Poznań – in so many ways, it seems the histories of cities in Poland are similar. Settlement, growth, attack, occupation, shrink, Partition … and, finally, the fifth largest conurbation in Poland and the capital of Wielkopolska.
A fortified stronghold existed between the Warta and Cybina rivers long before the first Christian king of Poland was baptised (966) and by then it was an important cultural and political centre, the main stable headquarters of Mieszko I’s kingdom. Construction of Poznań’s cathedral – the first in Poland – though it was overtaken in prestige by the later cathedral in Gniezno (after 1000), the recognised capital of Poland. The cathedral in Poznań became the burial place of a number of Poland’s early monarchs.
Seeing weakened following the death of Mieszko II in 1034, Bretislaus I of Bohemia attacked and destroyed both Poznań and Gniezno in 1038. Casimir I (the Restorer) reunited Poland and, in 1039, moved the capital to the relatively unaffected Kraków, which remained capital for about 500 years.
In 1138 Poland was divided into Duchies under five sons of the late King Bolesław III. Though there were many changes, this fragmentation lasted until 1320.
In roughly 1249 the then Duke ordered a Royal Castle to be built and in 1253 issued a charter for a town to be built between the castle and river. A large number of German settlers moved to Poznań to work on the construction – like so many Germans who moved east in those times. What is now the Old Town was surrounded by a defensive wall, integrated with the castle.
Things went well for nearly 200 years – the city grew in importance and size, it developed suburbs and became the seat of a voivodeship. But there were regular serious fires and floods. In 1536 a fire destroyed 175 building, including the castle, the town hall, the monastery and the suburban settlement called St. Martin.
For 150 years from the middle of C17, Poznań was severely affected by a series of wars (and resulting military occupations, lootings and destruction). The city also suffered plagues and floods – the flood of 1736 destroyed most of the suburbs. The population fell from 20,000 to 6,000 and settlers were brought in to rebuild.
In the Second Partition of 1793 Poznań came under the control of the Kingdom of Prussia. The Prussian authorities expanded the city boundaries, making the walled city and its suburbs into a single administrative unit. The old city walls were taken down in the early C19, and major development took place to the west of the old city, with many of the main streets of today’s city centre being laid out.
The city expanded. Edward Raczyński founded the Raczyński Library (built 1822-1828) and the Bazar Hotel opened in 1842 . The city’s first railway opened in 1848. Due to its strategic location, the Prussian authorities intended to make Poznań into a fortress city, building a ring of defensive fortifications around it. Work started on Fort Winiary in 1828 and the work on the set of defences was completed over the next years – Poznań Fortress, known in German as Festung Posen represents the third largest system of its kind in Europe.
In 1871, Poznań became part of the German Empire and, despite the efforts of Polish patriots, efforts were made to germanise the region. As early as 1867, 38% of the city’s population was German.
The building of the first nine forts or a new outer ring of defences began in 1876, and nine intermediate forts were built from 1887. The inner ring of fortifications was now considered obsolete and came to be mostly taken down by the early 20th century (although the citadel remained in use). This made space for further civilian construction – in particular the Imperial (note, not Royal) Castle completed in 1910 (and actually a palace) and other grand buildings around it including today’s central university buildings and the opera house. The city boundaries were also extended to take in further former suburbs.
After WW1, with Poznań back in Polish hands, the local population was told it had to acquire Polish citizenship, or leave. From 65,321 in 1910, the number of ethnic Germans fell to 5,980 in 1926. But the university was founded in 1919, the Poznań International Fairs began in 1925 and in 1929, to mark the tenth anniversary of regaining independence, a National Exhibition (Powszechna Wystawa Krajowa) held on the fair site attracted 4.5 million visitors.
During WW2 the city was incorporated into the Third Reich as the capital of Reichsgau Wartheland.
Many Polish inhabitants were executed, arrested, expelled to the General Government – the latter was the area under German rule to which unwanted Poles were usually sent, if not taken for save labour or killed, so their homes, farms, businesses and jobs could be taken by Germans moving east. Most of the pre-War Jewish population of about 2,000 was murdered. A concentration camp was set up in Fort VII, later moved to Żabikowo, near Luboń.
