There is something truly magical about castles. For years I have been drawn to them, I love the way they look, the way they transport me back into the past, even the way they smell, giving its chambers a unique, raw atmosphere with old furniture and the light sneaking through the little windows. No wonder last summer I had to visit my local castle in Golub Dobrzyń again, on a warm summer day when one could truly relax and take in all the beauty.
The castle is picturesquely situated on the riverside hill and it was built by Teutonic knights after 1293. The brick fortress was originally both the Komtur’s office and a bastion protecting the border between the Teutonic Land and Poland. In the seventeenth century it was a home for princess Anna Wazówna who turned it into a renaissance residence.
Before you even enter the castle grounds you cannot miss the fact that it used to be a military fortress. Long rows of cannons remind you of the simple fact that it wasn’t built and used for fun.
This year I was so happy to have visited it again as I had finally found true love, right at the castle’s doorsteps. I had finally found my brave knight. He was tall, handsome, made of wood and he had a very long sword 😉 I thought we looked pretty spectacular together!
Unfortunately, my happiness didn’t last long. It turned out he was a Teutonic knight, so not exactly my friend but rather an enemy to the Polish nation so as soon as I had told him what I thought about him (being a brave outspoken Polish girl as I am :), he punished me severely. I spent 10 minutes in this torture device before he set me free after I had threatened to call for my friend in England, the brave Lancelot! 🙂
I was then able to enjoy the rest of the day and I even touched the biggest cannon I have ever seen in my life! It was even used in one of our Polish movies and it was, well, huuuuge! I wouldn’t want to be at the receiving end of it. But I wouldn’t mind firing it, especially at some online trolls, lying on sofas all day, eating crisps in PJs, trolling around the internet and pissing people off with nastiness and hatred..oh how I would make a good use f this cannon… I may be an advocate of spreading love but I also know how to fight for justice and what’s right 😉
Golub Dobrzyń town center has a quaint, colourful square with a fountain, gushing water with a refreshing veil of mist. There are delicious cakes in the cake shop on the corner and the whole town seemed to be sleeping bathed in the afternoon sun. I always try to stop there on the way back from the castle and think to myself; ‘There is something very tempting about such a cute, small town living with no stress, no worries, just a mellow atmosphere of living in the present moment.”
If you ever find yourself in the area, I recommend it 😉 Bydgoszcz is probably the closest airport.
For many people, Grudziądz is just another city in northern Poland but for me it’s not just a city, it is a place where I was born (a few years ago 😉 and which I often visit when I come to Poland from my daily adventures in England.
The main square is lined up with colourful old houses and the majestic statue of a victorious soldier stands stall in the middle of it to remind us that we should always fight for freedom, justice and the truth.
Look who I met here 🙂 Yes it’s my favourite local celebrity Nicolaus Copernicus and his famous book on how the Universe actually works. He was very proud of my own memoir ‘Polish Girl In Pursuit of the English Dream’ and he said I should keep following my dreams as nobody should ever stop us from doing so. If he had given up on his research and publishing his book, the world wouldn’t know the truth for many years. A great man indeed.
One of my favourite coffee places in Grudziądz is this cute ‘Fado Cafe’ just off ‘rynek’ or main square. The colourful umbrellas hanging above only remind me that we should always reach for the stars or at least umbrellas 🙂
Every time I walk past this statue of Ułan z Dziewczyną or a Soldier with a Giril (Grudziądz used to be a the base for the famous 18 Pułk Ułanów Pomorskich) it makes me think of..love. The everlasting love between a man and a woman that we all look for but not everyone finds. It took me years to accept that we all have a difeerent path to walk and different experiences to go through and not always have or do what many others have or do. But hey, I still haven’t given up on finding a ‘great’ and ‘true’ love in a man, even though I am very happy I have finally found it in me (as described in my Polish Girl memoir 😉
Walking along some of the old streets you do feel as if going back in time. Old buildings always give an aura of mystery and unspoken wisdom.
my visit in Grudziądz couldn’t be without a walk by the glorious Vistula River. The views from the viewing terrace are spectacular.
