One of the things I love about interrailing is the chance to explore and experience so many different places in a relatively short amount of time. Within just a week of leaving England, we had already visited Brussels, Berlin, spent three days on the Baltic Coast in Sopot, and had thoroughly seen the sights of Olsztyn. Day 8 was to take us on to a new destination, Toruń, another of Poland’s oldest cities, which at one point was considered the most modern cultural and technological centre in Medieval Europe. I was excited to set off for somewhere new, and ready to spend an afternoon exploring Toruń.
After a good hearty breakfast in our Olsztyn hotel, we hopped in a taxi for the short journey to the station. Thankfully the station itself was pretty small and we very quickly found the platform our onwards train would be leaving from. Once aboard the train and settled into our allocated seats, in yet another Hogwarts-Express style compartment, we sat back and watched the scenery go by. This time we were heading in a more westerly direction and back towards larger towns and cities so, as we travelled along, the countryside showed more and more signs of industrialised farming, the landscape less and less natural.
The two hours soon passed and, at just after half past eleven, we pulled into Toruń. A taxi ride, this time was essential, as the city lay on the other side of the river and we didn’t fancy lugging our bags a good 2km over a rather long and busy bridge. Instead we enjoyed the trip across the bridge from the comfort of the taxi, which provided us with some great first views of the old walled town and its skyline.
Our hotel (Hotel Czarna Rosa – The Black Rose) was situated just inside the walls of the city, and was therefore well-placed to act as a base for our excursions out to see the sights. After dropping off the bags, we set off, map in hand, to ‘do’ the city. We had decided to begin our exploration at the Leaning Tower, located in the south-west corner of the city, and slowly make our way around the southern perimeter to the castle.
As we walked we had the city walls on one side and the Vistula on the other. The walls were at times broken by the huge city gates, leading us ever closer to Toruń’s old castle. Sadly the castle, constructed in the fourteenth century by the Order of Teutonic Knights, lies mostly in ruin, but nevertheless we decided to pay the small entrance fee and have a look around. It turned out that most of the informative areas were located in the cellars beneath but, even with a few things to see, we were quickly ready to go and continue exploring.
Leaving the castle behind us, we ignored the map for a while and spent some time just following our noses. Eventually we found ourselves in the New Town Market Square (Rynek Nowomiejski) which surrounds the Church of the Holy Trinity.
Toruń has had for centuries a reputation for producing gingerbread, so, our next stop was, of course, a trip to the Gingerbread Museum, to learn a little about the history of the trade and find out about the manufacture of the famous Polish speciality. The smells of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and allspice all brought about memories of Christmas, but soon resulted in my stomach rumbling and so, having seen what there was to see, we set off in search of somewhere to eat lunch.
We ended up lunching in Karczma Gęsia Szyja, which didn’t look like anything special from the outside but once inside, it turned out to be a veritable home to the unusual; stuffed birds, woodland animals and wildfowl. It was certainly an eclectic mix in terms of decoration but the food was delicious; typically Polish, enjoyable, tasty, and very reasonably priced.
After some window-shopping and a few more photos we arrived at the Old Town Market Square, the central hub of the city. At its centre stood the Old Town Hall and, immediately in front of it, another statue of Copernicus, one of the city’s most famous sons. The poor old man was hardly visible, surrounded by visitors taking photos or selfies from each and every angle. To the side we also spotted a bronze donkey, and a little further away a small dog
On the other side of the square was the Church of the Holy Spirit, a university church in the late Baroque style and in front of that the rafts-man fountain, relating to a story, similar to the pied-piper of Hamelin, of a rafts-man who offered to rid the town of a plague of frogs. What with frogs, a donkey (in the Old Market Square) and the assortment of animals at lunch the city centre was beginning to look like a zoo! All around the square were colourful burgher houses, including the Star House and Artus Court, which added to the appeal and recalled a little of Toruń’s rich history.
To finish off our tour, we walked up towards the planetarium, passed the Church of the Virgin Mary, then turned down Piekary towards our hotel. As we approached Kopernika, we were able to see the Baroque granary in the distance and the city wall, but our destination was Copernicus House, today a museum but considered to be the birthplace of the man himself. Unfortunately, the doors were just closing as we arrived so we had to content ourselves with a good look at the exterior and a few photos, to add to our collection.
After an hour or so’s rest back in the hotel, we decided it was about time to go back outside and enjoy the evening in the fresh air. We spent sometime in and around the market square, watching people pass by, and admiring the beautiful coloured buildings and pretty flowers brightening up the café fronts. A little while later we found ourselves somewhere for a quick dinner – Stare Metropolis on Łazienna – a modern pizzeria.
With another early morning the following day, we were all already feeling tired and so decided it was about time to head back, rest and have an early night before traveling again. Torun had been a really pleasant stop and surprised us all with its history and cosmopolitan atmosphere.
What did you think of my Torun travel journal post? Have you ever been to the city? Or have I maybe inspired you to pay the polish city a visit? As always, I’d love to hear from you! Victoria x