Poznań: important places

Interesting and important places in Poznań.

Poznan, butting in

Some say Poznan people are always turning their noses up at things. In fact, it happens every day at noon in front of the Ratusz (the City Hall) in Poznań. People turn up their noses to see two butting billy goats.

It's not about domination, territory, females or the other things billy goats usually fight about. They're two mechanical goats that fight for fun. The automatons are all that was left after the escape of two goats that were to be roasted and served at a lavish feast given by Master Clockmaker Bartłomiej Wolff from Gubin on the occasion of the completion of a further stage in the restoration of the Ratusz by Giovanni Battista Quadro and the starting of the Ratusz clock in September 1551 AD. The head chef Gąska, who was preparing the feast (some sources say he was called Mikołaj), was horrified to discover that the main roast dish - a leg of venison - had been burned so he ordered a cook called Pietrek to go to the market for some fresh meat. But it was a Sunday and Pietrek couldn't find any butchers open. However, he found a pair of billy goats in a meadow and took them to be roasted but in the bustling kitchen the two billy goats managed to escape and fled to the Ratusz tower. There to the crowd's delight they started butting heads. It soon became clear that the fighting goats were more interesting than the roast. The amused governor, Janusz Latalski, ordered a "joke machine" be added to the Ratusz, featuring battling billy goats.

Maria Kowalewska, who wrote the legend down, also adds that the cook Pietrek, running after the billy goats, got to the tower and spotted a fire in the city. The alarm was raised and the fire put out. And the automatons became an expression of the gratitude of Poznanians to the billy goats that saved the city from burning down.

Today Billygoats are the name given to the awards of numerous Poznan festivals (for example: International Young Audience Film Festival "Ale Kino") or sporting events. There are even Billygoats for journalists and a Billygoat Taxi service - you'll find them waiting in front of the City Council in Plac Kolegiacki. A billygoat is the mascot of Lech Poznań football club and the Billygoats is the name of Poznań's American football team.

Mieszko lived here

Gniezno was the first capital of Poland - this is what children learn at school. Is that certain? The age of the first Piasts is inseparably associated with Wielkopolska - here was the state of the Polans. However, historians think that in those times the concept of a capital didn't really exist. The capital was whichever castle the monarch happened to be staying in at the time. In this way Poznań, as well as Gniezno, deserves the status.

However, according to the chronicles of Jan Długosz, Mieszko I, Bolesław Chrobry, Mieszko II and Kazimierz Odnowiciel were all buried in Poznań. They are said to rest in Poznań Cathedral, but no one knows for sure. Today there is a wonderful Złota Kaplica (the Golden Chapel) with a sarcophagus and shared monument to the Piast monarchs built at the behest of Edward Raczyński in 1840. Between the XIV to the XVIII century the remains of the first king of Poland were stored in a Gothic sarcophagus paid for by Kazimierz Wielki, which was later destroyed as a result of fire and the collapse of the church spire.

Work carried out on Poznań's Ostrów Tumski by professor Hanna Kóčka-Krenz and her team may determine where the wife of Mieszko I, Dobrawa of Bohemia, is buried, with whom the rite of baptism was introduced to Poland. Professor Kóčka-Krenz has found a chapel adjoining the palace of Mieszko I. According to her, Dobrawa, in Polish simply called Dąbrówka, founded the first pre-Roman temple in the land of the Piasts. Somewhere here may also be her grave.

Also the tomb of the king Przemysł II, crowned in 1295 and soon after murdered in Rogoźno, is located in Poznań. This tomb was destroyed, but a plaque in the chapel of St. Stanisław commemorates Przemysł II. It is presumed that Prince Władysław Odonic and his sons Bolesław Pobożny and Przemysł I also rest in the cathedral. Przemysł I granted Poznań city status in 1253. He died four years later, which must have come as a relief to his courtiers. The prince paid penance for the fact that once he had held his brother prisoner - as part of the penance he didn't wash - for two years.

A victorious uprising, but not the only one

"The only victorious uprising in the history of Poland" is a cliche used even by the people of Poznań when talking about the Wielkopolska Uprising. As a matter of principle, Poles have often, in desperate straits, started uprisings: including famous ones in November, January and Warsaw, but they lost them all, and only the people of Poznań won theirs.

But don't let yourself be fooled. The Wielkopolska Uprising from 1918-1919 was victorious, but there were more like this in the history of Poland, for example the 1806 uprising or the Third Śląsk Uprising.

However, the pride in the victorious uprising is huge, and well justified. Everyone here thinks that this piece of Polish history is little known. Certainly not as much as other independence revolts. So the people of Poznań are trying hard to change this and every year they organise battle reenactments, the arrival of Jan Ignacy Paderewski (performed by an actor) and his speech from the balcony of Bazar Hotel on 27th December 1918, which was the direct cause of the uprising. It was Paderewski who, despite suffering from the Spanish flu, shouted from his hotel window, "Long live a free, united and great Poland with its own coast!" The Bazar Hotel is located between Ulica Paderewskiego, Ulica 27 Grudnia (the same date - 27th December) and Aleja Marcinkowskiego.

Workers against worker's authorities

The Muzeum Powstania Poznańskiego - Czerwiec'56 (the Museum of Poznań Uprising - June 1956), Centrum Kultury Zamek ("Zamek" Culture Centre), Ulica Święty Marcin 80/82

The house of an average Poznań family, in the mid 1950s. In the corner there is a tile stove, on the wall a picture of the Virgin Mary, some china getting dusty in a cupboard. In the street we pass a green tram with wooden seats and the door of the Polish United Workers? Party Regional Committee. We can hear the voices of dignitaries behind it. Suddenly, there's a noise, shots, a crowd gathers. We run with the crowd, straight into the arms of the militia. Then there's an interrogation, a lamp shines straight into our faces as a secret police agent sits behind a wooden desk. Finally, there is a small cell with a hard bunk and a political show trial.

This is the path visitors take through the Muzeum Powstania Poznańskiego - Czerwiec'56. This was when the workers from the Joseph Stalin Metal Works in Poznań (today named the Hipolit Cegielski Metal Industry Complex) went on strike and out into the streets, demanding work and bread. The demonstration quickly changed into a straight-forward riot, in which the protesters took over control of the prison, court and prosecutor's offices. To pacify the demonstration the communist authorities used ten thousand soldiers and over three hundred tanks. Dozens of people died, hundreds were arrested. In June 1956 in Poznań Polish workers demonstrated against the authority of the Workers? Party for the first time.

More tips: "Zrób to w Poznaniu. Przewodnik alternatywny. Do it in Poznań. Alternative guide"

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