The Red Army, with the help of Polish volunteers, took the city on 23 February 1945 – the Citadel was the last point to fall. The fighting left much of the city, particularly the Old Town, in ruins.
The Germans who had moved to Poznań were expelled or fled, leaving the city almost uniformly Polish. Construction and reconstruction have seen the city grow and regain its place as capital of the voivodeship, despite a hiccup in 1956 when protests against communist rule led to a series of strikes and protests (after the police fired on marchers) crowds attacked the police and communist party headquarters.
Getting to Poznań
This article About Poznań is part of a set linked to our article on low-cost carriers and the consequent gateway cities. So first we’ll consider getting from the airport to the city.
The airport is Poznań–Ławica Henryk Wieniawski Airport and it’s 5km from the city centre – making taxis eminently affordable.
There are a total of four lines between the airport and city – one an express bus, one night bus, and two normal stopping lines.
Express line L
Runs from the airport direct to the main rail station – Port Lotniczy to Dworzec Główny.
The two regular bus lines start and finish at Kaponiera Roundabout (directly in the city centre, close to the main train station).
The first one is line 59 with the bus stop right in front of the arrival hall (new T3 terminal).
From the airport to the Kaponiera Roundabout – Port Lotniczy to Rondo Kaponiera
The second bus connection to the city centre is provided by line 48. Its nearest stop is located at Wyszeborska Street about 200m south of the passenger terminal.
From the stop in ul Wyszeborska to Rondo Kaponiera
Night line 242
At night (between 12:00 am and 4 am) passengers may use night bus line 242.
Runs from the airport to the main rail station – Port Lotniczy to Dworzec Główny.
You can buy bus tickets at the newspaper stands both in the arrival hall (in T3 terminal) and in the departure hall (in T2 terminal), as well as in the ticket booth located at the bus stop in front of the departure hall.
In all express L busses and in some units of line 59 and 48, ticket vending machines are available. Stickers at the bus entrance inform about a possibility of an on-board ticket purchase. Ticket vending machines accept 10gr, 20gr, 50gr, 1zl, 2zl and 5zl-coins (the machine gives change), and the ticket is being validated upon purchase.
If you bought your ticket before boarding, look for the machine and valid as soon as you get on board – you have been warned!
You’ll find there is a 24hr taxi stand outside the T3 arrival hall. Make sure you take a licensed cab, displaying the number and the driver’s cab licence.
Arrive by rail or coach
We’ve already mentioned Poznań Central Station (Poznań Główny, commonly called Dworzec Główny) and this central station would be your main arrival point into Poznań. The station serves trains and connections from all over Poland, the rest of Europe and Moscow.
The redevelopment of the station area, to include a new bus and coach station, is not yet complete.
For now, Eurolines and other coach companies use the nearby coach station.
Poznań has decent road connections to the rest of Poland, and lies on the A2/E30 – the main east-west highway, which runs just south of Berlin in the westward direction and towards Warsaw to the east. It allegedly starts in Cork and ends (5,800km later) in Omsk.
Central Poznań is walkable. Otherwise, it’s trams, fast trams and buses. The trams work on the duration ticket (ie you by a ticket for the length of time your journey will take – and if that’s not enough, you buy a new ticket or get off) while the buses run on stop tickets – up to ten stops or over ten stops.
You’ll normally buy tickets which need to be validated – check, because Inspectors are strict and WILL fine you. Better yet, buy a day or multi-day ticket and you only need to validate it the first time you use it.
We have a separate note About Validating, for more information.
Cathedral Island and Nowe Miasto
Though there’s a bit of debate, it’s more often agreed that the oldest part of Poznań is actually Nowe Miasto (New Town) because it includes Ostrów Tumski – Cathedral Island.
The Island is one of several, but it’s on what is now known as Cathedral Island that the first fortified settlements were built there in C8 or C9 – well before the date of 966CE normally accepted as the beginning of Polish history.
In the second half of C10, the settlement grew in importance – it was there that the first ducal palace and cathedral were built. FYI, when you visit the Cathedral, the Church of the Most Holy Virgin Mary is built on the site of the ducal palace.
Following the baptism of Mieszko I in 966, the first cathedral in Poland was built here – the forerunner of what you see today.
