Saturday 29 June 2019

Chocolate museum in Poznań

Some time ago I have taken you to a renown factory of Swiss chocolate. Today, I will take you to a small workshop where you will be able to discover once more the magic of chocolate. As you probably remember, the cocoa beans were first discovered by the Olmecs and then grown by Aztecs and Mayas. The drink made of crashed cocoa seeds and water was used in the most important religious rituals. The seeds themselves were also a form of currency.

Christopher Columbus came across cocoa beans during his journeys to America at the dawn of the sixteenth century. But it was Hernán Cortés who has first imported them to the Old Continent in 1528, together with a recipe for a drink that was for sure not as tasty as the one we would have today in a nice cafe.

The first chocolate factory has been opened in Spain in 1580 but it was only in 1679, in the court of le Roi Soleil, Louis XIV, that the first pralines are made. In 1828 a Dutch chemist Coenraad van Houten develops a process for separating fat from coca beans.

The first bar of chocolate was made in England in 1846 but it was Rodolphe Lindt in Switzerland that has revolutionised the process of making chocolate in 1879 by inventing the conching, a process that gives to the chocolate more taste.

But before we come to that, the coca beans have to be harvested from the treas. The beans are large and orange, each of them contains around 40 to 50 grains.

The harvest is followed by a week of fermentation during which the grains are recovered with banana leaves. The fermentation brings out the flavour and the colour. Then the grains are selected and the best ones are roasted to remove the excess of water and release the aroma.

The roasted grains are then crushed. The hard shells are removed and the soft kernels form the cocoa maze. The cocoa maze is mixed with sugar, milk and other components, that is placed in the conche. The journey from the cocoa tree to the chocolate bar is long and winding.

When your chocolate is ready, all you need is to think about your favourite add-ons. Fruits? Chocolate pills? Nuts? And why not all?

First, we need to pour the chocolate into the mould. Not to warm but still warm enough to be liquid.

Then simply drop all those mouth-watering additions.

Now our chocolate needs some winter vacation in a cool fridge. And finally it is done - the best chocolate ever. The one that we have made ourselves!

Saturday 22 June 2019

Genius Loci in Poznań

Ancient Romans believed that every place had its protecting spirit, called genius loci. Today we will pay a visit to one.

This specific spirit is protecting Ostrów Tumski and will allow us to see and feel the profile of Poznań. Originally, the royal village was positioned on the island and surrounded for extra protection by a fence.

The fence was made of a combination of wood and stone. The wooden construction was filled with stones and earth to reinforce it.

What remains of it today? Well some wood ...

... and some stones.

But before you start smiling, recall that the walls of Ostrów were built a thousand years ago, when no machine tools were known. There were up to five meter high, with a good and well protected observation platform in the highest part.

And a carpet made of stones in the lower parts.

In the archaeological reserve on Ostrów Tumski you can find some artefacts collected in a neighbouring graveyard. It was the first Christian graveyard in Poland. You can see a knife, a hook and an awl. Sounds more like a content of the pyramids but remember that Christianity was very fresh on those grounds at the end of the tenth century.

Here come some rings and earrings that supposedly belonged to a princess.

As we leave the Genius loci archaeological reserve, you will surely notice a brick building where some type of corridor starts. It is actually a bridge that leads to another amazing museum of the history of Poznań - Brama Poznania (the Poznań Gate).

Inside you can take a real travel in time, throughout 1,050 years of the history of the place. Unfortunately I will not be able to take you on a tour there so let's only run on the rooftop. From the observation deck we will be able to take a last glimpse of the cathedral of Poznań in its full splendor.

Saturday 15 June 2019

Ostrów Tumski in Poznań

You might remember that some time ago I have already taken you to a place called Ostrów Tumski. This was the cathedral island in Wrocław. Today, I will take you to yet another Ostrów Tumski but this time in Poznań. And I am sure you will not be surprised by the most important building there.

The cathedral is devoted to Saint Peter and Paul and nowadays looks like that.

