Torun, Poland

Saturday August 22nd – Torun, Poland.

After getting our luggage and making our introductions, we drove two hours and 30 minutes directly to Torun. We stayed at the hotel Retman on, ul. Rabianska 15, 87-100 Torun.
We chose this location so we could be closer to old town, a place that I had visited prior but did not get a chance to see completely. We took a walk around Torun to see some of the sites, got some food and enjoyed Torun’s beauty.

FamilyLater in the evening around 6 o’clock, we met my cousin Piotr Batlyn and his family for dinner at Pierogarnia, Stary Torun in Old Towne. It was great to see them again, and just as wonderful to get to introduce them to my new wife Denise. Later in the evening after walking around Torun, Peter, Zbigniew, Denise and I stopped by an outdoor Polish bar to enjoy some of the fine Polish vodka. Peter recommended a vodka Zoladkowa, Gorzka. I can tell you I am not a huge fan of the vodka in the United States, but this was very smooth. If you’re going to go to Poland, remember they expect you to shoot the vodka not sip it.  It hurts less going down that way. After a great evening with Piotr and Zbigniew, we had to call it a night as we were both exhausted.

Sunday, August 23 Torun

The breakfast at most hotels is amazing in itself. Generally, you can find numerous types of ham, eggs both scrambled and boiled, deviled eggs, salad, (yes you reading that right) sliced tomatoes, fruit, bread of many different styles, sausages-too many to list, soup, (again not a mistake, great for hangovers we were told) yogurts, cereal, coffees, juices, and desserts. If you leave the table hungry, there is something wrong with you.

PolishOrigins had set up a guide for us for Torun so we could see many of the sites we had requested, and hoped that our guide could show us more.

Ruined Castle of the Teutonic Knights

Castle of the Teutonic Knights

Our Guide was Paweł Bukowski. He was very knowledgeable of Torun and its history. He took us to the castle of the Teutonic Knights, the oldest church in town and for a walk around Torun showing us the city.  He explained what each of the many medieval buildings were and what they were used for. It was very informative. He also showed us the original towers surrounding and protecting the city which were later used during the wars in Torun’s defense. We also learned that Torun was the place to get gingerbread. The gingerbread there is the best in the world and Torun it is the holy mecca location of gingerbread.

Torun at night

Torun at night

We took a tour of the castle of the Teutonic Knights, or the monks as they are called in Poland, saw where Nicolaus Copernicus had lived, worked, and the street named after him. We also took a walk along the waterway near the Vistula River, which at that time was at its shallowest point ever recorded. There was so little water people were actually walking across the Vistula without any problem. Archaeologist were also digging in various areas of the river that they hadn’t been able to get to before.  After about five hours on the tour, we went back to old town for lunch. We only spent two days in Torun but fell in love with the city and if I go back to Poland I will definitely be going back to Torun.

Our guide in Torun, Paweł Bukowski was very knowledgeable. I wish I could go into more detail about our tour, but we were overwhelmed by all the information that he shared with us. That is not a bad thing is as that is exactly what we were looking for. I wanted to know as much as possible about the city and its history and he knew it very well. He also took us to a few places that we did not know about. Overall, our experience with Pawel was a very positive one and I would definitely recommend him to anyone touring Torun Poland.

Piotr & Mike, cousins

Piotr & Mike, 3rd cousin 1x removed

I had the opportunity to see my cousin Piotr and his family again before I left. We were able to watch a light show that was tied to a water fountain.

What I learned from both my visits to Poland, is it’s not about what I get to see, but the people I get to meet and interact with. Family is important, and I’m proud to say that the Polish people in Poland haven’t lost that. The American Polish people have in some regard. How many American people do you know that if you contacted them and told them that you were a cousin from a mutual great-great-grandfather, would invite you into their house or even talk to you? Thankfully the Polish people are not like this and I think that’s what I miss most in America.



2015 Poland Trip

In August 2015, my wife Denise and I took a trip to Poland. Read about our custom guided genealogy tour with

Welcome PolishOrigins Newsletter Viewers!
Thank you for your interest in my trip. If you need genealogy assistance in the United States or are considering a trip to Poland and need some advice, please contact me. I would be happy to assist you!
For first time travelers, view my page titled “Traveling to Poland”. This was created based on my own travel experiences. It gives you an idea of what to expect and bring for a better overall experience.


The streets of Tarnow, Poland.

The streets of Tarnow, Poland.

Poland Trip 2015 – the countdown begins.

cześć , that’s hello in Polish!

As of late my main focus has been getting ready for our trip to Poland. It seems surreal that I’m going back again. Much has changed since my last visit in 2013, when I was single. This time, I won’t be traveling alone as my wife will be traveling with me. She will get to witness firsthand the beauty of the land and people I love dearly.