To give the Cathedral its full name, the Archcathedral Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul was about 48m long – remains are visible in the basement of the current basilica. That first church stood for only 70 years. The second church was built in the Romanesque style see the southern tower for some remnants. The church was rebuilt in C14/C15 in the Gothic style, with a “crown” of chapels. Following a fire in 1622, a complete renovation was carried out in the Baroque style, followed by another rebuild in 1772 in the Neo-Classical style, following yet another fire.
The Cathedral was named for St Peter by right, as the first cathedral in Poland. In 1821 Pope Pius VII raised the cathedral to the status of a Metropolitan Archcathedral and added the second patron – St Paul.
After all that, on 15 February 1945 during the fighting to liberate Poznań from the Germans, the Cathedral was seriously damaged by – you guessed – a fire and the damage was so bad it gave the authorities the opportunity to change the style again – this time a to return to the Gothic style, using as a base medieval relics revealed by the fire. The cathedral was reopened on 29 June 1956. In 1962 Pope John XXIII gave the church the title of minor basilica – like St Margaret’s in Nowy Sącz (JPII, 1992).
Other places of interest on the island include:
The archbishop’s palace and adjoining buildings
The Church of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, built in the 15th century, a well-preserved Gothic building, on the site of the original ducal palace and chapel (the oldest known place of Christian worship in Poland)
The Psalter House, originally built by Lubrański in the early 16th century) as a rehearsal-place for psalter singers. They were due to sing David’s Psalms in the Cathedral the whole day round.
The Lubrańsk Academy building, now the archives and museum of the archdiocese
The late C19 seminary buildings to the south – these are in Zagórze, originally a separate village on the island
You may also spot the remains of the Cathedral fort, part of the defences of the island built in 1834-39
Cathedral Island is accessible from the centre / Old Town by trams 4, 8 and 17 and bus 63
The cathedral is open for visitors every day from 8AM to 4PM-7PM (depending on the day), but is closed for sightseeing during services (esp. Sundays)
Not on the island, but still in Nowe Miasto, is the Church of St. John of Jerusalem Outside the Walls (Kościół św. Jana Jerozolimskiego za murami) on the south-eastern corner of the Rondo Śródka.
The original church – of St Michael – was built late in C11. And in 1170 a pilgrim’s hospice was added. In 1187 the church and hospice were granted to the Knights of St John – the Knights Hospitalliers. Early in C13 the Order began building a new church, which is for the most part what you can see today.
If you take some time to explore Nowe Miasto, or pass through, you may also spot:
The manor from 1907
Poznań New Zoo – check the small herd of European Bison
Kościół św. Rocha
Kościół św Małgorzaty
Monastery of The Oratory of St. Philip
Kościół św. Antoniego Padewskiego
Stare Miasto – the Old Town – began life after Nowe Miasto – the New Town. There was a ducal palace and chapel and fortifies settlement on Cathedral Island long before work began to build the Royal Castle and fortified town on the left bank – Stare Miasto. The settlement on Cathedral Island dates back to long before 966, while the town on the left bank got it charter in 1253, a few years after work on the castle began.
The city walls were (for the most part) taken down in early C19, when the city expanded, but the street layout of the original town stays close to the medieval plan.
The modern city district extends well beyond the Old Town. The centre of the Old Town itself is the Old Market Square (Stary Rynek), where you’ll find the Ratusz (town hall).
At the western end of the Old Town is the hill on which the castle stood. Although the sides of the rynek measure about 140m, the square does not have the open feel of our own Nowy Sącz, Kraków or many others because so much has been built in the centre of it – not only the Old Town Hall (standing in the northeast corner of the central building group, facing east, but
A row of merchants’ houses dating from the 16th century
The former town chancellery, adjoining the merchants’ houses
The weighing house behind the Town Hall. This was first built in 1532–1534, reconstructed in1563, demolished as unsafe in 1890 (replaced by a Renaissance-style “New Town Hall” used by the city government, until heavily damaged in 1945), rebuilt in its former style in 1950–1960 based on surviving prints, renovated in 2002, and now used for weddings and other functions.
