Monthly Archives: December 2012

A Walk In Warsaw In Winter

I take a walk through the Praga neighborhood in Warsaw, Poland, and give you a sense of what it’s like.

 

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This town gets very little to no respect. It’s the city that most Poles will tell you holds nothing special. It’s not even worth a visit some will go so far to say, and the naysayers includes residents.

I came to Bydgoszcz by way of  Tleń, a small village where my friends Anna and Michal. own and operate a guesthouse. Tleń, with only 260 inhabitants, is 36 miles – or 58 kilometers – north of Bydgoszcz.  I had been holding fast in Gdansk when I got a call from Michal to invite me to Tleń, with its rivers and lakes in the Tochula Forest, Poland’s vast wooded area.

If you love nature and being outdoors, you will love  Tleń and its surrounding areas. At every turn there are lakes, rivers, meadows with ducks and swans and all sorts of other wildlife. This is rural country, to be sure, where you come to unwind.

On their way to shop for supplies in the big town, Bydgoszcz, I joined Michal and Anna. It would be a chance for me to see what all were telling me was not worth seeing. It would also be an opportunity to reconnect with another friend, Kamil, a history teacher who lives in Bydgoszcz. As soon as we arrived in Bydgoszcz, Kamil and I took off to do some sightseeing while Anna and Michal shopped and took care of other business. True, when I first arrived in Bydgoszcz, nothing immediately impressed me, but walking around the old town, a few things did.

There was the river that runs through the city, the manicured green spaces to enjoy an afternoon, the public art and cultural centers, and of course the bounty of churches that date back centuries. St. Martin & St. Nicholas Cathedral’s interior is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen anywhere in the world. The city’s oldest. St. Martin & St. Nicholas was built in the 15th Century in the so-called Vistulan Gothic style, with every inch of wall and ceiling painted in bright shades of red, purple and pink. I love the interior of this church!

Bydgoszcz is a great launch pad for the surrounding cities and villages and countryside, all reached by car or bus within minutes. Or come for the shopping. Right near the old markets, there are some great modern shopping malls.

Inside the colorful St. Martin & St. Nicholas Cathedral

Inside the colorful St. Martin & St. Nicholas Cathedral

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Gdansk, Poland: The Beginning And The End

Snowy Gdansk

Snowy Gdansk

The Old Town section of Gdansk is very beautiful. But the thing that surprised me about it the most is how it looks so much like Amsterdam without the canals.

I learned that Dutch Mennonites built the city and were a big part of the population from the 16th to the early 20th Century. They built the city to resemble Amsterdam. Neighboring Germany also played an important role in the development and architecture of Gdansk, which was once a German city under the name Danzig. Adolf Hitler used the loss of Gdansk to Poland as a pretext to attack Poland, which was at the time allied with France and Britain.

And so began World War II.

The city is also where the Solidarity movement against Communist rule began. That movement is said to have emboldened others in the Soviet Communist Bloc, three months later leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Much of Gdansk, particularly the Old Town, was destroyed by Russian and Allied forces who attacked German forces occupying the city. When Poland decided to rebuild the Old Town in the 1950’s and 1960’s, it made a political decision to rebuild in the Flemish-Dutch architecture instead of the Germanic-style construction. So today Old Town looks more like a town in the Netherlands than one in Germany. Gdansk does still have houses and buildings reminiscent of ones in Germany and can be found in neighborhoods untouched by Allied bombings.

 To look at Old Town today one cannot imagine it has been rebuilt.

The reconstruction was done using the same bricks, painstakingly putting the pieces back together like a jigsaw puzzle. The place is truly beautiful, especially this time of year with the snow and Christmas lights.

I took a walk in a snowfall in the Old Town and these are just some of the images.

Click on the photo above to see more images I uploaded to my Facebook page.

 

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