I woke up this morning to the sound of rain pelting against the windows. A quick glance at my phone showed the outside temperature was in the mid 50s. Another cold and rainy day in Poznań. Every part of my being wanted to pull the covers back over my head and hibernate until summer and the sun decide to make an appearance. It looks and feels like late fall here. I even saw my breath while out walking this morning. Michal and I have been in Poland for 12 days and there has only been one day of blue skies and sunshine.
This reminds me of another point I forgot to mention. The day we left home was sunny, hot and humid. Forty minutes after we boarded the bus to NYC I received a text from my mom stating that there had been a torrential downpour and her yard was flooded for the third time this summer. Shortly after that texts came that the road near our house was closed and that the town we live in was completely flooded. Thankfully we escaped before the storms and were not impacted by severe weather during the bus ride to the city.
Anyway, back to today. I had made a reservation for a 2 hour free walking tour in Old Town Poznań . The skies were gray, the rain was falling in buckets but I knew I needed to drag myself out of this apartment. Thankfully I packed a pair of jeans, a long sleeved shirt and my trusty raincoat. I jumped on the tram to head to the Old Town. For some reason the tram was taking much longer than usual. About two stops before I was supposed to get off, the tram came to a complete stop and all the other passengers stepped off. Turns out there was some sort of accident and the tram wasn’t going any further in that direction. I had seven minutes to get the Old Town before the tour started. Did you know the main square of the Old Town has been around since the early 14th century?!
Needless to say, despite my best efforts at dodging people and speed walking down wet cobblestone streets, I arrived five minutes late. Even with my late arrival, I made it on time to see two headbutting billy goats emerge from the clock on the Town Hall when the clock struck noon. The town hall dates back to somewhere around 1310. Billy goats are a symbol of Poznań. Legend has it that the townsfolk were gathered for a celebratory dinner to celebrate the town hall that had been rebuilt after a fire. The new town hall included a large clock on the outside of the building. The kitchen hand became distracted and the roast he was making fell into the fire. He then ran out into the field frantically searching for something else to make for dinner. He retrieved two billy goats who then got loose in the town hall and ended up entertaining the dinner crowd with their headbutting. A clock maker was summoned to make it so the billy goats would play every day.
The tour went from headbutting billy goats to an organ concert at a Jesuit church that dates back to the late 1600s. The 1600s were a time when Poznań thrived and experienced a booming economy. St. Stanislaus Church is widely known as the most exquisite example of Baroque architecture in Poland. Truth be told despite the outward fancy look, the Jesuits had a budget and couldn’t afford top of the line materials. The 16 large pillars are actually made out of stucco and not marble. In the courtyard of the church is where the first Jesuit College in Poland opened in 1573. This was the second university that existed in Poland. These building now hold members of the City Council.
My favorite part of Old Town is the merchant houses. These brightly colored buildings with unique designs were built where wooden stalls once stood as the base for selling goods. In the 16th century the wooden stalls were replaced with narrow houses measuring three meters wide and seven meters long (about 7 feet by 10 feet). Originally the bottom half the house remained a market stall and the designs on the houses represented what goods the merchant sold. The buildings look newer because 60-70% of Poznan was destroyed during World War II, including most of these homes.
A few other interesting and random facts included that the executioner’s wife ran a brothel across the street from the jail, a canopy of an old building saved the life of King Augustus II when he leaned too far out the window staring at a beautiful lady, and the river that ran through Poznan has been divided due to excessive flooding that took place hundreds of years ago. To the left under the canopy that saved the king, there’s a marker representing how high the flood waters were in 1736.
I love walking tours. They’re a great way to learn about a city and understand where you’re standing and what you’re looking at. These tours are especially great in cities like Poznań where the history dates back to the 14th century. As an American, I can’t even wrap my head around just how many hundreds of years this city has been thriving for. Another day of solo adventuring is in the books!