Lublin is undoubtedly worth a visit, even if it attracts fewer tourists than Kraków or Warsaw. This is a beautiful small town but you can feel the magic. Outstanding architecture, very clean city with positive vibe. Loads of small restaurants and bars, also loads of galleries. Overcome the temptation of bypassing Lublin and you will never regret it. Its Old Town is absolutely charming. What an amazing city?! Absolutely beautiful in so many ways. “Must see” in Poland!
Lublin is close to my heart. My step-father had grown up there and he brought me to that city to show the best of it.
Lublin, A Green City, Like Rome, Located On Seven Hills
Lublin is one of the oldest and most beautiful cities all over Poland: there are many sights, many of which came from 14th and 15th centuries. There is one of the most beautiful and picturesque Old Towns in Poland. Being tired of sightseeing you can rest in one of Lublin’s parks, in UMCS Botanical Gardens or in Lublin Village Open Air Museum. It is said that Lublin is – like Rome – located on seven hills. Having a bird’s-eye view of that town, you would notice that these hills are very green – Lublin is a green city.
On The Trade Route To The Black Sea
The history of Lublin began in the Middle Ages, when the town was a trade settlement and a guard post on the eastern border of a young Polish state. The first written information about it dates back to the 12th century, and then in 1317 it was granted city rights. Its position was favourable on the trade route to the Black Sea, while its peripheral location resulted in numerous invasions.
One Of The Best Preserved Medieval Towns In Poland And A Ready-Made Medieval Film Set
The Old Town where we started our tour has been one of the most precious Polish complexes of historic buildings. This is the one of the best preserved medieval towns in Poland. Located on a low, rounded hill, boasts many outstanding sights, and looks like a ready-made medieval film set.
“Within an area of 7 hectares on top of a hill, there are more than 100 historic mansions and other important buildings” – my step-father said. Each one of them has a different history to tell, written on their facades, gates, windows, yards and basements. Beneath the Old Town there is an underground tourist trail which leads visitors through the basements of former merchants’ stores and wine cellars built during the various epochs in the development of the city.
My step-father continued – “The Crown Tribunal and the 14th-century Kraków Gate (Brama Krakowska) leading from the Old Town to the city centre are commonly considered symbols of the city.” The classical Old Town Hall stands in the Old Town Market which was once the seat of the Crown Tribunal and is surrounded by mansions that date back to the 15th century. He warned me: “We mustn`t miss the Dominican Church and the monumental neo-Gothic castle with its chapel decorated with 15th-century frescoes. That`s a “must see”. Shall we go?”. “Sure, off you go!” – I said.
The Finest Example Of Sacral Art
The Dominican order came to Lublin in the 13th century. According to the account of Jan Długosz, after their arrival in Lublin, the Dominican monks took possession of the already existing oratory of The Holy Cross (which relics were kept there until 1991). Jan Długosz was Polish priest, chronicler, diplomat and soldier who has been best known for his “Annales seu cronici incliti regni Poloniae” (Annals or Chronicles of the famous Kingdom of Poland), covering events in South-Eastern Europe, but also in Western Europe, from 965 to 1480, the year he died.
The Dominican church and the monastery were erected probably in the 1250s in the southern part of the Old Town Hill (wzgórze staromiejskie), on a small elevation, the so-called Dominican Hillock (górka dominikańska). This church is considered the city’s finest example of sacral art.
Its origins are associated with the wide-ranging missionary activities of the western church, targeted at Eastern Europe. Those actions comprised, among others, the coronations of Lithuanian duke Mendog in 1251 and duke of Galicia and Volodymyr, Daniel, as well as plans of establishing missionary bishoprics in Lithuania and Ruthenia. Much of the church was destroyed by fire in 1575, and the original Gothic architecture was lost. What you see today is the Renaissance church that was built in its place. The highlights include the first chapel to the right, which holds a famous painting of the Lublin skyline, and the Firlej Chapel, with its lavish dome and 17th-century wall ornaments.
Next step my step-father and I took was the Tower of the Trinity. Its views of the picturesque Old Town spread over four hills were breathtaking: Czwartek (Thursday), Grodzisko (old settlement), Zamkowe (Castle) and Staromiejskie (Old-Town). I visited Lublin several times as a little girl and then as a student but the tour with my step-father was like having absorbing history class at last. Decades after I graduated school.
The Extraordinary Frescoes
In the 15th century Lublin was fortified, strengthened with towers and gates, and a castle of brick was constructed. Now only one tower and the Gothic chapel with its extraordinary frescoes funded by King Władysław Jagiełło survive from the original building. This monarch was particularly gracious for the city, making it the capital of a province and granting it many privileges.
