Tourin’ Torun!

My absolute favorite day so far! We had the privilege of meeting up with Andrzej, who was an exchange student from Poland last semester. He is now living in Torun, and volunteered to show us around! 

The travel to Torun was our first real independent travel..kind of. Andrzej told us exactly which station to abroad from, and exactly which station to get off at. Our professor bought us our tickets, and we were set. Being the responsible group we are, we even made sure we knew where the bus station was the day before. We got on the tram in the morning, and arrived at the bus station with 45 minutes to spare. We thought we were at the right place, but wanted to be sure. With no English-speakers around, we settled on asking this group of older people by showing them our train tickets. They pointed to where we were standing and said “Torun.” They also pointed at their group, and shook their heads, exclaiming, “Torun.” A train arrived, but ours still had 10 minutes left. The man started pointing at the front of the train and saying Torun, and motioning for us to follow him. With seemingly no other option besides following the man who spoke the language onto the train, we did. As I handed the ticket lady my phone with our ticket on it, she started speaking Polish to me, and I could tell we had a problem. To make a long story short, she did not know how to speak English, and neither did the other worker on board. Finally, he was able to mutter “Your ticket, *Name of polish company,* this train *name of Polish company.* Made simply, we bought a United Airlines ticket and got on an American Airlines plane. Thankfully, all we had to do was purchase more tickets, and we arrived in Torun 10 minutes early.

We left the train station and began walking downtown. On our way, he asked if it was okay if we walked down beside this bridge down a dirt trail, so we took our chance on an adventure, and rather than facing death, we came up upon the ruins of a beautiful old castle! It was still standing enough to see how incredible it was, and to walk up a staircase to get on top. It was just as you always think of growing up…each of the four corners were big and there were clearly watch towers set up there. The staircase was a spiral, and it was made of white rock, and there were the ruins of a LOT of windows that were rectangular, but rounded on top. The view from the top of the castle was breathtaking. I could sit for hours watching the nearby water and enjoying the serenity.

When we finished at the castle, we toured the beautiful town. The buildings in Torun were more Gothic style, and less German-looking than those in Bydgoszcz. We all fell in love with the beautiful town, and wanted to go stay there instead.  

Torun, like everywhere else in Poland, is packed with beautiful Catholic churches. We stepped inside, and got to admire the intricate details the artists have put there. It was truly incredible.

Adding to Poland’s rich history, Torun is the home of Copernicus, the great astronomer. We got to see his home, and in addition, this statue of him that is decorated each year in for Juvenalia, the country-wide week of excused partying for college students I mentioned before. This year, Copernicus was dressed as a clown! Andrzej explained that last year, they painted him like the joker using paint that they washed off. I though this was a fun tradition!

After touring the town, we went to the pierogi place for lunch. I got a sampler, which was smart so I had the opportunity to taste and see which is my favorite. I had a very traditional one with cabbage and mushrooms, one with pork, and my favorite one was chicken and champions! I also had a dessert pierogi with raspberries and white chocolate. Following lunch, we had reservations for the Muzeum Piernika. Torun is known for gingerbread, so this gingerbread museum was going to teach us all about how it is made, and allow us to make our own. There was a skit to teach us about gingerbread. We learned a lot, including that the main spice in gingerbread is actually pepper. He also said that cloves make you unable to talk, so if you’re reading this and you have kids, you’re welcome. They had a lot of crowd participation, and did the presentation in both Polish and English, so it was a very enjoyable museum. Lauren got to mix the dough. We also learned that dough has to set for three months before you cook it, so they handed out some other dough and we got to go to our work stations. We rolled the dough, chose our cut out, and then cut the dough. We painted it with oil, and put it to bake. When they were finished, we got to go and pick up our cookies. I claimed mine, and the worker said “Interesting choice….” I am not sure if this guy has an alternative story or something, but I am pleased with my beer drinking gnome.

We also got to go upstairs and learn about the ones they sell and ship, and how that came to be. The lady decorating was incredibly talented, and painted the most beautiful gingerbread hearts.

At the end of our time at the museum, we walked around as we made our way back to the bus station. We saw another castle ruins here, including the giant area where the wooden door would be that lifts up and down, just like you imagine in the fairytales!! Torun was such a beautiful city so rich in history and things to see and do, that we did not even begin to scratch the surface. I would love to return to this beautiful city one day.      

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