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krisek Poznan - A travel report by Krys
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Poznan,  Poland - flag Poland -  Wielkopolskie
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krisek's travel reports

Poznań. Steeped in history, yet underappreciated.

  8 votes
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Poland's fifth city somehow struggles to attract tourists. Poznań is one of the nation's oldest cities and an important centre of Poland as an early state, over 1000 years ago. A few significant sights remain to confirm that. And still there is more!


Upper: Townhall's facade. Lower: Clock's goats.
Upper: Townhall's facade. Lower: Clock's goats.
Poznań, the capital of so called Greater Poland (Wielkopolska), is the fifth largest city in the country. This sounds a little intimidating, but the main attractions and sights for tourists are concentrated around the relatively compact older part of the city. If one wants to cover all the sights on foot, then there is some considerable hiking to be made. The Lake Malta and the Citadel are both slightly outside the core Old Town, about 2-3 kilometres from the Old Market Square, the heart of the city, and each in a different direction. Yet, the city has great public transport system, including trams, some of which date back to 1950s! It is easy to navigate and all sights can be reached either by a tram or by a bus.

Poznań, was (possibly) Poland's first capital city (although it has been accepted that it might have been the nearby Gniezno instead), as the first rulers built significant structures here over 1,100 years ago. For sure, the city played a very important role in the early stages of Poland as a state (see below).

Poznań will be a host city for the UEFA European Football Championships in 2012 (organised jointly by Poland and Ukraine), and the city's infrastructure is being enhanced to accommodate the competing football teams, UEFA officials and the hundreds of thousands of supporters.

Poznań's most important sight and recognisable feature is its old Townhall. It is a formidable Renaissance building dating back to mid 1500s with a unique front facade featuring three-level arcaded loggia topped with a tall attic wall and three towers. It is the finest Renaissance building in the world north of Italy. Inside, the townhall boasts a magnificent Grand Hall with superbly decorated ceilings supported by two pillars. Poznań's emblem is two goats. And the townhall's main tower clock, completed in 1782, has a metal pair of them. At noon, every day, the goats come out and ram their heads 12 times. And this attracts crowds, including school and kindergarten excursions.

Favourite spots:
Upper:  Emperor's Castle.
Lower:  Old Market Square.
Upper: Emperor's Castle. Lower: Old Market Square.
Since I have this strange castle fetish, the Emperor's Castle is among my favourite spots in Poznań. It is a rather strange looking Neo-Romanesque structure designed by Franz Schwechten and erected between 1905 and 1910. It now houses a number of various institutions, a cinema, the Animation Theatre, and a cultural centre called Zamek ('the Castle'). It looks rather austere and almost odd, as one of its square towers has no pyramidal roof, unlike the other. The castle's Rose Courtyard boasts a fountain modelled on the 13th century lions fountain of Alhambra in Granada, Spain.

The Old Market Square is probably the favourite spot of many visitors to Poznań. It is elegant and the tenement houses sport many different facades representing various styles in architecture, mostly Baroque, Renaissance and Gothic. There is also a row of tiny Merchant Houses (aka Vendor Houses) with their vividly colourful facades and shaded arcades.

What's really great:
Upper: St John Market booths. Lower: The Raczynski Library.
Upper: St John Market booths. Lower: The Raczynski Library.
There are four corner fountains on the square; of Apollo, of Neptune, of Mars and the flamboyant one of Proserpine in the Rococo style. In addition to those, there is a small well with a monument of a Bamber woman, a lashing pole (aka torture pole), and a Baroque monument of St John of Pomuc.

I managed not to realise that middle of June in Poznań means the St John Market. The square gets packed with stalls selling traditional foods from all over Poland, silly toys and kitsch paintings, wood carvings, souvenirs, cheap jewellery, excellent silver and amber jewellery, and horrible sweets. Not only is the square surrounded with terraces, which the restaurants, cafes and bars place there in the summer, but also there are those little wooden booths, which would normally be there for a Christmas Market. All of outdoor terraces, however, have comfortable sitting (armchairs or elegant chairs) and wooden tables, are sheltered from the sun or rain by parasols, and are great for people watching.

Sights:
Poznań's Cathedral, dating back to 968
Poznań's Cathedral, dating back to 968
Arguably, Poznań's most significant sight is its cathedral. It was built just two years after Poland adopted Christianity as a state religion back in 966. It is always humbling to stand by a building over 1000 years old, I find. The three-nave pre-Romanesque, Romanesque and Gothic cathedral boasts 10th century baptismal font and tombs, and a zinc-bronze giant door with scenes from the lives of St Paul and St Peter. The temple hosts the tombs of Poland's first prince, Mieszko I, and first king, Bolesław I Chrobry.

There are many other lovely, old churches around Poznań, and amongst the largest is the St Stanislav's Parish Church. It is a three-nave Baroque basilica built between 1651 and 1732. It is a part of a large complex of buildings all kept in the same style and colours. The main altar by Pompeo Ferrari of Italy dates back to 1727, but the church's main attraction is the organ built in 1876 by Friedrich Ladegast. Concerts are held each Saturday, and the admission is free.