The History Has Been Inscribed In Stone There
The visitors will find a stone defensive tower there, the oldest historical site dating back to the 13th century and the symbol of longevity of the city. Lublin Castle, built in a Neo-Gothic style in1828 on top of the ruins of the king’s former castle was a prison until 1954. It was here that many thousands of Polish people were murdered during WWII and also during the years of Stalinist terror between 1948 and 1954. Today the castle houses the Lublin Museum.
The Beginning Of The Largest Mainland State In Europe
In the 16th century Lublin witnessed one of the most crucial events in Polish history – the signing of the pact between Poland and Lithuania. This is known as the Lublin Union, and marked the beginning of the largest mainland state in Europe, which included the lands of Rus and spread from the Baltic to the Black Sea.
The Capital Of The Newly Reborn State Of Poland
The 17th century brought widespread destruction of the city, caused by wars with the Cossacks and the Swedes and due to epidemics. After the partitions of Poland, Lublin found itself first in the Austrian Empire, but after the Napoleonic wars it passed into Russian hands. Following WWI Lublin returned to my country, and for a short period was the capital of the newly reborn state of Poland. Soon after this event came the establishing of the Catholic University of Lublin (KUL).
“The Jewish Oxford”
Lublin is of special interest to travellers seeking Poland’s Jewish past. Over the centuries it saw Polish and Jewish cultures harmoniously coexisting while the city’s fibre developed. The city was a leading centre of Jewish scholarship, giving rise to Lublin’s nickname “the Jewish Oxford”. That heritage came to a brutal end in WWII, but here and there you can still find traces. The remnants of Lublin’s past deserve exploration, even if the sprawling suburbs might at first restrain you from going deeper.
Under One Roof of the City
As a trade centre, Lublin lured people of different nationalities, turning into a common home not only for Poles and Jews but also for Ruthenians, Germans and Armenians. It was an important centre of the Reformation movement that evolved peacefully in Poland. In Lublin lived and died Jan Kochanowski, the father of modern Polish literature and the greatest Polish poet before the 19th century.
A Melting Pot Of Many Nations And Religions
As mentioned, Lublin is an example of a melting pot of many nations and religions, a place where the cultures of the West and the East meet. You can feel the multicultural character of the city and the region there. You can see it walking around the city, visiting: catholic churches, the old centre for Torah study in Lublin – Chachmei Lublin Yeshiva (“The school of the Wise Man of Lublin”), eastern Orthodox church and places where the cultures coexisted together: the Holy Trinity Chapel at the Lublin Castle and the former German concentration camp at Majdanek.
A Noble Example Of Tolerance
Lublin through the centuries has given a noble example of tolerance. The town has been inhabited by the Jews, the Ruthenians from Belarus, Ukraine and Lithuania, the native inhabitants of these lands, Protestants, Catholics and the followers of other religions. Podzamcze, a district in the Old Town, was the place of residence of the Jews and an international intellectual centre of Jewish culture. Since 1554 a Jewish printing house functioned here and from 1567 the famous Wise Men’s Academy was opened. In 1580 the Parliament of the Four Lands (Waad Arba Aracot), the main Jewish legation of the 1st Republic of Poland was set up here and the Rabbi called the Seer of Lublin, the originator of Hasidic mysticism, also lived here. During the Era of Reformation (17th century) Calvinist and Arian temples were erected next to the Catholic parish church. The religious debates were resolved in the spirit of tolerance and science and the religious wars which haunted most of Europe seemed to bypass Lublin. The “Russ” community wrote an interesting chapter in the city’s history. In 1588 the Brotherhood of the Orthodox Church, to which the representatives of famous and influential magnate families belonged, was formed. The St Trinity Castle Chapel, decorated with Russian-Byzantine frescos dating back to the beginning of the 15th century, is the visible symbol of their power, as well as the Orthodox Church (in Ruska Street) belonging to the community of the eastern church. In the largest necropolis in Lublin, Roman-Catholic, Evangelical-Augsburg, and Orthodox cemeteries were placed next to one other. The old Jewish cemetery is located on Grodzisko Hill. In contemporary Lublin, the openness and friendliness, typical of cities where the elements of different cultures have merged together over a long time, can be felt at every step.
My step-father said he would never forget gray fumes coming from Majdanek onto the city. He lived with his parents and sister not so far from the camp.
From Strike Over The Price Of Meat To The Emergence Of Solidarity
Under Nazi occupation during WWII, many citizens of Lublin, especially Jews, were killed at the local concentration camp in Majdanek, a suburb of the city. Although initially purposed for forced labour rather than extermination, the camp was used to kill people on an industrial scale during Operation Reinhard, the German plan to murder all Jews within their own General Government territory of Poland.
