Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Thorunium the Gothick

Ah! Toruń! Gothic gem! A city worth seeing (rather like Gdańsk's Gothic Old Town) on an overcast day, rather than when bathed in summer sunshine. The oldest parts of Toruń (Thorunium in Latin) date back 800 years. Partially enclosed by bastions and high walls, the city's ancient buildings are predominantly brick-built, the streets cobbled. Below: Gothic buildings on ul. Podmurna.

Gothic Toruń, like Gdańsk, is about verticals that would make your mediaeval mind boggle. Look at the height and sheer scale of the brickwork of this, the side wall of the 16th C. church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Below: view of the eastern end of the church with its towers. Knowing I'd be snapping some serious architecture, I came equipped with my Nikkor 10-24mm ultra-wide zoom... it came in most handy!

Below: Cathedral Basilica of St John the Baptist and St John the Evangelist, more soaring brickwork; Toruń was a veritable skyscraper city of its day.

Left: the large number of churches requires a stained glass window workshop. Intek-Art, on ul Szewca 8, is open to meet all your stained-glass requirements, sacred or secular. Not only will they turn out saints and angels on request, they also make 3D stained glass; below - a PZL P11c, the Polish air force's principal fighter aircraft of the September 1939 campaign. Intek-Art also had on display an RWD-6 (in which Polish team Żwirko and Wigura beat 23 other crews from across Europe in the 1932 Challenge) and an Ansaldo Balilla from the Bolshevik War of 1920. Not cheap - 1,500 zlotys for the PZL, 4,000 złotys for the Ansaldo.

Below: ul. Bankowa - the street follows the fortified wall; on the other side, a defensive tower - Baszta Gołębnik ('Dovecote Tower'); in the distance, Brama Klasztorna (' Monastery Gate'). The Vistula flows parallel to the wall. Let's take a walk down this street...

Below: further along ul. Bankowa. To the right, a former granary, one of many in Toruń's old town. And what's that in the distance?

An optical defect in my super-wide lens? No - this is Toruń's famous Krzywa Wieża ('Crooked Tower'). It leans 5 degrees off vertical.

Below: back in the centre of town, the Gothic skyline of the Rynek Staromiejski (Old Town Market), with the Town Hall (started in the 13th C.) and the spire of the Church of the Holy Spirit

Right: a doorway on ul. Piekary and ul. Rabiańska, with nine pigeons on the steps. For some, free pets and and disposal point for stale bread, for others a pest and health hazard.

Below: an increasingly common feature in many Polish cities - a humorous brass statue commemorating a famous son. This is Filuś - the dog of cartoon character Profesor Filutek, who appeared in their own strip in Przekrój magazine for over 50 years. Filuś, on the corner of ul. Chełmińska and Szewska is holding his master's bowler hat while his umbrella rests on a street lamp. The cartoon strip was drawn by Zbigniew Lengren, who hailed from Toruń, studying art at the university.

Below: this is the side of Gothic that appeals to me most - pre-industrial architecture that presaged the early modern age - dark and dramatic. Shall we go on? We cross ul. Podmurna and dive down into ul. Ciasna...

Let's take a peek down Ciasna (lit. 'Narrow Street'). Dirty, soot-stained brickwork, damp walls, damp basements - an idea of what life was like in the old days.

Below: a Baroque granary on the corner of ul. Piekary and Rabiańska. Note the abandoned Wartburg in the foreground

Below: a 14th C. tenement on ul. Szczytna, now housing a public library. Note the figures in the windows.

Below: through the arch to Hotel 1231, named after the year in which the building housing it was built (originally a water mill). I stayed here, only one night, then took part in a business meeting with Polish exporters. I can only praise this unique hotel - so full of character, excellent service, architecturally fine. And half the price (I paid 305 zlotys for a single room) of the Holiday Inn in Edinburgh where I stayed a week ago - the very antithesis of character.

Track back through the arch, part of the defensive walls of the castle built by the Teutonic Knights in the mid 13th C. It was captured and partially destroyed by the local population in 1450. The tower, situated over the mill-stream (Gdanisko river) was used for centuries for the town's waste-disposal.

Toruń is a beautiful city, with much to see. It is three hours by train from Warsaw (48 złotys single 2nd class by TLK). Certainly worth a visit.

This time last year:
Łódź Widzew or Widź Łódzew

This time three years ago:
A touch of frost in the garden


AndrzejK said...

Torun also has a 19th C panopticon prison. This was still in use when I was last in Torun. The panopticon idea was that you built a round building. The design was applied to both hospitals and prisons, predominantly in the UK. In the case of hospitals each floor was open plan with beds against the windows and the nurses work station in the middle. In the case of prisons the cells were ranged against the (single) wall with the warders being in the middle. In both cases a single person on a swivel chair could keep an eye on everyone and the distance for instance a nurse had to travel in a day to reach patients was the shortest possible as she was equidistant from all patients.

I recall that in the case of the Torun prison WAGS (wives abd girlfriends) would gather outside the walls and throw things to the prisoners who were leaning out of the windows!!

Michael Dembinski said...

The prison is still there (across the road from the entrance to the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary). When I was there, the place was surrounded by fire engines!

Marcin said...

Hi Michael,

Marvellous snapshots, as always.

White Horse Pilgrim said...

Nice to see Torun looking so well. It was a bit greyer back in the mid-1980s when I visited - but I did arrive by steam train which was memorable. So were the parties with quite lively students. Are there still trams in Torun?