Just a few months ago we were travelling through Europe along the train lines using our Interrail passes (that’s Eurail to those of you outside of the European Union) in the direction of the first stop on our loose itinerary of possible destinations.
We did have a larger master plan to venture from our last house sitting assignment in Berlin towards the general direction of the eastern states. We wanted to see Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria – the works; unfortunately, the reality of our situation was heavy upon us so we decided to take a stumbling slow-travel trip around the heart of the continent.
First stop on our trip was Poland, a country we’ve only briefly visited before during our three years of travelling. We Couchsurfed in Krakow for a few days and left with mixed feelings about the city. Neither of us were fond of how flooded the city was with holiday makers and those tourists who were clearly there for a cheap ‘debauched weekend’ (I’m looking at YOU fellow Brits), and our experience felt less than fulfilled.
This time we wanted to visit somewhere that was more off the beaten path. Somewhere that was historically beautiful, yet exciting for both the young and old (although I’m no longer sure which camp we sit it – oh well).
The historical city of Poznan is located in the western half of Poland and sits almost directly in the middle of the train line that connects Berlin in Germany and the Polish capital of Warsaw, with a journey time from either location to the city exceeding no more than three hours thanks to the Berlin-Warsaw Express (covered by our Interrail pass).
It’s a well developed modern city with all the modern conveniences you’d expect, yet it retains a small and quiet atmosphere that will appeal to those interested in spending their time surrounded by locals, plenty of history, and beautifully preserved Old Market Square which would be more than deserving of a UNESCO Heritage List status, or similar.
Following our early train we checked into our airbnb apartment during the middle of the morning and immediately set out to walk around the town without a map, guide, or list of things to do; hopeful that we’d discover an attraction or something unexpected that would nurture our affection for the city.
Of everything we discovered during our trip, here’s a brief list of tips we think you’ll enjoy as much we did.
1. Old Market Square
We’ve both seen our fair share of old towns and cities to know when we’ve found something special, and the old market square in Poznan is exactly that.
It shares many similarities with other older historical central squares that you’ll find throughout Europe – the squares in Verona, Siena, Brussels, and Prague spring to mind – however, there’s no doubting that the collection of former merchant houses that are now restaurants and tea rooms complete a uniquely Polish, and wonderfully picturesque setting.
The square has seen a period of restoration over the past decade and the buildings shine underneath the sun in a glow of pure beauty, as if they all know you’re watching and are posing at just the right time for your photo, like models blowing a kiss towards the camera.
Located only a few minutes behind where we were staying, on the mounds of gathered earth piled on either side of the River Warta is a community project organised by local artists and musicians called KontenerArt.
Opened in a space often forgotten to everyone apart from commuters and daily joggers who use the adjacent path, the team have combined their determined efforts to manufacture somewhere where both involved, and uninvolved locals and visitors can visit and experience art, music, and a number of workshops such as salsa dancing.
Re-purposed shipping containers give the shared space a boundary and foundation for the team to work from, with one converted to a simple stage, another revived as small art gallery, and others as a bar from which locally brewed beer can be purchased.
Our visit was during the working hours of the day so we weren’t fortunate enough to see KontenerArt full of people as it apparently is at night and over the more active summer months, but what we saw we both loved.
The upcycled benches, tables, and chairs made from old wooden pallets. The repainted containers with portraits on the wall we very much enjoyed. The sketches along the white washed walls – every detail and idea transmitted from paper to practical application.
If there’s one attraction we’d encourage our art-loving friends to visit, it’s this wonderful community space.
3. Former Jesuit College
No more than a ten minute walk away from the array of containers is a building that is almost the complete opposite in terms of style of construction.
The former Jesuit College built in the 1500’s has recently been restored and looks miraculous, which is a feeling I imagine the original architect would have set out to conjure from the paying patrons and local worshippers.
Since the foundation of the college many changes have taken place to the town, and with it the way in which the building is used. It has been an academy and a school, but the main purpose today is that of a local government building.
One of the best purposes we’ve read of the large, bright complex is as a live music venue for renditions of the classics, typically played by Poznan’s own classic students.
Whilst we weren’t aware of any music being played during the brief stop we made during the day, we’d have quite happily have returned to listen to music from the period being played as we explored the building interior. On another visit, perhaps.
4. The Unrecognised Ones Sculpture
There was no accident in our finding this modern sculpture by the Polish contemporary artist, Magdalena Abakanowicz.
Franca had spotted a picture of the now famous outdoor sculpture created by the former professor at the Poznan Academy of Fine Art on Instagram. A fellow traveller had spent time in the city prior to our arrival and had uploaded their own photographic take on the piece with a handy #Poznan hashtag on their picture – another great reason to use Instagram for planning your next trip!
Planted firmly in the middle of the large green park, the ‘Unrecognised Ones‘ – or Nierozpoznani in Polish – stand shoulder high and appear as rusty-brown pedestrians milling around together like naughty teenagers outside of a local corner shop. Certainly there’s probably more meaning to it than my personal observation – and I do have a more rational thought on the piece – but if there’s one thing I do love about modern art, it’s the freedom of interpretation.
5. Poznan Ballet School
Our last accidental find can be found immediately opposite the Jesuit College through a small doorway that you’d quite easily walk past if you weren’t paying too much attention.
The architecture of this small inner courtyard is incredibly like the beautiful stairwells we saw in Napoli, and for that reason we were both in full admiration from the moment we stepped out from the shadows of the doorway to the exposed space at the centre.
The windows, the beautiful dark reds against the greys, and the stairway at the end may not be the ideal attraction for everyone, but for lovers of architecture like ourselves it’s a wonderful place to stop and admire – oh, and take too many pictures of.
We spent just a few nights in Poznan and we’re sure there are several great more things to do in the city that we either haven’t covered here, or didn’t experience; but one place we did experience that we both enjoyed (and so did our stomachs) was the vegetarian and vegan-friendly community-focused kitchen called Green Way.
The food is locally sourced, fresh, and thoroughly delicious. It’s simple, function, and very cheap too. What’s not to love?
Enjoy Your Stay in Poznan!
One of the main reasons we wanted to take our slow travel adventure across the rail lines of Central Europe was to encourage people to see new places that they might not always put at the top of their wanderlust-filled bucket list. Hopefully with this post you’ll feel encouraged to experience Poznan for yourself on a slow weekend trip, or feel like including the city as a half-day trip during your own train journey from Berlin to Warsaw so you too can enjoy the old city square.
Would you like to visit Poznan?