Western Poland, Wielkopolska (literally "great Poland"), is where the Polish nation was founded over 1,000 years ago. It is a land of ancient cathedrals, castles and noble palaces. The country is relatively flat, but with numerous forests, lakes and nature parks. Add a few extra days to a drive by car from Berlin to Warsaw to visit this charming area and avoid the heavy traffic on the direct highway.A suggested itinerary takes you for a drive that visits the most outstanding of the interesting sites. All listed castles and palaces are now museums that may be visited, generally Tuesday to Sunday from 10 till 16.
Other itineraries on Part 2 are for round trips from the regional capital, Poznan, which is easily reachable by plane from any European hubs as well as by fast trains from Berlin and Warsaw.
Also see the West Poland Photo gallery
Poznań, located almost exactly half way between Berlin and Warsaw, is the capital of the region and also was the capital of Poland in the 11th century. The founder of Poland Mieszko and his son, the first crowned king, Bolesław the Brave (Chrobry), are both buried in the great Gothic Cathedral, which is located on an island in the river Warta. You can see there decorated, 1000 year old sarcophagi in the crypt.
The commercial center of the ancient city was established on the west bank of the river in the 12th century.
The Old Market (Rynek) is dominated by the Renaissance Town Hall with its tall tower, which was built in 1560 on the site of an older Gothic structure. Most of the houses in the square are decorated Baroque houses built by merchant families in 17th and 18th centuries. The largest of them is the Gorka Mansion at the south-east corner. Unfortunately the harmony of this beautiful square is spoilt by the modern structures in the center that were erected during the communist era.
West of the Old Market there is an elegant square - Mickiewicz Square - with several handsome early 20th century buildings. A prominent feature is a monument commemorating the Poznan Uprising in June 1956, which was bloodily suppressed by the communist rulers.
Today Poznan is a bustling city which hosts an international Trade Fair every summer.
A - Scenic route from Poznan to Warsaw. 118km to Kalisz, total 387km to Warsaw, mostly through gently rolling country, parklike wooded areas and several small towns with old churches.
Avoids heavy truck traffic on mostly 3 and 2-lane roads of the direct route, which is only 70km shorter. Take highway #11 (21km) to:
Kórnik Castle. Surrounded by a moat, the castle in its present 19thC. neo-Gothic style, survived the wars with its precious furniture and art collections intact. The last owners made a point of supporting local Polish artists and craftsmen. Of particular interest are the beautiful inlaid parquet floors. Visitors are provided with detailed descriptions of all the exhibits in several languages. Take a restful walk around the park with its many species of trees and shrubs from all over the world.
Smielów Palace. Near the village Żerków, accessed on a side road from highway #11, 40km south of Kórnik. This charming Classic style palace, built at the end of the 18thC., is situated in a large park with interesting farm buildings, in the center of a large Nature Park with small lakes. It contains a large gallery of paintings and sculpture, as well as collections of the poet Adam Mickiewicz.
At Pleszew take the left fork onto highway #12 to Gołuchów Castle. 102km from Poznan, just 16km before Kalisz. A Renaissance castle built in the 16thC was remodelled in the 19thC. It contains a large and interesting art collection which includes ancient Greek vases. You may see Polish bison (zubry) in the 162ha nature park.
Antonin Palace. 18km south of Ostrów Wielkopolski on highway #11 is a hunting palace of the Radziwill family located in a large park. It is now a hotel, where you might wish to stay for the night before continuing your journey.
Kalisz is one of the oldest cities in Poland, first mentioned by Ptolemy in 200 BC as a trading post on the Amber route. Here king Boleslaw Piuous proclaimed the Kalisz Statute in 1264 which guaranteed freedom and protection to the Jews. Today only a 13C Gothic cathedral and the remains of a 9C castle and 14C walls are of interest to the tourist.
From Kalisz continue along highway #12 to Piotrków (avoiding the large industrial city Łódż) and then 4-lane divided highway #1 to Warsaw, total 269km.
B - Scenic route from Poznan to Berlin. Avoid the heavy truck traffic on the 2-lane direct route. Leave Poznan on highway #2 then turn right onto road #184 at Baranowo.
Szamotuły Castle is 32km from Poznan. Part of the 15thC Gothic castle has been restored and old murals have been discovered which may be seen in the museum. The Halisz tower retains its original Gothic appearance.
Take roads #184, #186 then #182 to Sieraków , home of a famous stallion stud farm. You may rent horses or carriages for a ride in the extensive nature park. A part of the old Gothic castle has been rebuilt and houses a museum exhibiting parts of the old castle.
Continue on road #182 to Międzychód, then #160 through the Notecka Forest to the charming village Drezdenko, finally #156 to Strzelce Krajenskie. This small town is entirely surrounded by 14thC walls with several gates. Unfortunately inside the town itself all the old buildings except the 13thC Gothic church have vanished.
If you have the time you should visit the 11,000ha Drawa National Park, north of the town. The park is one of the most attractive and unspoilt parts of Poland. Numerous examples of rare and interesting wildlife make the Drawa their home, and the area is a magnet for bird watchers, naturalists and nature lovers from all over Europe. The pristine rivers and lakes are a paradise for kayaking.
Take highway #22 to Gorzów Wielkopolski, a small, ancient town with a 13thC Gothic brick cathedral. A portion of the
14thC walls and an
18thC granary on the bank of Warta river still exist today.
Then take road #132 for 48km through wooded country to the German border at Kostrzyn. From here it is 88km to the center of Berlin.
Close to Kostrzyn there is Mouth of the Warta National Park another paradise for wild birds.
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Continue to Part 2 - Tours to south, south-west and north-east from Poznan, including Biskupin, Gniezno, Leszno, Rydzyna, Zielona Gora.