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The Old and the New Town in Toruń, with the Teutonic Castle, were entered on the UNESCO list of the most important historic sites of world cultural heritage in 1997.

The Town of Many Nations

The town established in 1233, by the knights of the Teutonic Order, through eight centuries of rich history, has been the home of people of different nations and religions: the capital of the Teutonic State, one of the most modern cultural formations in Medieval Europe; then, in times of economic prosperity and poverty, Toruń belonged to the Polish Crown, and to Prussia and the II Reich since the beginning of the 19th century. From 1918 it became again a part of Poland. The town, with its original Medieval architectonic structure, enriched through ages with Gothic, Baroque and Secession edifices, is an encyclopedia of culture.

The Vistula – a river of golden wheat

During hundreds of years Toruń was the center of the European wheat trade, which was shipped down the River Vistula from fields in the eastern borderlands of Poland to the port of Gdańsk. There was no merchant nation in those days which did not send trade representatives to visit Toruń. The Vistula raftsmen, known as flisacy, are commemorated with an original monument next to the old-town Town-Hall – a fountain with the statue of the raftsmen giving a violin recital for ... for the frogs. In the years 1264 – 1411 Toruń belonged to the Hanzeatic Union and until the 17th century it was a town amongst the elite of trading towns. It was from the wheat trade that some of the merchant families of Toruń acquired their wealth and power: the Esken family (there is a section of the District Museum in their granary – The Esken House), the Kruger family, the ven der Linden family, the Koyen family – who have left a genealogy book, illustrated with the coats of arms of Torunian families, and the Stroband family – the founders of the gymnasium, a school of great merit for the culture of the town. The traces of this mercantile past can be encountered at every step taken in Toruń: the sumptuous decorations on the building facades and numerous granaries recall those past times, when golden wheat was floated on the Vistula River ...with the resulting river of gold into the coffers of the merchants of Toruń.

The Town of Copernicus

Nicolaus Copernicus, the scientist who led his contemporaries to the boundaries of modern science and the philosophy of the Cosmos, was born in Toruń on February 19, 1473. His work is called the 'Copernican Revolution' – the victory of the mind. In the museum, which is located in his home (on Copernicus Street) the oldest editions of his scientific work and the astronomical equipment with which he studied the Cosmos can be seen. In the nearby St John's Cathedral, there is the font, where he was baptised and in the Old Town Market there is a 2,6 meter high bronze statue of Copernicus, on a granite plinth on which is engraved in Latin: 'Nicolaus Copernicus Thorunensis Terrae motor, Solis Caelique stator' (Nicolaus Copernicus, born in Toruń, moved the Earth and stopped the Sun and the Skies).

The Town of Scientists
The work of Copernicus has been continued by such world-famous figures as Aleksander Wolszczan who is counted among the most prominent contemporary astronomists. The Nicolaus Copernicus University has 40,000 students in the fields of humanities, mathematics and natural sciences. The Toruń school of astronomy and paper conservation, which teaches specialists hired by museums and archives, is known worldwide. In April, Toruń hosts the Science and Arts Festival organised by the University during which the mysteries of the laboratories are disclosed and members of the public can participate in the observations of the sky in the astronomical center. A planetarium functions at Franciszkańska Street where films about the solar system are screened on a dome 15 meters in diameter.

The Theatre of the Town – In the Old Town Market

In the middle of the Old Town Market, there is an 18th century townhall, and the historic museum and where concerts take place. Along the four facades of the Old-town market, often filled with the international hubbub of tourists feasting their eyes on the beauty of the town, the historic mansions of townsmen and churches stand out in their splendour. In the Baroque mansion, 'Under the Stars', seemingly the prettiest one in Toruń (located on the east facade) the oldest Museum of Art of the Far East in Poland is located. On the southern facade, the representative Artus Manor (it holds a ball room and a concert hall), was built (1891) in the Neo-Renaissance style to replace of the Gothic Artus Manor, rendered famous by the signing of the Toruń Treatise which took place here in 1466 and ended the thirteen years war between the Teutonic Knights and the Polish Kingdom. The Neo-Gothic building of the Polish Post and the Gothic Franciscan Church are on the western facade, while the 17th century mansion, where, first in an inn, and nowadays in the renovated hotel – the guests of the town are hosted, fills a part of the northern facade. This hotel, with due cause, is called 'Under the Three Crowns', because it is here that three crowned heads stayed. Historians confirm that Queen Maria, the widow of King Jan III Sobieski, the Russian Tsar Peter the Great with his son Aleksy and the Polish King of Saxon origin, August II the Strong, stayed here.