Accommodations:
Hotel Polonez, room #0427
Hotel Polonez, room #0427
For some reason I thought it was going to be a good idea to stay at the wonderfully drab Hotel Polonez, dating probably back to 1970s. It is a fabulously nostalgic venue. The main lobby probably has not changed a bit since this then grand hotel opened. Its age was terribly obvious. My single room, #0427, on the fourth floor, was tiny, clean but a little smelly. Its width was the width of a king size bed, and the shower toilet must have been squeezed in subsequently, as it was new and much more modern than the room. They also managed to squeeze in a small wooden desk, an armchair, luggage stool and an old TV on a small table. A night stand, telephone and three almost identical lamps and the room looked cluttered. The view from the window was a cemetery, at least it was an historical one. Had I got a room ten floors higher, I would have been able to admire the old town! Oh well, for PLN159 (£32) a night it was a reasonable deal, I guess. Breakfast was an extra PLN44, so I passed.

Nightlife:
Clubs at the Ol Market Square putting their colorful lights on.
Clubs at the Ol Market Square putting their colorful lights on.
Poznań has a number of good quality places to go out at night. After making a few inquiries with the local waiting staff at the Old Market Square, who were mostly students, and with the people in tables next to mine, I had a peek at the following places:

Dragon - a great bar located in an old house spread on several levels, the upper levels allowing to observe action on the lower level, Bohemian crowd likes this spot;

Dom Wikingów - a very pleasant cellar bar with atmospheric, dark decor, a good mix of people;

Buddha Bar - located in a large palace with a big dancefloor, an interesting oriental theme, mainly teenagers;

Club 65 - the only spot in the Old Town with a outdoor terrace open 24 hours a day, attracting twentysomethings, more like a lounge than a club;

Cafe del Mar - a little disco club, a gathering spot for the very attractive and fit people;

Filigrando - a great ambiance lounge with multiple birdcages;

The square boasts more clubs, the Fever, and the Shark are very popular.

Hangouts:
Upper: Poznań Opera House. Lower: A.Mickiewicz University.
Upper: Poznań Opera House. Lower: A.Mickiewicz University.
Lake Malta is an artificial reservoir set inside a pleasant park just 2 kilometres from the Old Town, and can be reached by foot or a tram. The lake was constructed by the Germans during the WWII, but was first filled with water in 1952. It is 2.2 kilometres long and almost half a kilometre wide, and its maximum depth is 5 metres. Since 1990, Lake Malta has been among Europe's most advanced regata courses. The southern end has a swimming area. There is also a large artificial skiing and sledging outdoor centre open all year round. The name of the lake is associated with the Knights of St John, who resided in the area.

I also like a couple of parks along Niepodleglosci Avenue, and the one with a great fountain situated between the grounds of the Adam Mickiewicz University and the Great Theatre (aka the Opera House) is always well maintained and looks fantastic.

In addition to those, there is one very popular among the young an indoor hang out spot - the Stary Browar shopping mall.

Restaurants:
Upper:  Club 65's terrace. 
Lower:  Brovaria's '3 szychy'.
Upper: Club 65's terrace. Lower: Brovaria's '3 szychy'.
Avanti at the Old Town's square is an old Italian bistro serving fast-food style spaghettis, lasagnas and salads. It must have been 15 years ago when I last ate there. Nothing has changed except for the type of cola, which is served from tap. It used to be Pepsi, and it was wonderful. Now, it is Coke. Unfortunately. Uh, and 15 years ago students did not have 10% discount. Now, they do. A large portion of Bolognese pasta with green peas and a medium Coke is PLN14.80 (£3).

The next door Brovaria has a more sophisticated menu with more expensive dishes, but the reason to go there is its mini brewery. One should try their sampler, called '3 szychy'. It is three 0.2l glasses with the brewery's key beers each, the pils lager, the honey bitter, and the hefe weizen. They charge PLN14 (€3.50) but it is well worth it! I liked hefe the most, obviously! Their Polish food was also very good. Borschtch (PLN10), half duck baked with apple, red cabbage and dumplings (PLN48) were divine.

Other recommendations:
Upper:  Poznań regular flights.
Lower:  Departure lounge.
Upper: Poznań regular flights. Lower: Departure lounge.
Poznań is increasingly better connected with the rest of Europe. Its small airport called Lawica, 7 kilometres from the heart of the city has been increasing operations and airlines started to increase the number of direct connections with the city. As of June 2010, one could land in Poznań directly from: London, Liverpool, Bristol, Doncaster, Edinburgh, Dublin, Cork, Dortmund, Frankfurt, Munich, Paris, Rome, Bergamo, Girona, Barcelona, Alicante, Bourgas, Stockholm, Copenhagen, and Sandefjord. Domestic air routes connected Poznań with Warsaw, Gdansk, and Krakow. From the airport, one could take regular bus line #59, or the express line L, or night bus #242.

Poznań is on the main rail route from Berlin to Warsaw, and regular express trains travel to both capitals via Poznań, both taking 3 hours. The main rail station is in the centre, just opposite the International Fair Exhibition Centre. Regular trains connected the city also with Wroclaw, Szczecin, Gdansk, Katowice and Krakow.

Published on Monday June 14th, 2010


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Tue, Jun 15 2010 - 08:55 AM rating by basia

Krys, as usual, wonderful report. Sometimes the sun hides behind clouds, but you can not lose good humor.

Mon, Jun 14 2010 - 12:44 PM rating by horourke

Brings back memories of happy days I spent here in 1991 and 1996. All the churches and other attractions are all news to me as I was too bust for sight seeing!
great detailed record

Mon, Jun 14 2010 - 08:54 AM rating by jacko1

A great report Krys, an amazing amount of interesting detail, anybody considering visiting would do well to read this for inside info!, very well done.

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