Poznań Old Town
The Old Town of Poznań - a bit of historyThe original settlement of Poznań was on the river island of Ostrów Tumski and dates from at least the 9th century. It was a site, where along with the development of Christianity Polish statehood was born (read more at: The capital city of Poznań). In the 13th century, there was erected a castle on the left bank of the river Warta and the new settlement was established. Poznań received city charter in 1253.
The Old Market Square is the central point of this medieval origin settlement. It was originally laid out in the 13th century, and many changes to architectural layout and style were made over the centuries. There is a group of buildings in the central part of the square, chief of which is the Old Town Hall. It is the city's main tourist attractions. It was built in the late 13th century and was rebuilt, after the great fire in Poznań in the 16th century. The former seat of the city council nowadays houses the Poznań History Museum. The building is one of the most valuable Renaissance architecture monuments in central Europe.
The Poznań billy goatsThe best tourist attraction of Poznań, especially for the children, are fighting billy goats. Two figurines of mechanised goats are hidden in the clock of Poznań’s Town Hall. Every day at midday they are coming out and start a little fight by head-butting.
According to the legend, after the Great Fire, the Poznań’s Town Hall with a clock was rebuilt. It was the occasion for celebrating. The main dish was to be roast venison haunch and the preparation befell a young kitchen hand named Pietrek (Pete). A lot of exciting things were happening in the marketplace at that moment. So much so that the kitchen hand took his eye off the roast for a second to watch what was going on in the marketplace. Unfortunately, his absence dragged on and the roast was burnt to cinders.
The terrified young cook attempted to replace it by stealing two goats from a nearby meadow. The goats, wrested themselves free of the boy and fled to the tower. There, they started head butting each other before the assembled crowd. The spectacle so amused the mayor, voivode and all the guests that Pietrek was pardoned and the clockmaker bidden to construct a special mechanism to set the horological goats in motion every day. Ever since then, once the bugle sounds at the stroke of noon, the assembled crowd has been treated to the two head-butting billy goats every day.
Mechanised goats on the Town Hall are regarded as the most important symbol of Poznań. They used to be decorated with blue scarves, an attribute of fans of the Lech Poznań Football Club (regionally called „Kolojorz”), or the colours of the national football teams when Poznań was one of the host cities of 2012 UEFA European Championship.
The bugle call of PoznańThe bugle call dates back at least to the 15th century. According to the legend, there used to live a watchman in the Poznań town hall tower whose job it was to keep a lookout for fire and any foreign armies that might be approaching the city. His son Bolko lived with him. One day, a wounded crow fell at his feet. The boy carefully nursed the bird. One night, he noticed an elf with a crown on his head in the bird’s bedding. The elf addressed him in a human voice. “Dear Bolko! I am the crow king. We birds never forget a good turn done to us. I leave you this silver trumpet, which has magic powers. Should you ever be in need of help, play it and I shall come to you with my subjects. And now, farewell!”
The elf changed back into a crow and flew off. The years went by. One day, a hostile army approached the city walls. Bolko took the crow king’s trumpet and played as beautifully as he could. After a while, birds began appearing in the city in such numbers that it soon turned dark. The enemy was defeated and Poznań was free.
The same melody that summoned the crow king is still played from the town hall tower every day to mark this event.
On each side of the square are tall rows of colourful former tenement houses, many of which are now used as restaurants, cafés and pubs. Most of the buildings in the square were reconstructed following heavy damage in the Battle of Poznań (1945).
Local delicacy in PoznańPoznań has its own original local cuisine. The most popular dishes are based on potatoes. Poznań residents love they so much so that they even have their own local name for them – pyry. Poznań's delicacies include pyry with gzik – potatoes cooked in their skins and served hot on platters. The essential addition is gzik – cottage cheese mixed with cream, onion, salt and spices. When butter is added to a potato with gzik, it melts on the hot potato, creating an unforgettable taste.
Poznań also has a very special local sweet delicacy - the most famous and the most delicious croissants in Poland. So-called Rogale Świętomarcińskie are sweet croissants filled with custard made of white poppy seeds, nuts, almonds, raisins and candied fruits. They have the semicircle shape in memory of the horseshoe that was lost by Saint Martin’s horse. St. Martin was a Roman soldier, were gave his entire fortune to the stranger beggar. According to the legends, a baker from Poznań named Walenty heard the story and decided to do a something good deed like St. Martin, so he invented these delicious croissants a horseshoe-shaped pastry with a poppy seed filling. Then he started giving them for free to those in need.
They are only baked in Poznań and only on 11 November in confectioneries which have a special certificate. On this day the huge celebration is associated with the name of the city’s main street – ul. Święty Marcin (St. Martin Street). The festival starts with a high mass in the aforementioned St. Martin’s Church. Afterwards, St. Martin himself, dressed in a Roman legionnaire’s costume and mounted on a horse, heads a colourful parade up ul. Św. Marcin to the square in front of the Imperial Castle. There, the mayor hands him the keys to the city, marking the start of the celebrations.
Poznanians, in the company of the many visitors who descend on the city to participate in the St. Martin revelry, take part in a variety of performances until well into the night. So all visitors and all inhabitants of Poznan are eating Roglale Świętomarcińskie of course.The celebrations in Poznań are associated with celebrations of Polish Independence Day which also is on every 11 November.
There is a chance to bake a famous Poznań's croissants using traditional tools, and a tasting it, in the Croissant Museum in the vicinity of Old Town Square.
Bambers and ProserpineIn the second half of the 17th century and most of the 18th, Poznań was severely damaged by the frequent wars, by outbreaks of plague, and by floods. The population has decreased over three times, from 20,000 around 1600 to 6,000 around 1730. City’s authorities decided to invite the farmers hailing from the Bamberg to settle and help reconstruct nearby villages. Over years, they adopted the Polish culture, simultaneously preserving some of their native traditions and, predominantly, the beautiful, characteristic dress.
There is the Bamber Woman Well in the centre of the Poznań's Old Market Square. The well was founded in 1915 by a Bamberg family of wine traders. On each first Saturday of August, the Bamberg immigrants’ predecessors, along with the members of Poznan Bambers’ Association celebrate their arrival in Poznan with a flamboyant gala.
There is Bambers' Museum in Poznań, too, which displays items illustrating the culture of local rural area Bambers.
In front of the Town hall is situated beautiful Proserpine Fountain. It is an outstanding piece of art, completely unrelated to the architecture that surrounds it. Proserpine Fountain replaced a well from the beginning of the 17th century, one of four such wells in the square. This Baroque sculpture in sandstone, whose subject matter harks back to the Greek mythology. It depicts the abduction of Proserpine by the ruler of the underworld.
The fountains and the wells are complemented by the pillory post crowned by a statue of a sword-wielding executioner and the Baroque statue of St. John of Nepomuk.