Poznań. The [ń] is similar to the soft [n], as the Spanish [ñ] in [cañon]. However, ignoring it and pronouncing it as simple "n" isn't a problem. Until 1945, the city was better known under it's German name Posen, the Latin name is Posnania.
Poznan lies halfway between Berlin and →Warsaw - both cities are around 300 km away, although Berlin is a little bit closer. The town marks the centre of the province Wielkopolska (Greater Poland) - as the name already suggests, a historically very important part of the country. The landscape around the town is rather unspectacular - a large plain, mainly used as farmland.
Some 580,000 inhabitants. This makes Poznan the fifth-largest town of Poland. The population decreased significantly since the 1990ies.
Poznan is clearly divided into the smaller Stare Miasto (Old town), the large Nowe Miasto (New Town) and the also rather new districts Wilda and Wald. Those four districts are surrounded by more or less modern residential and industrial areas. The river Warta - a tributary of the river Odra - meanders through Poznan but doesn't play a large role in the historic centre.
Watching Poznan from the window of train is everything but spectacular - all you can see is a few church towers. The centre is around 1.5 km away from Poznań Główny (Main Train Station). Between the station in the west and the old town it's a pleasant walk through a more or less well preserved pre-war residential area and a park belt. The main road, Św. Marcin (St. Martin) runs from East to West but is quite far away from the train station. The old centre is rather small and can be explored in a few hours.
Poznan has a long history and is one of the oldest cities in the country. The Slavic tribe of the Polanes built a first small fortress here during the 9th century. In the 10th century, Emperor Otto founded the Posen diocese (Posen was the German name). Duke Mieszko I. made Poznan the capital of the newly created Duchy of Poland in 968. Poznan only served as the capital until 1038, but it continued thriving after that as well. Since somewhen in the 15th century, Poznan became famous as an important trade fair town. After the First Partition of Poland in 1772 (see also →History of Poland) until 1918, the town grew further thanks to the fact that it became the capital of the German province Western Prussia. Probably the most famous citizen of Poznan, Paul Hindenburg, later field marshal and president of Germany, was born in 1847. From 1918 until 1939, Poznan was controlled by Poland again.
Poznan made its way in the news in 1956. During the Poznan riots, ten thousands of workers entered the barricades. But the protest was put down with brute force. An estimated 70 protesters were killed. But these riots were not the last in Poland. Nowadays, Poznan is the most important town of Western Poland and famous for its university, the trade fair, industry and arts.
Getting there / transportation
Poznan has its own international airport and excellent connections to the extensive railway network. The town lies at the international East-West route, which means that for example Berlin-Warszawa-Express stops in Poznan several times a day - the trip to Berlin takes less then three hours and costs € 30 for a single ticket. The same train and some others run eastwards to →Warsaw. This takes some three hours as well and costs 34 Zł.
Every other train running between Berlin and Warsaw stops in Poznan as well - this means there are direct trains to →Minsk, →Brest and Moscow as well as to →Kiev (Ky'iv). Furthermore there are many daily trains to other large cities in Poland such as →Szczecin (3 hrs), →Wrocław (Breslau) (2½ hrs) and even to Zakopane in the Tatra mountains.
The best way to get around in the city is the tram. Tickets cost 2.00 Zł for 30 minutes. Line No 5 runs from the train station to the old town.
Poznan has suffered a lot during World War II and the post-war communist era. Although many things have improved after 1990, it still remains a grey diva with a charme that needs to be explored. The centre of the old town is marked by the interesting Stary Rynek (Old Market) - a nice square with a large city hall and some new and rather unattractive buildings in the middle.
|Old and new at the old Market Square of Poznan|
The above mentioned Ratusz (town hall) was first built during the 13th century but later destroyed. The present form dates back to the middle of the 16th century and wass obviously heavily inspired by the renaissance. To be exactly, the recent structure is a copy of the original - the latter was almost completely destroyed during WW II. Today, the town hall is used as the Historical museum of Poznan and sports some beautiful frescoes. Outside, two billy goats as a part of a large clock show up at exactly 12 o'clock to amuse Poznan's visitors.
|The large Old Market Square in the centre|
Most of the beautiful medieval private villas surrounding the market square were rebuilt or well preserved, so it's well worth strolling around the square for some hours. Additionally, there are numerous cafés and restaurants and, right in the middle of the square, the Wielkopolski Muzeum Wojskowe (Greater Poland Martial Museum). Not far from the square is another one - the Muzeum Narodowe (National Museum) with lots of arts on display.
|Poznan's town hall|
Once the centre of early medieval Poznan, the so-called Ostrów Tumski (Cathedral Island) in the river
Warta is now outside the modern heart of the town. The islet is well-known for its twin-towered katedra Poznański -
the cathedral of Poznan. This was the oldest church in Poland, first built during the 10th century, but large parts were destroyed
later. Only a few relicts inside the crypt remained. The cathedral and the island are around 1 km away to the west from the old market square.
The towers clearly dominate the skyline of Poznan and can be well seen from a distance.
Poznan has many beautiful and even more rather unattractive spots. But although the historic centre is very small, it's well worth a stopover.
As already mentioned above, Poznan lies in the middle of the historic province Greater Poland. This means that there's a lot to see in the vicinity - for example Kórnik, some 20 km south of Poznan, which offers a splendid castle including an arboretum, both created during the 19th century. Only 15 km away to the west is the village Rogalin with a beautiful baroque castle dating back to the 18th century and a large park attached to the castle.
Since Poznan hosts some important trade fairs, there's no lack of accommodation. But hotels are often booked out during the larger events in June. We ended up staying in a very basic hotel? hostel? in Kolejowa rd., around 1 km south of the train station. Rooms were large, dull but clean. The price for a double room was 30 Zł, but the location is quite inconvenient if you want to go out. Unfortunately I forgot to write down the name and the address, but it's easy to find - just walk down the long road southwards for 10 minutes or so and you'll see the hotel, a very simple concrete structure, on your right.
- www.city.poznan.pl: Official website of Poznan. Includes an English version.
- www.pcb.poznan.pl/: Website of the Poznan Convention Bureau - with useful business- and other information. English available.
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