Poznan, Poland was not somewhere I expected to visit anytime soon. I didn’t want to go to Poland until we had a few weeks to explore several different cities. But when our plans for a weekend in Dresden fell through, we started looking for somewhere else to go, and Poznan seemed like the perfect fit. It turned out to be a wonderful city with pretty architecture, lots to do, and friendly people.
Stary Rynek – Poznan’s city square
I love old squares in Europe. You can almost imagine what it would’ve been like to be there hundreds of years ago, and it’s a central gathering point in the city that almost doesn’t exist in the US. Poznan was no exception, with colorful buildings lining the perimeter, a fountain at each corner and a clock tower with fighting goats in the center. When we were there, the goats were dressed for the Christmas season. The goats on the clock come out to fight each day at noon.
Our first day in Poznan, we walked into the city’s square and immediately noticed music and a crowd of people lined up halfway around the large square. We sat on a bench for awhile and watched as people went up to a radio station’s microphone and sang Polish Christmas songs karaoke style. Eventually we realized people were walking off with Christmas trees that the radio station was giving away for free.
On the other side of the square we saw a Christmas market set up. It wasn’t as big as the ones we see in Germany, but they had all the normal types of stalls: gifts, souvenirs, mulled wine, and a variety of food. We even saw a mailbox set up for you to send your letters to Santa, and a Christmas tree made out of plastic bottles.
Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul
In between watching the ice sculpture competition, we hopped on a tram and went a few stops out from the center to see the Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul. Not only is it one of the oldest churches in Poland, it’s the oldest cathedral in Poland, from the 10th century. It is located on what is now called Cathedral Island. They even had a little model of the cathedral and all the surrounding buildings.
Always interested in castles, we were happy to find that Poznan has one just a little ways out from the center. It’s not a medieval castle like our favorites, but it was completed in 1910 making it the last castle built in Europe. It was built for Kaiser Wilhelm when Poznan was under German control, and it was meant to be a residence for him when he visited.
Less than 10 years after its completion, Poland gained independence. However, it was short lived when Germany invaded again during World War II. At this time the castle was to be used by Hitler, and several sections of the building were changed, but he didn’t end up ever visiting. In front of the building there is a monument to three mathematicians who worked to break Germany’s coding system during World War II, contributing to eventual victory by the Allies.
Wandering around Poznan
During our three days in Poznan, we spent some time just wandering around to get a feel for the city. We saw all kinds of interesting buildings, including those on the main square, as well as fighting goat statues and plaques on the ground that marked where the old city walls once were.
Our short stay in Poznan made me even more interested in learning about, and of course visiting, the rest of Poland. I loved the colorful buildings and the cobblestone roads, and the local beer was really tasty. Though Poznan was very cold during our visit, it was no worse than Berlin, and I can only imagine how much more beautiful the city must be in the spring or summer.