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Address: Reszel / Poland

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      21.06.2013 15:19
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      A strange yet charming old town in Masuria

      Reszel is a small, sleepy market town in the province of Warmia and Mazury, Poland. It has an Old Town that is very tiny, I am not exaggerating when I say tiny, it is about 250 metres by 250 metres and I don't think there is another Stare Miasto in Poland quite this size. The town hall is the focal point; everything else is built around it. This is where we parked our car, lifted the children out of their car seats and had a walk around. My granddaughter is a very good traveller and doesn't mind sitting in the car for hours on end but Alex, who isn't two yet, easily gets restless and prefers to be out and about. We thought Reszel was just the right size of town for them to walk around without getting irritable and grumpy.

      I remember looking at the town hall but it couldn't have made an impression as I didn't take any photos, I think it's because we parked up on to the road behind it that runs through the town and I was concerned about young Alex running out and getting knocked over. Polish drivers aren't the best. We could see the castle in the distance which was our first port of call but before reaching it we quietly strolled on the narrow pavement looking into the shop windows. They all looked rather antiquated but cute.

      It seemed a funny, old place, like all the residents were asleep. It also seemed odd that there weren't any tourists when there are some interesting attractions to see, the town is famous for being entered into the National Monuments Record, Nicolaus Copernicus lived in the castle for 7 years and the Old Town still possesses the street plan from when it was built and parts of the medieval fortification are still standing.

      The castle and parish church are close together, both enormous buildings for the size of the town. There is a car park in front of the castle where you have to pay a small fee, and before you enter the castle you also have to go to the small wooden cabin to pay the admission fee. I think we paid 3zloty (60p) each and the children went in free. We sat on the wall before entering the courtyard as we were all hungry and thirsty, so decided to finish off the croissants we had bought earlier and had a quick gulp of water.

      The Gothic castle which was the home of many a Warmian bishop has been preserved in good order and looks mainly like it did in the 14th century apart from the southern side which in the 19th century became a Protestant Church so a belfry and gable were added. This is now an art gallery. I would have liked to have visited the inside but thought it was asking too much of the children to traipse around looking at paintings for an hour or so. They were more interested in climbing to the top floor, so was I but Grandpa wasn't bothered, he found a bench in the courtyard,sat this one out and waited for us to reach the top so we could wave to him.

      On the eastern side on the upper floor there is a hotel, we were allowed to look at the reception area. We were unsure at first if we could walk in but then a chap in the courtyard shouted up to us and told us it was okay to proceed. The room was large with a high ceiling; it felt very warm like there had been a roaring fire that had died down, it was cosy and I really liked it. There were leather sofas and chairs, a log fire, a piano, accordion, lots of book shelves and animal skins on the floor and thrown over the chairs. The room looked quite authentic, I think because the furnishings were a bit jaded and not spanking new. We nearly walked down the corridor but a voice told us that only rooms were down there and only residents were allowed.

      After leaving the hotel reception area we started our ascent to the top floor. The staircase was narrow and steep with a metal rail for you to hold. Alicja went up on her own behind her Dad who was carrying Alex on his shoulders. Gran was last in the queue. The interior was in good condition but there wasn't a lot to see and not a lot of light came through the windows. The views from the top floor were looking over to the church and the russet coloured tiles of the Old Town and of the courtyard where we could see Grandpa and of course the children couldn't wait to wave to him.

      The Gothic construction across the road from the castle is the 14th century parish church, made from brick with turrets bearing fancy ornamentation in blue and red, this looks very attractive from the distance as does the tall square tower. The church was renovated in the 1820s. On this day we didn't enter as we were pushed for time. I have read in guide books that the furnishings inside aren't anything exciting so perhaps we didn't miss much.

      Passing the castle on the street that runs in front of it, I noticed a couple of souvenir shops but they were the worst examples I have come across on my travels in Poland. How they expect to attract customers, I don't know. On sale were old fashioned postcards, plastic swords and other medieval weapons, balloons and that was about it. Both shop attendants sat outside their shops looked disinterested and lethargic. Perhaps the residents of Reszel don't want tourists to visit their quiet, small market town, I don't know. I found it all very strange.

      It was good to see that renovation work was taking part in the town. The half-timbered granary on Spichrzowa Street had scaffolding around it and was being done up. This was once a fine 18th century building and will look fantastic when the work on it has been completed. Other old houses in the town are also being reconstructed. This pleases me, I don't like to see beautiful buildings left to rot.

      Before heading back to the car we walked to the eastern entrance of the Old Town, this is where you enter when you come from Ketrzyn. There is a 14th century bridge, huge in size and made from brick and still traffic pass on it today. It's called Most Rybacki (Fishing Bridge). We walked down the steps so we could look up at the bridge to get the perspective and lo and behold there are rooms inside the construction. These were used as a prison in the 19th century. The Jesuit Monastery next door to the bridge is now a school.

      Reszel must be one of the strangest towns I have been to, it is rather untidy, all the buildings seem too large for the town but yet there is a certain charm about the place. Residents certainly don't rush around, seem very sleepy, I wouldn't say unhelpful, just disinterested, like they aren't connected with the real world. I liked the town and so did the children or perhaps they just said that so they could get an ice cream!

      Perhaps there aren't many visitors because people find it difficult to travel to. There used to be trains to the town but these have been discontinued. However, there are plenty of buses to choose from and depending where you were staying in Mazury, the journey wouldn't be too laborious and very pretty, I think. Buses are available from Ketrzyn, Mragowo, Olsztyn, Lidzbark Warminski and two buses carry on to Gdansk.

      I wouldn't want to stay overnight in the town as there isn't enough to see to warrant an overnight stay but for people who would like to then the castle is the place to stay. There is a youth hostel close to the bus station which is a five minute walk from the Old Town in a northerly direction. This opens July and August.

      There are a couple of cafes west of the square amongst a row of shops and a café on the ground floor of the castle which belongs to the hotel and serves meals for residents and non-residents. We didn't eat out while we were here but I think the café in the castle is a good option and will have more to offer than the others.

      I do recommend a visit to Reszel if you are ever in Mazury, it's different, very tranquil and not like anywhere else I have been to in Poland. To make a full day of sightseeing I suggest a morning spent in Reszel and then move on to Ketrzyn, a town founded by the Teutonic Knights that used to be called Rastenburg. It is about 19km away, and there is a bus to take you there. There are a couple of interesting churches and another castle here to view.


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