Things We Learned About Fat Thursday in Kraków

We’ve been monitoring the line in front of Gorące Pączki all morning, and from 11:00 (when we actually started counting) until almost 14:00, there were never less than 45 souls stubbornly standing in line, waiting to get their Fat Thursday fix. While eager to fully immerse in the gluttonous tradition of pączki munching ourselves, we weren’t as ready to immerse in the Polish tradition of queuing. So, reluctantly, and even with a small bit of shame, we figured we’d have to forego tradition and fill our bellies elsewhere. Passing the dozens of stoic faces determined to earn their doughnuts the hard way, we rounded the corner of Szewska Street onto Jagiellońska only to walk practically smack-dab into a stranger – arms full of pączki as they exited a bakery. We peeked inside only to find the place completely empty – no queue! – and quickly bought a dozen doughnuts, half with powdered sugar, half sugar-glazed. Incredulous that the doughnuts could be had so easily after watching the never-ending lines all morning, we decided to hit the streets and share our bounty with strangers, introducing this Polish tradition to unsuspecting tourists and making sure to also share the love with those poor souls standing in line. “Celebrate Fat Thursday! Darmowe pączki! Free Doughnuts!”

In 2017 we conducted a little social experiment. Here’s what we learned:

  1. People mistrust others giving out free sweets (especially if they are two dudes and the pastries are covered with white powder).
  2. Poles love to stand in line. Poles would rather stand in line for an average of 20 minutes to get some pączki, than get one for free.
  3. The suffering makes the reward better. Perhaps the waiting (queuing) is part of the whole ritual. You need to ferment your craving before sinking your teeth into that soft, mushy texture and reach the warmth of its rosy pulp. Obviously this makes it taste better.
  4. People seem to prefer powdered sugar pączki over glazed pączki. Most of the glazed doughnuts ended up back in our office, despite the fact that they’re less messy.


4 comments Add yours
  1. I have tasted a few pączki from several bakeries, and they are of varying quality. Some are dripping in glaze, some taste like they weren’t fried on the right kind of oil. Some are filled with strawberry or plum jam, some – with rose confiture (try them!). There are annual best pączek contests and they are a serious business in Poland. If people swarm to one bakery it may be because of its reputation.

  2. Don’t know that it’s about the love of queuing or delayed gratification, on Fat Thursday you tend to buy pączki by the dozen to take home or to the office for everyone to share, so helping yourself to one on the go sort of misses the point!

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