The guardhouse. The original C18 wooden building was rebuilt in 1783-1787, heavily damaged in WW2 and rebuilt in 1949-1951. Today it houses a museum of the Greater Polish Uprising (1918-1919)
The Arsenal gallery. Built on the site of a former market building which served as an arsenal from C17 and was destroyed during WW2.
The Wielkopolska Military Museum. A modern building (1959–1962) standing on the site of the former Cloth Hall.
Around the square, check out
Numbers 45, 46 and 47 on the east side of the square, which house a Museum of Musical Instruments.
Number 48, a reconstructed Gothic building, behind which archaeologists have discovered the remains of a late 13th-century merchant’s house, the oldest known brick building in the left-bank city, which probably belonged to the city’s founder
Number 50, a reconstructed late-Gothic building, on whose wall is a plaque showing the maximum water level during the city’s worst ever flood in 1736.
Number 78, the Działyński Palace
Number 91, the Mielżyński Palace
The punishment post, or pranger
Fountains, one depicting Prosperina (Persephone) and the other set depicting the gods Apollo, Neptune and Mars
Statue of St John Nepomucene
The water fountain depicting a Bamber woman within the central group of buildings
Though not the best photo, this gives you an idea of just how much of the rynek has been built on!
Towards the western edge of Old Town is what remains of the Royal Castle. Work began to build the castle in 1249 on the hill now called Góra Zamkowa (Castle Hill). The original modest ducal residence was extended and later served as residence of the governor of Greater Poland. By 1337, the Royal Castle in Poznań was the largest castle in Poland.
In the fire of 1536 the castle was badly damaged and so later rebuilt, only to be destroyed during the Swedish invasion, sacked by the armies of Russia and Saxony, the confederates (1716) and, after the Second Partition, partly demolished by the Prussians.
Pre-WW2 the Castle was home to an archive, the regional government office and the Court of Appeal.
In 1945, during the battle for Poznań, Castle Hill was in the line of artillery fire, and the remaining part of the castle was demolished.
Since then, various elements of the Castle have been rebuilt and work to rebuild and/or stabilise is continuing.
While on Castle Hill, see the Franciscan church and monument to the 15th Uhlans Regiment of Poznań
Exploring the Old Town, there are many interesting buildings you might spot
Pałac Górków, just off the rynek – the pink palace with the hobbit door opening to the courtyard containing an obelisk
On Plac Kolegiacki see
The pink church aka Bazylika Mniejsza Matki Bożej Nieustającej Pomocy, Św. Marii Magdaleny i Św. Stanisława Biskupa
The former Jesuits College
Pomnik koziołków (Monument of the goats)
The Ballet School
Plac Wolności contains
The painting and sculpture gallery of the National Museum
The Raczyński Library (1822-1828) founded by Edward Raczyński. The new wing was added in 2013.
Hotel Bazar – a luxury hotel and the largest secular building in Poznań until the Imperial Castle was built
Ulica Fredry contains
Teatr Wielki (the Opera House)
The Church of the Holy Saviour
Stare Miasto 2
While the most historic buildings of Stare Miasto are mostly around the rynek, you’ll be rewarded by exploring a bit further.
Taking a walk into the rest of the district now called Stare Miasto will take you to …
… ul. Garbary i pl. Bernardyński for the Bernadine Church and Cloister, St Mary Magdalene High School the Church of Transfiguration of Our Lord, the Fabryka Zeylanda (once a steam-driven factory, now an art gallery), the counting house of Antoni Krzyżanowski and the former slaughter house, water works and coffee roasting plant …
… on ul. Grobla you’ll find the Ethnographic Museum and the Muzeum Bambrów Poznańskich …
… on or around Plac Adama Mickiewicza the Hall of the eponymous university, the statue to the man himself, the Collegium Minus and the monument to the victims of the demonstration on 28 June 1956 (see the introduction) …
… ul. Święty Marcin is where the Imperial Castle stands, as well as St Martin’s Church and the Post office building, previously Ziemiaństwo Kredytowe …
… so you’ll know them when you see them …
… Pałac Anderschów, built in 1856 for a wine merchant …
… the monument to the Underground State and Home Army …
… Kościół Najświętszego Serca Jezusowego i Matki Boskiej Pocieszenia, with an interior to reward those trying to pronounce it! …
… Kościół Najświętszej Krwi Pana Jezusa, again worth popping in to see the interior.
