The Fighting Goats of Poznan

The streets of the old town were almost deserted when I stepped out to explore them. A couple of workmen were huddled in towards each other, giving me a cheeky smile as they raised small bottles of vodka in my direction. Gotta love Poland.

Given Poznan’s early history, I thought the best way to start the day would be with a visit to Cathedral Island. There’s a museum there called Porta Poznania which brings the city’s historical story to life.

Porta Posnania is a fully interactive museum that tells the story of the creation of Poland’s first capital. The 18zł entry fee ncludes the cost of an audio guide, which steps you through the exhibit. Make sure you head to the rooftop afterwards for a magical view of the Cathedral.

You can catch a tram (No. 8 from Pl. Wielkopolska) or enjoy the walk which, which I did. It only took about 15-20 minutes. It’s worth spending time to walk around ‘the island’ and explore some of the old buildings.

I arrived back in the Rynek to find the Festiwal Dobrego Smaku (Festival of Good Taste) well underway. And as I hadn’t yet had breakfast, was cheered to see the croissant stall. Not just any croissant though, these are the legally protected St Martin’s Croissants (Rogale Marciński). Eighty one layers of pastry filled with white poppy seeds, raisins, orange peel, walnuts, biscuit crumbs and almonds. Eighty one layers of heaven. You can learn more about these croissants by visiting the museum in the Rynek and you can even combine the visit to see the goats fight.

Aside from the croissants though, there were breads, meats, cheeses, honey (miod), dried flowers, wines, vodkas, cakes and more – all available for tasting. No Polish required, just point and take a chance! I chose a beautiful bottle of strawberry wine to share with ny cousins back in Warsaw and tried some delicious snacks, including oscypek (a decorative sheeps cheese from Poland’s mountainous regions) served warm and topped with cranberry sauce.

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The square was truly alive, especially so by the folk dancing and accompanying fiddle music.

Whatever you decide to do in Poznan, you must make sure you are under the town hall clock in the Rynek at midday. Why? Cause of the fighting goats!

You don’t really even need to know where, just follow the crowds because about 15 minutes beforehand the tourists are already jostling for the best viewing position just to see two iron billy goats butt heads.

Why?

History says:

Back in the middle of the 16th century there was a chef in town (some versions call him “Pete”) who was charged with cooking an elaborate feast for the mayor and some visiting dignitaries. Pete set about preparing some roast deer, but things didn’t go so well. Distracted by the festivities of the big event, his beautiful joint of venison ended up falling off the spit, straight into the fire, burning to a crisp. Pete needed some new meat, but the butcher had no more venison. In a desperate move to save the meal (and his own neck) he grabbed two grazing goats from a nearby meadow, but they escaped his grasp and darted off towards Town Hall. They ran up the stairs into the tower, catching the attention of the crowd below when they emerged from the turret, locked horns and began to battle it out. The crowd included the mayor and his guests, who were more charmed than they were angry about the meal, so Pete and the goats were pardoned. A new clock just happened to be in production at the time, so the Major requested that two goats be added to the cuckoo-style mechanism.

Poznan’s rynek streets are a great place to wander and explore. If you are vigilant enough, you’ll notice a familiar character appearing here and there – he’s called ‘the watcher ‘ or ‘Pan Peryskop’.

Created by street artist Noriaki, Pan Peryskop is Poznan’s favourite piece of graffiti.

Lunch saw me grab a seat outside Brovaria where I combined a bowl of borcht with a beer tasting paddle. Literally, a liquid lunch. Filled with little meat ‘pies’ (mince filled dumplings), the borscht was not a patch on my Babcia’s.

The beer was ok though. There were three on the paddle – honey, pils and wheat ale.

The Lesser Basilica of St Stanislaus is exquisite – in fact it is considered one of most exquisite examples of Baroque architecture in Poland. Built by the Jesuurs, commencing in 1649, construction was interrupted several times until it was finished over 50 years later. Its beautiful, intricate pink trimmings demand you spend time admiring the church, inside and out. Notable things to know here are the plaque devoted to Father Jakub Wujek – author of the first translation of the Bible into Polish – and the fact that the church’s extensive cellars were used to store wine between the two world wars!

Clearly I hadn’t had enough of Poznan’s goats yet, because I found myself buying a ticket to the 3D goat show. I’m not sure if it was the beer that made me do it, but next thing I knew I had joined a mother and her two terrified children and was making my way through a psychedelic version of the goat story. Mental note: no more beer. The goat at the entrance should have been warning enough.

By late afternoon I was feeling pretty exhausted but I knew I would be disappointed in myself if I didn’t make the effort to get to Citadel Park.

Housed in the remains of Fort Winiary are several reminders of those who fought for Poland in both world wars, including cemeteries and a monument to Poland’s wartime heroes.

It was a fair distance from town and I was really flagging when I arrived, having spent the day walking the city. I definitely wasn’t keen to see all those steps on arrival, that’s for sure, but I pulled myself together and headed for the top.

I saw little of the expansive park grounds, literally dragging myself along the pathways now. My feet felt like they were broken.

I did make it to the military museum, checking out the tanks, now stationery in its courtyard.

I was particularly hoping to see the sculpture called ‘the Unrecognized Ones’, but unfortunately I couldn’t find them and had no energy to keep looking for them. To read more about these striking giant legs, click here.

Thank goodness there was a gorgeous garden of dahlias, which I love – note the purple one was on the ground, I did not pick it!

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