Grudziądz was founded in the 10th century as a Polish stronghold against Prussian attack and in the 1230s it came under the rule of the Teutonic Knights, who fortified the town and granted it municipal rights (1291). If you have read my previous blogs about Toruń, you will learn how much this area was influenced by the Knights of the Black Cross and how much history can still be seen in all the towns and cities in Kujawsko-pomorskie województwo (province).
What you can see standing tall majestically on the river bank are Spichrze- or Grudziądz Granaries. The Teutonic Knights built them in this location to be in close proximity with the river port, and thus take advantage of the flourishing grain trade. Due to the different elevations of town and river, the granaries, which from the river side look like imposing multi-stories buildings. some seem to be now inhabited and others are part of the Museum.
And here is the famous Water Gate. Why it’s called this way… It was the main entrance to the city and to the castle from the harbour. And that is it 🙂
Grudziądz was also called Graudenz (from German) because after the First Partition of 1772 it became a powerful fortress under Prussia. It was returned to Poland after World War I. It was interesitng for me to see all the different signs from the times when it was still under German influence. And it was just over 100 years ago. History truly is fascinating. Even though it may be sad to think about, it’s there for us to remember and learn from it so that the bad events never happen again.
I think Grudziądz is a great place to visit and if you ever find yourself in the area (closest airport is Bydgoszcz), do pop in there to see a bit of history by the Vistula River. We should all cherish our roots and where we come from. After all, that was the beginning of our life journey, hopefully to self-discovery and learning all that needs to be learnt about our nature as humans, loving spirits in disguise, only waiting to be discovered by us.
Places we visit are places that enrich our hearts. Places we come from, gave us our hearts to love and share that love with one another. Let’s all make a good use of it. Let’s all not waste it on anything other than that. Be proud of who you are, where you come from and spread love and peace. I believe we can all make a positive difference in the world, even when you are just a Polish Girl.
Christmas in Poland can be truly magical. Over the last 14 years of living in England I only had a chance to spend a few of them back in my hometown in Chełmża and visiting Toruń during that festive time became a sweet tradition. This time, however, I decided to do something I have always wanted to do- bake my own gingerbread.
Everyine agrees that Christmas decorations are the best way to get instantly transported into the festive spirit. Toruń does deliver when it comes to that. Walking around the High Street and the Old Town, you can’t fail to notice many light displays, have a picture with a REAL Santa and…
..and of course a stunning, huge christmas tree that always brightens the Christmas nights for Nicolaus Copernicus or rather the famous astronomer statue standing by the corner of the Town Hall.
There is nothing better on a cold winter evening than to find the most delictious, chewy, warm mountain-style cheese with a cranberry sauce called, Oscypek. Toruń Christmas market is full of tasty treats and of course mulled wine and beer 😉 Shame I was driving and couldn’t have a sip- in Poland there is zero tolerance to driving after alcohol (unlike in the UK where I can go out to a pub or a restaurant and have a small glass of wine or a beer).
Having sat down on the throne in Brama Świątecznych Życzeń (the Gate of Christmas Wishes), I only had one wish for the upcoming year 2019. To live in love, spread love and help others find love within themselves. Having published my memoir ‘Polish Girl In Pursuit of the English Dream’ in March 2018, I was thankful and grateful for the love it received and all the love it was able to give. We never know what each new year is going to bring but being brave to follow our dreams couldn’t be more rewarding. Better to risk losing than to risk never gaining at all.
