Day 7: Toruń

Today was an extra fun day full of new sites to see, adventures to have, and of course mishaps to laugh about. Today we got a guided tour of the Polish city of Toruń which is about 30 minutes from Bydgoszcz by train. Andrew, a student who has previously studied at Tarleton offered to guide us through his hometown and wow, we were incredibly grateful for him.

We left our dorm extra early in order to get to the train station (which weren’t entirely confident on the location of). The station ended up being at the bottom of the tram stop we

Waiting at the train station platform in Bydgoszcz.

had suspected it probably was but finding the correct platform took some guesswork since we couldn’t understand our tickets nor the signage. We tried reading the schedule but ultimately decided that our best option was to try to ask one of the other passengers nearby. A nice older man who didn’t speak any English tried to assist us and after glancing at our ticket assured us that we were on the correct platform and told us that he was also traveling to Toruń. It was a chilly morning so when they train came and the man motioned for us to follow him to the first car, we were more than happy to get out of the wind. When our tickets didn’t work we soon discovered that we had accidentally boarded the wrong train line. Oops! No one had warned us that more than one train company used the tracks so we had to buy new tickets. Fortunately, they were not terribly expensive and we still ended up where we needed to go.

Andrew led us along this path to an undisclosed location which turned out to be castle ruins.

After that experience we were grateful that Andrew was there to meet us at the train station upon arrival in Toruń. He was enthusiastic about showing us around the city and first led us to the city from a distance at the riverfront. Even on a cloudy day it was impressive to see the old buildings and towering cathedrals across the water. All of a sudden we found ourselves being led down a dirt path next to the bridge without a clue as to where Andrew was taking us. We walked for a while along a cobble-stone and dirt road featuring several piles of horse manure as we talked (right). Just as we reached an opening, Andrew announced the surprise he was leading us to: castle ruins. There is absolutely no way we would have found these river-facing ruins if without our guide and we were all in awe of the beauty of this surprise.

Standing on the rim of the castle ruins.

He led us through the entrance and up some old and uneven stone spiral stairs to the outer rim of the structure which we could walk along (left). Even its the broken and spray painted covered condition,  it was an excellent way to start our day.

We ventured back to the main road and our tour of the city continued as Andrew led us past statues and buildings and parts of old castles.

One of the medieval style city gates.

It didn’t take me long to notice the difference in the building styles between Bydgoszcz and Toruń and it took even less time to decide that I loved the city. The buildings were all in an older, more medieval style than in Bydgoszcz and the culture just emanated from the cobblestone streets and monstrous cathedrals.

The old post office of Turoń with the statue of Copernicus below.

Andrew shared the stories behind some of the buildings and statues we passed. Since it was Sunday, our group of four Baptists and one Presbyterian had the opportunity to attend mass for a few minutes in a gorgeous and ornate old cathedral. Turoń is the hometown of Nicolaus Copernicus and we saw his hometown as well as a statue of him (which happened to be dressed up as a clown because of the Juvenalia festival for the university students).

Baked pierogis

After walking for a while and experiencing the city, Andrew brought us to a pierogi restaurant which was much different from the one Anna had taken us to. This one offered many different options and two different baking methods: boiled (traditional) and baked. I opted to try the baked kind to branch out from those I tried yesterday. The one I got tasted almost exactly like a sloppy joe which was mildly disappointing since it tasted too “american”.

My favorite part of the day was a special treat which we were lucky to get to do. Turoń is famous for its gingerbread and we were lucky enough to get our hands on some fast-selling tickets to the city’s gingerbread (pierniki) museum and factory. We were honestly unsure of what to expect since most of the signs mentioned the factory’s witches and gingerbread masters. When the tour started, two medieval-dressed characters led us up the stairs to a large room with tables covered in baking supplies and materials. After a short informative skit, we began learning about the process of making gingerbread dough. The”witches and gingerbread

I was tasked with stirring the dough while a man and boy were asked to hold the bowl steady. The “gingerbread master” is showing me how to stir.

masters” had to repeat each statement in both Polish and English so it took a bit of time to get the point across. After they explained each of the ingredients and what role they play in the recipe, they began inviting volunteers to assist in each process of the dough making (left). The dough I mixed today will be used for gingerbread making workshops three months from now which is part of the gingerbread process.

After we knew how the dough was made, we were given the opportunity to make our very own gingerbread designs. They taught us how to knead and roll out the dough before pressing it into a mold of our choice (below). While we waited for the cookies to bake, we could browse the gift shop or snack on their gingerbread samples. After they were finished baking, we claimed our own and headed upstairs for a more in-depth look at the history of gingerbread making featuring some of the machines used in the early 1900s to bake Toruń gingerbread, some of which was shipped all over the world at the height of production.

We had a great day in Toruń and concluded our travels with ice cream (lody) before taking the train back to Bydgoszcz for some much needed rest.

My workstation for making my own gingerbread cookie.

 

 

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