Poznań Town Hall
The Ratusz was Poznań’s administrative building until 1939. It was built in the late C13 – and rebuilt into its present-day form in 1550-1560 when the original mechanical fighting goats were fitted.
The original Ratusz was a one-storey building built on a cellar, in the form of a rectangle. A tower was added later. When it was rebuilt after the fire in 1536 (which seriously damaged the city) some repair work was carried out, but the building remained unsafe. The 1550-1560 work added an upper storey, extended the building towards the west, and added an upper storey, attic walls and a three-storey loggia. The clock, with three full faces and one half-face (and goats) was installed in 1551.
In 1675 the tower, clock and goats were destroyed by lightning. The tower was rebuilt in 1690 to a height of 90 m. The top of the tower was destroyed in a hurricane of 1725. In 1781–1784 major renovation was carried out and the Ratusz took the basic form which it presents today.
In 1910-13 the Ratusz was restored, but in an attempt to make it look more German, much of the decoration was covered or destroyed. However, absent since 1675, the goats returned.
Following serious damage in 1945, the Ratusz was again rebuilt and much of the glorious external decoration was restored. The eagle on the cupola, which had been kept hidden during the war, was returned to the tower in 1947. It is an original, from 1783, and has a wingspan of 2m.
Goats, bells and bugle
The mechanical goats’ butting display is performed daily at noon, preceded by the striking of the clock and the playing of a traditional bugle call. At other hours between 7 am and 9 pm the same call is played on a carillon of bells installed in the tower in 2003.
The story behind the original addition of the goats to the clock mechanism is that a cook, while preparing a banquet for the voivode (governor) and other dignitaries, had burnt a roast deer, and attempted to replace it by stealing two goats from a nearby meadow. The goats escaped and ran up the town hall tower, where they attracted the attention of the townspeople when they began to butt each other (according to some versions, this drew attention to a fire which might otherwise have done significant damage). Because of the entertainment provided, the voivode pardoned both the cook and the goats, and ordered that two mechanical goats be incorporated into the new clock being made for the building.
The story of the bugle call, or hejnal, is that Bolko, son of the tower’s trumpeter once took care of a crow whose wing had been shot through. Bolko was woken one night b7 a gnome wearing a crown and a purple cape who thanked the boy for his kindness and handed him a small gold trumpet and told him to blow it in times of danger. With that, the gnome turned into a crow and flew away.
Years later, after Bolko had taken his father’s place as trumpeter, an attacking army was scaling Poznań’s walls, and Bolko remembered his present. He ran to the top of the tower and began to play the trumpet. Dark clouds began to gather on the horizon, which turned out to be an enormous flock of crows that fell upon the attacking army and forced it to retreat. The trumpet was lost when Bolko dropped it in his astonishment, but the call which he played is still performed.
There is way too much to describe, so please have a look through these pictures to whet your appetite for a visit to Poznań Town Hall.
The Imperial Castle
While having one Royal Castle may be all very well, having two may be an embarrassment of riches! In Poznań there had been a Royal Castle on Castle Hill since 1249 so when the German Emperor chose Poznań as his provincial residence it caused a naming crisis – he needed a new castle – the old one would hardly befit – but what to call it. Like Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall, etc, the Emperor had plenty titles to choose from so, in Poznań his castle too the German name of Königliches Residenzschloss Posen (the King’s House – King of Prussia) while the Poles know it as Zamek Cesarski w Poznaniu … the Imperial Castle.
In truth, it’s not a castle at all. Construction began in 1905, on what is the last major castle to be built in Europe.
It was to be the heart of a new Germanic residential city, not a fortress, and contained in an Imperial District which would have contained a number of new government buildings – seen today as, for example, the Collegium Maius (Settlement Commission) , the Academy of Music and the buildings formerly of the Royal Academy.
On 21 August 1910, during a visit of the emperor, the architect presented the keys to the new residence to the Kaiser (Emperor – Kaiser – Cesar). The total cost was in the region of 5 million marks.
