At leisure – a bit of Chełmno (Culm) and Torun at dusk

Day off…

I learned to cherish each day off like the best delicacy. Especially, as my season seems to be a very long one – with the end in January. Well… we had a day off at the same time, and almost in the same company.  So we started off in the morning. It means – well after 9:00 a.m. we finally decided to move.

Our aim was Torun (Thorn), with a short stop in Chełmno (Culm) on our way. Unfortunately the days are getting shorter (thanks to the stupid time change, giving nothing but earlier darkness), and additionally – because we did not take the highway – in Chełmno we had time only to visit the High Church of the town (popularly called the… St. Mary’s). The reason for it was the lack of time on the way to Torun. As Torun was our day’s target.

But, it doesn’t mean we did not have time to drop in for a tasty chocolate cake and a delicious apple pie in Vanilla Cafe (just upstairs of the flower shop in the center of the town). It seems we did not lack the time for this.

However, Chełmno is a town for a whole day’s visit. For one can’t just walk past the details on the buildings, which although still awaiting better times – retained their charm. How not to sink in the soothing silence of the town’s churches, or how not to walk down the streets – yearning for the good old long gone times of the gossip on the thresholds… So we shall return to Chełmno in spring, when there will be neither itching chill of the wind, nor the drizzle, successfully discouraging to hunt for a good camera shot.

So – promising ourselves a longer spring visit, we finally took off for Torun.

And when we got there… Well, as always – we walked without a rush, and in fact without any purpose. As it is so difficult to decide what to touch first, what to see first. Should it be the Leaning Tower, or the Saint Johns’ Cathedral, or maybe St. James soaked in the purple light of the setting sun, or maybe should it be rather the Town Hall… Finally – as always, we ended up in St. Mary’s

And then we took a stroll through the streets in the deepening dusk.

However Torun is not only one of Poland’s 14 UNESCO sites, it is not only the place to explore the untouched medieval architecture, or to feel the atmosphere – retained throught the centuries. It is not only the town where the famous Nicolaus Copernicus was born…

Torun is also a place to eat delicious dumplings (pierogi). So to maintain the tradition – we went to the Leniwa restaurant. The dumplings were more than worth a visit.

Honestly I can state, that our Torun visit was without any plan, nor aim. We went there just because we love the city, and have known it for a long time. My long historical family bonds keep me tied to the city very firmly…

So we did not have to see anything in particular, neither we needed to admire anything special, to know we visited a unique place on earth 😉

I managed to take some photos of pretty good sights both in Chełmno and in Torun. And of course, because I forgot the tripod – some of the photos are out of focus… And for this I am sorry. 😉

A lazy day in the LowLands

Today I had a day off…

So, I went on a private tour (with friends) – of course to visit the LowLands. It seems that every time I go there I find something new, something I did not see the previous time… And so it was today.

(HERE are some pictures I took today – enjoy – may they bring some bright memories)

As usually, I went through Nowa Kościelnica (Neu Münsterberg). There I traditionally took photos of the house, which is shown on the cover of Prof. Peter Klassen‘s book (Mennonites in Early Modern Poland and Prussia). It was built in 1840 for Wilhelm Classen, and then it was owned by Dyck family… Today it is being very well cared for by the present owners, who have a lot of patience and understanding for every group of Mennonites visiting the place and wanting to take a photo there. 😉

There are good things going on in the village!! The half timbered arcaded house which is situated on the curve of the road, (once belonging to the Wiebe family) is under restoration now. Or should I rather state – is being reconstructed. The present owners finally got some refinance from the Ministry of Culture to rescue the building. It is a great success, especially that very little funds are being transferred to the LowLands for restoration of the historical heritage. 😦 I wish the owners all the best – especially that the house was in the last stage of destruction by time, and weather (as the last renovation of this splendid building took place in… 1933 !!!).

