Snowflakes fall softly on the colourful facades of Poznan’s Stary Rynek (main square). Vibrant and beautiful, Poznan is one of Poland’s most lively towns rain or shine or snow. Centred on the Stary Rynek, Poznan’s old town was once a walled city though the walls were sadly taken down to expand this growing city in the 1800s. In the centre of this magnificent square is the Ratusz, or the Town Hall, the pride and glory of the city of Poznan. On the clock tower there are two goats, referring to a legend involving burnt dinner, an angry lord, a desperate cook, a couple of escapist goats (read more here), which chimes every day. Besides the to-die-for architecture, Poznan offers many museums, monuments, churches and cathedrals. There are dozens and dozens of eateries, restaurants, cafes and bars. Poznan also has a significant student population which goes hand-in-hand with a thriving nightlife. Visit the many bars to taste the local beers and liqueurs as well as the local cuisine!
Pro tip: For an easy way to try a few of the local beers, head to Brovaria just off the main square – a guesthouse, restaurant and brewery all in one! Order their “taster menu” to sample a few of their different wares. Poznan is only about 4 hours from Warsaw via public transport (see Polish FlixBus or PKP trains), but merits an overnight stay!
Normally, the clock strikes noon with a chime or a tock. But in Poznan’s town hall, the clock strikes noon with a bugle call and a fanciful display of head-butting goats (hence the playful colours chosen for the photo). Ok, what’s going on? To understand this display, we must first take a step back. Poznan is a mid-size Polish town half-way between the capital (Warsaw) and the German frontier. The town hall was originally constructed around 1300, and suffered fires, lighting strikes, major reconstructions, and more. The goats and bugle came into being in the 1550s, each supported by their own legend. Legend has it that the lord of the voivde’s cook (a county or province) burnt the venison and tried to rectify (or hide!) this mistake by replacing it with a stolen pair of goats. The goats being, well, goats, escaped and climbed the layered facade of the town hall, where they provided comic relief for the whole town (including the banquet guests). The spectacle was so well received that the lord pardoned the cook and commissioned the clock. As for the bugle element, legend has it that a boy found an injured crow in the tower and nursed it back to health. It transformed into a gnome (welcome to Polish folklore…!), gave him a magical trumpet and told him to play it in times of need. Many years later, the boy was now the town trumpeter, and witnessed an invading army, so he blew his magic trumpet, and an army of crows swooped in and got rid of the army. So they added a bugle to the goats’ display (not unlike the story of Krakow’s trumpeter). The legends may only be stories but the clock itself is quite real, and the stories themselves are well embedded into local culture – well worth the trip to this quietly vibrant Polish city.
You’ll find few urban city centres prettier than Poznan’s market square. Even during a snowstorm, Poznan’s vibrant colours are impossible to deter. A far cry from the grey, bleak country one generally attributes to Poland, Polish cities are vibrant, each building brightly painted, often embellished with patterns, designs, and images. Poznan’s public square is perhaps the best and brightest example of this. Heavily influenced by the Baroque movement, Poland’s outer borders were once regarded as the extent of Western influence in Europe, particularly regarding architecture. Polish architecture is a blatant mix of, well, most architectural styles that Europe has to offer, making places like Poznan some of the most beautiful towns to visit! These houses seem as if they stepped out of a Dr Seuss book or off a candyland board and adorn one of the prettiest market squares in all of Europe!
This is the Stare Miasto (old town) of Poznan, a small Polish city in north-west Poland established in the 8th century. It was captured by the Germans (of course), ruined a bit (like most of Poland), and then recaptured by the Russians who ruined it a bit more (by putting up ugly buildings), and finally gained its freedom when Communism fell in 1990, when it was renovated by the proud Poles. In 2012, it was one of the host cities for UEFA Euro 2012 Cup, when Poland jointly hosted the Euro Cup with Ukraine. Success stories from cities like Poznan show just how far Poland has come since the early 90s! And like most main squares in Poland, Poznan’s gorgeous rynek (market square) pairs cobblestones with vibrantly coloured buildings, creating a beautiful town centre (even during a snowstorm such as this one).