And I was off again. In my reading about Poland, I had discovered that Warsaw hadn’t always been the capital of Poland. The first, it appears, was Gniezno. Road trip! Or, actually train, but who’s judging!
So, how did Gniezno end up as the first capital city of Poland? Let’s find out…
I successfully arrived at the not-too impressive Gniezno station, hoping that what was on the other side of the station looked more welcoming than the side I was staring at.
It did and I was pleasantly surprised by a delightful little park – Park Kościuszki – full of monuments and sculptures, including one of King Przemyśl II.
With my phone gps guiding the way, I found my way to the Rynek. The streets were actually quite lovely. I wandered down through the square, towards the jewel in Gniezno’s crown, Gniezno Cathedral. Home to a spectacular pair of bronze doors, the cathedral served as the coronation of several Polish monarchs. I walked inside the church, careful not to interrupt a service in session, and wandered around the outside.
The sign near the church doors said tours to see the bronze doors would commence in forty minutes time so I wandered back to the Rynek to find lunch. Back at the church by the required time, I and several others stood around waiting for the doors to open. Nothing. Waiting, waiting, waiting….nothing. I had a train to catch to my next destination, so I couldn’t wait any longer. What a shame!
Onwards it was. My next destination and my home for the next two nights, was the city of Poznan. My phone battery had all but run out as I disembarked the train and realized I still had to work out how to get to my hotel. I managed to get a tram route up and disembarked somewhere near the Rynek before it went totally dead. It was off one of the side streets, I recalled that much, but which one? I was passing a little alley when I looked to the right and noticed a hill. I was staying at the Hill Inn, so I turned and in a round about way, there it was.
Beginning as a small stronghold in the 9th century, Poznań became the capital of Poland (with Gniezno) and the residence of Poland’s first two kings. It was considered the historical capital of the Greater Poland region (Wielkopolska). It was here that Poland’s first king, Miesko I, was baptized. The first Polish Cathedral was built here and it was likely the main seat of the first missionary Bishop. The cathedral became the burial place of Poland’s early kings, including our friend above, King Przemyśl II.
The first thing you notice in Poznan’s medieval old square are the decorative merchant houses. They came into being in the 16th century and were a replacement for the merchants ‘herring booths’. From these buildings, you could buy all manner of things including fish and candles.
There wasn’t much time left in the day by now, so I decided to explore a little of the city’s old town streets and grab dinner at a whiskey bar I had heard of. Kind of like Hard Rock Cafe, but entirely themed on whiskey cocktails served in jars, Whiskey in a Jar, was dark and relatively quiet when I arrived. After waiting some time at the entrance, I was finally escorted to a table and given a menu to contemplate for what seemed like it would be the rest of the evening. After about 20 minutes and having watched the guy next to me change his kids nappy at the table, I decided I didn’t need whiskey that badly and walked out.
Along two sides of the Rynek, little wooden booths were being nailed into place, ready for a food festival that was commencing tomorrow. Hopefully I could fit this in with all the sightseeing I had planned.
At a regional restaurant in the square, I ordered grey noodles. I knew from the moment they landed in front of me that the stodgy looking dish would be hard to swallow, even washed down with several glasses of wine.
It was a good thing the local drunks were putting on a good show, cause it gave me plenty of reason to eat slowly, though I could probably also have used them as an excuse not to finish.