Travel to Poland: Grudziądz to ‘town for lovers’ Chełmno
Wanda Hennig blogs about her month-long ‘roots’ trip to Poland.
Positively Poland: Five
Our friendly Polish guide (Polish guide and friend?) on our adventure has noted in his itinerary that “on this day we will go to Chełmno. On the way we can get a chance to see some beautiful, old, small cities along Poland’s main river, the Vistula. An old Teutonic Castle in Gniew and the beautiful view across the river to the old-walls town of Grudziądz.
“We’ll stay overnight In Chełmno in a small pension, the Stary Spichrz.”
As it turns out, the Teutonic Castle at Gniew is the only disappointment of the day. It’s become very commercial. Much of it was closed off to us. The bits that were open looked set up for theater productions and weddings. But stunning views from its top-of-the-hill location.
And Grudziądz more than makes up for it. These walled cities… And quirky bits of art. And posters for films and film festivals… The new and the oh-so-old.
We walk along the Vistula, sit and look out over the river. Climb a steep fight of stairs. Eat in a basement restaurant that my friends like the sound of when they see the focus is meat… I have cucumber soup and sauerkraut.
Then we climb into the car to journey on to Chełmno.
In the car my travel buddy — a history buff — transports us back to 1241 with stories of Genghis Khan overrunning Eastern Europe. Of Boleslaw “the chaste,” Duke of Krakow, who fled Krakow when the Tartars sacked the city. Of Duke Henry II “the pious” who lead an army to meet the Tartars, and who is wiped out. Of how the Tartars, led by Genghis Khan, instead of forging ahead into the rest of Poland, changed his mind and attacked Hungary and “mysteriously, for no apparent reason, didn’t really come back.”
He tells us about the Crusades. The foreign knights who fought not for money but to have their sins forgiven. Of how, in 1226, Conrad of Masovia invited the Teutonic Order of the Hospital of St Mary of Jerusalem to establish a castle in the town of town of Toruń in the Chełmno Land. Of this being why the first Teutonic castle was built right in this area where we are traveling.
Thank heavens for Google and Wikipedia. I take strategic notes. The best way to appreciate history is via stories and while “on the spot” — that is, where the history took place. (See Day 6 for Chełmno).