Nowa Kościelnica was founded in the medieval times (1352) by my favorite Teutonic Grand Master (Winrich von Kniprode) and had an area of 50 hufen (1 hufe = 17,955 ha = 179550 sq meters). Mennonites appeared here in the 16th century, and among the most popular surnames were: Brecht, Dick, Ens, Epp, Fehr, Harder, Isaac, Claassen, Matis, Penner, Peters, Regehr, Thiesen, Welcke, Wiens, Willms. In 1820 there were 560 inhabitants – in it: 106 Mennonites. In 1868 a petition was signed by the farmers from Nowa Kościelnica. Among them were: a Bergmann, as well as land owners: Johann Ens, Epp, Joann Harder, Joann Classen, Aron Penner, Aron Peter, Abraham van Riesen, J. Wiens.

Then I drove through Ostaszewo (Schöneberg). It was founded in 1333 and had an area of 60 hufen. In the 16th century the dikes on the Vistula river broke, and 200 people drowned in their sleep, and next 85 drowned trying to mend the broken dike. The flood of 1526 took lifes of about 5000 people, 1800 horses, and 400 cows. 15 LowLand villages suffered, and it took almost 5 years to repair the dikes. From the 18th century there were Mennonnite families listed there: Ens, Kopp, Kroecker, Mieretz, and van Roy operating the ferry on the Vistula River. In 1820 there were 775 inhabitants with only 15 Mennonites. In 1936 the noted Mennonite surnames were: Bergmann, Claassen, Dück, Epp, Friesen, Harder, Makelburger, Nickel, Purwin, Wienss.

Today – a small exhibition in memory of the past time is being organized in the Old School building. I sure will often return here, to observe the progress. 🙂

My next stop was in Stawiec (Neuteichsdorf). This little cemetery always brings back the memory of a special tour years ago… I had travelled with a lady who remembered the Ladekopp community from the former times (before 1945). She talked about her ancestors burried in this graveyard. By accident I found graves of her greatparents… Then we found the terp where her parents’ house stood (till 1945). The now huge cherry tree, she had long ago planted from a stone, was still there, and the two lilac bushes (remembered by her from childhood) were in blossom. Today – although many of the graves were destroyed by the post-war settlers, it still is a quiet little place though loaded with personal histories of this land.

After visiting Stawiec, I drove to Lubieszewo (Ladekopp).  Although the village was mentionned already in 1255, the location took place between 1315-1324.  From the 18th century such Mennonite surnames were mentionned as: Claassen, Dick, Elias, Ens, Epp, Essau, Fiegeth, Jantzen, Kroecker, Peters, Rigehr, Suckau, Toews, Wieb; Wiens, Wilms, Nikolaus Bergen, Jacob i Peter Classen, Kliewer, Joann Quiring, Jakob and Joann Wiebe. Among 640 inhabitants, 97 were Mennonites. As stated in the notes of http://www.holland.org.pl – in 1868 the village possessed 150 hufe, 66 houses, with 288 Catholics, 326 Protestants and 114 Mennonites. Among the richest land owners were noted: Jacob Claar, Kornelius Dyck, Herman Friesen…

And today ? Today it is a village en route to Malbork, or into the heart of the LowLands, with an interesting medieval church and definitely hidden history. Even the house where the saddler had lived untill 1945, is in agony…

Tuja (Tiege) – was my next stop. The architecture of the church is so peculiar, that I always stop there to take some more photos… The tomb stones by the northern wall of the  church are in decay now, and it seems that nobody is interested in even lifting them up from the ground. The once flourishing area – after the long years of Comminust brain wash – now has nothing to offer, except memories of the visitors, and rather harsh kindness of the locals. Unemployment and lack of interest from the local authorities placed the dwellers outside the frmae of society. Maybe that is why they happily welcome everyone who drives off the beaten track, to stop by and chat about the long gone days.

 

more on:

http://www.holland.org.pl

http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents

http://youtu.be/nYvkn1B6Qng

Another winter in Frombork

I often visit Frombork. And it is not only because I guide there, but also because I simply like this sleepy little town “at the world’s end”, according to Doctor Copernicus… I wrote about Frombork HERE, and now I am posting some PICTURES of winter.

And this post has been provoked by my recent visit there – as I have just returned from a training I participated in the Nicolaus Copernicus Museum. It was concerning the new exhibition “Mors ianua vitae” – Christian Funeral Customs. Seldom today we think of how much death accompanies us – we rather push its “presence” aside. It does not constitute the everyday life anymore, and became something embarrasing. It stands in contrast of the omnipresent worship of youth, eternal beauty, and fitness. Here – the exhibition shows how death was once somewhat a natural end of a long and tiresome journey.

