Turned on to Torun

13 08 2008

Torun, Poland

I never thought it would happen but it turns out that Wroclaw has a rival and it’s name is Torun. This seemingly sleepy town was our first successful attempt at Couchsurfing. Thanks to our lovely host, Monika, we were able to enjoy the equally lovely Torun amongst the comforts of a real Polish home. Although, to be fair, I don’t think that our time with Monika was what one would call authentic. She’s more unique than traditional, having travelled to the likes of Cambodia, Laos, Peru, and Dubai. The best thing about Monika is that she lives her travels. Scratch that, one of the many great things about Monika is that she lives her travels. Her apartment is solely decorated in pictures from places she’s been, mementoes she has purchased overseas, and an awesome array of foods from around the world stuffing her cabinets. Is there any wonder why we love her?

Torun’s old town center is what draws the tourists. It is the former home of Nicolae Copernicus and current home of a glorious gingerbread factory called Kopernik. In fact, it’s pretty common to think that Nicolae Copernicus and Gingerbread are what Torun is all about since big Nick’s statue gets more photographic attention than a newborn baby and there are, count’em, three houses claiming to be the ‘former home of Copernicus’. The town also boasts two gingerbread museums, including one in which you can make your own gingerbread. But I knew there had to be more to Torun than that and so I dragged my husband down every single street in down town, poking my head in various shops and lingering in numerous doorways until old town Torun felt like home. And I found some awesome gems. First we’ll talk ruins. I just love a culture that appreciates ruins, and the people of Torun are that kind of culture. The most obious and fun ruins are those of the Teutonic Knights castle. Aparently these boys ruled a large swath of Poland, but were rather unpopular among the Torunites. So much so that the townspeople eventually rose up and destroyed a very solidly built castle. (Note to self, don’t tick of Torun.) The second bit of ruins fun is the Church of St Nicholas, which was dissasembled in the 1800’s, though the skeleton was left standing and is now preserved as a sort of park. I hate to say it, but as Gage and I crawled over the ancient bricks we agreed that nothing like this could exist in the USA. Not only because of it’s age, but because some idiot would sue the city when they hurt themselves on the jagged remnants.

  

One of my favorite random activities is to poke my head into unique little shops. Because of this our walk through every street in down town Torun took three days. There are a lot of shops and because of this, we found everything to fit our needs. Behind one of the ancient churches we stumbled across a tiny office supply store where Gage grabbed sketching pencils and I bought some stationary. We contributed to Monika’s tea collection by stopped in the local beekeeper store to pick up some honey. We walked by a children’s theatre made to look like a gigantic wardrobe and farmer’s market stands selling entire sunflowers that you could pick the seeds out of and eat. And in between all of these adorable stores and markets were cool statues like a bronze donkey, a knee-high cartoon dog, and a baby dragon stretched out next to a grate. If you ever want to entertain a group of children for the afternoon, set them loose in Torun’s pedestrian streets with the task of finding ten dragons. They’re everywhere.

  

And what would a city review be without the obligatory mention of food? Well we did happen upon an amazing pizza restaurant called Smok which I fully endorse as the best pizza restaurant in Poland, possibly in all of Europe. Not only did we have an amazing chicken, feta, and pumpkin pie, but we got to marvel at the rocking dragon-themed interior complete with a dragon crawling from a whole in the ceiling and a live chameleon in a tank. We also enjoyed the multitude of gofry (waffle) stands that dole out rectagles of waffles with various toppings. I recommend only buying from stands that have the waffles ready made, otherwise they poor the batter into the waffle maker and then coat the fresh hot waffle with whipped cream, which means that your gofry will be dripping cream in a matter of seconds and you loose precious whipped cream. However our best food find came courtesy of Monika who made sure that we did not miss out of a true Polish treasure, black duck soup. Actually you can only find it in the upper west end of Poland. It’s the black soup pictured on the bottom right. What makes it so special you ask? Well the unique tangy taste which is slightly sweet is unlike anything you’ve ever had before. But it’s the unique black color that will suprise most people. What makes it black you ask? Well the other name for it is duck’s blood soup. And yes,it was delicious.

  

I also celebrated my 27th birthday in Torun. Thank you to all who sent your birthday wishes along. Though life doesn’t get much better than it is right now, Monika made it an extra special day by taking us to one of the nearby lakes and renting a row boat. I can only assume that Gage and I are not good representations of the American rowing talent because otherwise we wouldn’t be much in Olympic competition. Thank goodness we had some Polish talent with us to show us how it’s done:)

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4 responses

13 08 2008
dad

You two are setting a new standard for that “living the good life” concept. It all sounds really idyllic.

The other wonderful (miraculous?) thing is that in the pictures you post, neither of you look to be suffering any unwanted consequences from all of that scrumptious food you mention having consumed. I feel like I pack on a few pounds just from having read about it.

18 08 2008
Scott

Hey Jen and Gage,
Glad you two are having so much fun. Happy late birthday Jen. Talk to you guys later

Scott

27 09 2011
cmndrlng

What’s the name of the lake where you rented the rowboats?

4 10 2011
Gage Mitchell

Sorry, it’s been a while since we were there and I can’t remember the name of the lake. I can hunt it down for you if you’re looking to head out there though. Let me know. 🙂

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