This post is the continuation of a series documenting our travels across the Central European country of Poland. We had spent the first 3 days of this vacation in the wonderful Baltic City of Gdansk. On the last day there we had visited the Solidarity centre for a unique history lesson and walked around the flood lit Main town at night.(Gdansk Part 3 – The Solidarity Centre & walking around the Main town at night)
We said goodbye to the Hotel Podewils after a heavy and sumptuous breakfast and made our way to the train station. We couldn’t resist taking one last selfie with the famous Gdansk waterfront that we had walked numerous times in our 3 days there.
As we walked to the station I consciously took a slightly different route than that we had walked previously to see if we had missed something photogenic. Sure enough we came across a pretty little bridge across a canal with a half timbered house in the centre and a colourful flowerbed in a small local garden. It shows that you can’t even scratch the surface of a city in 3 days, leave alone see it in toto.
The next destination on this trip from the north to the south of Poland was the small walled town of Torun. Small towns in Europe are a favourite of mine. While big cities are filled with sights to see and things to do, a small pretty town with minimal sights but lots of unique character has its own charm. The claim to fame of this Polish town was that it was the home town of the famous astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, who made (at the time blasphemous) claim that it was the sun and not the Earth that was the centre of the Solar System! Also like Krakow and unlike most other Polish cities, Torun suffered no damage in the World war II. So most structures here are medieval in origin unlike the reconstructed main town of Gdansk.
We reached the Gdansk station, got to our platform and waited for our train to arrive. As mentioned in my earlier posts I had booked first class tickets since the seats are more spacious and the price difference wasn’t exorbitant like in most of Western Europe. As the train arrived we got aboard found our allotted seats and had a comfortable and picturesque ride to Torun.
After a two and a half hour train journey we reached the Torun main train station, which is a fair distance from the old town itself. So we took a taxi from the taxi stand just outside the station. The taxi wasn’t so expensive and was the quickest way to the Old town where our Hotel Karczma – Spichrz was located.
The Hotel was an old granary converted into a hotel ( Spichrz means granary in Polish). So the rooms were of a moderate size with low overhanging wooden beams. However it was well located and also had an attached popular restaurant. With just one night there, it was all that we needed. We just quickly kept our luggage and freshened up.
It was near lunch time so we decided to have lunch first and then start our exploration of Torun. The attached Restaurant Karczma seemed like a good option and soon we were seated for lunch.
The restaurant lived up to excellent reviews and both the food and the service were excellent. I had the Polish beef rolls in pepper sauce while the better half had her favourite potato pancakes. The meal was so good that we decided right then that we would have dinner there too.
Our tummies full we started our walk around the medieval old town of Torun. With such a short time in Torun and the weather being perfect and sunny we didn’t want to waste much time in museums / indoors. So we decided just to do the town hall tower climb instead of a City hall/ museum visit. Being a sucker for a good view it was a no contest for us.
So we reached the City hall, a majestic red brick structure that dominates the main town square. We went inside the courtyard , got our tickets and started our climb to the top of the 130 foot tall tower.
As with all towers the steps were narrow and a claustrophobes nightmare at the top. But soon we came out through a wooden door onto the viewing balcony with sweeping views over the old town and the sprawling modern city beyond. The weather was great and the beautiful skies made me and the camera go trigger happy and take a lot of photos.
We were the only ones there for quite some time and we enjoyed our solitude on top of the tower. After about 20 minutes on top we started our descent down.
We stopped to marvel at the huge old bells in the bell tower that we had ignored in our hurry to get to the top.
Soon we were back at ground level and in the main town square. The square was bustling with people. Torun is also a college town and since we had arrive just as the weekend was starting the streets were full of college kids having a good time.
We went in the Church of the Holy Spirit but a service was going on. So we decided to be respectful and visit later when no religious services were being conducted.
Just opposite the Church was a strange statue of a man playing a violin and surrounded by frogs. This was the statue of a rafter who had supposedly rid the town of an infestation of frogs by playing the violin and drawing them into the Vistula and out of town. ( A local pied piper in other words, but more humane since frogs won’t drown in the river unlike the rats!)
We then decided to visit the other churches that we had seen from the top of the tower. So we started towards the Church of the Assumption of the blessed Virgin Mary which was closest. On the way and just beside the Church of the holy spirit was a beautiful brick building which I couldn’t resist taking photos of, it turned out to be the local post office!
Soon we reached a typical huge red brick church that looked like the St Mary’s Church in Gdansk. This was the Church of the Assumption of the blessed Virgin Mary, a 14th century church with a shiny baroque altar, typical vaulted ceilings, beautiful stained glass windows and a baroque art lined nave. It was almost completely empty and we did our usual church routine of sitting in the pews for a few minutes, admiring the art on display, taking a lot of photos and walking out.
We then walked towards the main street, Ulica Szeroka. These pedestrian only cobbled main streets in the old towns all over Europe are what keep drawing me back to visit. It is an experience in itself ambling through these streets and doing absolutely nothing in particular, especially on a beautiful sunny day.
The Ulica Szeroka led us back to the base of the tower we had climb few hours ago. At that time the statue of Copernicus was mobbed with tour groups. It was relatively calmer now and so we sat at the bench right below the statue of the big man himself and rested our legs for a while.
Right opposite the statue of Copernicus was a statue that was even more popular with the tourist crowds. This was a bronze donkey with a sharp ridge on its back! This was a reconstruction of a similar wooden donkey used as a punishment in the olden days for petty criminals who were made to straddle the donkey with heavy stone tied to their legs! Ouch!
We then walked on the main street towards the other major Square in the Old town, the new market Square. Both the Cathedral of the Two St Johns and St James Church were closed for restoration when we visited. So sadly we could not visit these other famous churches in Torun.
While walking towards the New Market square we noticed random bronze statues in the middle of the street or at the sides of buildings. This was unique to Torun and we found two that day.(We would search for more and find them the coming morning!) A lady baker with her dog and a dragon casually lying beside a drain! It is such unexpected treasures that make walking around old towns a real pleasure.
We reached the ” New ” Market square after a few minutes of ambling. The emphasis on the new is because it was built in the 13th century too, just 30 years after the Old town square. This relatively low key square with a red brick market in the centre has a charm of its own. We circled the market square, bought some delicious looking strawberries from a vendor and started our walk back to our hotel.
As we returned back to the hotel it was late evening, the crowds had thinned out and the streets were almost deserted. We were tired too and our bodies were demanding rest. So we decided to listen and treated ourselves to an evening nap.
We had been lucky that our only day in Torun had been a sunny day making it a memorable day in a pretty little town. We would return again to walk the old town street after it was dark and the streets and the structures were lit up.
But that is a topic for another post, some other time, some other day.