Two Jewish districts (Podzamcze, located around the castle, and the western suburb of Wieniawa) were razed to the ground. In 1944 Lublin was again briefly the capital of Poland, when Polish communists created a government there, later taking control over the whole country. The second university was founded and a programme of rapid industrialisation was introduced. In 1980 the workers from Lublin and nearby Świdnik factories went on strike over the price of meat, an event that started the wave of strikes that led to the emergence of Solidarity.
Jump From The Past Into The Future
The Jewish Talmudic Academy opened in 1567 which changed its name to the Wise Men’s Academy in the 20th century. This is the oldest university in Lublin. In 1918, the Lublin Catholic University (Katolicki Uniwersytet Lubelski – KUL) was opened and has achieved its great reputation with its tradition of the teaching of the humanities. Karol Wojtyla, later Pope John Paul II, was both a student and professor there. For over fifty years Lublin has been the location of other important teaching establishments which include The Maria Curie Skłodowska University, the Medical Academy and the Agricultural Academy. The first phase of the Polish-Ukrainian University, the European College of Polish and Ukrainian Universities has been in place since 2001. Student organisations and cultural centres organise meetings, conferences, concerts and festivals all year-round. Their culminations are the student celebrations of Kulturalia, Kozienalia and Feliniady.
Krakowskie Przedmieście, the representative street of Lublin, is the favourite place for social gatherings and entertainment for the town’s inhabitants and visitors. There are many coffee shops, artistic basement bars and restaurants to choose from, as well as the famous Semadeni Sweet Shop which has been open for business now for over 160 years. Nearby, the Classical New Town Hall stands in Łokietek Square and is the seat of the city’s local authorities. The trumpeter, playing the town’s bugle-call everyday at noon, can be seen on the balcony of the Town Hall tower. Litewski (Lithuanian) Square is an example of the modern history of the city. At the beginning of the 19th century the square served as an army parade ground but today it is used for the celebration of national and religious holidays. Historical events are symbolised by the three monuments that can be found there, celebrating the 3rd May Constitution, Józef Piłsudski and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Nearby are the historical hotels, “Europe” and “Lublinianka”, and many other aristocratic palaces and beautiful mansions from the beginning of the 20th century.
Taste and Try
Lublin is a convenient place from which you can explore the whole region. The city is the starting point of many trekking and bicycle tourist routes. The showpieces of the region include Nałęczów (25 km) – a health resort with a fine palace and park complex; Kazimierz Dolny (50 km) being called “the town of artists”, a beautiful small city of charm and atmosphere set on the bank of the Vistula, Janowiec – Firlej’s Castle with a mediaeval urban design.
From Kazimierz you can easily mainly by ferry get to Janowiec, a village on the right bank of the Vistula River with impressive Firlej’s castle being the only private castle in socialistic Poland. You may be also interested in palace in Kozłówka (32 km) – the best preserved noble residence in Poland, the seat of the Museum of the Zamoyski Family and a collection of socialist realism art.
Lublin is also a place where local traditional cuisine is rich in exquisite dishes: pierogi based on flour, potatoes and cabbage, which were prepared by impoverished gentry and peasants. Traditional dumplings (“pierogi“) filled with buckwheat groats, crispy onion-topped flatbread or the local beer is an indispensable element of the Polish cuisine. You can also taste here specialities of the Ukrainian, Lithuanian or Jewish cooking.
My step-father and I are going to order now. We get hungry after our whole day walk. So we are saying: Have a good day wherever you are, enjoy your meal and
See you in Lublin!
By Agata Szostkowska
Photos: Mariusz Jeliński,© Copyright Mariusz Jeliński, 2017. All rights reserved.
Mariusz Jeliński is a Polish journalist and music presenter working for the Polish Radio in the years 1956-73, and since 1973 in the Polish Television. Popular music entertainer. Author of hundreds of radio and television programs, documentary series devoted to the history of song festivals.
1997-2009 – Famous Polish TV series: Klan ( Clan)
1988-1990 – Famous Polish Series: W labiryncie ( In the labyrinth)
1988 – Polish Film: Czarodziej z Harlemu ( Wizard from Harlem)
1983 – Polish Film: To tylko rock ( It is only rock)
© Copyright www.communications-unlimited.nl, 2017. All rights reserved.
An underground tourist trail which leads visitors through the basements of former merchants’ stores and wine cellars
Big Fontaine on Litewski Square
Krakowskie Przedmieście – Kraków Suburb
Ku Farze in English means “To the Church”
Podzamcze – grounds beneath the castle
The Catholic University of Lublin
The Juliusz Osterwa Theatre is housed in a building erected in 1886
The New Town Hall
The Old Market Square
The Old Town
The Saxon Garden