Magical places

Any tourists walking along the paved streets, beneath the facades of narrow mansions topped with soaring roofs, travel back in time. On the way from the boulevards on the Vistula River to the Old and New Town, jewelers, artistic ateliers and historic cellars filled with the voices of guests and the aroma of delicious food and wonderful drinks, are a temptation at every step. In an alley next to the fortified walls of the town, stands the Leaning Tower, 1,5 meters out of vertical. Its muddled history conceals a spicy affair about which the guide will tell you. Another magical place is Ciasna Street with arches joining the mansions above the heads of the passerby, Podmurna Street, running beside the fortified wall around the whole Medieval town, the vast Philadelphia Boulevard on the Vistula River and the coffee shops on the boats moored to the pier, the New Town Market and the old-town shopping mall on Szeroka Street.

The unconquerable fortress

During the time of the Napoleonic wars (1810-12) the French transformed Toruń into a fortress. The Old Town was surrounded by 12 brick bastions, which was enough to withstand the siege of the Russian army in 1813. When Toruń was ruled by the Prussians, (1892) the fortress was enlarged to the size of a modern, strategic fortification, which was never conquered. Among the several dozen forts, bastions and fortifications, some are open to the public and in the barracks of one of the forts, there is a youth hostel.

Museums and galleries

The Toruń District Museum contains several departments: in the old - town hall – an exhibition of interior design, furniture, painting; in the Copernicus House – the life and work of the great astronomer; the Esken House – the history of the town and the region; in the Baroque mansion, 'Under the Star', an exhibition of art and oriental craft. There is an Ethnographic Park (area 2,3 ha) in the center of Toruń, where the cultural heritage of the Kujawy region, Dobrzyńska and Chełmińska Soils, Kociewa, Bory Tucholskie and Kaszuby can be seen. For example 18th, 19th and 20th century farms, granaries, blacksmiths, windmills and a residential fishing barge. On the eastern outskirts of the town, at the confluence of the Drwęca and Vistula rivers a fishermen's cottage can be seen n situ and in nearby Grębocin there is the Museum of Writing and Printing. Near the Market stands the Travelers' Museum, commemorating the globetrotter and filmmaker – Tony Halik. Many galleries can be found on a walk around the old-town: 'Wozownia', Children's Gallery, The Muse Gallery and The Photography Gallery. In the old-town town hall is the Gallery of Zbigniew Lengren, the author of satirical comics about the adventures of Professor Filutek and his dog Fafik. The bronze statue of Fafik stands in one of the corners of the Market. It is said that anyone who pats Fafik will be happy for the rest of the day.

Sweet Catherine Gingerbread

No one can leave Torun without a packet of gingerbread. These spiced cakes, baked according to recipes dating back to the 15th century, have a unique taste and aroma. The most famous ones, coated with chocolate, are in the shape of a heart and have a special name: 'Cathy' (Katarzynki). They are made to commemorate a confectionary chef who was in love with the beautiful but cold hearted Catherine and conquered her only after he had baked for her 'the best gingerbread in the world', which the capricious lady had requested. When she tasted it she understood how sweet love is and 'Cathy's' they became.

Antiques and rare objects

As you wander around the Old and New Town you will come across antiquarian bookshop, artistic ateliers and jewelers. Books, old and new graphics, paintings, silver jewelry incrusted with amber are the most often bought mementos of the town. It is also worth visiting the galleries of handmade craft and folk art, which exhibit and sell the marvelous works of the Toruń group of painters and sculptors, 'Wozownia'.

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