Friday, July 4, 2008


Twice have I been to the medieval city of Torun. It's a great place. The Stare Miasto (Old City) is sizable and has beautiful buildings that escaped the large-scale destruction of the past century. Near the center there are the ruins of an old castle of the Teutonic Knights. The residents of Torun rose up and revolted; they then promptly tore down the castle and used as a dump for the next few hundred years. All that remains are some old walls and some of the cellars (pretty cool) but it costs money just to wander amongst outcroppings of ruined brick.
The Old City is not large, one can walk from end to end in about ten-fifteen minutes. Plus, the streets are mostly car-free. Copernicus was born and raised here, and they don't let you forget it. Also, Piernik (Gingerbread) is Torun's second claim-to-fame. The Pole's have an old saying, "Vodka from Gdansk, Girls from Krakow, Piernik from Torun, Shoes from Warsaw: These are the best of Poland." Or something like that.
Part of the Stary Rynek in the Stare Miasto
Part of the Stary Rynek in the Stare Miasto
El Paso is known for it's Tex Mex, San Francisco is know for it's gays and Torun is known for it's piernik. There's a piernik museum where you can go and make your own gingerbread. They bake it for you and you are able to take it away and eat it. Torun also thrives off it's medieval times by selling stupid, poorly made, worthless shit on the streets. Wooden swords, crappy spears, and stupid, plastic figurines are found in troves upon hawkers' stands. They did have some stands at the entrance to the old city, which were selling quality goods. There was one stand selling Polish pottery which some beautiful pieces. I almost bought a pitcher and bowl that would have cost around $75, but I didn't. There were stands selling grilled cheese (not the sandwich type. Just slices of cheese called oscypek, which is saltier than a sailor's balls.)
There are also some beautiful churches (as there are in every European city) but sometimes they charge you to take pictures or even enter. They also have some medieval granaries, which are worth a note.
I remember in Rothenburg an der Tauber I could along the wall for a good long time. I've yet to be in a city in Poland where one can do that. Krakow ripped down its walls, Warsaw barely has any left, Torun doesn't allow you up. The architecture is insanely beautiful, but modern times have led to it being semi-ruined with modern signs slapped up against ancient facades. It's a real shame.
Eating crepes (nalisniki) at Manekin's is awesome. Their absolutely delicious. Pan Michal advised me to go there, claiming they were the best crepes of his life. They may not be the best crepes of my life, but I haven't eaten tons of crepes so they very well may have. They have sweet crepes filled with fruit or sweet cheese and smothered in cream and chocolate. Or they have ones filled with vegetables and meat covered in sauce (or in my case, cracklings.) It's nice to sit at the table and enjoy some crepes and people watch.


Real Chile said...

Was the picture you took a picture of a fancy or upper class neighborhood? Or is that a normal urban neighborhood in Poland. There seems to be a lack of value placed on old historic buildings, right? Would you classify Poland as a developing (or second world) country? Because if it is maybe that is why there is little value placed in historic builds and maintaining them. In Latin America's developing countries there is frequently a "modernization is king" attitude about buildings. In Chile in particular there is a general apathy toward maintaining old historic buildings in fact many people call them Ugly. What are these things like in Poland?

PolishMeKnob said...

That picture is actually of the main square in Torun. (Or at least part of it.) The pictures here are taken with my digital camera and really aren't that great. Sometime I will scan my film pictures which should be better.
Some of the buildings in Warsaw, which were constructed after the War, are often considered ugly. The Palace of Science and Culture and the Warszawa Centralna (which is one of my favorite buildings in Warsaw) are often considered eyesores. The older buildings I don't think are considered ugly, (on the contrary!) but they do take a long-ass time in restoring them.