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. 😉

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Torun – come and touch the gothic

Torun is a jewel. Such can be the most succinct description of this unique town.

Torun is one of very few towns in Poland – not destroyed during the Second World War. And as such – it guarantees the same spirit as in the former times.

Torun is a town of exquisite details…

It also is known as the place where the famous astronomer – Nicolaus Copernicus was born. But not everyone knows about Frederic Chopin in Torun 😉

The history of Torun (Thorn) can be shortened to few sentences:

*   established by the Teutons,

*   flourished within the Polish Kingdom during the so called Golden Age,

*   taken from Poland during Partitions,

*   returned to Poland after WWI.

But Torun is about more than splendid history – now it is a city of a well-known University, and it is one of the Polish UNESCO sites. It has many small but cosy hotels, and very good quality cuisine.

Generally Torun is called the quintessence of gothic.

And – one more thing: Torun is famous for its … gingerbread.

Toruń is an absolute MUST when in Poland.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.