Poznan

The Old Town Square: A Walking Tour

04 Oct 2017

A few steps away is the cute, freestanding Municipal Scales building, which almost looks like something out of Hansel and Gretel. Originally constructed in 1534, it once housed hardware for weighing merchandise on its way to the market. The little that remains of the original furnishings are now located in the Historical Museum, and the building itself is used by the city’s civil registry to issue marriage certificates. Right next to this charmer you’ll find a small statue of a traditionally-dressed Bamber peasant girl carrying jugs used in wine-making. Who were the Bambers? These poor Catholic farmers from Bavaria came to Poznań around 300 years ago at the invitation of the city authorities to help rebuild villages devastated by war and plague. They assimilated quickly into Polish society, playing an important part in the history and culture of Poznań. You can find out more about this unique group by visiting the Poznań Bamber Museum (ul. Mostowa 7/9). The statue, completed in 1915, doubles as a well, originally meant to provide drinking water for horses.

Speaking of water-spouting sculptures, you’ll find four mythological fountains guarding the four corners of the square: they depict Neptune, Mars, Apollo, and - perhaps in order to combat the under-representation of the fairer sex - Proserpina. Of the four, only Proserpina is the original, dating back to 1766; it depicts the goddess of grain and agriculture being abducted by the God of the Underworld. The other three fountains were revealed between 2002 and 2005 and placed in their correct historical spots. Between Apollo and Neptune there’s one more monument worth admiring - the 1724 figure of John of Nepomuk (Jan Nepomucen), a Bohemian martyr saint who was tortured and drowned in the Vltava River after refusing to divulge the Queen of Bohemia’s secrets of the confessional to her jealous husband Wenceslaus. It was hoped that the saint would be able to protect the city from repeated, disastrous floods, but ultimately the 1960’s re-routing of the Warta River did a far better job of that.

For the last leg of our brief walking tour, let’s move to the townhouses circling the square. Though it may not look like it at first or even second glance, among them stand no less than three palaces. The baroque Działyński Palace at no. 78 and the classicist Mielżyński Palace at no. 91 have had very similar fates. Erected in the late 18th century, they were completely destroyed during WWII, and reconstructed in the 1950’s (in the case of the former, sans eastern wing and French garden, which were deemed too lavish by the communist authorities). An older, luckier, and perhaps more relevant structure stands at the southeast corner. The beautiful Renaissance-style Górka Palace (ul. Wodna 27), currently painted cotton-candy pink, was constructed in the 16th century by the wealthy Górka family and currently houses the Archeological Museum, which owns the most extensive collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts in Poland.

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