You can only understand that saying if you have stepped upon the motherland yourself. While there in 2013, I felt like I had been transported back in time, to when I was a child. Customs long forgotten here are still alive in present day Poland. While being there itself is surreal and walking on the very ground my forefathers walked upon can be moving, it’s the people, my family and friends that make the trip so amazing. I can’t wait to see as many of them as I can again. To dine on amazing Polish food, drink vodka, “mineral water” and simply enjoy their company. Nazhtrovia!

Initially things were going well with our trip, we had an itinerary and hired a guiding service called PolishOrigins.  I’d done business with them in the past and they have amazing reviews. From having worked with them and knowing how professional they were, I didn’t hesitate when we started our planning months ago to contact them. 

Then three days ago we discovered an error with our airline tickets that pushed us into panic mode. The mistake itself would cause us to stay a “little longer” than what we had initially planned. Altering our tickets would cost a small fortune and canceling was not an option. That’s caused me a few sleepless nights (including tonight) while I became an “expert” on where to go and what to do with our “extra” time. The guiding service has been great in trying to help accommodate us with alterations to our itinerary. That speaks volumes to me. And then out of the blue, my family in Pysznica came to our rescue! Thank you, you are truly wonderful! I should have expected it, knowing how people in Poland are. While you’re there, you are treated like they have known you your whole life. They make you feel so welcome and at home, you really don’t want to leave.


We both believe this all happened for a reason, one we don’t fully understand yet. We adjusted our schedules, recreated our itinerary with the help of my cousin Gienek, and the team from PolishOrigins, and plan to enjoy it to the fullest! Take a negative and turn it into a positive!   

Right out of the gate, I will be off to Torun to embrace its beauty and history from the 13th with the Teutonic Knights and Torun castle. Its also the birthplace of Nicolaus Copernicus and home to Pierogi Stary Torun a restaurant I dined in during last trip. I also look forward to seeing some of my cousins and dining with them.

The next portion of the trip will focus on trying to locate records on my maternal grandmother’s family in Skulsk. This also includes hopefully meeting some living relatives. Recently a genealogist/friend in Poland traveled to my maternal grandmother’s village and found a great detail of information on my grandmothers sisters who stayed there. This helped heighten my chances of finding living relatives. While I don’t have a vast amount of time in each location we visit, fate has stepped in once again.

I feel truly blessed as our guide who has been assigned to us for first leg of this amazing journey is also a professional genealogist. That in itself will be great as I can talk shop with someone who knows Polish history, genealogy and culture way better than I ever will. A true learning experience that I totally look forward to! Oh it gets better, he has done genealogy research work for the tv show, Finding Your Roots and’s contest winners. What are the chances of that? What luck to be paired with Zbigniew Stettner of! I know my chances of finding my family are the best they ever will be.

The second part of our trip we’ll be traveling to the European fairy-tale capital of Pacanow, Poland. A short drive north and I will be visiting Olesnica, Poland once again! Both of these locations are where my maternal grandfather’s family lived since the early 1800s. My grandfather had two brothers and one sister who remained behind in Poland when he left in 1913. Most of them died in the 1980s, but had extensive families. My last trip to Olesnica wasn’t a positive one. I left there very sad that we couldn’t get anyone to help us locate our living relatives. I refuse to let that happen this time around. I recently made contact on facebook with one member of the family over there and hope to finally get to meet him, shake his hand and explain how we are related. Hopefully when he views the photos I have of his late grandfather it will all make sense.  

The third part of our trip takes me back to my paternal family hometown of Pysznica, Poland. My own genealogical research done over the last five years has my paternal family traced back to my fourth great grandfather, Sebastian Mierzwa born about 1740.

I cant say enough good things about my family from Pysznica. They have come to our rescue in regards to our flight problem and ill be spending a “few” extra days with them. I’m so looking forward to spending time with them and visiting cousins I’d met last time I was there.

I also plan to so some genealogy work while im there. Recently I made contact with a large number of DNA matches that have Mierzwa ancestors that came from south of my paternal hometown of Pysznica. I hope to visit these towns and villages and see if I can find living relatives for them. Remember, you get back what you give out. And I thoroughly enjoy helping people connect with their past!

The fourth and last part of our tour will take us deep into the southern part of Poland, visiting a few cities before spending a well-deserved “break” in Krakow. I fell in love Krakow in 2013 and plan to see everything there is this time around. I won’t go into detail as you’ll have to watch my daily posts from Poland as we travel and post pictures.

Finally, before leaving Poland I’ll be spending a few days in Warsaw, touring the city and hopefully meeting up with friends and family that reside there before coming back home.

This is going to be a trip of a lifetime and I’m excited to share it with all of you. 

Z poważaniem,