Sandomierz, which I've now visited four times, is quite simply an amazing historical town, it keeps getting better with each visit, as though the local authorities know what they need to do to continually improve it as a draw. Today, I'd rate Sandomierz as long weekend-plus. The town itself has plenty to see, and the surrounding countryside - especially on a weekend like this one - is quite beautiful.
I arrived at the castle at noon to chair a panel at a trade conference aimed at the region's fruit and veg growers. After the conference, I had time to explore the town. Below: from the castle, the view of the Cathedral Basilica of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, built in 1360.
Below: the interior of the cathedral. Twelve gory paintings (one for each month) depict the deaths of Christian martyrs, blood spewing, severed heads; things to distract from lengthy sermons.
If amber is the tourist take-home in Gdańsk, here in Sandomierz it's striped flint (or banded flint), a rare stone that is to be found in abundance in this region of Poland. Many workshops and souvenir stores sell all manner of jewellry, cuff-links, tie pins and the like featuring this stone set in silver.
Below: the Old Town square, beautifully remonted since my last visit to Sandomierz in January 2006. Back then it was grey and crumbling; today, it is vibrant and appealing. EU (and Swiss) funds have been put to good use.
Left: this Old Town wicket gate (furta miejska), is the one surviving of the two built. This, the Dominican wicket, is known as the ear (not eye) of the needle. Steep steps lead down to the Podwale; the Bistro Podwale offers good food and a great range of craft beers and ciders including my favourite Polish cider - Cydr Ignaców.
Below: plenty of bars, cafes and restaurants in and around the Old Town. Prices lower than Warsaw, higher than Zamość (half-litre of local beer, 8 złotys).
Below: Sandomierz's town hall stands in the middle of the Old Town square. Like the cathedral and the gates, it is Gothic and dates back to the second half of the 14th Century, although the white tower was added on in the 17th Century.
Below: looking south-east from the steps of the Basztowy hotel. Across the Vistula lies Tarnobrzeg and in the distance, Rzeszów.
After the slap-up dinner of local produce laid on by the organisers, my colleagues from our Kraków office set off for home (Sandomierz is a three-hour drive from Warsaw, a three-hour drive from Kraków). Below: a night-time view of the castle.
This morning I slept until half past eight, had breakfast (poor! powdered coffee, no fruit juice, no fruit, no salad - just bread, butter, ham and cheese) and decided to spend more time looking around Sandomierz. Below: the Town Hall, lit by strong morning sunlight.
Below: the old town of Sandomierz stands on a hill rising 40m to 50m over the Vistula river. Every now and then, you can catch a glimpse of the river and the plains beyond.
Below: this could be Tuscany. This beautiful town is quintessentially European in its history, culture and architecture.
Below: half past ten, time to set off back to Warsaw. The fine way. To Zawichost, by ferry across the Vistula, thence via Annopol, Puławy, Wilga and Góra Kalwaria home.
If you've not been - go! You will not be disappointed by Sandomierz. Finally, a thank-you to Tomek from our Kraków office, who schooled here and showed us round with the expert knowledge of a local.
[I took so many interesting photos I needed to put together another post to accommodate them all - click here for more Sandometer!]
This time two years ago:
Food hygiene and lies as Russian foreign policy tools
This time three years ago:
Asphalt for ul. Poloneza (to Krasnowolska at least)
This time four years ago:
A welcome splash of colour to a drab car park
This time five years ago:
To Hel and back in 36 hours
This time seven years ago:
Honing the Art of the Written Word
This time eight years ago:
Of castles, dams and brass bands