The distances between Poland’s special places might be a little further than elsewhere in Europe, but they’re utter gems on arrival. Such is the case with Torun, a mediaeval charmer set in the province of Pomerania*.
Tucked behind its fortifications, Torun is the birthplace of Nicolaus Copernicus, but is equally well known for its mediaeval architecture. Founded by the Teutonic Knights in 1233, its location by the river Vistula saw it rise to become a major trade centre. In 1454, its citizens rebelled against the Knights’ rule, handing the city over to the King. It’s a challenge, being a diehard Monty Python fan, picturing knights ruling the city without calling forth visions of the Knights of The Holy Grail. I can’t be the only one for whom that’s a permanent connection, surely?
Torun was exceedingly lucky to escape WWII relatively unscathed, leaving its beautiful mediaeval architecture intact. With its compact layout and ban on vehicles in the old town, is an easy exploration on foot.
We start in the Old Market Square, with its distinctive Town Hall (built in 1391)featuring a wildlife photography exhibition in its square,the Post Office, which is gorgeous, but goes unmentioned in all tourist information,and of course a statue of its most famous son.Nearby is a fascinating fountain of a fiddler … surrounded by frogs!Later I find out he’s The Raftsman, a local legend who saved Torun from an infestation of frogs, with his fiddle. What the little crocheted outfits on the frogs are about, I couldn’t tell you.There’s also the Copernicus family home, now a museum,and for a small town, five historic churches, three of which are located near the Old Market Square.We’re treated to a resounding peal of church bells, one politely after the other, heralding midday.
Himself decides it’s also the call for lunch and sets about making his choice of restaurant. He orders a meltingly tender pork knuckle, served with sauerkraut and fresh mustardand I break my “entree only” rule for once, plumping for a goulash served with potato pancakes, and a side of beetroot.Both are excellent. You can eat very well in Poland, inexpensively too.
After lunch we drag full tummies along the river. The original fortification walls and city gates line Torun’s river frontage.There’s the Leaning Tower,the Dovecote Tower – once home to military messenger pigeons,the Sailor’s Gateand the Bridge Gate.History delightfully intact.Further along is the Burgher’s court,built from the bricks from the ruins of the Teutonic Knights Castle – its ruins are behind the Burgher’s Court.Amusingly, the only part of the Knights’ Castle still standing, is the Latrine Tower.Conveniently, or less conveniently, depending on your whereabouts at the critical moment, placed over the river, allowing gravity to do its work.We also find an Italian market in full swingin New Market Square where this this cheeky boy talks me into some excellent cannoli. “Australia” he says, “nice and close for you”, then proceeds to laugh his head off.This end of Torun also furnishes the last two churches as well. The Church of St James is particularly lovely with its 14th century frescoes,and Tree of Life sculpture, depicting Christ nailed to a tree, its branches featuring the prophets.We also see the ancient granaries (now sensibly restored), once used for storage prior to sending grain and goods down river,several significant dwellingsand quirky modern sculpture scattered throughout the town.The only thing left to do is to make our way back into The Old Square for a drink before we tackle the walk home, back over the river. The bridge has to qualify as one of the longest I’ve walked across, an easy kilometre or more.
Early evening is spent in a joyous state, spying on a hare Himself spots in long grass behind us. Binoculars at the ready, I spend a happy couple of hours watching him go about the business of carefully selecting the choicest greens for his supper, as specific as a chef at market. He’s a very handsome fellow. In between the binoculars and my phone lined up with the lens, I manage this shot,but when I look through the binoculars, he looks very much like this perfect shot, displayed as part of the Town Hall’s wildlife photography exhibition.Sadly, a phone camera can’t even come close to that. I’d need a “real” camera + to know what to do with it.
What an utter delight Torun has turn out to be. My evening hare buddy was the perfect cherry on top.
* Despite the name, there is a distinct lack of pomeranians, or as I like to call them, pompoms, in Pomerania. It’s an opportunity lost, I think. One of the many internet furries I’ve lost my heart to is Instagram’s @bertiebertthepom – I can’t think of any place that wouldn’t benifit from a few Berties running about. There are quite a few sausage dogs though, also a favourite, to soften the blow.