The star of the castle may be the throne room, with large windows on three sides, columns and arches. Between the arches are the statues of eight German emperors, while the central arch contains the double throne of the emperor. Above are galleries for visitors and an orchestra.
After 1918/19, ownership of the castle passed to the Second Republic and in 1921 it became the residence of the head of state and later of the President.
There was a major debate on what the head of state would be called – the last one had been King. The first title was tymczasowy naczelnik państwa (provisional chief of state), used until 1919, then Naczelnik Państwa (Chief of State) until 1922, when the title Prezydent Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej (President of the Republic of Poland) was selected.
In 1939, Greater Poland was incorporated into Nazi Germany and the castle was chosen to be transformed into an eastern residence for Hitler and as a headquarters for the Wartheland. Albert Speer took charge of the work, which included the transformation of many rooms in the castle from Imperial to Third Reich style. The chapel became Hitler’s office, and its balcony was given an electrically heated floor. The Throne Room was also transformed into a hall of audience. A bunker for 375 people was constructed under the castle.
The rebuilding was stopped in 1943, due to set-backs on the Eastern Front.
The Red Army used the castle as a PoW camp in 1945 and it was later used by the Polish People’s Army as a barracks. The communist government of the time considered demolishing the “symbol of the German occupation and the bourgeois style” but money was short and they simply removed some German symbols and the damaged upper part of the tower.
The Ratusz had been destroyed during the War so the castle was renamed New City Hall – later transformed into a centre for culture. Today, the Throne Room is used as a cinema room; other apartments contain art galleries, a puppet theatre, pubs, music clubs and restaurants. The courtyard is often a place of concerts and outdoor movie performances during summer. The second floor is still empty and has not been renovated.
Incidentally, the Poles follow European tradition with a ground floor, first, second etc, not the American system.
The square in front of the building is the main venue for parades and celebrations
Cost 5 million marks
Tower 75m high
Main building 25,127.10 square metres
The emperor’s double throne weighs 3.5 tonnes
Hitler’s private office (formerly the Imperial Chapel) modelled after his office in the Reichskanzlei (pictured immediately below)
The entrance to Hitler’s private apartments (formerly those of the emperor)
And a “short” list of other places that might catch you eye
Work began during WW2, when the Nazis brought thousands of slave labourers to work on the project to dam the Cybina river to create a 2.2km long lake in the recreation area known as Malta, after the Knights Hospitaller of the town. The work was not completed until 1952, and the lake has since been drained and restored in the 1980s, when more facilities were added.
Lake Malta is hugely popular with locals, and offers coasters and skiing, skating and rollerblading, shopping, cinema, miniature train rides, zoo, shooting down a dry ski slope in an inflatable dinghy, a dry toboggan run, swimming, walking, biking, and more.
Take tram 16 from Pl. Teatralny to the M1 shopping centre and you can’t miss the three huge towers draped in bright green Lech flags at the brewery opposite. Call a day before for a Lech Brewery tour, lasting one or two hours, and visit the home of Lech, Tyskie, Żubr and Redds beer. Tyskie is our favourite.
At the end of the tour you’ll have the opportunity to sample and to buy souvenirs. Tour is 12zl, adults only.
The Palm House – Palmiarnia – in Wilson Park is one of the largest in Europe. Heavily damaged in WW2, the Palm House was repaired, restocked and re-opened in 1946.
Admission is 7zl.
The Palm House opening hours
The Poznań Palm House opens daily Monday till Sunday. It is closed for visitors each Sunday, Christmas, Easter, November 1st and All the Saints Holiday (November 1st).
From March 1st
- Monday till Friday 9:00 am – 5:00 pm (box office till 4 pm)
From May 1st
- Tuesday till Saturday 9:00 am – 5:00 pm (box office till 4 pm)
- Sundays and holidays 9:00 am – 6:00 pm (box office till 5 pm)
From November 2nd
- Tuesday till Saturday 9:00 am – 4:00 pm (box office till 3 pm)
- Sundays and holidays 9:00 am – 5:00 pm (box office till 4 pm)
Wilson Park opening hours
Wilson Park opens throughout the year 5:00 am till 10:00 pm
By tram 5, 8, 14 or 18 tram along ul Głogowska. The tram stop is right across The Wilson Park main gate.
