Thursday, 16 March 2017

Rzeszów - capital of Poland's south-east corner

My third trip to Rzeszów (the first was in 2006, second in 2014). I arrived on the night train from Warsaw in good time for a seminar in which I was presenting and moderating the panel discussion. Later, I had three hours to visit the town before taking an evening train home.

Rzeszów (pop 200,000) is the southernmost and smallest of the three cities on Poland's eastern flank, with Białystok (pop. 300,000) to the north, Lublin (pop. 350,000) in the middle. With a population around the size of Aberdeen or York, Rzeszów is an increasingly prosperous place, centre of Poland's burgeoning aerospace industry.

Left: this communist-era statue, the Monument to the Revolutionary Act (locally known as 'donkey's ears', stands at the major crossroads just to the north of the city centre. It suggests that the city is full of belching factories and 1970s blocks.

But Rzeszów has a lovely old town, not quite as nice or large as Lublin's, but worth a visit (there's a huge variety of bars and eateries around it).

Below: as you approach the old town, there's a handy mural with a reproduction mid-18th Century map to help you find your way. In the distance to the right, the towers and roof of the Bernardine basilica.

Below: the old town market place, lit by strong late-winter sun under a glowering sky. Under the market place is a 213 metre-long network of underground corridors and storerooms; these can be visited in guided groups.

Below: looking north-west into the market place, rebuilt in the 1840s after a fire destroyed the original 14th Century market.

Below: nicely lit, nicely painted, well kept, no graffiti.

Left: looking into the square; note the street lamps attached to the walls. In the distance, the town hall.

Below: looking down ul. Baldachówka. At this time of year, the old town is quiet, the beer gardens are closed, and few tourists obstruct the views. On a sunny day, very picturesque.

The last time I was here, in high summer, the market was teeming with tourists, the beer gardens all full. However, the atmosphere, the klimat, with the glowering skies and strong sunshine plus the relative emptiness makes it a more satisfying visit.

Rzeszów does not have a particularly large old town, and the handful of streets that comprise it can be circumnavigated in half and hour or so, even if you're stopping to snap and catch the views. If you're in Rzeszów on business, make sure to pop by the old town before you move on.

Below: looking east along ul.Adama Mickiewicza. I like the name of the coffee shop on the left; powoli means 'slowly', but po woli also means 'after [my] will'.

Below: the town hall, to the right, which dates back to the 16th Century, underwent numerous alterations and modernisations in the 19th Century, giving it its current neo-Gothic look.

Rzeszów has a large shopping mall opposite the Monument to Revolutionary Action, the Galeria Rzeszów. This boasts no fewer than 79 clothes shops and 23 shoe shops; it is one of four malls in the city, which has one of the highest ratio of shops to population in Poland. As well as many stores, there's also a thriving market place with a great many stalls. Below: a health-food stall selling various beans and pulses.

Rzeszów is a lot more than just the old town; it is ringed by blocks of flats and industry, but the centre itself consists of buildings from different historical periods, each creating a different atmosphere.

Above and below: towards the railway line, low-rise buildings from the late 19th Century.

Left: Rzeszów's main railway station. The building, destroyed in both world wars, has been rebuilt to retain its original architectural style. I arrived here on the night train from Warsaw, via Kraków. Note the taxi's registration number; comedian at the wheel?

Below: my train home, hauled by a diesel engine as far as Lublin, thence to Warsaw under electrical traction. Journey took over five hours, with a 30min stopover at Lublin while the engines were changed.

Rzeszów is also accessible by plane from Warsaw, but without Ryanair offering competition on the route, tickets start at 186.79zł for a weekday single. Second-class single by PKP (TLK) is 58zł.

This time three years ago:
A tipping point in European history

This time four years ago:
Random sentiments from London suburbs

This time five years ago:
Stalinist neo-classicism in Warsaw

This time six years ago:
A week into Lent

This time seven years ago:
Afternoon-dusk-night in the city centre

This time eight years ago:
A particularly harrowing reality

This time nine years ago:
Wetlands waiting for the spring


Mat said...

About low-rise buildings - saying these are from Tsarist era gives us a very good dating (if you really have this info), as Rzeszów was under Tsarist rule for a couple of months in 1914 and 1915 only. Other than that, from 1772 to 1918 Rzeszów was part of Austrian Empire.

Michael Dembinski said...

@ Mat

Quite right - this part of town sprang up soon after the railway arrived. So Austro-Hungarian. Will correct.

@ Bernd

Was surprised to see these locos - S = spalinowy, U = uniwersalny (goods & cargo). The journey back to Warsaw indeed felt much longer than it should have been.