Work has always brought me joy; I have always done what I wanted."

    About being a crazy grandma

    I worked in a travel agency; I was a tour guide and traveled the world, bringing back, among other things, instruments from primitive cultures. When my grandchildren came along, I wanted to ‘rebuild’ my image because I felt like in their eyes, I was a bit of a crazy grandma. I wrote a fairy tale called "Where Did Sound Come From" because I had accumulated 40 of these instruments. It happened somewhat accidentally. I was hunting for a rain stick, which I needed to complete my own collection, and the guy selling his entire collection told me I had to take it all or nothing. So, I bought it, and I ended up with a whole wagon full of instruments – and that is how my collection grew.

    After writing this fairy tale, I suggested staging it for my grandchildren at their preschool. Today, my grandchildren are teenagers, and my granddaughter, in particular, emphasizes how proud she was of me back then. I simply wanted her not to be ashamed of me. Today, my grandchildren often collaborate with me on these artistic projects.

    About the city of Tychy

    Since I was an outsider, it took me a while to settle in my block of flats because for a long time, there was no one in the building who spoke Silesian. I could not connect with anyone here. Luckily, it turned out that a friend I lived with in the dormitory also lives in my building! We were both searching for jobs all over Poland, and we both found them in Tychy. I live in apartment number eleven, and she lives in apartment number seven – it is like we are still in the same dorm!

    It took me a long time to warm up to Tychy. My son was born in Krakow, but he was so enchanted by Tychy that he once asked me if it was possible to change someone’s first and last name. And when I said yes, he asked whether it was also possible to change your place of birth? Because he would like to change his from Krakow to Tychy. My husband laughed and told our son that he must be crazy; everyone knows Krakow, but what about Tychy? I was offended: Tychy is all about Fiat and the brewery! My husband responded that it is probably the other way around. Although my building was all about Fiat, there was no one from the brewery. That is how it was back then.

    About coincidences

    I once performed at the Silesian Museum during the Night of Museums. At that time, I received information about a contest celebrating the 100th anniversary of Poland regaining independence. The task was to talk about or display objects related to this event. I came with two frying pans – one made by my grandfather, and the other by my father. I wore a coat with an eye on the back and combat boots on my feet. I shared a story that was connected not only to these frying pans but also to my family. My father was an apprentice, and my grandfather was his master. At the age of 14, my father came to his master's house and saw a 4-year-old girl sitting on the windowsill, hugging her knees, with golden curls, bathed in the light of the setting sun. She was a sight for sore eyes. My father, a 14-year-old, thought to himself, "She will be my wife someday." The memory of this sight of my mother in the window helped him survive the labor camp and the war.

    Afterwards, Tomek Kontny, a comic book artist, met me here, in the brewery, and turned many of my stories into a comic book. Interestingly, I did not know about it! It was a complete coincidence – it all started on a Sunday when I had nothing to do, so I went to the Silesian Museum.

    I keep a record of coincidences in my life, and now there are already 63 of them. Another one happened a few days ago. My daughter-in-law and son work at a university. My daughter-in-law occasionally organizes various events there. This time, it was about the culture of the Aboriginals. I decided to paint her some dotted paintings inspired by that culture. It was raining, and I was at home. Someone had just thrown away wooden boards, but they got soaked in the rain. I would have dried them, but I had a toothache and I did not feel like going outside. I randomly decided to call a friend who could help me carry the boards. I called her and said I needed cabinet doors because I had to paint some pictures. She replied that she needed to sit down because she had just dismantled kitchen furniture, and she had about 15 cabinet doors!

    All these ideas come to me from somewhere. I do not have an answer as to where. They just come from the cosmos. I have a lot of hobbies because I hate being bored. I do not have a TV or radio, but I have the internet. Each of my hobbies is a bit of a coincidence.

    A person is happy when their work is their hobby. Work has always brought me joy; I have always done what I wanted.