Walking along Toruń High Street I met this amaaazing man, he proposed to love me as long as he can, so till about February time (or for as long as it’s cold) and I said; Yes! That’s longer than some of my relationships with other snow-men melting away at the first signs of…well whatever they used as an excuse 🙂
After meeting the snowman, I met this guy. He took my hand and said: ‘Do not fear my love, I will be back to see you again very soon and put a smile on your face… next year’. I replied’ ‘Oh that’s amazing, thanks, I am looking forward to it. Most men I knew never came back or if they did, it wasn’t to spread love and gifts….’ ‘I know my dear’ he replied- I read your book ‘Polish Girl’ 🙂
After eating a huge dougnut, drinking coffee and of course eating oscypek, I noticed this- the sweets heaven- oh I wanted to have even one of these gorgeous creations but I stopped myself at the very last minute and thought…I am sweet enough.
I couldn’t be more excited when I enetered the gingerbread making class in the Museum of Gingerbred. We were all given a gingerbread dough ball that we had to work on untill it turned really sticky and then we could use the tools to roll it out and place it in the wooden block with a carved design.
Once it was taken out of the wooden heart, I carved out Pokochaj Siebie at the back of it. After all, that’s what I managed to find for myself and that’s what I wish upon everyone to find. To Love Yourself.
I was so, so excited and happy with my own handmade gingerbread. It was now ready to be placed in the oven so that we would walk around the museum. The only downside to this- it’s not an edible but decorative gingerbread which may be a good thing. At least it could end up as a Christmas tree decoration, rather than being eaten in 2 seconds 😉
It was fascinating to listen to the tour guide telling us a little about the history of gingerbread production in Toruń. The spices that were needed for it were transported from far, far away and were very expensive. Supposedly at some point in Toruń, you could buy your own house for just a few nutmegs or pepper corns. Can you imagine that?? Now we take pepper for granted and don’t consider it a valuable thing. Times change and we change but maybe we should start appreciating such small things more, especially once we get a bit more knowledge about them. Why living whole life without learning such exciting facts? A huge waste…
I was also very lucky to stumble upon a Real Man 🙂 Gustaw Weese. He and his family actually owned this 19th century gingerbread factory which later turned into the contemporary Confectionery Factory “Kopernik”. (that’s were I get all my chocolated coated gingerbread from) Gustaw was a real gentleman, he invited me for a coffee and then to his office. He was a bit surprised by the choice of my hat..but I told him that we need to go with the flow and he agreed. He was a true buisnessmen who travelled around the world and he knew that progress was part of human existence.
In his office, he had to a few things so while he was working, I was answeting the phone, taking new orders for gingerbread. After all, Weese’s products have been known all over the world since the 19th century and they were even exported to such remote countries as Japan and Australia. It is thanks to him and many people over the years involved in the production of ginderbread we can now enjoy the taste of Toruńskie Pierniki.
I also managed to see the different wooden forms, carved out so beautifully by very skilled men, some of which looked like old Toruń townhouses or carriages or angels (Toruń symbol) I also met this young boy whose job was to measure the exact time was needed for the gingerbread to bake in the oven. Since they didn’t have clock there, he had to stand there and say many Saint Mary’s to measure the time…what a job!
I was then asked to cook some dinner but..I wasn’t sure how to use this old equipment work so I just smiled and said..Next time 🙂
When I saw this lady I thought she was holding my baked gingerbread heart but I quickly realised she was just selling them out of the box. I was very impressed by the till she used, not sure I would know how to!
Before we finished our tour, I had to jump into the classic Żuk car and shout; ‘Get out of my way! Polish Girl is on its way to rescue the world from the lack of self-love!
