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. 😉

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 🙂

The Lowlands – the Vistula River Delta (The Werder)

I remember saying once that there is nothing to see in the Lowlands. That they are low, dull, flat and uninteresting…

And then by accident I first found an ancestor among the Lowlanders, and then I became a guide. 😀

Now I can say, I found the key to the Homeland for Strangers (this is how Peter Klassen calls this piece of the World).

Words can not describe the beauty of this huge piece of land which comprises about 2,5 thousand hectares (c.a. 6 177,63 acres).

And it all started around 1540-ties when two huge floods destroyed the area near rich Gdansk (Danzig). The city council decided to invite the experts to help with the flooded land. And who could have done it better than the people from the Low Countries? So, the council of Danzig sent their representatives to meet probably Menno Simmons and to urge him to send some of his followers to the far country on the Baltic, to settle down in the Delta of the Vistula River.

And this is how the history of the Mennonite settlement on the Vistula started.

I found in the Internet a very interesting book by Peter J. Klassen: Mennonites in early modern Poland & Prussia. Definitely worth reading!!!!

I am among the great admirers of the Mennonites’ work and echoes of the grandeur in the Delta…

Not to speak of the magnificent landscapes – here are only few pictures of this amazing piece ofPoland!

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 🙂

Joachim Oelhaf

1580 was a crucial year for medicine in Gdansk.

It was when lectures on anatomy were introduced in Gdansk Academic Gymnasium, and the cathedral of anatomy and medicine was opened there. It was headed by the first official professor of anatomy in the Kingdom of Poland – Johann Mathesius (born in Joachimsthal,  Bohemia1544- died 1607).

His successor was Joachim Oelhaf.

This Gdansk citizen was one of the most eminent doctors in the 17th century Kingdom of Poland. He studied at Wittenberg. Then he spent some time at the Polish royal court, where he had the opportunity to benefit from the experience of the court physician of Sigismund III Vasa – Giovanni Battista Gemma.

Scholarship awarded by the City Council of Gdansk allowed Oelhaf to continue his studies in Padua and Montpellier, where he obtained a doctorate in medicine. At that time, Padua was a major center of the anatomical research.

Oelhaf returned to Gdansk in 1602, taking a function of the City’s physician. The year 1602 is a year of plague in Gdansk. It is considered that at least 15,000 lost their lives then – with an estimated population of about 50,000 – counting the suburbs. During this terrible time Dr. Oelhaf demonstrated great dedication, and gave evidence that he became a doctor from vocation. His generosity gained him a great esteem in Gdansk. When the epidemic ended life in the city slowly returned to normal – and also the Gymnasium re-opened. Joachim was appointed professor of  anatomy and medicine there. Now, in addition to medical practice, he lectured, participated in the debates of scholars, which was in good tone, and wrote scientific papers. As he was interested in botany as an auxiliary science for medicine, he founded a garden for medicinal herbs on the city’s ramparts. Medicine was his passion, and cognition – the route to it.

It is known that he conducted three autopsies. The first one was of a child with pathology of liver, the next – was necropsy of professor Keckermann. On February 27th of the year 1613 he conducted the first in this part of Europe public autopsy. In the times of the Franciscans it was the small refectory,  then in the times of Gdansk Academic Gymnasium it became the anatomy hall. Today there is an exhibition of  gold smithery in the room. And the building today houses Gdansk National Museum. This autopsy of 1613 was of a child with multiple defects. The child was born in nearby Pruszcz Gdanski (Praust). The results of the autopsy were published – hence it became known internationally throughout the then medical world.

During his stays in Gdansk, the King gladly visited Oelhaf. Those royal visits undoubtedly raised the prestige of the city physician.

Oelhaf’s life was very intense, because in addition to medical practice, lectures at the Gymnasium, disputes, has conducted experiments, and investigations of the medicinal properties of plants, he participated in surgeries, and he wrote treatises on physiology and anatomy. Unfortunately, this success story and the activity were interrupted by the plague in 1630. Joachim was one of its victims.

