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.
Later 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.
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.
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.
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.