Toruń - Hanza town
There are few towns in Poland where you can emerge yourself in history straight from the get go. One of them is Toruń. Best way to arrive is over the Pilsudski bridge from the south. It will allow you to see the skyline and it is an amazing one. Heads up for the train – the station is on the other side of the river so you have to either walk or take a bus.
The medieval part of the city has been listed as UNESCO Heritage Site. Unlike many other areas in Poland it has been spared WWII bombing, so what you see is really medieval. Although not at a sea side the city was part of Hanza and you can definitely recognize that in the architecture.
The first settlements in the area were dated back to 1100 AD. The oldest ruins you can visit are from a medieval fortress established by the Teutonic Knights in the middle of 13th century. The city joined the Hanseatic League quite early, 1280, thanks to its large population of artisans and craftsmen. The river Vistula made it easy to trade with the whole Baltic region.
To escape the rule of the Teutonic Order the gentry of Toruń petitioned to the Polish king Casimir IV Jagiellon to regain power over Prussia, which of course led to a war. Once under Polish rule the city received similar privileges as the city of Gdańsk (Danzig).
The most famous person who was born in Toruń and lived there for a period of time was the great Copernicus – the first astronomer in modern times to propose that we live in a heliocentric system. You can find statues and a museum devoted to him in the city. Not to mention the Planetarium.
If you ask someone in Poland, what is Toruń famous for – apart from Copernicus of course, without even blinking they will answer: gingerbread. And it is good. Unfortunately, not very cheap either. One great thing to do if you’re interested in history and culture is to visit the Museum of Gingerbread. You can book a tour, on which you will find out how it was made in Toruń over the centuries and then you can bake your own and take it with you as a souvenir.
If you’re staying overnight there is something you must do in the evening, before it gets dark. Across the river, at the site of an old bridge there is a viewing point platform. Great place to take some pictures of the city.
One more thing, however probably just for Polish people to enjoy. The little pier at the river was part of the filming set for a cult Polish movie “Rejs” (“The Cruise”). Along the river there is a mural with quotes from it. Great fun for the film fans.