Sunday, 26 June 2016

Zamość - beautiful must-visit town of Poland's east

Time to de-stress, get away from the trauma of last week and seek solace in the beauty of Poland.

I've long promised myself a return visit to Zamość, which I passed through 11 years ago on business, though the visit had to coincide with a period of Mediterranean weather.

For those of you who've not been, Zamość is a UNESCO world heritage site. This is what UNESCO says about the town: "Zamość is a unique example of a Renaissance town in Central Europe, consistently designed and built in accordance with the Italian theories of the 'ideal town', on the basis of a plan which was the result of perfect cooperation between the open-minded founder, Jan Zamoyski, and the outstanding architect, Bernardo Morando. Zamość is an outstanding example of an innovative approach to town planning, combining the functions of an urban ensemble, a residence, and a fortress in accordance with a consistently implemented Renaissance concept. The result of this is a stylistically homogeneous urban composition with a high level of architectural and landscape values. A real asset of this great construction was its creative enhancement with local artistic architectural achievements."

I stayed at the three-star Hotel Senator, on Plac Solny (like Wrocław, Zamość has its main square and a 'salt square' set off it, for salt trading). My apartment had splendid views and cost a mere 240 zł (about £45 even after Friday's devaluation of the pound) for the night.

Below: the Town Hall, and the main square. By coincidence, a festival of Italian song was taking place that very evening. The stage and seating are visible to the right of the frame.

A hot day. I arrived around 5pm, it was still over 30C. And that Italianate architecture... like a real Portmeirion, set out on a grand scale, made me feel I was a thousand kilometres to the south-west.

Colonnaded walkways line the square, which is full of bars, cafes, patisseries and restaurants. The entire town is evidently well-policed aesthetically; no garish signage is allowed to advertise premises.

Left: Many people watched the concert from the steps of the Town Hall. Ticket holders sat in an enclosed area in front of the stage, but the amplification was loud enough (not too loud) to ensure that everyone in the square and the side streets could hear the songs. Italian songs attract listeners of all ages, the audience included the very old and the very young.
A magical atmosphere descended on the town. Once you leave the main square and the concert, the other streets are almost empty, I feel I have Zamość to myself.

Left: as day turned to night, the town hall was lit up. The music, provided by various tribute bands backed by a proper orchestra, was to be heard right across town, adding to the Mediterranean feeling. As did the fact that it stayed hot, around 23C at 11pm. Note the pristine walls - a zero-tolerance to graffiti on the part of the local authority.

Below: view from my hotel window at dusk...

...and shortly after dawn. I was woken at 06:35 by the chiming of bells from that church tower visible on the skyline (below).

One small gripe about Zamość was the total lack of interesting beers. All I could see was Perła and the usual Lech, Warka Żywiec and Tyskie. Not one pub or bar with craft ales, no IPA to be had. At all. Yet the Perła cost but 5zł (92p) for a half-litre; when I told the proprietor that beers can cost 20-26zł in Warsaw, he could not believe me.

Everything else being fine, if Zamość could go up-market and move with the times in terms of its culinary offerings, I'm sure it could extract more earnings from the tourists' wallets. I ordered a pizza in a restaurant on the main square called Bohema. The most bohemian beer I could order was a Żywiec wheat beer on tap, and the pizza diavolo contained ham (rather than chorizo) under the chilli peppers, cheese, and tomato sauce. Would happily pay more for something more autentico!

Below: view of Plac Solny with my hotel in the distance. My windows are in visible in the roof. Room 301, worth asking for it. Breakfast at the Hotel Senator was commendable; sausage and scrambled eggs, various salads and lots of fresh fruit.

Zamość is definitely worth visiting!

This time last year:
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This time two years ago:
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This time three years ago:
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This time four years ago:
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This time six years ago:
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This time eight years ago:
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This time nine years ago:
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, Zamość looks like it has really improved since I was there 15 years ago. At the time, it had a sleepy, run-down, post-PRL look to it still. Buildings on the side streets were graffitied. It might be time for a return visit now!