By tram 6, 13 or 15 along ul Grunwaldzka then a stroll along ul Matejko
By bus 238, 252 along ul Głogowska
By bus 64 along ul Matejko
By bus 251 along ul Grunwaldzka
Festung Posen was a concept of the Prussians – work on the original Poznań Fortress, or Twierdza Poznań began in 1828, when a tight ring of defences were built, including Fort Winiary, the main citadel (parts of which still exist – the fort was the final point of German resistance in the Battle of Poznań). Fort Winiary is the Museum of Armaments.
A tight ring of forts was proven to be less than a perfect defensive solution, and in 1860 it was agreed that an additional rung of forts would be added, about 3-4 km from those already in situ. Nine main forts would be built with an equal number of smaller forts dotted between them for good measure. Each fort would be constructed about 3-4 km from the one previous and in total the wall of defence would run approximately 30 km right around the entire city.
Each fort took about four years to complete, and the whole system of forts, walls and gates opened (closed?) for business by 1886.
Several of the forts can be visited
Fort 3, Gröber, is by the new zoo. Take tram 6 from Rondo Rataje, getting off at Krańcowa. Or, on summer weekends, bus 100. You can get a combined tocket for the zoo and fort, or for the fort alone. There you can explore pretty kuch at will, and there’s an information leaflet in English.
Fort 3A, Prittwitz, is now the crematorium of the Miłostowo Cemetery – one of the biggest cemeteries in the city with over 81,000 people resting there including Jewish WW2 victims, Polish soldiers and even German soldiers. Take tram 8 to the ‘Miłostowo’ stop and it’s a 20 minute walk.
Fort 7, Colomb, is easiest reached by taxi, or take tram 11 from Bałtyk to Ogrody, then catch bus 86, getting off on Polska, from which it’s a five minute walk along ul. Polska. Or do as the 20,000 or so people who died in the concentration camp here did and get rounded up and shipped out in lorries. Fort 7 is the Wielkopolska Martyrs Museum – you can see the tunnels used as gas chambers, a guillotine, and execution block, exhibits of truncheons, whips, personal effects of the prisoners brought here to die and their inscriptions on the wall. Entry free.
By contrast, Fort 9A, Witzleben (reached by taxi or bus 76 from Plac Bernardyński, getting off at the Azaliowa stop, from ehere it’s a 10 minute walk down via Azaliowa and Bukowa Streets before turning left onto 28 Czerwca 1956) is a centre of modern urban warfare – 8,000 sq metres of wooded terrain, corridors, bunkers and trenches where paintball battles take place most days. Not otherwise open to the public.
About 30 minutes by bus from the Kombus bus station (privately-owned bus company) or the Main Bus Station (PKS) is Kórnik. Check out All Saints Church (1437, rebuilt 1826), the “eye of the needle” and the Ratusz – where you ought to pause at noon to see the mechanical rooster that appears out of the clock on the strike.
The castle – Zamek Kórnicki – which is pretty spectacular houses a museum whihc has some equally amazing exhibits, including original furnishings, and adjoins the Kórnik Arboretum, founded in C19 by the then owner of the castle.
And finally – steam trains.
Communism saw to it that many things long-expired in the rest of Europe continued – the Fiat 124, the Fiat 125, the Fiat 126 and steam trains! The steam depot in Wolsztyn, 75km to the southeast of Poznań, maintains a dozen working steam engines, operating over 160km of track and hauling 4,0-00 passengers a day and 2,000 tons of freight a week.
Steam train timetable
The following daily services on the Poznań- Wolsztyn line are steam-hauled. Apart from these, there are several daily diesel services on the line.
From Poznań to Wolsztyn:
d08:55 – a10:48
d17:22 – a19:20
From Wolsztyn to Poznan:
d05:11 – a07:05
d13:30 – a15:26
Contact Wolsztyn Experience’s Howard Jones at tel./fax +44 1628 524876 or go on line at at www.bucksrailcentre.org.uk for the chance to:
– Ride with the driver and watch the coal-shovelling and lever pulling
– Learn to drive a steam train (one week course)
– Learn to drive a tram
As these courses are pretty much unique, they can get booked up long in advance. Make contact and book early.