Joachim had a son: Nicholas who continued research on the herbs after his famous father. He has published work in the field of herbal medicine. And in this he was a forerunner. He described about  350 plants used in medicine. Nicholas was also the town doctor (physician), and the court physician of King Wladyslaw IV. Considering the kidney illness, from which the King had suffered since his early youth – Nicholas was a very busy court physician.

Unfortunately I know nothing more about his further life. Therefore it is all for the time being.

 

Nicolaus Copernicus

Nicolaus Copernicus is currently a fashionable topic … Especially that this May his remains will be buried in Frombork. After nearly 5 years of investigation – there is a very big probability that the remains found in the Frombork Cathedral – are the ones of the famous astronomer.

The first version of this text was written on the St. Valentine’s Day. I felt deeply disgusted by the press announcements about Dr. Nicolaus and his supposed love affair with his distant cousin and cook – Anne Schilling.

So – please read this as an opening explanation and warning:

In the Valentine’s Day context it is a great abuse (and very much distasteful) – to call Gdansk a city  of the Love Affair of … Nicolaus Copernicus and Anne Schilling.

It is better to carefully read the story of loves and love in the city on the Motława River! So as no to depart from the historical truth, and so that the knowledge of the city is not build if only … rumors.

It would be best to go through the archives – to find the historical truth (which is not at all so obvious) but it would be enough to read some biographical books (but not the most recent ones… being more sensational than true).

Who wants to learn about Cupid in Gdansk, can read the life story of Maurice Ferber, who later in his life became the Bishop of Warmia… and therefore Copernicus’ boss. But before this he was a hero of a real love scandal of his times. I mean the affair with Anna Pilemann. It was a real scandal!

And for those who enjoy love stories I strongly recommend “listening” to the stories told by the epitaphs in Gdansk’s St. Mary’s Church.

For years now I have been developing a “Love Gossip Tour” around Gdansk…  as well as around the former East Prussia. And I assure – there are a lot more spicy stories to hear 😉

* * *

The rest of the article was rewritten and amended after the re-burial.

But back to Dr. Nicholas … Now – suddenly he became fashionable … And especially his private life. As if it was something new! A lot has been written about him. The list of better or worse books (including foreign ones), is quite long.

Let me remind everyone, that on 22nd May – this year (2010) Copernicus was re-buried in Frombork. After 2005 when his remains were found in Frombork Cathedral and after years of research and debate (whether it is him or not) … finally the re-burial was decided…

As I feared, as usually, unfortunately, this ceremony too remained mostly local. Just like the lost race for the tourists – right after the excavation in the cathedral. And yet the findings were at least interesting.

It was a pity therefore that the whole ceremony was not at full blast.

There has been a lot of time to blaze abroad about this exceptional opportunity to participate in the reburial of SUCH a famous person.

Once again – Frombork – from being at the world’s end (as Copernicus wrote about it) did not became the world’s center. At least for a day or two… Maybe then it would have become popular place to stay during summer. It lost its “five minutes” to become famous.

Maybe the so-called infrastructure is not the best yet. Maybe the local authorities cannot handle so much.

But then – Frombork has a splendid location.

It is a charming town on the Vistula Lagoon with a good transport connection – with not only local busses but also boats from Frombork to Krynica. And Frombork has quite a tasty food in its restaurants. Not to mention the delicious cakes and coffee served in the so-called Water Tower…

And it has more… It has this “something”… A unique atmosphere.

In the Museum there is a very interesting – though small department of the history of medicine. It also has the famous “three-cows-on-the gable”…

And it has … a sensational Last Judgment painting!!!

And… it all has just reminded me of the Copernicus Trail.

I have been working on it for several years now, and I call it a Subjective Copernicus Trail. Or – Copernicus Trail by Kasia

Of course, the trail begins far from Frombork – in Torun. It was there that our hero was born as the son of a merchant. Being in Torun it is necessary to see the Saint Johns’ Church, as he was baptized here.

