Spontaneity is a travelers’ skill that most probably I have already mentioned plenty of times. However, courage is only one factor when one looks for an spontaneous trip, and other aspects also matter, such as free time, being familiar with the destination, and of course, the budget. In my case, all of these circumstances met each other. Last time I introduced you the historical center of Poznań, and now it is time to discover the nature and everything else which is beyond the old town.
Getting back to some parks, it is inevitable to mention the largest and most famous park of Poznań, the Citadel Park (Cytadela). One will immediately notice the huge green spot on the city’s map, which seems to be too polygonal and geometric for some reason.
That’s because the name is not a coincidence: Fort Winiary, the biggest fortress of Europe ever (!) was once upon time located here, on the territory of the present-day park before it was destroyed. Today, unfortunately, there are only a few ruins of the former bastillions and walls that used to be the parts of this enormous Prussian fortification.
Cytadela, however, has found its new role in Poznań’s life, and today it is popular among the tourists due to its marvelous woods providing some shadow for passengers and a shelter for various species of wild animals.
It is already a pleasure to walk the silent trails of the park, where one can feel like in a forest - I had a similar experience with the Silesia Park in Katowice, that taught me forever that the border between calling something a park or a wood is a very blurry thing in Poland.
However, apart from the nature’s harmony, there are many different sights that make the place more interesting: one of them is a real amphitheater (Amfiteatr), which is so authentic and perfectly built, that if one did not know history, they could think that the ancient Romans reached the territory of nowadays’ Poland.
However, this amphitheater was built much later, in 1968 and then hosted many cultural events: for example, Antigone by Sophocles was also played there among many other dramas.
There are also many ponds, rose gardens and other wonderful flowers (mostly roses) just in the middle of the park, where you can also meet the Bell of Peace (Dzwon Pokoju) and some amazing fountains. The overall experience reminded me to Silesia Park, but I also had some vibes of Buen Retiro Park I visited in Madrid last summer.
If you enter the park from the city center’s side, the first thing you will see is a military cemetery, where mostly heroes of the Second World War are buried. It was shocking to read the names on the graves: the names of soldiers who had very different backgrounds and age.
Some of them were even younger than me when they died, some were relatively old, while one thing among them was common: they all died on the same day, and that fact tied them to each other for an eternity.
Next to the cemetery one can go upon the stairs and will find a tall obelisk dedicated to the war heroes as well, but you should not forget the Museum of Poznań Army either, which is partly an open-air exhibition.
Since we talk about a post-socialist Slavic country, it would be weird not to see some obligatory military vehicles in a park, such as tanks and warplanes.
Speaking of, the tradition of old train- and tram coaches is also popular in Poland so much, that I saw a tram coach turned into a bar in Poznań (in Hungary I saw the same with old buses quite often).
Now it is time to move to other green and peaceful natural areas of the city. First of all, you should definitely have a walk at the shores of river Warta, which is not just a perfect location for many outdoor activities, but you will also find plenty of open-air bars and great spots to admire the view.
In spite of the popularity of the riverside, somehow it also preserves the ancient spirit of the old times so you have the feeling that the place is full of animals and fantastic creatures of the Slavic myths, like topielec (drowner) or bolotnik (swamp-man).
The whole atmosphere of the Warta, even the color of the grass was very similar to me to the view on Oder in Opole, but not just because of the nature. In fact, Wrocław is not the only city with a district called Ostrów Tumski (Cathedral Island): The adjective tumski is derived from the international word ‘dome', which, unlike in English, means Cathedral in many European languages (see Italian duomo, German Dom, or even dóm in Hungarian).
Poznań also has such an island between rivers Warta and Cybina, and from the direction of Warta and the city center you will see the most important church of the area, the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, which really reminded me to the Opole Cathedral both due to its style and its surroundings.
It is said that the cathedral of the island was named after St, Peter due to the fact that the pope gave the apostle's sword to Jordan, the bishop of Poznań: the same sword that St. peter used to cut the ear of a Roman soldier while protecting Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. The artifact can be still seen in the Archdiocesan Museum of the city.
While I was getting lost among the miraculous, colorful, painted Gothic windows and lifelike statues I noticed another important element of the local churches, which is as common as the crowned eagle or portraits of John Paul II.
It was a copy of the Czarna Madonna (Black Madonna), the most important Catholic icon of Poland, located in the famous Pauline monastery of Jasna Góra in Częstochowa. The blessing, grace and miracle of the Madonna especially became legendary after the unsuccesful Swedish siege of the monastery in 1655, which was also immortalized in Sienkiewicz's mentioned novel The Deluge.
However, the city is not over at that point: if one has already crossed the Bolesław I the Brave Bridge (most Bolesława Chrobrego) named after the first Polish king, then they need to cross a second one over Cybina - for example the one named after the king’s father, Duke Mieszko I.
The flat and open area you will find on the other side also keeps some surprises, such as Mural Śródka, a huge wall in the district of Śródka painted with a lot of colorful countryside tales and rustic cartoon figures.
This area hosts many bars and coffee shops, so although it is not the center, this part of Poznań is not abandoned at all, and there are many cozy places one can enjoy.
The city is rich in watery habitats, and the best evidence is to visit Jezioro Maltańskie (Lake Malta), which is a true paradise of water sports such as sailing, windsurf or water ski, but you can also see the thermal baths, a camping a ski track and many other interesting things to explore.
If you are rather a type seeking the intact nature, Maltańskie will also be for you, since there is a bike road all around the lake which is also for pedestrians, not to mention another possible fun for families.
It’s Maltanka, a narrow-gauge railway that goes around the lake. It is easy to find its station by Maltańskie, not to mention the iconic whistle the vehicle makes.
There is another lake though, which is probably much more silent and more for those who prefer fishing, swimming or just hanging around and have a rest in the nature. Jezioro Rusałka (Rusalka Lake) indeed has a very remarkable name, since it is named after one of the most famous Slavic creatures, the rusalka.
Originally rusałki (in plural, so in English: rusalkas) were female spirits living close to the forest and particularly to the water, and they were infamous for tempting men and luring them into their deadly traps.
It is said that they are the ghosts of beautiful young women who were killed and had a violent death, but later on they were (falsely) identified with charming, innocent fairies and nymphs in the popculture (see the opera by Antonín Dvořák with the same title).
Well, unfortunately (or fortunately) I did not bump into any rusalkas at the lake, but I could enjoy the shadow of beech and plane trees, while there were many benches for angling or just to sit down for some time.
The radiant sunshine among the afternoon leaves, reeds and bushes and the gentle waves of the lake truly created a kind of magic which was an authentic ending for my last day in Poznań.
I have to admit that I encountered an extraordinary and unique Polish city again, full of art, nature, history and entertainment. Poznań is just as local and traditional as modern and international, so I got the impression even during these couple of days that many people can fulfil their dreams there if they want to.
Since Poznań is also a city for students, maybe I will also return someday for my PhD studies. But who knows? Even if not, this city has surely become an item on my list of places I could visit anytime in my life again.