From Gdańsk we caught a bus to Torún, one of Poland’s oldest cities. First, though, we left later than we’d planned because the Solidarity museum had been closed on Monday, and we really wanted to see it before we left. It was totally worth it. What an amazing story of workers fighting back against incredible odds and starting a movement that quite literally changed the course of world history. While Lech Walesa has more recently proven himself to be a distinct homophobe, nothing can diminish the importance of what he – an unemployed electrician – accomplished.
Back in 1231 Teutonic Knights built a fortress here in Torún, the ruins of which were adjacent to and perhaps even a part of the hotel we stayed in. And in 1473, Nicolaus Copernicus – who developed the model that showed that the sun, not the earth, was the center of the universe – was born here. Notwithstanding the fact that he was wrong (in case you’re wondering, the sun is not the center of the universe) it was still a big deal.
Mark & I sat in a little cafe late in the afternoon, just watching people going by and drinking a glass of wine; I was amazed at our good fortune. We’d spent three days in in Gdańsk where, as Mark noted, World War II started and the Cold War started to end. All I’d known about Gdańsk three months ago was that there were shipyards there, so I would not have expected such a beautiful city. And now here we are for a day in Torún, another beautiful city. A city with so many beautiful churches, the Church of St. James Gordon, shown below, doesn’t even make the guide books, but was incredible.
Meanwhile, to make the Poland experience even better, I’m reading Heart of Europe by Norman Davies, a history of Poland that starts with Solidarity and moves backward. It’s a pretty compelling story and I’m more eager than ever to move on to Warsaw and Krakow.