I said nowadays because the cathedral was almost entirely destroyed during World War II and the authorities decided to rebuild it in a mixture of style with prevailing gothic influences. But the first Pre-Romanesque cathedral that was completed towards the end of the tents century was much more modest. It was dedicated to Saint Peter and was a three-nave, two-choir basilica with an apse to the East.

In the twelfth century the basilica was rebuilt in the Romanesque style , retaining the shape of the earlier building and using its foundation as parts of the walls. It remained a three-nave basilica, most likely with a transept and an elongated central apse, closed to the West by two towers.

Finally, in the thirteenth century one of the bishops started a reconstruction of the cathedral due to sever cracks in the walls. It took two centuries to complete the Gothic cathedral (currently reconstructed), with its ring of chapels.

Let's enter inside. In front of the main entrance you will find two keys from the coat of arms of Poznań.

Inside the cathedral, you will immediately notice the high gothic arches.

In the back comes the organ and stained-glass windows.

As I told you, the cathedral is surrounded by a ring of chapels. The best known is the Golden Chapel.

It was designed in the Byzantine style.

But the most important reason why Ostrów Tumski in Poznań is such an important place is that this is one of the birthplaces of Polish state and the Christianity in Poland.

This is where Mieszko I, the first Christian ruler of Poland had one of his castles. Or what was considered to be a castle at that time. Until today, the remainings  of his tomb are in Ostrów Tumski. They are not too impressive but remember that Mieszko has died over a thousand years ago.

Much like his father Mieszko, Boleslaw the Brave (Chrobry) was buried in the centre of the nave on the church’s axis. The coffin use to be housed in a stone chamber covered with a thick mortar stab and surrounded by a stone fence. Today only a part of this fence remains.

To be honest, the historian and archaeologists still argue if the first rulers of Poland were really buried in Ostrów Tumski. But I think it was really nice to imagine that they were. Now we say goodbye to the Poznań cathedral.

Now let's cross the bridge of the bishop Jordan and take a deeper dive in the history of the place.

Saturday 8 June 2019

Royal castle in Poznań

Today, I will talk you to Mount Przemysław in Poznań.

On top of the hill you will find a castle.

Those of you who are good in the history of the architecture will quickly scratch their heads, trying to figure out how old this castle is. Well, it is less than 20 years old to be honest. It has been reconstructed at the beginning of the twenty first century but its design is eclectic in many ways. Actually, historians say that a castle like this one has never been (and could have never been) standing on this hill. But someone decided that Poznan deserves a royal castle and here it comes.

Inside, you will fid the Museum of Applied Arts.

Inside, you will recognise some gothic-style arches.

But some of the rooms are decorated in tapestries that have little to do with Middle Ages.

In the armory you can admire the fire weapons from different periods.

But my favourite exhibit in the armoury is this fancy outfit, collected in the Vienna battlefield in 1683.

Just next to the armoury you will find the Kunstkamera which used to be  a kind of private museum, compiling items that were a proof of the wealth and wide interests of the owner. It included natural wonders, called naturalia ...

... and man-made wonders, including scientific instruments.

The museum holds a collection of items inspired by China. And next to it you will find a piano with decoration motifs from what seems to be an English shire. Not only the walls of the castle are eclectic...

A museum of applied arts need to have a collection dedicated to fashion. While my human secretary loved this part ...

I think I would chose this outfit. It was tailor made for a wealthy Polish noble, most probably from seventeenth or eighteenth century.

If you prefer something more exotic, you always opt for the samurai instead.

The royal castle of Poznan has one more thing to offer. But we need to earn it by climbing some stairs (the lazy ones can use the elevator).

From the top of the tower we can admire a panorama of Poznan. Do you recognise the Town Hall?

Let's walk to the other side.

Here you can see the fire station next to the city walls that we have passed by last week.

They say that no king has ever lived in the royal castle in Poznań. Well, they are probably right. I still liked it quite a lot. Far better than another cubic structure made of metal and glass. And the crown fits particularly well.

But no worries. Next week I will take you to a place where a real king is still present.