hidden europe 24

Poznan blues

by Nicky Gardner

Picture above: Aimed more at tourists than a local clientele, small shops are beginning to appear on this superb row of artisans’ houses in the very middle of Poznań’s main square (photo © hidden europe).


Europe's city squares are being radically reshaped by the arrival of mass tourism. Thus far, Poznan's beautiful central square has resisted the pressure for change. It remains essentially a place for the locals. But change is surely in the offing.

Dylan's music is unmistakable. Even when the lyrics are in Polish. It's a hard rain's a gonna fall. How long the guys in the Lizard King can last out is uncertain. The pressure for change lurks at every corner.

Just behind the square, in a street named after the Polish musician and politician Jan Paderewski, Bang & Olufson have a sparkling new shopfront. "Good sound by design" gushes the slogan. Along the way, Burberry rubs shoulders with Escada. Smart suits and stiletto heels sip American cocktails in Habana, one of a possé of chic bars that cluster in the side streets around Poznan's main square.

Until now, the square itself remains Polish territory. Sacred and precious. Poland pure and simple. Even Dylan's planet-rending song is in Polish. The menus in a dozen or more bars and cafés are in Polish. But a hard rain's a gonna fall. Just watch. Just wait. Poznan's historic market square is about to be drowned by a roaring wave of commercial avarice.

Poznan lays claim to one of Europe's finest town squares. True, it lacks the pristine lines of Kraków's celebrated Rynek, and it is less fêted in literature and art than Venice's Piazza San Marco. Nor can Poznan's square compete with the architectural purity of Zamosc's showpiece central square. But that is to miss the point. Poznan has a city square that must surely be the envy of communities across Europe, precisely because it is so very much the hub of everyday affair in Poznan.

Related article

Marking Time: New Train Services for 2020

The hidden europe award for ingenuity in creating new European rail travel opportunities is awarded to Austria's state rail operator, Österreichische Bundesbahnen (ÖBB). We look at what ÖBB will offer anew for 2020, and examine too what's new on the rails in Russia, Germany and elsewhere across Europe.