November 16th, 2008 – by: boxinbcn
The drive actually took about four hours. There is a toll road (A2) from Strykow to Poznan. I think it is the only one in Poland. It’s new and it’s excellent – but, getting from Warsaw to Strykow took ages through two-lane highways surprisingly (for a Sunday) full of trucks! Slow trucks, that is. (A friend at work tells me that I was lucky, that sometimes it has taken him nearly three hours just to get from Warsaw to the toll road!) Not to mention that at nearly every town you go through there are radars detecting speeding (sometimes the limit is 70 kms /h others it’s 50 – and you really have to be careful) I also saw a couple of police cars using hand held radar guns and pulling people over.
So, I took it easy. I’d rather get there half an hour later than deal with police, fines, etc....
Poznan Cathedral - Oldest Cathedral in Poland
We finally got to Poznan at around noon. I have mixed feelings (from a travel point of view) about fast toll roads. On one hand you can cover a lot of ground quickly, but on the other hand you really miss out on a lot of beautiful scenery and interesting little towns when you get off of the regular highways. In this case I was glad to be able to go faster and not have to deal with all of the trucks! My copilots slept most of the way so they didn’t get to enjoy the nerve wracking aspects of trying to get around slow trucks on narrow tree lined roads!
My general impression as we exited the highway and headed for the town wasn’t too great; but as we got closer to the center it got better and better.
Poznan’s Old Town and Rynek (market square) are really beautiful. Being Sunday, parking was free (and pretty easy) and we began to wander around, fist stepping into the Baroque church of St. Francis of Assisi built in the 1600s after the Swedes burned down the Gothic church that used to be there in 1655.
Buildings on Market Square
After visiting the church we walked through Chopin Park and toward the Market Square. Behind the park is one of the most famous of the religious buildings in Poznan, the parish church of St. Stanislaus – also known as the Fara church. It has an incredible red and white façade and is impressive on the inside and out.
It was built between 1651 and 1701 and as far as I was able to read, some of the decorative touches were added about 50 years later. I don’t usually like Baroque style too much, it’s somehow like an over-decorated wedding cake – and this definitely is over-the-top ornate, but somehow it is pretty and the colors and decor make it seem a little warmer – a good thing in the gray, cloudy and dark months of the year. After that we wandered all around the streets of Poznan’s old town. It’s not too large, but it’s pretty. I notice a lot of references to goats in statues and in the names of inns, restaurants and pubs. I even took a picture of a statue of a couple of them... The legend comes from the 1500s... I’m not sure of the exact story, but suffice it to say that goats are symbolic in Poznan.
Façade of Baroque Church of St. Stanislaus.
When we finally entered the market square, I found it pretty spectacular.
It’s smaller than Wrocław’s or Kraków’s market squares but it’s very pretty with brightly painted buildings, pretty fountains and a magnificent town hall. With the exception of a really ugly building right in the middle of the square that looks like it was built in the 1960’s (and should be removed!!) the whole square is really beautiful.
The most remarkable and the buildings is the old town hall. It is a magnificent Renaissance structure, built initially at the end of the 13 and beginning of the 14th centuries. Its present appearance is the result of extensive works carried out in the 16th century. (See my pictures). It hasn’t served as a town hall since 1939 and houses a Museum (the Museum of History of the City of Poznan) which we unfortunately didn’t have enough time to visit. At noon, when the clock on the old town hall strikes 12, two mechanical goats come out of the clock and butt heads.
It would have been fun to see that. We continued to look around the market square at the buildings and fountains (including one of Apollo, another of Prosperine (in front of the town hall), Neptune and Mars. An interesting figure in the square is on top of the “Well of a Bamberg Woman.” Bamberg is a town in Bavaria and people from Bamberg settled in Poznan in the first half of the 18th century.
Once we’d seen the Rynek we decided to go to have something for lunch. We found a nice place, called Gospoda “Pod Koziołkami” right on the market square. See my review. It was a nice place for lunch.
After lunch it was starting to get darker so we headed quickly to “Ostrów Tumski” (Cathedral Island – just like in Wrocław) to see the cathedral and the oldest part of the city.
It took us about 15 minutes to walk there, crossing some train tracks and a bridge over the river. As I say, Ostrów Tumski is the oldest part of Poznan and is where prince Mieszko I accepted Christianity in 966 on behalf of the Polish nation. His son, Bolesław “the Brave” was Poland’s first king. They are both in tombs in this Cathedral, which is the oldest Cathedral in Poland. It was an interesting visit, to see the area where Poland as a nation began. After the Cathedral we walked back to the car and decided to head back to Warsaw since Sunday evening traffic can be pretty bad here with people returning home after the weekend. We got lucky with the traffic again – smooth sailing all the way home. Unfortunately I wasn’t too lucky in another respect – somehow lost my house keys during the day – must have lost them somehow getting in and out of the car... That really complicated the end of the day.
View of a street in old town Poznan with the Fara in the background (right)