Final stops at Toruń and Poznań

Saturday 9 to Monday 11 September

We left Gdansk for Poznań, making a lunch time stop at Toruń. Toruń is quite compact and we had trouble finding the old town. Both Cyber Serena in the TomTom and Mary Lou in MapsME had their own opinions of ‘City Centre’. They differed and neither of them appeared to understand that a block of flats next to a round-about does not constitute a ‘City Centre’.

With a little promoting, using ‘Tourist Information’, Mary Lou gave us some instructions. Then we had to find parking. We did, but the parking man shouted at me, clearly I didn’t understand the system, but who would. Some kind people translated for me – you pay for an hour and get a ticket. When you return to your car you show the ticket and they calculate the difference which is what you owe – but not with our grumpy ticket collector – that happened at the exit – following a labyrinth of parked cars. Easy, eh??

Toruń is in northern Poland, on the Vistula River, a river we had been crossing for much of our journey in this region. It is one of the oldest cities in Poland, dating back to the 8th century.

We came across a very cute installation of the comic-strip dog Filuś with his owner Professor Filutek’s umbrella. Professor Filutek and Filuś were the work of Polish cartoonist Zbigniew Lengren from Toruń, and appeared on the last page of Przekrój magazine for more than 50 years.

There are a number of beautiful preserved brick Gothic buildings including the town hall, the post office and churches. The town escaped substantial destruction during World War II, so there has been little reconstruction.

Another famous resident of Toruń was Nicolaus Copernicus, an astronomer, mathematician, translator, artist, and physicist among other things. He finished the first manuscript of his book De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium ‘On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres’ in 1532 arguing that the sun was the centre of our universe and was motionless, with the planets orbiting around it.

We found our way to the river, and the city wall. Toruń has its own version of the leaning tower – a 13th century tower on the city wall.

On 13 August 1746, a foreman of carpentry Johann Georg Hieronimi and a soldier’s wife Kataharina Storchin testified  that they saw a dragon. The monster was 2 metres in length and could fly. Its body was dark grey with a shiny, pale brown tail. That is why I saw so many statues of dragons around the town.

Toruń also boasts Muzeum Piernika the Museum of Gingerbread. We stopped there to buy some for Hayden and Andrea.

We arrived in Poznań in time for an evening stroll into the Market Square. The colourful square is full of Renaissance-style buildings and interesting statues.

Following the Great Fire of Poznań in 1803, the Prussian authorities improved the old street layout. The centre of the town was highly fortified, leading to dense architecture of high townhouses.

In 1844 Ambrosiou Hugger set up his first Poznań brewery. The plant expanded and in 1876 his sons, the Hugger brothers erected a new brewery at one end of Półwiejska Street, which was in production until the 1970s. After falling into disrepair, it has subsequently been reviatlised as the Stary Browar Old Brewery, a fantastic shopping and arts precinct. We were impressed by the quality of the development, the style of shops and the integration of art into the building. Offices adjoined the shopping complex with a sympathetic walkway. Green space around it added to the ambience. It is not surprising that it has won a number of prestigious awards.

The Millennium Cathedral in Poznań was destroyed during World War II. The damage helped discover the remnants of the oldest cathedral and tombs of Poland’s first rulers. After being rebuilt to its original Gothic form, it was consecrated in 1956, the same time that Poland held its first protests against Communist rule. It is considered to represent the birth of Poland. Pope John Paul XXIII visited the cathedral in 1962 and gave it the title of minor basilica.

The Parish Church of St Stanislaus is claimed to be one of the most exquisite examples of Baroque architecture in Poland. Built by the Jesuits between 1649 and 1732, the interior is richly gilded with an elaborate high altar. Between the two wars the extensive cellars were well utilised to store barrels of wine.

So we left Poland, and our adventure in north eastern Europe. Next stop is Berlin, to rest up with Hayden and Andrea, before heading to England and Ireland. My 90 days Schengan visa will shortly run out – I am preserving a couple of days to return the Renault to Paris in early November.