And finally the moment of truth about my gingerbread baking skills arrived. I hope you agree- I am quite good at it, especially with carvig inspirational words on it #pokochaj siebie #loveyourself
Having finished my tour around the Museum of Toruń Gingerbread with a bag full of all types of chocolated coated beauties, I stopped by my Guardian Angel…I must say I was very happy for him to show his presence to me, reminding me that he is alwasy there when I need him. I know I should know that without his reminders but sometimes we do need a bit of a visual to just..know 😉 I hope you enjoyed joining me on my Christmas visit to Toruń and the museum. If you ever get a chance to do it, don’t hesitate 😉
Toruń is one of the oldest and most beautiful cities in Poland. Picturesquely located on both sides of the Vistula River at an intersection of ancient trade routes, it has been promoting its vibrant cultural heritage to the world for nearly 800 years. I love walking along the beautiful streets surrounded by majestic Gothic buildings at least once a year, or each time I go back to Poland, and the relaxed atmosphere never ceases to surprise me. Summer or Winter, Toruń truly is a magical town. Here are a few things that you may not have known about it.
The Gothic buildings in the medieval Old Town were added to the World Heritage List by UNESCO in 1997 and I am always very happy to be walking along the same streets that the merchants and bakers used to walk along in the medieval times. If you wish to experience time travel, just come here.
The city is the birthplace of the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus whose statue stands prominently in front of the Town Hall. Why was he important enough to receive a statue? Well if you know Latin, you can easily find out from the inscription: “Nicolaus Copernicus Thorunensis, terrae motor, solis caelique stator“. But if you are like me and can only speak two languages, neither of them being Latin, it simply means: “Nicolaus Copernicus of Thorun, mover of the earth, stopper of the sun and heavens”. Copernicus introduced the idea that it was the Earth that orbits the Sun and not the other way round as it had been thought of until then. He published his theory on his deathbed and supposedly passed away shortly after reading it for the first time in print. Now that’s both a happy and sad event. Happy that the author was able to see his book published and sad it was for the first and last time in his life.
Did you know that gingerbread comes from…Toruń? Or most likely from there since that’s what the city is famous for. The visit to the Gingerbread Museum is a must because that’s where you will be able to make your own gingerbread dough according to the medieval methods and then bake it in the traditional mold. Now, how cool is that?
You can also just buy tons (if you wish to 🙂 of different flavours of chocolate or glaze coated gingerbread in the official Kopernik shops in the Old Town. I always leave with a bag of my favourites; Katarzynki (the heart-shaped gingerbread) and the ones with strawberry and apricot fillings. They are soft and flavorsome, and the chocolate melts on my fingers before I eat them. Just one of the simple pleasure in life. Nothing better to improve the mood than some chocolate, right? The factory is proud of its 250-year-old traditional method to make them. Now that’s a heritage to be pleased about.
Once your bag is filled with gingerbread, you can have a photo taken with the statue of a gingerbread lady who also has a basket filled with these delicious treats, apparently to commemorate the biggest gingerbread factory opened in 1751. Another time travel experience. Two women with baskets filled with gingerbread, only a few centuries apart…
The donkey with a spikey metal on its back may look like a cute attraction but in fact, it was designed to look like a similar wooden donkey which was used as a torture device for soldiers. They were forced to sit on it (and obviously suffer in a certain area) as a punishment for disobeying or other smaller crimes. Not the most humanitarian way to treat ‘bad guys’ but hey, medieval times had its own rules…
I always look forward to one more experience whilst visiting Toruń. Dinner in the best pancake restaurant in the world, Manekin. The choice of pancakes filled with savour or sweet filling is simply mouthwatering and after having my favorite one with kebab and a tomato sauce, I always share a chocolate banana one with whipped cream with my mama.
Within a short walk from the city centre you find yourself on the river bank of Vistula River which at night reflects the beauty of the town buildings in its calm waters. It is very lively in the summer when the locals enjoy their evening strolls alongside it or have a drink in one of the bars located on board the static ships. It is also a great way to burn off some calories from the pancake feast!
The remains of the Teutonic Knights’ living quarters along the other side of the river are a beauty to look at and the legend has it that the flying dragon used to hide in these walls. Now that’s a mystery to be explored by the adventurers!
The Old Town at twilight turns into the spectacular show of lights. Now that’s the time to really admire the beautiful architecture of the Gothic buildings while sitting in an open-air cafe, sipping a cocktail or a traditional Polish beer.