But Torun is a unique city in general. Not only because of Copernicus.

There actually one can really touch gothic…

Going back to the trail – it leads then to Warmia Region – tracing the locations of the “abandoned fields” (it took me some time to develop this route – it is very interesting, and in summer – beautiful).

Also the towns en route are a MUST. The towns connected with the Administrator of the Chapter lands.

So… Driving along the Copernican route Gdańsk should not be forgotten. Doctor Nicolaus visited the town at least twice. Once in 1504 – the occasion was his cousin’s wedding (Kordula von Allen married Reinhold Feldstedt, a Gdansk wealthy merchant). And the second time was a six months’ visit in 1526.

After Reinhold’s death Copernicus was one of the three protectors of the widow and children. Other caregivers were Arendt Schilling and Michael Loitz. Arendt is the alleged husband of Anna. And Anna Schilling (supposed to have been Copernicus’ mistress) was the daughter of Nicolaus’ cousin. And who was Michael Loitz? He was a representative of the well-known family of Szczecin-Gdansk bankers. About Michael we should think, while driving to or from Nowy Dwor Gdanski (an hour’s drive from Gdansk to the east). And it was he, who was riding with his son Johann to Frombork at the news about the sickness of Doctor Nicolaus. All so that Johann could take over his canonry… But this is another story….

Going further along the Copernicus Trail – we also need to visit Malbork. Indeed, he was here few times. One can see an appropriate plaque on one of the castle walls…

It is in Malbork, in May 1528 that a Prussian Diet (Royal Prussia Seym – Council) was held. At the Diet Doctor Nicholas gave the speech “About minting.” He also reformed the Bread Rate.

We also must necessary visit Elblag! Here, walking the so called Church Path one can consider whether Nicolaus has ever walked this way?

He walked for sure! During his numerous visits to the town. We must remember that Elblag  is not far from Frombork, and at Copernicus’ times it was a very rich  town. And therefore it was a very important town too. It is enough to remember that Queen Elisabeth I of England established the branch of the Eastland Company there!!! There are many English names in the history of Elbląg (Elbing).

Unfortunately, our trail does not include Königsberg (today Kaliningrad). Nicholas stayed there too, at the invitation of Prince Albert Hohenzollern. Königsberg is not on the trail map, because after the last war there is nothing left of the known and historical Königsberg.

Deliberately I did not mention Copernicus’ observations of the sky, mainly because this is well-known, and is not the purpose of this article. It is enough to say, that he was definitely not detached from reality, and not only a “researcher of sky” – as we were made believe during years of  boring school lessons. Doctor Copernicus however was an active and excellent administrator. And also a talented strategist. This can be traced – while reading about the preparations of Olsztyn’s defense against the Teutons…. He was also an energetic land governor. The evidence of this can be traced in the documents. For example – once fishermen from the Teutonic territory were arrested for fishing on Pasłęka, the then border river. It was a typical preventive detention and it was ordered by the administrator of the chapter – Dr. Nicolaus. It was fully justified – because it took place in times of war. He twice held the post of the Chancellor of the Chapter.

He was also a consultant for Bernard Wapowski (Polish nobleman and a genius cartographer), when he worked on the map of the Polish Kingdom and Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Consultation related to the topography of Prussia. Copernicus developed a map of the western part of the Vistula Lagoon.

But above all he was a doctor. Although today his prescriptions might be shocking. Well, for example, where to get powdered unicorn horn (I know, I know it could be a narwhal …). Or who would care for collecting frogs’ dung…

Visiting Frombork, a place at the end of the world (as Dr. Nicholas wrote in his letters to friends), we must necessarily climb the so-called Radziejowski Tower. Look around then – and far into the Holy Warmia.

How often must have Copernicus traveled to locate abandoned land. We sometimes drive through a place – a village or small town, which for us is just a point on the map. We do not even realize that it was located by Copernicus.

So much for Nicholas – without the unhealthy sensation.

So… till the next season – to again set off on the Subjective Copernicus Trail…