There are some beautiful cities in Poland; Kraków, Wrocław, Poznań, Gdańsk to name but four, and sure, like any big conurbations these places have their dark sides and ugly places, faded glories, tumbledown buildings, concrete stairwells that smell of urine but they also have beautiful buildings, public squares and green spaces. Łódź, a large city (indeed the country’s third largest) almost slap-bang in the middle of Poland, is on first impressions, not one of those beautiful places. Although the settlement goes back a long way most of what you see today in Łódź is a product of the Industrial Revolution and post World War 2 Soviet industrialisation. Łódź is often likened to Manchester; it was a centre of textile manufacturing and many of the old mill buildings survive albeit with reassigned functions.
Having said that let me also say that I like Łódź, I’ve been to Łódź a number of times and whereas the place doesn’t have the charm of some of the often cited “Top 10 places you must visit in Poland” it does have its own charm even though its name seems to be enough to put you off. Łódź (stop trying to say “Lods” and think “Woudge”), it means “boat” in Polish. Many years ago the town was at the confluence of a number of rivers and trade was conducted using these rivers as a means of transport, then going back further there is a story of a lone traveller arriving by boat at the place where Łódź now stands, he hauled his boat from the river and turned it upside-down for shelter and decided that he liked the location so much that he decided to stay.
I think Łódź is a very honest and down-to-earth place, I won’t say a “no frills” place because the “frills” are there if you look for them. Walk into the market square in Kraków and you know you’re somewhere special. In contrast the market square in Łódź is a very utilitarian affair, fitting perhaps given its Soviet origins. After World War 2 all of the original market square buildings were demolished and rebuilt in the Socialist Realist style. It’s bleak but functional.
As I said, I’ve been to Łódź a number of times, mostly to attend concerts at the Łódź House of Culture (Łódzki Dom Kultury), a multi-purpose venue for concerts, exhibitions, theatre and cinema. The building itself looks very undistinguished from the outside; the words square and concrete come to mind but inside it’s another and altogether more pleasant story. All of the concerts which I have been to at ŁDK, have been either early or late in the year so every time I have been to Łódź it’s been cloudy or raining or snowing and if the sun has been shining it has been cold.
All that changed this weekend just gone, I’d been in Łódź for the Marillion Weekend Poland event, a three night event, Friday, Saturday and Sunday held at Klub Wytwórnia. Guess what? Friday and Saturday were cloudy and cold; Sunday started the same but towards through the day the temperature had begun to rise and the clouds dispersed. Monday started cool under a cloudless sky and the temperature climbed into the high twenties. I was out and about, wearing just a t-shirt, well, not only a t-shirt you understand otherwise the Straż Miejska if not the Police would no doubt have carted me off in short order but the main thing was, I was not wearing a coat, hat and gloves. The sky was blue, the sun was shining; it was, if I may use the phrase, strappy top weather. I ambled and rambled about the place enjoying the sunshine and taking-in the sights, architectural sights obviously and, looking for the interesting and odd, snapping a few pictures here and there.
Around mid-day, I popped into Łódzki Dom Kultury to visit the café/restaurant there (Restauracja – Kawiarnia „Łódka”) and had coffee and cake, which was nice. Then after more perambulations I decided it was time for a beer so I went into my favourite pub in Łódź, Chmielowa Dolina (Hop Valley). Chmielowa Dolina is on ul. Piotrkowska (number 123 if you must know) a largely pedestrianised thoroughfare running almost north-south through the middle of the city.
On the other side of the road to Chmielowa Dolina and stretching northwards there were numerous wooden chalets set-up, it was an Easter market selling all sorts from commemorative spoons for Imienny (Name Day, a rather nice tradition which we don’t have in the UK) to beer, cheese and sausages. Needless to say that all three of the latter had caught my eye so after a few beers I went over and bought a bottle of regional beer, two lumps of cheese, goat’s cheese, one with black pepper and one with juniper and a goodly length of locally produced sausage, all of which I took back to the hotel later for a hotel-room picnic.
I had intended this piece to be more of a photo-blog, but I started to write and before you know it there’s 800 plus words of my inane jabbering. Still, here are some of the pictures of Łódź I took to make up for it.