Poland: My hometown Toruń

January 1, 1970

by Justyna Żak

  • Medieval churches and other buildings
  • The Leaning Tower like in Pisa!
  • Bargeman, music and frogs
  • Nicolaus Copernicus monument
  • Gingerbrads from Toruń
  • Sunny Philadelphia Boulevard
  • After sightseeing…


Toruń is a very charming town in Poland. It is located by the Vistula River, about 200 kilometers north from the coast of the Baltic Sea. Visitors can stay in one of the hotels or hostels in the Old Town.

This is my hometown, I was born here and I still live here. From Toruń also came Nicolaus Copernicus, a famous astronomer, who stated that the Earth rotates around its own axis, and, together with other planets, orbits around the Sun.

The history of Toruń dates back to 1231, when the Teutonic Knights established this town. In 1233, Toruń received town rights and in 1997, was added to the UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites. This is also where the famous gingerbreads, called ‘Katarzynki’, are produced and with this fact a local legend is associated…  Let’s discover this enchanting place with me.


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the Old Town

Medieval churches and other buildings


We will begin our sightseeing from The Old Town, which is surrounded by churches and tenement houses made of brick. An inferior of those churches is breathtaking. While entering one of them, you can feel as if you were moved back in time to the 14th or 15th century. I always imagine that I am sitting among townspeople dressed in beautiful costumes. My friend tells that these old walls smell badly but for me, they have a unique scent, which can be perceptible only here. Below, you can see an inferior of the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist.



Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist


The Leaning Tower like in Pisa!


Now, we will turn towards the Leaning Tower. It is one of the most recognizable buildings in Toruń. Yes – like in Pisa. Formally, it is the most ordinary fortified tower but residents of Toruń know a legend …

One of the Teutonic Knights was in love and in a relationship with the daughter of a very wealthy merchant. It was against the rules of the Teutonic Order. According to legend, a punishment for his guilt was to build this Tower. It is said that those, whose sins are mortal, will never manage to keep the balance while leaning against the sloping wall of the building. Those, whose sins are light, will do it without an effort.



The Leaning Tower


Bargeman, music and frogs


The next thing we will simply notice in Toruń is the monument of a violinist bargeman with brass frogs around him. Actually, this is a fountain because these frogs ‘spit’ water out. And here comes another legend…

As a result of a curse put on this town by an exiled beggar, Toruń was visited by thousands of frogs. It was so oppressive that the mayor decided to reward someone who will drive those frogs out of town. He offred money and his daughter as a wife. Only bargeman named Iwo succeeded. Frogs, listening to Iwo playing the violin, went with him to today’s district of Toruń called ‘Wet’ (in Polish – Mokre) and there, on the wet areas, they remained.


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monument of a violinist bargeman with brass frogs around him


Nicolaus Copernicus monument


Another monument we will notice in the heart of the Old Town is Nicolaus Copernicus. As I’ve written before, Copernicus was a famous astronomer, who stated that the Earth rotates around its own axis, and, together with other planets, orbits around the Sun. This place is popular among citizens of Toruń when they want to arrange a meeting. We (I am from Toruń too) usually say to each other ‘Ok, do zobaczenia pod Kopcem’. It can be translated into English as ‘Ok, see you next to the monument of Copernicus’.


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Nicolaus Copernicus monument                                           Nicolaus Copernicus house


What is more, while walking in the Old Town, you will see other monuments like these on the photographs:



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monument commemorating                                                              marketwife                                                                                        dog

filming of a Polish ‘Prawo i pięść’ movie





Gingerbrads from Toruń


I have already mentioned about ‘Katarzynki’. These are well-known gingerbreads produced in Toruń. Nobody knows, who baked them first but a popular legend exists… Yes, Toruń is a city of legends ;).


One of the gingerbread masters (who used to mix rye flour with honey and spices to produce those sweets), had a daughter Kate (in Polish – Katarzyna). His gingerbreads were known as the best in town. Kate often helped his father at work. Once, the master was ill and so he wasn’t able to bake. A serious illness brought poverty to their home and, as a result, he asked Kate to continue his work. One day, while baking, she couldn’t find the wooden molds, which were used by her father. Instead, she took a cup and began to cut round medallions from previously prepared dough. She put them, next to each other, on the baking tray. Then, she put them in the oven. Unfortunately, gingerbreads stuck together. That’s how the famous shape of today’s ‘Katarzynki’ was created.


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‘Katarzynki’ gingerbreads


Also, on Szeroka Street (the main street of the Old Town), there is a ‘Gingerbread Walk of Fame’ with brass plates in the shape of ‘Katarzynki’ gingerbreads. Names of famous personalities and bands from Toruń are written on them.



Gingerbread Walk of Fame


Sunny Philadelphia Boulevard


Another place, which I would like to show you in Toruń is a Boulevard next to the Vistula River. Torunians call this place ‘Philadelphia Boulevard’ (in Polish – ‘Bulwar Filadelfijski’). Why Philadelphia? Due to cooperation of Toruń with the City of Philadelphia. Philadelphia and Toruń are so-called ‘twin cities’. This is one of my favorite places to go for a walk. It’s usually shiny there and during summer everyone can sit on the deckchairs, drink good coffee, eat ice cream and sunbathe. Boulevard is usually visited by families with children, couples in love. About couples… on the Boulevard there is a place where lovers attach padlocks with their initials to show their love. Tourist boats cruise along Vistula and on them you can also grab a bite.


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After sightseeing…


After a long day of sightseeing, I recommend drinking delicious, natural lemonade in Hanza Cafe or just sitting, eating supper and enjoying life in one of the restaurants’ gardens. Generally, in the Old Town there are a lot of restaurants with different cuisine. From Italian to Chinese. I love ‘Pueblo’, which serves tasty Mexican dishes.


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Pueblo restaurant                                                Natural lemonade                                                  restaurant garden



It is also worth mentioning that Toruń is not only the Old Town and in the recently-opened Jordanki concert hall you can participate in one of the best concerts.

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Jordanki concert hall


Come and see Toruń!





Justyna Żak

By Justyna Żak

Hi, My name is Justyna, I'm 23 and I come from Toruń, Poland. I study English Philology at the University of Economy in Bydgoszcz.

Read more at whenjustynaistravelling.com

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