Since it was a long way we did not stop anywhere, although we could have a look at the famous battlefield Grunwald, where in 1410 king Wladyslaw Jagiello defeated a Teutonic army.
TORUŃ / July 15-16
Accommodation: Hotel “Under the Black Rose”, very charming and conveniently located in the Old Town, but in the rooms of the courtyard air conditioning unit from a nearby restaurant made a big noise.
Situated by Vistula River, Toruń made us fall in love at first sight. The first evening in the old, beautifully lit city brought us an unforgettable experience.
Toruń should formally start our Teutonic castles trail because it was here that Teutonic Knights began their conquest of Prussia and here, in 1230, they built their first castle (today non-existing anymore). They actually turned the Slavic settlement in the real city. The castle was destroyed by the inhabitants of Toruń during anti-Teuton uprising in 1454. In 15th century, during Polish-Teutonic wars, the very rich city played a huge role in helping financially Polish king. Since 1466 it was incorporated into Poland. Here in 1473 Nicolaus Copernicus was born.
Since 1557 Toruń was a major center of Polish Protestantism. Toruń greatest glory years fall on 16th and 17th century, then the city began to decline. After the second partition of Poland in 1793 was incorporated into Prussia, but after WW I returned to Poland again, however never regained its former position. Toruń is famous not only for Copernicus but also for delicious gingerbread cookies.
Toruń Old Town Team is one of the most valuable historic teams in Poland, and has its place on UNESCO World Heritage List. Its 13th century urban layout has been preserved almost unchanged, authentic are the defending walls surrounding the city on the Vistula banks. Beautifully lit, creating the most beautiful skyline in Europe, which can be enjoyed from a special place of vantage on the other side of Vistula.
Torun by night – panorama
During our one day tour we visited ruins of a Teutonic castle and the museum of Nicolaus Copernicus (exhibition consists mostly of fascimiles of the documents and the reconstruictions of astronomical instruments, almost no real memorabilia of the famous astronomer are be seen here). We made a long walk on the Old Marketplace. Beautiful weather allowed us to spend the evenings in the charming outdoor restaurant “Manekin” from where we could admire the beautifully lit buildings and trees adorned with lights.
Ruins of the Teuton castle and copies of documents in Museum of Copernicus (click to enlarge)
ROUTE: GNIEZNO – SKANSEN DZIEKANOWICE – POZNAŃ / July 17th July
(165 km / 3 hours)
After leaving the Toruń and Teutonic castles route, we entered the Wielkopolska (Great Poland), where the Polish state, ruled by Piast dynasty, originated in the 11th century. We intended visiting a couple of places associated with the beginnings of the Piast state (Strzelno, Mogilno, Gniezno, Ostrów Lednicki) but incredible heat forced us to slow down and eventually reach sightseeing only two places.
This is the first Polish capital and the coronation place of the first five kings. The Slavic city grew in importance when the temple was raised to bury the corpse of the missionary Adalbert, who was murdered in 997 by Prussians near Elbląg. The ruler Bolesław Chrobry (the Brave) offered for the body of Adalbert as much gold as it weighed. A wise ruler was aware of the importance of this event as a martyr raised in Gniezno enabled creation of ecclesiastical metropolis here, what was a condition for obtaining the crown by the Polish ruler. And he was the first to be crowned what had place in 1025 (his statue stands near the cathedral). Earlier, in the year 1,00 in Gniezno there was a historic meeting of Boleslaw Chrobry and the German Emperor Otto III who supported the future king.
The present Gothic cathedral dates from the 14th century. Beautiful silver sarcophagus with remains of the missionary is exposed at the altar part of the cathedral. Scenes from the life of st. Adalbert are shown in bronze bas-reliefs of the 12ve century old cathedral doors – it is one of the most precious relics in Poland.
St. Adalbert sarcophagus
There is also a Museum of the Origins of the Polish State in Gniezno. Unfortunately, the Piast era relics outside cathedral are nonexisting anymore, since the city was destroyed by the great fire in the 19th century.
The Wielkopolska Ethnographic Park of Great Poland in Dziekanowice
A bit away from the main road to Poznan, in a village called Dziekanowice, there is the Wielkopolska Ethnographic Park worth to see. This is one of the most interesting exhibitions of this kind in Poland.
