We have our first taste today, of the distances Poland will bring. We’re driving from Wieliczka to Zamosc in Poland’s south east. With over 300 km separating the two places, it’s a drive that would be more at home in Australia than Europe.
The first 200 km is as smooth as glass, thanks to the motorway. Utterly boring though, but I guess that’s the trade off. We pass farmland, corn in the main, and the occasional river and lake. It’s not until we leave the motorway that our surroundings become more engaging. We’re in stork country! We spot 15 of them, some on the wing, many babies in nests perched on high, waiting for supper with greedy mouths.
With their enormous size, and bright red beaks, they’re always a mesmerising sight. I also see a tiny little deer daintily nibbling away and there are endless chickens of course, strutting about like they own the place. The occasional farm has one or two cows, or a horse, but livestock is unusually absent otherwise.
Past the corn, we’re in wheat then tobacco country. Endless kilometres of plantings in different stages of growth and flowering – it’s quite a fascinating crop with broad leaves and pretty pink and white flowers.
Our challenge comes once we pass farmland, into logging forest. Here, the logging trucks have utterly destroyed the roads, making driving a real challenge. The only fun had is debating who takes the crown for the worst roads to date: these, northern Italy, or central Croatia. Italy holds the crown, but by drive’s end, Himself appointments this road the clear winner. It’s truly bone rattling awful.
We arrive in Zamosc by late afternoon – just as well too, I’d much rather drive in the blistering heat and explore in early evening.
I can see from the fortifications surrounding it, that Zamosc is going to be stunning, and chanting let’s go, let’s go, let’s go at Himself, it’s all I can do to not skip into town. Zamosc is unusual in that it’s a wholly planned city, built on Italian concepts of what constituted “the perfect town”.
Its rich Renaissance heritage is virtually intact. Zamosc was the brainchild of its owner, magnate Jan Zamoyski (1541 – 1605) under the stewardship of architect Bernardo Morando. Building commenced in 1581 and took ten years. It’s been a UNESCO site since 1992.
The main square, Rynek Wielki, is breathtaking in the late afternoon light. I was right to be excited. The Italianate culture that underpinned its creation is still alive and well almost 500 years on. Everyone has spilled out into the main square, eating icecream, enjoying cocktails or promenading in the square.
And what a square it is: anchored by the Town Hall,
the square is surrounded on all sides by arcaded houses.
These were Armenian merchants’ homes, richly decorated in an oriental style. I’ll have the green one please.
Zamosc is quite tiny, it doesn’t take long to lap it from one edge of the fortification to the other. Despite being built as part of “the perfect town” the fortifications were put to good use resisting a Cossack siege and an attack by the Swedes in the 1650s.
In our travels we come across a lovely synagogue
and this Refectory doorway, the oldest house in Zamosc.
Town lapped, we settle in the square for drinks, people watching and eventually dinner. Himself has pizza, with a Polish twist
and I of course have pierogi, Ruski style with potato and white cheese. With a shot of vodka, apparently the classic accompaniment. Who am I to argue?
It’s a delightful way of passing the evening after a stressful drive. The sunset over the fortifications is the perfect finishing touch.