HERE is a picture gallery of some very interesting exhibits. What is worth mentionning, they survived the madness of wars. And there have been quite many of them here – as this part of Europe had suffered from numerous hostilities since the early medieval times…

St. Mary’s – how much can be read from the brick walls

This time there will be no comment – just THE PICTURES of one of my favorite churches in Poland – the St. Mary’s in Gdansk …

Incerdible, how much can be read from a brick wall 😉

Enjoy 😀

St. Mary’s in Torun

Whenever I visit Torun, I mainly concentrate on St. Mary’s church…

It is hypnotic.

I do not treat it as a church from today’s perspective. I am amazed by its strong medieval message. We truly are dominated by the grandeur of the interior, and forced to look up. Today by looking UP – we mean looking at the splendid vaulted ceilings. But for a medieval man, it was looking farther, beyond. The ceiling of the church was Heaven itself, the site of God. In the middle ages with the very strong religiousness, it was an extremely important ideological message…

The construction of Torun’s St. Mary’s church started in … 1343. The same year as St. Mary’s Church in Gdansk, and was completed at the end of the century.

HERE is a short video of the church and here ANOTHER one… And ANOTHER

To feel the atmosphere and to inhale the ages of history – you must come to Torun 🙂

Gdansk – different view

I am probably one of very few in Poland who has not gone frantic about all that EURO championship 🙂

And so being completely resistant to the nation-wide revel – I had some time to go through my pics of Gdansk, as quite often I am being asked to popularize some of them.

So HERE  ARE SOME PHOTOS of my city – a walk without a rush:)

Elblag – east of Gdansk

Seldom people go there. Even the Poles consider the town to be not interesting.

And it is on the contrary.

Elbląg has been nearly completely destroyed not only by the Soviets during the last stage of war. But also by Poles – right after the fights. The still existing buildings, that survived the Red Army’s wild march were pulled down, and the good quality brick has been taken to rebuild Warsaw and Gdansk.

Such was the sad story and fate of many towns and villages in former East Prussia.

World War II did not effect the region – until the end of 1944. First there was the German frenzy of evacuation in winter 1944/1945 – sentencing their own people to death (winter and dreadful conditions) and then the march of the victorious Red Army. And finally the new people, who were settled here by the communists after the war. They were the people who were expelled by the Soviets from the lands seized from Poland after WWII… It was not their history, not their place on earth.

Still not everyone understands the rich and complicated history of this land. Still there is a lot to do as far as rebuilding is concerned (I also mean rebuilding the mentality).

But what has been already done is amazing.

For years Elbląg has been one of the biggest in Europe proving grounds for the archaeologists. Here for the last ca. 20 years the digging and research has shown such incredibly rich face of the city, that we sometimes are surpised.

Also the area – the near and far vicinities of the town revealed the secrets of the past. Some of the artifacts can be found in the Town Museum. It has been organized very interestingly – so it is worth visiting.

Elbląg today is a town often visited by Mennonites (it has still two former Mennonite Churches). Why Mennonites? Well, the land around the town we all owe to those People of Hard Work.

It also was a very important place in the earlier times.. Not speaking of the Teutons, who built here a mighty castle. Some historians say that this was to be the capital instead of Malbork. But it was important also later – in the 16th and 17th centuries it was a site of the Eastland Company… No wonder therefore that there were so many English surnames in the history of this once Hanseatic town… The history is so rich and complex, that it definitely is worth visiting the town, at least for a day, or two 😉

Today Elbląg has many fine small hotels, spelndid cuisine, and geographical situation such, that it is near everywhere from here.

Many of my tours start from Elbląg – heading to the east or nort-east of Poland.

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Plauten (Pluty) – the reminiscence of holidays

I often go back to the memories of our November East-Prussian escapade.

Not only because it was finally that dream vacation, so very well deserved after a frantic season. Also, because we visited some important places along the way… Those were places important to the history of Europe, and now often forgotten and neglected. Deliberately forgotten, I am tempted to say…

The majority of the Warmia-Mazury Voivodship is today still almost Terra Incognita.