Typical Polish manor house from the end of the 18th century
For more than 21 hectares were are gathered about 70 fine examples of the countryside architecture of historical Wielkopolska (18th-19th century), including peasants homesteads, barns, a school, an inn, a firehouse, a church, a cemetery and the reconstruction of a typical Polish manor house from the late 18th century – all surrounded by a typical rural landscape (ponds, trees, fields). Visitors can enter into all those houses to see authentic furniture and other kind of equipment.
- A Museum of the Piast dynasty in Ostrów Lednicki – remains of the castle in which lived the first Polish rulers Mieszko I and his son, King Boleslaw Chrobry lived.
- Kruszwica, Strzelno, Mogilno – Romanesque monuments from the period of formation of the Polish state
- Biskupin – excellent reconstruction of the ancient settlements of the Lusatian culture, built probably in 738, and operating for 150 years. One can stroll through the village streets and have a look at the interior reconstructed huts.
Biskupin, archery festiwal
POZNAŃ – ŁAGÓW LUBUSKI / July 18th
(136 km / 2 hours)
Poznań, the capital of Wielkopolska, is ony a short step in our last route, however we spent one night at the Novotel Malta, which is just 2.5 km from the city center. Peaceful, quiet place with a pool, in a nice surroundings.
The history of the city situated at river Warta (the same which is mentioned in Polish anthem) is closely linked with the beginnings of Polish statehood. According to some hypotheses, this is where the baptism took place in 996, and in 13th century Poznań it was the seat of the Wielkopolska Piast dynasty line. Here had his residence Przemyslaw II, first king crowned during a period of disintegration (1295). It is here, in The Cathedral Basilica, where bodies of first Polish rulers are buried. In the following centuries Poznan became an important center for trade and economic development. Development of the city was stopped by Swedish invasion in 1655 (so called “flood”) and after second partition in 1793 Wielkopolska was incorporated into Prussia. Since 1815 Poznań was the capital of autonomous Grand Duchy of Poznań. After WW I, in 1918, the Wielkopolska Uprising broke out here, which aimed to incorporate the structure of the Greater Poland into the Polish Respublica, which has been successful. After WW II Poznań and Wielkopolska were joined to Poland.
In the opinion of Poles, Poznań is famous for good economy and… some parsimony.
In the Old Town we drank coffee and had a walk around the Old Market Square, during which we admired lovely surroundings. Among other Polish cities Poznań is distinguished by a distinctive white hall – a pearl of Renaissance architecture with its famous clock tower, where at midday show of two small white goats gushing with horns.
According to a legend, in 1551 they were to be killed and cooked for an important feast of venison but fled from the knife and appeared on the tower. Happily, amused authorities let them to be alive.
The old market is filled with very colorful houses, what creates a unique atmosphere. There is even a cab service!
We also entered into the baroque Collegiate Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and St. Mary Magdalene, the so-called Poznań Fara, which attracts with a beautiful baroque interior.
Also worth seeing:
– Old Brewery, considered by ICSC as the most beautiful shopping center in the world
– Royal Castle with a fragment of ramparts
– Cathedral Island, the oldest cathedral in Poland – the burial place of the first Polish rulers; photo: a Golden Chapel
– remains of the ducal palace of the 10th century
Having to drive about 136 km, we left Poznań after about 3 hours and went directly to Łagów Lubuski.
ŁAGÓW LUBUSKI / Juli 18-19
Łagów Lubuski is located few kilometers from A2 motorway and not far away from the border crossing in Świecko, so it is a perfect location for last stop in Poland and having good rest before the long way back. Łagów is small, old city situated in beautiful Łagów Landscape Park, between two beautiful, emerald lakes.
One can “sail” on them using special water bikes; one can also walk or cycle around the lovely area.
The town boasts a 14th century Hospitaller castle, now changed into a hotel, and two monumental gates of the 15th and 16th centuries. They do not help drivers navigate the city, but have their own charm. We stopped in guestrooms Malta restaurant, opposite the castle, in a street with houses builded from the 18th and 19th centuries.
The Hospitallers castle
DEPARTURE / July 20
With the E2 route the return trip to the border was smooth and quick.
foto: Vikimedia Commons, Renata Głuszek, Han Tiggelaar
* Whole route: Szczecin (2-3.07) – Gdansk (4-7.07) – Malbork (8-9.07) – Dziwiszewo, Masuria (10-15.07) – Torun (15-17.07) – Poznan (17.07) – Łagów Lubuski (18-19.07)
Time of the trip: start – July 2, end – July 20 (19 days)