Do not believe Poland is grey. These images show how beautiful it is.

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If I were to have colored a picture of Poland before my trip, I would have used steel blue, muddy brown, various greys, and maybe a little bit of green. I pictured Poland as industrial and dreary. Instead, what I found as I explored the country was a palette of many colors: pinks and plums, cardinal reds, and many different shades of green. With my camera in hand, I set out to try and capture some of these colors.

Just outside the Poznań Town Hall in downtown Poznan, I spent an afternoon watching the wedding parades. The couples pulled up in flower-clad vehicles while street musicians capitalized on the opportunity to make some extra money. Little girls, like this one, got to watch fairy tales on repeat with each new bride-groom. The couples entered the Town Hall, tied the knot, and drove off about 15 minutes later. I grabbed a table on the square at the microbrewery Brovaria, ordered a Grodziskie, and toasted the happy couples.

Navy blue, bright red, and a whole lot of locks

The Jordan Bridge is a 100-year-old section of bridge that used to be about 2 km upstream. When the city wanted to build a new bridge to support a tram line, they moved this section north of its original location here. These days, as in many cities around Europe, couples that want to publicize their love come armed with locks, decorated with initials and images, and clamp them to the bridge.

Fading yellow sunsets and sweet pastel buildings

Biking around downtown Poznan at sunset was a dream. I zipped past adorable restored homes and shop fronts, up and down cobbled streets, by churches and towers, and soaked in the last rays of sun wondering if this was all a fairy tale.

Aged yellows and two battling goats

Every day at noon people assembled around Poznań Town Hall to watch as two mechanical goats emerged, cuckoo-style, from the Town Hall clock. They were commissioned by the 16th-century mayor to remind the people of one of their favorite stories: two goats escaped the mayor’s chef, climbed the tower, emerged from the turret, and began battling before a large crowd. The town was so entertained by the goats that the mayor decided to spare them.

A myriad of colors (and ice cream) in downtown Poznan

Wandering around the Old Market Square in the Old City section of Poznan you can find architecture features inspired by Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Classicism and Modern styles. I also noticed the number of ice cream shops and people walking around with cones, especially right after Sunday church. Some of the most interesting flavors I found included lemonade sorbet with parsley, mascarpone with black currant, and yogurt with fresh peaches. Kolorowa was my favorite shop but some others include Wytwórnia Lodów Tradycyjnych, and Marina where they use liquid nitrogen.

Green, green, and more green

With forest covering almost one-third of the city — approximately 70 thousand square meters – there is plenty of greenery to take in. On my second day, I hiked on narrow trails for four hours around Wielkopolska which began at this lookout tower over Lsowa Mountain. Runners and bikers were scattered throughout and people were picnicking along the lakes. I stopped at Castle Island, built in 1830 by the owner of the land as a wedding gift for his sister. When the couple broke up and abandoned the castle it was used by Polish rebels in 1848 to defend against German invaders.

Hazy white castles in the sunset

The original owner of the Rydzyna Castle redesigned the structure in the 19th century based on the calendar: there are as many windows as days, rooms as weeks, representative halls as months and towers as seasons. Today it is a museum, hotel, and a venue for special occasions.

Brown bottles of local brew

One of the first assumptions I had about traveling to Poland was that some form of vodka tasting would be involved. To my surprise, I quickly learned there is a whole other revolution taking place with craft breweries. I tried craft brews flavored with accents like pine, elderberry, coffee, and maple syrup. Some of the best local spots in Poznan include Brovaria, Nepomucen and Browar za miastem. Grodziskie is the only original-style beer produced in the Wielkopolska region of Poznan — it dates back from the 13th century. It is made of smoked malt, is very light and bubbly, and comes with its own champagne-inspired glass.

Brick Orange Castles

I got to spend a couple nights at a castle and it was as good as it sounds. I ate roast duck with apples, walked around manors and moats, sipped polish vodka called Zubrowka, and woke up to a rooster crowing at 6 am. With more than 800 castles, palaces, and manors in the region of Wielkopolska, it is easy to indulge one’s inner prince or princess.

Jet Black and a Locomotive

I grew up watching the PBS television series Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends, so I got nostalgic at the Steam Locomotive Station in Wolsztyn. Seeing this 100-year-old facility with real operators running the trains, loading coals and fixing parts in the workshop, I felt like I was back on the carpet in front of my television set.

