Commonly understood as being conventional and conformist, the city of Poznań has discovered a new lust for life…
BY ALEX WEBBER | PHOTOS BY ED WIGHT
Home & Away
Poznań sits 310 km directly west of Warsaw making it an easy three hour drive from the capital. Several trains run approximately every 90 minutes with journey time currently extended to about 3hrs 30 mins. Getting to town: having traversed the spanking new station, the positive vibes vanish once you get ripped off by one of the taxi goons outside – use Uber instead. Getting back: don’t do as the photographer did and end up in Berlin.
Poznań is a city that likes to do business, and as such there’s no shortage of bland chain hotels serving up characterless comfort for the nomadic salesman. For something a bit nutty, then the Blow-Up Hall 5050 was once described by The Guardian as being ‘the most futuristic hotel in the world’. As much of a contemporary art installation as it is a hotel, the downer is that not all rooms warrant the rather steep price points.
Myself, I’m a Puro convert: with much emphasis placed on tech (room functions are all iPad this, iPad that), it’s a little too clever for its own good, but nonetheless the location is central, the bar is open 24hrs and the living space in the lobby looks straight out of Wallpaper*.
Sites & Sights
Many are content to just wander the tight grid of streets that comprise the Old Town, and there’s certainly nothing wrong in stopping at just that. Doing so, though, forgets the city’s richer glories: start at the Zamek – commissioned by Wilhelm II, it’s Europe’s youngest castle. Remodeled at Hitler’s behest, it’s now a fully functioning cultural center whose highlights include a sober museum chronicling the 1956 Poznań Uprising – the Eastern Bloc’s first armed rebellion against the communist regime.
Further on, the Commonwealth Cemetery in Citadel Park contains a memorial to Allied pilots shot during The Great Escape, as well as the grave of Roger Bushell, the leader of the breakout. Porta Posnania, meanwhile, dubs itself an ‘interactive heritage center’ and tells the story of the glorious Cathedral Island through the heavy use of multimedia technology.
Back to the Old Town, and the Croissant Museum is essential – built around a cooking demonstration that involves medieval swords and audience participation, it’s hands-on, wholesome and quite often hilarious.
As if the town hall in the center of the Rynek wasn’t picturesque enough, an added attraction are a pair of mechanical goats that appear each day at noon from the clock tower before knocking their heads together. The back story: in 1511 a pair of goats destined for the dinner table escaped from the town hall kitchen and romped up the tower. The public were so amused that a pair of mechanized animals were added a century later to honor the episode.
Having visited Cathedral Island, continue over the arcing shape of Most Jordana to hit the district of Śródka. Lined with dilapidated pre-war tenements, the main street and its offshoots have seen an outbreak of quirky hangouts that have injected the area with the kind of shabby-chic atmosphere that comes as a prelude to gentrification – get here while you can.
Of the dozen or so bars and cafes, Cafe La Ruina is credited with jump-starting the area and comes with a cluttered, rundown charm that’s impossible to resist. The pick of the bunch though is Dom Na Śródce – white and minimal but with plenty of little retro designer-ish quirks, it’s the kind of place where graphic illustrators convene for Flat White and carrot cake or a rhubarb IPA.
After, don’t miss the weird 3D mural on ul. Filipińska. Previously nominated by National Geographic as one of the 7 Wonders of Poland, it depicts a fairy tale Old Town and is riddled with cool details (spot the trumpeter on the roof).
The food scene is maturing, though the Old Town appears specifically mined to maim unwitting foreigners. For the best results, head yonder: dubbed ‘a concept by Robert Mielyżyński’ (does the name ring a bell?), The Time features sophisticated cuisine, a peerless wine list and a chic cigar room and whisky bar.
Equally refined, MUGA is Poznań’s fine dining choice, while A Nóż Widelec reinterprets Polish food in a swank, modern way. For something more familiar, then Whiskey In The Jar is an American rock bar / steak restaurant concept that’s casual, fun, and the kind of place where the staff have been trained to use words like ‘awesome’ all the time. It’s in Old Town, but you’ll live.
If you’re the ‘safety first’ type then the Brovaria microbrewery on the Old Town square impresses with its consistency, modern design and international feel. Specializing in the beer of Belgium, Kriek could just as well be called Creak for all its wobbly wooden fittings: compact and atmospheric, it’s made all the better by the presence of the owner – bear-like in stature, consider Sławek to be the epitome of hospitality.
For craft beer aficionados, the scene thrives in and around Żydowska street, though the best pub of all is around the corner on Wroniecka. Featuring an all-year courtyard, Ministerstwo Browaru is a well-established legend.