Tourists rather go to Masuria, and the travel agencies (except for absolutely a few, which understand the place) still do not see anything interesting in the off-roads of the former East Prussia. In schools, teachers continue to avoid the subject as sensitive, moreover, they know little about it. Warmia is being discussed in isolation from reality. And thus it still is not very clear what is this phenomenon called: Warmia (Ermland).

Meanwhile, near the border between Warmia with Natangia, on the road from Pieniężno (Mehlsack) to Górowo Iławeckie (Landsberg) there is a small village Pluty (Plauten).

I do not know whether it was important for the Great History, but it is certainly important for those who appreciate the beautiful views.

The village was founded near the old Prussian settlement of Pelten. It is known that around the year 1325 the Warmia chapter in the person of the provost Jordan built a castle here. Jordan managed the chapter, in place of Bishop Eberhard of Neisse who was seriously ill at that time. Soon he himself was elected Bishop of Warmia.

Parish in Pluty was established in the first half of 14th century. In 1326 the parish endowment appeared.

In 1410 during the Great War the village was destroyed. We know that more than a century later (in 1583) a parish school operated in the village.

Parish Church of St. Lawrence dates from the mid-fourteenth century. It was several times adapted, , first in the sixteenth century and then in 1801, it was extended in a westerly direction, and the tower was added. Barely visible today date “1521” in one of the top blind arches of the sacristy can be a certificate of completion of a phase of the temple’s construction. Church was consecrated by Bishop Martin Kromer in 1581.

The church was built on a rectangular plan, and it was built of fieldstone (in the basement) and brick (the walls). It was plastered recently (except the tower). It has two extensions: the north is the vestry and the south is the porch.The interior is baroque. And I have to trust the descriptions here, for when we got there during our peregrinations – the church was closed. It was raining cats and dogs, and the wind was quite bitter. Therefore neither of us at all had in mind to look for the Reverend, to ask him to open the temple for us.

From the descriptions I just know that the main altar dates from 1694, and that it was made ​​in Königsberg. The maker of the altar was probably Isaac Riga, or his workshop. Side altars are from the same (more or less) period. In one of the side altars there is a painting o “The Last Supper” by Peter Kolberg (a prominent East Prussian artist – 1702), the pulpit dates from 1732, the choir was made in the 19th century and organ – in the  early twentieth century The only medieval part of equipment are the granite font and stoup.In the Tower there is an original clock mechanism as well as two bells. And beneath the church floor there is a crypt with coffins.

“The old Prussian settlement is situated east of the village, on a hill 30 meters high (ca. 98 feet), overlooking the Wałsza River. The remains of walls and moats can be seen.” I had no opportunity to check this as it was raining 😉 …

Last year a fair amount of money was acquired from the EU for renovation of the cultural heritage of the village. And the result of the works could be seen in some places around the church… Hopefully the funds will appear sufficient, and the enthusiasm of the locals will not fade away.

 

The church seen from the road.It is situated on a hill. Whole Warmia is hilly…

it can be seen that some work has been done..

It is a shame that the tombstone serves as a step to the church !!!!! It is a shame and a scandal!

Hopefully the funds will appear sufficient

Still there is a lot to do around the church... after years of negligence

Frombork church bells

Here is a short film (from the cell phone) of the church bells in Frombork. This is a unique place with very special bell tone!

Just listen to the noon bells in Frombork.

Do I need to add that Frombork is a place one should definitely see while in Poland 😉

St. Mary’s – spoken supplement

Earlier today I went to St. Mary’s in Gdansk. Haven’t been there for some time. So when T. asked me to take some pics of the Baptismal Font for  him I took the opportunity to visit this amazing church. After I did what I came for, I went to wonder around. As usually I took pictures of details and splendid vaulted ceilings. It definitely is my favorite church in Gdansk. But I have already written about it here.

This time I decided to record a short video. I have never done it before, until in Frombork this January 🙂

The quality is poor, but it is the content of the video that counts 😉

Here it is:

St. Mary’s – as seen on the 12th of February 2011

Maybe the next ones will be better… But definitely they will give more information about places worth seeing in Poland 🙂