Red, White, and Love

Poland is full of much, but what I felt most was history, culture, and love. I was very wrong to picture Poland as cold and grey. Its people are warm, its culture is vibrant, and its history is long – and there are beautiful colors everywhere.

Kristin was a guest of the Polish National Tourist Office.

Henry Sapiecha




The place where the image of the Merciful Jesus was displayed for the first time – the Shrine of Our Lady of Mercy in Ostra Brama – is also important. In the 16th century Ostra Brama was built along with the city walls – it was the first gate to Vilnius. There was a route which led to Medininkai, Ashmyany and Minsk through it; therefore, at first the gate was called the Medininkai Gate. It was also called ‚Zaranna Gate’ [the Gate of Dawn] and, later it was named ‚Aštra’ [in Polish: ‚Ostra’, in English: ‚Sharp’] – because of the name of the southern end of the city. In the gate a picture of Our Lady was put up – it was greatly venerated as early as in the 17th century, and Carmelites who served in Saint Teresa’s Church,the church adjacent to Ostra Brama, started to take care of the image. In 1671 a wooden chapel was built, however, after less than fifty years it burnt down. In its place a new one was erected in 1829 – it was made of brick and built in the neoclassical style. The inhabitants of Vilnius have loved Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn a lot, which, for instance, a large number of votive offerings prove. As early as in the 18th century Our Lady received a beautiful dress made of gold-plated silver, which was probably given by a goldsmiths’ guild. In the 20th century the picture was crowned twice (papal crowns) and the title of the Mother of Mercy was conferred on Our Lady of Ostra Brama.

In March, 1936, Sister Faustina left Vilnius for good, however, Rev. Sopoćko continued her mission in the city. By every possible means he tried to propagate the devotion to the Divine Mercy and he also broadened his theological knowledge of the mystery. Therefore, in Vilnius there are places which are not so much connected with Sister Faustina herself as with the mission entrusted to her by the Lord Jesus. Saint Michael the Archangel’s Church is worth-mentioning because it was there that the image of the Merciful Jesus hung since 1937 till 1948 – the year when the church was closed down. In place of the church and the

***Bernardine Sisters’ convent there used to be a medieval palace of the Sapiecha family. Lew Sapiecha, who was a grand hetman [the second highest military commander] of Lithuania and a governor of Vilnius province, donated the palace to the Bernardine Sisters and adapted it for the needs of the convent.***

In 1594-1596 he had Saint Michael the Archangel’s Church built next to the palace. In 1933 the church and the convent were renovated. However, unfortunately, in 1948 the church was closed down and since 1956 it has been a museum of architecture.

After the closure of Saint Michael’s Church its equipment, therefore, also the image of the Merciful Jesus was transferred to the Holy Spirit Church. Originally, it was a wooden church erected in King Władysław Jagiełło time. After a fire in 1441 Casimir the Jagiellonian had it rebuilt and since the beginning of the 16th century the church was in the charge of the Dominicans, who had been brought to Vilnius by Alexander the Jagiellonian. In the second half of the 18th century the church was rebuilt again and its present outward appearance dates back to that time. Since the convent was closed down by the tsarist authorities in 1844 the church has since functioned as a parish one. Inside there are numerous frescos and pictures, including the valuable painting ‚The Holy Spirit’s Apotheosis’, which dates back to the 19th century. Initially, the image of the Merciful Jesus was stored there as a deposit of Saint Michael’s Church and since 1985, for ten years, it was displayed for public worship on a side altar.

On the 28th September, 2005, through the decision of the Archbishop of Vilnius, A. Bačkis, the image of the Merciful Jesus was transferred to the Holy Trinity’s Church. In that place there was a church as early as in the 15th century and at that time probably it was a wooden one. There is no reliable information about the date when the brick church was erected. In 1536 King Sigismund I funded a hospital attached to the church and at the beginning of the 19th century the authorities converted the church into an Orthodox one. After it was rebuilt, its initial appearance changed almost completely. One hundred years later the church was returned to Catholics, who had it renovated. Today the Holy Trinity’s Church is a shrine of the Divine Mercy.

Sr M. Natanaela Czajkowska O.L.M.

‚Divine Mercy Newsletter’, no. 68 (2008) and 69 (2009), pp10-11.


Henry Sapiecha