Sunday, October 05, 2014

Poznan, or
Go west, young/old Poland traveler

It seems that most travelers to Poland start with Krakow, Warsaw, and Gdansk. That's fine, of course, but they also tend to end there.
I hereby urge you, in the paraphrased words of my least favorite White House occupier of all time, "Don't forget Poznan!"

Poland has a really interesting history. Of course, I've been aggressively reading stuff from and about Poland in preparation for this Habitat trip, but I've found it worthwhile to explore, whether you think you have a reason to be interested in Poland or not. Interestingly, as the trip approached, I happened to be on FDR in my read-a-bio-of-every-president-in-order project, so I had tons of context for all the WWII  and pre-war history, and I also happened to have Holocaust- themed novels on tap by Styron and Amis in my A-to-Z project further reading, so I've been drowning in Auschwitz, which, frankly, I recommend. I mean, I recommend visiting there, and doing a ton of reading to attempt to grapple with it, because grappling with it is tough. But also, the preceding centuries of Poland history are equally fascinating and relevant to world history.

Poznan old market square, which around here we call a Stary Rynek
In some ways, Poland is like good ol' Korea, sandwiched between powerful and/or power- hungry empires that have invaded/occupied/partitioned/oppressed it over the years, but both Korea and Poland have managed to maintain their identity, culture, and language. Good job, guys.

Poznan is a very interesting prism through which to view all this. It has more of a German influence than Warsaw and eastern Poland, and it has a certain proudly-of-German-heritage-but-totally-Polish population and more people with German last names, but also it was the site of an insistent uprising in 1918, when independent Poland was being reestablished after many years, when the Treaty of Versailles hadn't done enough, and Wielkopolska was like,  Dude, we are Poland! Don't go putting us in Germany!

And for good reason, because this is basically where Poland started back in the day, by which I mean 1,000 years ago.
Where the goats do their thing
 Krakow is an old, pre-Warsaw capital, but if you want the site of the first stuff, the first cathedrals, the first dukes' and kings' hangouts, you need to check out Poznan (and nearby Gniezno).

And check out Poznan we did. Our guide, Simon, led us on a seven-hour walking tour. Highlights include:
*The old market square, bombed in the war of course, but restored and super cute
*The goats in the clock tower who fight when the clock strikes noon-- no, they're not real. They're a fun mechanical recreation of the two legendary goats who escaped being the meal at a royal feast
*A big ol' church built by the Jesuits in mega baroque gold and fake gold splendour
*Cathedral island, where even now, centuries-old secrets continue to be revealed
*St. Martin croissants, totally a thing in Poznan, which we learned to make in a very funny interactive show/demonstration that happened to end with me winning an extra croissant for coming closest to guessing the weight in grams of the croissant that we as a group made. Actually, the weight was between what I said and what another audience member said, but by The Price Is Right rules I win because the other person overbid.
I won!

*An imaginative and high tech experience at a museum that uses audio, visual, films, holograms, models, and more to explore Poznan history

And later, our new friend Piotr, the young Polish construction supervisor
A noble Poznan cat
on our work site who has lived in Poznan for seven years, showed us a night out on the town. Have I mentioned that there is a lot of beer in Poland?

Here's to another great millennium, Poznan!

1 comment:

Brian said...

I find your Korea-Poland comparison to be fascinating and apt. I wonder why neither of us explicitly mentioned that before, since we both had to be thinking it. I like the town square and the cat.