This year I was lucky enough to experience the yearly event called the ‘Bella Skyway Festival’, or simply the festival of light. What better place to turn into the fairy tale magical display of lights than the streets of Toruń! The light installations turn buildings into stunning light shows and the real fire and water installations from international artists around the Teutonic castle grounds were breathtaking. I could feel the heat from the torches as I walked by and the white vests with inserted candles which were hanging on the trees seemed out of this world. I would have never expected that! So if you can plan your trip to Toruń around that time, the festival will make you gasp from amazement. Unlike anything, I have ever seen.
There can be many things said about Toruń but there is one thing I can say with confidence. It is a truly magical place, full of history and it’s worth visiting at least once. If you feel like going back in time when strolling through cobbled streets, there is no better place in this part of Poland. The closest airport is Bydgoszcz. So what are you waiting for? How about some gingerbread, Polish beer and a medieval vibe?
Would you like to spend a day in a town where the air can make you feel reborn? Well, you will have to come to Ciechocinek, the world-famous Polish spa town in Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship, around 12 miles from the city of Toruń.
I am very lucky because Ciechocinek is within an hour’s drive from my hometown, Chelmza. I try to visit it at least once a year and I always leave it refreshed, relaxed and appreciative of the incredible wooden structures which turn salty water into a mist whilst it slowly drops down the wooden sticks, creating a magical and healthy microclimate. I love breathing in the gentle mist deep into my lungs, turning the walk around these massive structures a meditative ritual.
The three long, wooden structures are called ‘saline graduation towers’. Saline water from the natural springs in this area contains chloride, sodium, iodide, and bromide which is used in many medical treatments. The frame towers date back to the 19th century and are the town’s greatest attractions. These three ventilators measure 1741 meters long and 16 meters high. The framework was built of large wooden timbers and the centers are filled with dry blackthorn shrub twigs and branches laid horizontally.
The saline water is pumped to the top of the structure and allowed to flow down through the branches. Natural breezes pass through the structure effectively turning them into giant ventilators. Iodine and ozone from the water are picked up by the gentle winds and released into the immediate area with proven therapeutic results.
The area of the three graduation towers is surrounded by many parks and fountains. Hundreds of people spend weeks and even months in the local health spas which offer various medical treatments.
The visit to Ciechocinek cannot be without the iconic picture with my mama where we look like a couple ( I never want to be the guy! 🙂
The town is very touristy, especially in the summer season so it’s good to visit it on a weekday to be able to appreciate the beauty of the area. It’s also much easier to find a table in restaurants offering delicious Polish meals. This time I chose the cod with potatoes and salad. But be warned, you will only know how much to pay for the fish once it’s cooked and weighed before it lands on your plate. The price in the menu when you order it can be a bit misleading. It is something I have never experienced anywhere else in the world so it must be a Polish ‘thing’ 🙂 Still very delicious though!
The summer is all about…ice cream or at least it shouldn’t be without it. And since it can be eaten whilst inhaling the healing air, it is not so naughty after all. And everyone deserves a bit of pleasure now and again, right?
There is one more temptation I need to warn you against… It’s called ‘GOFRY’ so waffle-like creations covered with a mountain of whipped cream. Yes I know it’s a lot of calories but a visit to Ciechocinek cannot be without it. My level of feeling guilty- Zero 🙂
I love my yearly visits to the tranquil and relaxing Ciechocinek and I think you might like it too. So if you ever find yourself in the area, remember about the magical healing powers of the salty air. After all, we cannot underestimate that every breath we take equals life. Without it, we will not live for long. It is an effortless process that our bodies do for us and appreciating its value for us as human beings can only make us happier and healthier. So next time you take a deep breath, think about the air that fills it and be thankful for the wonderful gift you receive with it called LIFE. Here is to every breath we take!