Poznaj Poznań!

“Poznaj” means “meet” in Polish language. Poznań is my home city in Poland and the idea of writing this post came due to numberless queries from my international friends visiting this beautiful place to gather some of my tips in one place. Quite a challenge, as it is difficult to pick some basic facts, or personal faves I gathered during 20 years I lived there and squeeze into one post.  I will try to focus and see Poznań as a tourist, which I lately turn whenever I come back for a weekend.

Yes, it’s a perfect weekend getaway city: very vibrant, full of bars and restaurants as well as some interesting history to discover. Berlin is the closest biggest city nearby (well, Szczecin is not far away either) and it takes less than 3 hours to travel there by direct train, bus, car – or for more extreme ones: about 23 hours by bike. There are often discounts to get to Poznań: if you buy your ticket in advance (at least 3 days before your trip), you will be able to travel for 19 EUR on the Berlin-Warszawa-Express train. Ecological and fun: you will be able to see Greater Poland’s landscapes, with its pecularities such as the tallest Christ the King sculpture in the world in Świebodzin.

At a first glance, it shares some similarities with Berlin, due to the obvious proximity and the influence of over 100 years of Prussian occupation before Poland re-gaining independence in 1918. Nowadays this can be reflected the most by some monuments (like the Imperial Castle of Wilhelm II), the urbanistic planning of certain neighbourhoods and… the spoken language. Poznań’s dialect consists of many German-originated words. The closeness of Berlin has influenced also more recently the clubbing culture in the 90s and early 2000s bringing legendary Tresor club residents to regular gigs. Poznań is often referred as the most LGBT-friendly and nightlife-loving city in Poland. However, this may seem exaggerated, since Poland is unfortunately quite prone to conservative backlash.

Poznań is also an incredibly green city – parks like Citadel (with exceptional WWII exhibition and Magdalena Abakanowicz sculptures), Sołacz and lakes like Malta, Kiekrz or Strzeszynek are popular spots regardless of the season (there are also some aficionados of the winter swimming, believe me!). Lately, during summer you cannot miss city beaches opening, apart from the well-known KontenerART, there are Brzeg Wschodni and The City Beach “Na Szelągu”.

Some basic facts? It’s not as obvious tourist destination in Poland as Warsaw or Cracow, but it is where the first bishophric of Poland was established in 10th century, so for history-loving people a visit in the Ostrów Tumski near (nowadays) very hip Śródka neighbourhood is a must. Poznań boasts itself with a picturesque Old Town Square and very lively streets around the city centre. Fortunately for the development of some other parts of the city, I see the trend of decentering the location of interesting spots to other neighbourhoods as well, so if you have a chance, wander around Jeżyce (and its murals!), Grunwald, Winogrady or Wilda. There is plenty of new restaurants and bars everywhere, as well as local community initiatives.

Speaking about events, throughout the year there are various opportunities to visit Poznań and face interesting things happening, such as: Malta Festival, Dancing Poznań, Ethno Port, Short Waves, Enter Jazz Festival and Spring Break  Showcase Festival & Conference.

OK… Mission: tourist in my own city accomplished. If you wanna know more about my city and more private notes, simply let me know!

Sound Sculpture in Szczecin

Last month for me was exceptionally full of events in Berlin during the work week, and shorter or longer getaways during the weekends. Similarly like last year around springtime, I felt tempted to explore not only Berlin and Brandenburg, but also the coastline.

Triggered by the concert of one of my favourite Polish electronic music producers in the newly built Philharmonic Hall in Szczecin, together with my friend, we decided to spend a weekend in Szczecin, the biggest Polish city situated next to the North-Eastern frontier.

Typically people would go there on the way to some other locations: like for instance Polish seaside towns or even more popular summer festivals, like Plötzlich am Meer. The train ride to Szczecin would take us less than 2 hours and cost… less than 6 EUR, if you manage to find your ‘Berlin-Brandenburg-Ticket’ group, which is almost a ritual part of this route. Otherwise, if you don’t feel like socializing, you can stick to a special fare, individual ticket for 10 EUR.

Szczecin itself has its specific charm. On one hand, it’s probably one of the most spacious cities in terms of territory: situated by the bay, river and countless lakes, it is indeed huge. Given its difficult, war, post-war and heavily industrialised history, it also seems derelict or unproportionally uncrowded comparing to its size. This has a lot to do with the migrations to other bigger cities or neighbouring Germany. So obviously there are places one shouldn’t visit after the sun goes down.

However, there are some sparkles of creativity in reconstructing the city, and bringing more cultural events. The area surrounding the castle and the promenade is full of interesting street art and the city tries to attract different people by hosting cultural events such as Kontrapunkt, or at least inviting unusual artists like Skalpel for the electronic music showcases in the extraordinary set up in the Philharmonic, which is worth visiting itself.

I enjoyed this visit greatly, given that I was pointed many recommendations by my friends originating from Szczecin and the concert exceeded my expectations.

If you like history, scratching beyond the surface, and discovering the beauty in the atypically interesting architecture, yet you’re bold enough – visiting Szczecin sounds good in combining it with one of its cultural events.

 

 

Berlin-Warszawa-Express

I haven’t been to Warsaw in years, and heard from various trusted sources how interesting, fresh and inspiring it’s gotten since then. Also, it’s been spoken around Berlin a lot that is is a new place to be. I treated it with a grain of salt, as usual when one reads such revelations, but nevertheless – I wanted to spend a weekend with friends and family that live there.
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Starting from the history: there is probably no other city that has been treated so cruelly, yet got rebuilt and reinvented itself like the Phoenix from ashes, literally. Then during the Iron Curtain time it was always considered poor but sexy, just as Berlin was (is?). Yet after 25 years of the democratic times in Poland, it simply flourishes, connecting the importance of its history with the outlook for the future.
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Familiar emblematic buildings meet the skyscrapers, brutalist architecture meet steel-and-glass-era. So much diversity in the country which still considers itself pretty homogenous. Fortunately, it seems to be changing.
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I didn’t have much time to explore the new museums, such as Copernicus Science Centre, Museum of Modern Art or Polin – Museum of the History of Polish Jews. I have chosen Polin given my forthcoming trip to Israel and curiosity of comparing it with the Jewish Museum in Berlin I lately visited. I was amazed by the amount of comprehensive and equally interesting expositions showing the 1000 years’ history of Jews in Poland. For those who want to learn more about the complex relationship and great cultural influence, it is a must.
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Last but not least, I had a very relaxing stroll by the Vistula river, where nowadays there are colourful fountains, boulevars and plenty of beach bars (and city beaches anyway). A weekend getaway to Warsaw from Berlin is a pretty feasible option, with a journey taking cca. 5 hours. There are 4 trains leaving daily, let alone flights, buses and car sharing options at a very affordable prices. One weekend is definitely not enough to get a full taste of the Polish capital, but definitely sufficient to get inspired.