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An Alien in Spain visits - Poland (Poznan)

Today I am off to Poznan by train to take part in another "Teach English to the native speakers" with a company called "Just Speak and what a day it turned out to be. As I sat chatting this morning with James in Warsaw, he reminded me I was late and I ran to train station and nearly had a coronary as the train was due to leave at 11.07 and I was still in the hotel on the iPad at 10.45 am. When I arrived I found out that 11.7 on my ticket was in fact the date not the time the train left !!!!

I was informed the train left at 16.10 so went shopping bought some more T shirts and pants met up with a man I was with on tour with previous Saturday and had coffee then lunch strolled up to station a little after 2 pm to wait for train and when I asked which platform I was told "your train left at 12.57 and it will be getting in to Poznan at 16.10" - like a true Englishman I kept my cool and tried to trade in my wasted ticket to get a new one but nice man wasn't interested, so I had lost the 48 zloty (£8.00) paid for wasted ticket - no biggie - asked for another ticket for next train to Poznan - guess what price is now 129 zloty (£21.50) not happy but ok, gotta do it so he then puts the cherry on top by telling me NO SEATS AVAILABLE - I had to stand all the blooming way.

But I am not upset because I am now in my hostel room in what appears to be a red light district - my laundry is being done for me for only 10 zloty and I am going for food to enjoy a Polish stew with mushrooms sausage and meat on a hot griddle costing seven zloty with a glass of vodka and a basket of bread and the obligatory pint of local beer

The next day having settled in to my Hostel "The Melange" which looks a bit rough from the outside but is comfortable, cheap and near to everything that Poznan has to offer I set out to take in the sights before meeting my employer for the next week at a Pizza joint at lunch time.

Poznan as all cities was badly effected by the occupation of the last war and the Old Town is centred on Stary Rynek, the Old Market Square where the historic Poznań Town Hall (Ratusz) stands. This could be reached in 10 minutes on foot from the Hostel although if I wanted I could have taken one of the numerous trams that provide an efficient means of transport around the city.

The Old Square is the centre of life in Poznan and it is funny to think that although it is called the Old Square it was totally rebuilt after 1945 to look exactly the same as it had been prior to the occupation and the almost total devastation that occurred towards the end of the war. Every house / shop front in the pictures are a facade of the past set against new brickwork when rebuilt.

Poznan's Old Town Hall (Ratusz) stand proudly in the centre of The Old Square and parades and festivals usually centre around this grand old building

My lunch was taken at a very nice Pizza Restaurant in a side road off the square and while I was killing time I found a building with a history plaque on it that showed just what some Polish Jews had to put up with during the war a Synagogue had been turned into a German swimming baths closed to prayer

On a more cheerful note there are a couple of attractions you can enjoy Caritas is one of the "Milk Bars" I have mentioned in the past and one of the best I tried with a variety of cheap local dishes to try.

Another place to try is Blubry 6D which is an animated history of Poznan aimed at children but a little dark for most and the drawback it is lucky if you find an English speaking guide mostly as you would expect in Polish so check first before you go in

Last but not least, if you are wondering about the two dressed up as "Billy Goats" in the picture you will know nothing of the legend or the famous clock that people travel from all over to see so I will outline the legend for you.

At the heart of the square is Poznań’s Town Hall, topped by three turrets with a clock tower in the middle. As the time inches towards noon the assembled crowd waits for the bell to toll, craning their necks to watch two iron billy goats glide out and face each other. As they have done since the year 1551, the goats butt heads twelve times to strike the midday hour.

It’s a lovely tradition, with an unexpected origin story.

Back in the middle of the 16th century there was a chef in town (some versions call him “Pete”) who was charged with cooking an elaborate feast for the mayor and some visiting dignitaries. Pete set about preparing some roast deer, but things didn’t go so well. Distracted by the festivities of the big event, his beautiful joint of venison ended up falling off the spit, straight into the fire, burning to a crisp.

Pete needed some new meat, but the butcher had no more venison. In a desperate move to save the meal (and his own neck) he grabbed two grazing goats from a nearby meadow, but they escaped his grasp and darted off towards Town Hall. They ran up the stairs into the tower, catching the attention of the crowd below when they emerged from the turret, locked horns and began to battle it out. The crowd included the mayor and his guests, who were more charmed than they were angry about the meal, so Pete and the goats were pardoned.

A new clock was in the works for the Town Hall, so the mayor ordered that two goats be added to the mechanism, cuckoo-clock style. They’ve been taking noonday centre stage ever since.

Luckily for the crowds down below it’s always a draw, so they’ll be back again tomorrow to fight another day. However I won't be as I am heading off to do my week of teaching with "Just Speak" after which I will be off to Wroclaw.

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