Due east of Berlin about 170 miles lies Poznan, city of many charms. Geographically, from a Polish frame of mind, close proximity to Berlin might seem to offer more downside than upside. There’s nothing pretty about Polish history, fraught with loss of territory time and again to Russia, Austria and Prussia. There were periods of glory and maybe today is the beginning of the best of times, with seemingly solid boundaries well recognized.

Poznan, German since 1793 but returned to Poland in 1918, was cleansed of Poles and Jews by Nazi Germany during WWII and got run over at the end of the war by the Red Army of Russia. Not a whole lot was left standing when the military action subsided. In the meanwhile Poznan has done an amazing job of rebuilding. Just as with the vision of Gdansk and Torun, likewise left devastated by war, a vision of rebuilding the core city in the style of former glory days was established and mostly executed. The finishing touches are proceding. Decades of Soviet control and harsh economic times did not deter the city fathers from their goal.

Let’s look around the main plaza on a warm Sunday afternoon with some special something going on, a two week event with many craft and food booths set up to entice the visitors.

Markt square on a Sunday afternoon

Market square on a Sunday afternoon

The market square is very uniformly rebuilt.

The market square is very uniformly rebuilt. Bronze fountains fill each corner. Restaurants doing well.

Neptune fountain with city hall behind

Neptune fountain with city hall behind

Another view of city hall

Another view of city hall

We weren’t too excited by all the booths and hoopla going on, at least until we passed a bread vendor, our special weakness.

I wish we could have bought a loaf or two.

I wish we could have bought a loaf or two.

Even a pony ride was offered

Even a pony ride was offered

How did these chairs get here - California wine brand by Gallo.

How did these chairs get here – California wine brand by Gallo.

The imposing city hall was not located in the center of the square but rather near one corner.

The imposing city hall was not located in the center of the square but rather near one corner.

We couldn’t always figure out the signs, in fact it was a constant challenge for us.

This was not the only word we could not pronounce.

This was not the only word we could not pronounce.

On the west side of the square was a particularly nice building with a white swan on its gable.

Interesting old building

Interesting old building

It's the city library, so said a sign.

It’s the city library, so said a sign.

We pushed on the solid formidable windowless door. It yielded.

We pushed on the solid formidable windowless door. It yielded.

Inside, there was a kiosk but no one was in sight. We went up an elegant stairway to the second floor and tried an unmarked door. A lady was inside, apparently a curator of whatever was there. There were no books in sight so the library must be on the third floor. She explained that we were in the former Dzialynski Palace and that it was presently used for formal city functions. Here are a couple of views of the main chamber overlooking the town square.

Lectures and important meetings are held here.

Lectures and important meetings are held here.

These statues at the rear of the room depict a momentous agreement in Polish history.

These statues at the rear of the room depict a momentous agreement in Polish history.

We’re a little late here in our narrative to describe our abode for two nights. Our car navigator had advised us that there were restrictions along the way to our destination. Indeed, we came upon a solid barrier in the middle of the cobblestone street that prevented us from driving within several blocks of our hostel, which was located in the very center of the old town. We found restricted parking good until 8:00 the next morning and pulled our luggage to our hostel along cobblestone streets like the tourists we were.

Pretty nice looking hostel if you ask me - Rosemary's Baby was the name, interior decoration inspired by Roman Polanski's movie.

Pretty nice looking hostel if you ask me – Rosemary’s Hostel was the name, interior decoration inspired by Roman Polanski’s movie.

Simple but comfortable and quiet

Simple but comfortable and quiet, and only $36 per night.

Great bath for being a hostel

Great bath for it being a hostel

Real beam ceiling

Real beam ceiling with real dangling electrical cable to nowhere

A pretty decent breakfast was served, too.

A pretty decent all-you-can-eat breakfast was served, too, with lots of veggies.

A couple of doors down we found this patient musician.

He made music for the Italian restaurant downstairs, I suppose.

He made music for the Italian restaurant downstairs, I suppose.

Let’s go out and see the town. A couple of blocks away we find a city park. It capitalizes on Chopin, who may have played here once.

Chopin Park

Chopin Park

The Guy - Chopin

The Guy – Chopin

No language problem here - jimmy the lock, open the panel, die.

No language problem here – jimmy the lock, open the panel, die.

