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Published: June 25th 2019
The centre of Poznan is full of green spaces, but the biggest by far is Citadel Park. We took the 20 minute stroll north of the city centre for a look round. It looks like a park, but in reality is the remains of what was a sizeable fortress. It largely avoided any serious military activity until 1945 and for the most part was used as a prison. The Germans primarily used it was a POW camp from 1939 onwards, but it proved a key stronghold as the conclusion of the Battle for Poznan was played out in February 1945. The majority of the city was taken by the Red Army on 16 February, but the Citadel held out until 23 February. The bricks and rubble of what remained was then largely used in the reconstruction of the city, although plenty of the old fortifications are still evident. The Post War Communist authorities gave it the mouthful of a title, “Monument Park of Polish-Russian Friendship and Brotherhood” in 1962 and it was subsequently re-named Citadel in 1992.
The Park has many attractions, but the one which is the focus for most visitors is the artwork named “Unrecognised”. A
clearing off the main path is home to the 112 headless cast iron figures, randomly facing off in different directions. It is the work of local arts graduate Magdalena Abakanowicz and was unveiled in 2002 as part of the Poznan 750 years celebrations. There is apparently a similar set of figures in Grant Park in Chicago and a limited number of others in the vicinity of the Imperial Palace on the other side of Poznan. The Park is also home to the Armaments Museum. We didn’t go in, but the outside exhibit is free to explore and features various Russian tanks as well as a MIG perched on the roof. The Abakanowicz figures are immediately noticeable, but it is hard to miss the 1986 “Bell of Peace and Friendship Among Nations”. On Liberation Day (23 February) and other important dates in the local calendar, the 850 kg bell booms out from its own 10 metre high perch. The Russian Obelisk is another prominent structure and dedicated to the Russian soldiers killed during the 1945 siege of the fortress. As with many such obelisks in Eastern Europe, the red star crowning glory has gone AWOL in the years after the fall
of old political masters. We returned to town for an evening of more food and beverages in and around the Old Town Square.
Poznan has two very different castles. The Kaisers Castle or Palace was built in 1905 to serve as a residence of Kaiser Wilhelm II. It is a beast of building designed by Franz Schwechten, featuring a West Wing for the Kaiser’s living quarters and an East Wing with his throne and state rooms. The gardens based at rear are based on a courtyard in Alhambra at Granada. The building was finished in 1910, but World War 1 curtailed the longer term German territorial ambitions in the area (at least for the next 20 years). A part of Poznań University took possession. World War 2 brought the return of the Germans and Third Reich architect, Albert Speer, set about a transformation designed to provide Hitler with a residence in the area and the officers of the local provincial Governor. The Castle was restored after 1945 on a smaller scale and in a much less grand style. Today, part of the building is occupied by a trendy cinema complex and café area. An area is given
over to various offices of small businesses, but the main state rooms appeared out of reach due to renovation. I am not sure what the former occupants would make of having a Dubliner Irish Pub in the basement. It is still possible to wave from the balcony overlooking the gardens. The front grounds had been taken over by Ethnoport – a local music festival. A few security guards were keeping a watchful eye on the equipment. Meanwhile at the road junction outside, there was chaos. A duck was leading her brood across one of the busiest intersections in Poznan, weaving in and out of the oncoming traffic. She seemed to have come out of the park in front of the Opera House.
After a brief inspection of the Monument to the 1956 Uprising, we walked back towards the city centre and Freedom Square. The focus of all these days is on the Old Town square, but this was the new centrepiece of the “German” Poznań. It was originally called Wilhelmsplatz in honour of King Frederick William III of Prussia. The current layout was devised by the city’s new Prussian authorities at the very end of the 18th
century. The Square had a few different identities in the years that followed, but with the invasion in 1939 the Germans re-imposed Wilhelmsplatz until the current title. The middle ground is dominated by a strange geometric structure unveiled in 2012.
We walked back to the Old Town Square in time for the biggest show in town. The Old Town Hall sits in one corner. It originally dates from the 14th
century, but was amended in design by an architect from Lugano who added a classical tower amongst other things in the 15th
century. The years have taken their toll, so nothing much exists of the original and ironically the interiors are once more closed for renovation. The crowds gather from just before midday to witness 2 mechanical billy goats emerge from a door above the clock and proceed to butt heads twelve times. The said goats have been bashing heads together since the since 1551, but the present pair have been at it since 1954. The crowd waited patiently in the baking sun. i have to say it certainly beats other famous clocks such as Prague, as a spectacle. We had visited one "castle" in
the morning and now we headed to Poznań’s former Royal Castle. The original was built around 1250 by Przemysł I, the Duke who was head of the Polish royalty. It was at one point the largest non-church building in Poland. As always, what you see now is a post war recreation after the destruction caused by Germans and the Red Army. The Castle tower provides a very decent view over all sides of the city and the main portion of the side building houses the Applied Arts Museum. The latter houses a collection of the Poznan artifacts through the years and is more interesting than the title suggests.
One of the more surprising buildings in Poznan is housed in an old brewery dating from 1844. The Huggerów Brewery stopped produced in 1980 and then after a spell bottling mineral water, transformed into the award-winning Stary Browar complex. It opened in 2003, as a regeneration exercise to bring life back towards the cityc entre. There are some serious high brands within as well as a hotel, restaurant areas and a cinema. The temperature outside was 33 degrees. The air con within provided a welcome respite from the heat. We walked
back to the hotel. The rest of the city seemed to have embraced the world of the electric scooter. A sort of Boris bike system, allowed them to be deposited anywhere and with a click of an app, the renters went about their business.
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