Capitals – cities of origin of every nation, the ones forming history and identity of the state, the essence of its people. Poland, a country on wheels as one of my friends describes it, changed it shapes and geographic location quite radically throughout our dynamic history which resulted in various headquarters of the state during that time. Career of some ended quickly but the others lasted for centuries. Are they worth-visiting?
Warsaw – (1815-1831, 1918-1939, since 1945 till now) current capital of Poland, the biggest city in the country that has the same amount of inhabitants as Macedonia on its own. Around 2 millions of people live in this eclectic metropolis almost completely destructed by the World War II. The capital didn’t lose its charm so you can still find the signs from the past as the city was partially rebuilt. Next to old town you can easily bump into district full of skyscrapers and modern architecture stuck in between older buildings. Nowadays the city lures tourists with innovative, interactive museums such as Warsaw Upraisal museum, Polin, Kopernik Centre, vibrant nightlife, ongoing festivals and cultural events. Former beloved city of the nation, the centre of Polishness, destroyed in vengeance, made almost extinct, whipped off the map by the war including its inhabitants is nowadays’ posh capital mostly linked with the centre of finances and power. The city where old and new coexist, where you can find XVIIIth century palaces, symbol of socialism; Palace of culture and science, royal gardens and modern skyscrapers.
Cracow – (1039/1040-1079, 1138-1290, 1296-1795) former beloved capital of Poland, the city of kings with truly Polish architecture style, amazing old town, Jewish district and castle above it all has definitely an atmosphere. Cracow miraculously escaped the general destruction during the war thanks to which nowadays we can admire narrow cobbled streets among tenements houses encircled by city’s green lungs – Planty. Cracow preserved its medieval location so if you enter the old town passing by Barbican via one of the gates leading you through tight streets to splendid town square you can experience a journey back to the past. Cloth hall, St. Mary’s Basilica, multiple temples, and palaces, impressive amount of museums and national galleries including famous Schindler’s factory, Museum of Contemporary Art or Beksiński’s exhibition can attract many.
Gniezno – (940-1039/1040) the very first capital of Poland, the place where prince Mieszko I was baptised so he can introduce Poland to the arena of international politics. The birthplace of Christianity on Polish territory and nation on its own. The main cathedral is like a treasure chest with relicts of St.Adalbert and famous door presenting the life of the saint. City’s name refers to the nest as Gniezno is supposed to be the first location of Lech, legendary ruler of Polans. During his journey he noticed eagle’s nest up in crown of the tree, he considered it a good sign and decided to settle down, this also explains Polish emblem – white eagle. Old town is definitely worth a stroll, get lost in the streets and reach the square with its hall to enjoy the experience.
Poznań – (1290-1296) Historians argue about the role of Poznań at the time when Gniezno was capital, according to some sources it used to be more important. Either way Poznań made it to the top and become a capital for a short while. The city is famous of its town hall inhabited by two fighting goats, trumpet call, charming square with surrounding it tiny colorful houses and castle rebuilt from the basics in XXI century. It is an academic city of music, hosting one of the best choirs and universities. Ostrów Tumski district with charming streets, low buildings, newly set up museum and outstanding cathedral may give you an impression that you are just visiting a separate small medieval town. Artificial lake, eco reserve, Citadel memory park, XXth century Imperial castle are reasons enough to check the capital of Greater Poland.
Płock – (1079-1138) probably the smallest and the least impressive capital is still worth visiting for more small town vibe with a nice old town including impressive town hall, lovely streets, basilica, prince castle and modern amphitheater.
This themed trip through the capitals can give you an idea of country’s history and how it constituted the state. Enjoy Capital experience!
Author: Aleksandra Grzyb
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