Not far away is the River Warta. We walked half way across the bridge and noticed how the river split. We had no inkling that we were looking at an island on which the city was probably originally founded, similar to Ile-de-France in Paris. The great cathedral is on the island. We missed seeing it.

River Werta with cathedral on the island. Little did we know.

River Werta with cathedral on the island. Little did we know.

Yikes! What an eye-catching design

Yikes! What an eye-catching mural

A great ecclesiastical complex met our eye. We ventured inside the church.

The Collegiate and church

The Collegiate and church

Collegiate church interior

Collegiate church interior

As we grew weary of walking we spied a resting spot, a small bar with beer for $1.25 a half liter.

Just the right kind of play to rest our weary feet.

Just the right kind of place to rest our weary feet.

Our favorite thirst quencher

Our favorite thirst quencher

Back on the square next day, we passed by city hall just at noon when the mechanical rams would do their butting act. School children line up to see the action.

The imposing with hall

The imposing city hall

Visiting school classes prepare to see the rams ram each other.

Visiting school classes prepare to see the rams ram each other.

Oohs and aahs sprang from the crowd.

Oohs and aahs sprang from the crowd as the rams butted heads.

‘Twas now time for lunch. The folks who own our hostel also run a vegetarian restaurant nearby. We saved 20% by going there. Delicious Arabic fare, with space shared by a well behaved camel.

Neighborhood restaurant

Neighborhood restaurant

Falafals for me, so different from East-West.

Falafals for me, so different from East-West.

We were now energized to see the upper reaches of the city. School groups were already exploring.

So many school children were on field trips every day toward the end of the school year.

So many school children were on field trips every day toward the end of the school year.

From the old town we head gently to the upper slopes. We had heard there was a castle up there and we wanted to check it out. We got an unexpected history lesson. We found no castle in the usual sense, but rather some amazing sandstone buildings of great grandeur and cleanliness. They date from the late 1800s after Germany was founded in 1871 as a unified country for the first time. The new Kaiser Wilhelm II decided to have a royal residence in Poznan. Accordingly he built a bunch of buildings that today serve the city very well. Around these building on the commanding heights overlooking the Polish old town, German settlements were established. The German folk in more ways than one looked down on the Poles. Today this whole area looks decidedly German in character, an amazing contrast to the rest of the city. The buildings in use today are home to many of the cultural activities of Poznan – symphony hall, the cultural center, the theater, the university, post office, railway station. They are so well maintained and clean that I wonder whether German interests have paid for their upkeep in one way or another.

Doesn't this look imperial?

Doesn’t this look imperial?

The cultural center

The cultural center

The post office

The post office

How spick and span

How spick and span

In front of the cultural center is a memorial to three Polish cryptologists from the early war years who leaked to French and British intelligence the underpinnings of the top secret Enigma coding machine used to encipher Nazi military correspondence.

Poles honored for leaking secret Nazi coding machine.

Poles honored for leaking secret Nazi coding machine.

Memorial in English

Memorial in English

The university building

The university building

Professor Z. was a leading economist and historian of the city of Poznan.

Professor Z. was a leading economist and historian of the city of Poznan.

After a day of walking round we were ready for another rest. Eva found just the spot.

On the lawn of the former brewery, not the town's largest shopping mall.

On the lawn of the former brewery, now the town’s largest shopping mall.

Many others were doing the same.

Many others were doing the same.

The shopping mall wasn’t just any old place. It was a wonderful experience for us to wander through it. The richest man in Poland funded the renovation of this vast brewery for modern purposes – shopping.

The newer wing

The newer wing

The main entry - so exciting a concept.

The main entry – so exciting a concept.

Entry detail

Entry detail

Interior

Interior

So much of the old iron structure was preserved.

So much of the old iron structure was preserved.

An Apple reseller, of course, in this decidedly upscale mall.

An Apple reseller, of course, in this decidedly upscale mall.

Space between the two buildings

Space between the two buildings

Bridge to yet another building

Bridge to yet another building

By the time we got back to the old town it was nearing 10:00 and we were ready for dinner. We came across this charming pizza place and ducked in to check it out. We stayed.

Our last meal in Poland

Our last meal in Poland

Cozy and warm with excellent service and food.

Downstairs below street level it was cozy and warm with excellent service and food.

Now, after ten days, it was time to leave Poland on the the excellent new toll road back to Germany for some new adventures.

Advertisements