Kuyavian-Pomeranian: Old West Prussia brought Copernicus and gingerbread

Kuyavian-Pomeranian: Old West Prussia brought Copernicus and gingerbread


Fif you reach for Kuyavian-Pomeranian in Germany, you usually get a shrug of the shoulders. Few people know that until the early 14th century there was a Duchy of Kujawy, which was then occupied by the Teutonic Knights.

Pomerania is much better known, but it is not understood to mean the same thing in Germany and Poland: while in this country, Western Pomerania and Hinterpommern (i.e. the Baltic Sea coast with the hinterland) are known, referred to Pomerania, as Pomerania is called in Polish, with our neighbors a much larger area, which includes the region east of Hinterpommern around the lower Vistula up to the mouth.

In Germany, this area is more commonly known as West Prussia (dotted on the map). This Prussian province was German- and Polish-speaking, after the end of the First World War it was assigned to the re-established Polish state. Many German-speaking residents then left their homeland, the rest fled in 1945 or were expelled.

Today Poland is divided into 16 voivodeships, comparable to provinces. Kuyavian-Pomeranian – which was created in its current borders only in 1999 – as one of two voivodeships has two capitals: Bydgoszcz (Bydgoszcz, seat of the voivode) and Thorn (Toruń, seat of the parliament). In Thorn, the medieval buildings in the brick Gothic style have been almost completely preserved, which is why it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.

Graudenz (Grudziądz) and Kulm (Chełmno) are also known for their historic old towns. Bydgoszcz, the largest city in the region with around 360,000 inhabitants, attracts visitors with its Gründerzeit architecture, which is strongly reminiscent of Berlin.

Source: Infographic The World

Copernicus, the worldview revolutionary

He stopped the sun and set the earth in motion: with his observations of the celestial bodies, Nicolaus Copernicus shook the world view of his time. The great astronomer was born in Thorn on February 19, 1473, and his 550th birthday is celebrated in Poland. In Thorn, his monument stands in front of the town hall, the city has transformed his Gothic birthplace into a well-made museum that shows his life and work interactively and in multimedia, with a 4D cinema and audio guides, also in German.

If you don’t make it to Thorn: The West Prussian State Museum in Warendorf near Münster is showing the special exhibition “Kopernikus #550” from March 10th. It also addresses how the German-speaking thinker was co-opted by Poles and Germans over the course of history and whether he should be regarded as German, Pole or European.

Nicolaus Copernicus was born in Thorn

Nicolaus Copernicus was born in Thorn

Quelle: picture-alliance / AKG

Delicious gingerbread

One of the most popular sweets in Poland is Toruń Gingerbread. Eaten year-round, it can be found in well-stocked grocery stores nationwide.

The town on the Vistula has been famous for its gingerbread makers, which were organized in their own guilds, since the 13th century. Their products were already selling like hot cakes with the Knights of the Teutonic Order as long-lasting power foods.

Source: Infographic WORLD

Thorner bakers later rose to become purveyors to the court of Polish, German and Austrian monarchs. The most popular are Thorner Kathrinchen (Katarzynki) – gingerbread with or without chocolate coating in a six-leaf shape based on a rectangle.

The defensive wall surrounding Thorn's historic town centre

The defensive wall surrounding Thorn’s historic town centre

Quelle: picture alliance / Zoonar

vacation on the water

Between 1773 and 1775, more than 18,000 people shoveled the Bromberg Canal (Bydgoski Canal), which since then has connected the Oder with the Vistula via the Netze and Brahe tributaries and has become one of the most important inland waterways in the region.

Bydgoszcz owes its economic boom to the canal, at that time all kinds of factories, hydroelectric power stations, mills, storage facilities, brickworks and sawmills were built on the banks; the picturesque quarter is also often referred to as the Bydgoszcz Venice.

The canal and the Brahe (Brda) river connected to it are one of the most popular routes for kayakers in Poland. As early as the 1950s, fans included Karol Wojtyła, later Pope John Paul II, who paddled here on vacation at the time. As part of the international E70 waterway, the historic canal has also been used by boat tourists since reunification.

Water sports enthusiasts have many options, such as here in Bydgoszcz

Water sports enthusiasts have many options, such as here in Bydgoszcz

Source: Pawel Opaska/Alamy Stock Photo

The castles of the Teutonic Order

The Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship, including ruins, counts 218 palaces and castles as well as mansions. The concentration of castles belonging to the Teutonic Knights, who the Polish Duke Conrad I had called into the country in 1226 to help in the fight against heathen Prussian tribes, is particularly high.

After the knights had defeated the Pruzzi, they stayed and gradually created an independent Prussia, which they secured with brick knight’s castles. Today there is a specially designed route of the Ordensburgen for tourists.

The most famous is Gollub Castle, built from 1304, which was used by the Polish crown after the knights. The complex was restored after the Second World War and is now one of the most visited attractions in the region. A knight’s tournament has been held here every year since 1977.

The bank of the Nogat with the Malbork Castle in Malbork

The bank of the Nogat with the Malbork Castle in Malbork

Source: picture alliance / blickwinkel/p. goat

The quote

“Communists are fascists painted red”

Kurt Schumacher (1895–1952), SPD party leader and opposition leader in the Bundestag after the Second World War, coined this sentence. Born and raised in Kulm (Polish: Chełmno) in West Prussia at the time, he experienced in the 1930s how the KPD and NSDAP had fought the Weimar Republic and the SPD. He spent ten years in a concentration camp during the Nazi era.

Kurt Schumacher at an SPD rally in Frankfurt am Main, 1946

Kurt Schumacher at an SPD rally in Frankfurt am Main, 1946

Quelle: picture-alliance / akg-images

He was strictly against the merger of social democrats and communists in the GDR to form the SED. His hometown of Kulm was added to Prussia in 1772 after the first partition of Poland, but was mostly Polish-speaking; Schumacher had many Polish friends and was interested in Polish culture. Since 1990, a bilingual plaque on the house where he was born has commemorated the politician.

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