She was tired, the train I rode for my weekend in Poznan, I could tell. She creaked, moaned, and groaned more than I do when I have to work before the sun rises. But I’ve done enough morning shows to know that it just takes a little extra time to warm up before you find your stride, and sure enough, as we left the outskirts of Berlin she eased into a nice pace and managed to find her rhythm.
When I worked on HMS Ventura, those many moons ago, one of the few TV stations we had onboard, was, for a reason still unbeknownst to me, the Polish music video channel “Viva!”. And since that contract I still keep up with some of my favorite Polish singers and have wanted to visit their country. With a real “weekend” (two days off), and a direct train, I booked a very last minute trip to the Polish town of Poznan. Located less than three hours away by train from the Berlin Central Station, Poznan is one of the oldest cities in Poland and served as the capital of the country at one time.
As I sat on the train I became, ironically, for those who know me, that guy, clunking away on his tablet with his Starbucks coffee in hand. I couldn’t help but think about how cool (for lack of a more sophisticated word, maybe it was all the Starbucks) it is that in a third of the time it takes me to drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles I traveled to a different country, with a different culture, history, style, and of course, language. The Polish language has got to be one of my favorites: It has the melodic rhythm and sing-song quality of a Latin based language, but with the edge and strength of being a Slavic language. I learned that the Poznan dialect is described as being the most “sung” from other regions within Poland.
In the blink of an eye that it took us to cross the border (thanks Schengen) the landscape seemed exactly the same as it had been during the past hour: rolling hills, aspen and birch forests nestled between crops and grazing fields. However, as we rolled through out first small town the architecture, infrastructure, graffiti, even the power lines, all pointed out that were in a new place. I couldn’t help but think of both World Wars and the lives lost over that dotted line on a map, and wondered what I would find when I got off the train in a city that had been under Polish, Bohemian, Prussian, German, and Soviet occupation throughout the centuries.
Normally (if you’ve read past entries), I like to lay out my itinerary for my trips. But I arrived during a rainstorm, and it was a Monday, which meant the usual indoor options (museums) were out as well. So Instead I will lay out my favorite sights in Poznan. They are all very close so it should be easy to, as Fleetwood Mac says, “go your own way!”
If you are planning to visit more than two or three of the museums in Poznan, I highly recommend getting the Poznan City Card. It grants you free access to most museums, discounts on many attractions, and an option to include city transport as well. The only notable item that doesn’t seem to offer any discount is the Croissant Show. Available for one to three days, and starting at less than ten Euros….If only I had written this blog before I went! Also, though Poland is part of the EU, they are not on the Euro, so be prepared to visit an ATM to take out some złoty (translating literally to “golden”).
Old Town Market Square (Stary Rynek)
The focal point of every visit to Poznan, and for good reason; the restored town square is beautiful to look at, centrally located, and home many of the restaurants and museums in town. In the middle of the square is the Town Hall, which in addition to housing a small museum is home to the famous goats of Poznan. The goats come out at noon every day to butt heads. If you go during the school year you can learn some Polish; the groups of the children surrounding me counted how many times the goats butted heads (hint: what time is it?).
St. Martin Croissant Show (Rogalowe Muzeum Poznania)
One of the highlights of visiting Poznan was the St Martin Croissant Show. Here you learn about this unique croissant, its history, and of course, sample a taste. Geared towards children, it was still informative and interesting for the adults present. During summer months they offer English shows daily, in the off season, ask the staff. There were no scheduled English shows, but they informed me there would be one later in the day. Ask in the morning so you can plan your day accordingly. At the end you will have an opportunity to win a full croissant: guess who won?! Victory tastes pretty sweet in Poznan!
Citadel Park (Park Cytadela)
This former military fortress was converted to the city’s largest park after it was decimated during WWII. It is now home to several cemeteries, art installations, monuments, as well as many fields and paths. It also houses a couple small museums, one of them being Muzeum Uzbrojenia. Which tells Poznans role in the Second World War. Of the art, my favorite installation was Nierozpoznani, by Magdalena Abakanowicz (yup, some more copy-paste action); headless, iron, humanoid sculptures, that even on a sunny day gave me goosebumps.
Codebreaker’s Monument (Pomnik Kryptologów)
If I hadn’t read about this online I would’ve walked right past it. This small monument in front of the Imperial Palace is dedicated to the three Polish cryptanalysts who cracked Germany’s Enigma coding device during WWII. There’s not a lot of information about it, but it was an unusual monument and easy to access.
Archaeology Museum (Muzeum Archeologiczne w Poznaniu)
Disclosure: I didn’t actually visit this museum. Only being there for one non-rainy, museum-open, day I just couldn’t cram it all in. It was the only thing on my list that I didn’t get around to doing. However, based on what I read and saw from the windows it seems very informative.
Normally I don’t mention restaurants or food locations, as they seem to change often. But there are a few places that I just can’t ignore. The first is Gramofone, a quirky, sweet and savory crepe restaurant. With vinyl adorned walls and Dire Straits blasting, I had to stop in and try one of there very unique crepe concoctions. The second is Why Thai (to which my answer is, why not Thai?), located just off the town square. Finally if you are like me and have given up on trinkets as souvenirs, why not take the edible route? Check out the homemade candy at Słodkie Czary Mary Poznań, with a very low price you can buy enough for you too!
There have been many cities throughout my travels that have fallen short of the romanticized images I keep in my head; Poznan however, was not one of them. This vibrant town was so much more beautiful and exciting than I had anticipated and I’m glad I followed my whim to visit. I might even head back for another couple days, I think there is still more I can see! The Polish people were all beyond nice to me, and while many of the older generation don’t speak much English, there was always a young person around to help me out.