Our guidebook lied about Torun.
Oh, it didn’t lie about Torun being lovely—it is a gorgeous medieval Polish town. No, the lie was that it is somehow an undiscovered destination, free from tourists.
Torun, at least when we visited, is loaded with tourists. And 95% of them are children. Children are streaming through gates of this walled UNESCO protected city.
People often assume that since I don’t have children that I don’t like children. That’s not true—I dig kids, especially when they are able to use their growing brains and immense imaginations. Torun is the perfect town for the young and imaginative: Torun is the anti-theme park. Torun is a Gothic town where kids see actual medieval buildings (and to be fair, buy a lot of fake plastic swords and armor).
There are no princesses or fake castles in Torun but children are free to hop on a brass donkey (hopefully unaware that this donkey is a replica of a wooden donkey where medieval criminals were once tied down and whipped).
Gingerbread—piernika in Polish—is the main attraction in Torun. There’s even a gingerbread museum. (Don’t you love HOB’s “duh?!” expression here? He’s got a big sweet tooth and he’s all like “Gingerbread, whoa, throw that at my face!!!”)
Gingerbread is sold everywhere, mostly in specialty shops. True to our scrappy style, we bought ours in a grocery store. Inside the store we eavesdropped on a pack of boys around 10 years old, apparently unaccompanied by adult, who were pooling their money and earnestly plotting to buy the maximum amount of gingerbread and other sweet snacks within their budget.
We ate our gingerbread accompanied by espresso in the market square.
I especially enjoyed Torun’s graneries. Can you imaging using buildings this beautiful to store grain? The one on the left is Gothic and the one on the right is Baroque.
Torun has splendid churches, though perhaps it would be best to keep the kiddos away from this creepy fresco in St. James Church of a baby tree topped by Jesus holding a garland of disembodied heads.
And speaking of creepy—-lingerie ad? Fine. Lingerie ad plus pig-tailed child levitating between two oiled adults? No thanks.
With all those visiting children, you’d think Torun would have more public bathrooms. Other than these signs, which reference my two favorite things; public toilets and a Camino pilgrimage site, bathrooms were frustratingly hard to find. We sneaked into a decidedly non-Gothic McDonalds along with a dozens of leg-crossing minors.
At dusk the day-tripping children departed and only the local kids were left. The ambiance was still lovely, though less lively.
HOB and I had a pleasant trip to Torun. I mean it’s not like we’d ever miss out on a medieval UNESCO town, and seeing the cute kids enjoying a non-pandering field trip was an extra bonus. We even managed to stay at an ibis budget: a nostalgic reminder of our budget-traveling heritage.
How we got to Torun: train from Wrocław.
Where we slept: ibis budget Torun. Price: €27 for a double. Recommended: yes.