Po Polsce [In English], Podróze — Napisane przez: Anna Borsukiewicz. Opublikowano: 16/12/2009 16:16
Alfa Romeo is undoubtedly of Italian origin while Wenecja (Polish name for Venice) is Polish by all means. But what kind of car can you drive to Wenecja if not an Italian one? Polish Wenecja is located in Kujawy region, to be precise in Paluki area, 8 km from famous Biskupin (which is an archaeological site and a life-size model of an Iron Age fortified settlement). It is a small village situated between three lakes: Biskupinskie, Weneckie and Skrzynka; and, to tell the truth, it doesn’t look like its Italian namesake.
Even though it is still worth visiting, both for the reason of an infamous Wenetian Devil whose ghost supposedly haunts the ruins of a medieval castle and for the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum, which is a tourist attraction on European scales.
Why is it called Wenecja (Venice)? There is no clear answer for this question. The simplest one says it comes from the name of Jezioro Weneckie (the Venetian lake) but this theory does not explain the name of the lake itself. So, let’s accept the other, more romantic version of the story saying that one of the former owners of what was then called Mosciszewo village married a woman who was dreaming to pay a visit to Venice, Italy. To please her he re-named his village Wenecja. However, nobody can confirm the story since it must have happened a long time ago.
The origins of Polish Wenecja come from medieval times. As far back as 1380 a castle was built in an isthmus between the Weneckie and Biskupinskie lakes to protect a track from Znin to Gniezno.
The stronghold was erected on a hill in the midst of waterlogged meadows. It was surrounded by a wall built of stones and bricks; it had a moat and a drawbridge, and a fortified tower. According to the local legends these were the walls where the cannons used later during the Battle of Grunwald were first tested (Battle of Grunwald was one of the most important battles in Medieval Europe, and the largest battle to involve knights. It took place near the village of Grunwald, now in northern Poland, on July 15, 1410 with the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania ranged against the knights of the Teutonic Order.)
Mikolaj Chwalowic, a judge from Kalisz town, was the first owner of the castle. It was him who was named the „bloody Venetian devil”.
Why a „devil”? Again, there are many stories and legends explaining that name. According to one of them, he was a cruel master who used to oppress his subjects; he robbed them and passed severe sentences. According to Jan Dlugosz, 15th century Polish historian, the master of the Wenecja castle played with Satan. He collected enormous treasures kept in the castle’s dungeon. As the legend tells, they have been left there since the moment when a thunderbolt has hit the castle and completely destroyed it. All of its inhabitants, including the Wenetian Devil, were buried under the ruins. However, the ghost of the Devil still walks around the remains of the castle and waits for liberation.
Dances in the castle
It looks like ruins of the castle are no more haunted, at least during daylight. They are rather unimpressive. The castle was partly pulled down in 16th century. Bricks from the building were then used for the erection of a residence of the Gniezno archbishops in Znin. The remains were blown up in 19th century, and the stones were then used to pave the road.
Only after World War II an archaeological research was started in the castle. Although no treasure was found, scientists learned more about the origins and development of the castle. Finally, it was turned to a so-called „permanent ruin” and a free of charge admission was allowed. However, there is no guide who could bring the history of these walls back to life; he would tell you about the bloody devil as well as about imprisoned priests who exposed themselves to anger of church authorities, or about a legend of a cap full of gold found by a herdsman in the ruins of the castle, or about a maiden presented by the ghost of the Devil with three cases of gold. Unfortunately, all that we are left with is our own imagination.
At the foot of the castle numerous events have been held, including the inauguration of the tourist season in the Paluki region. During the previous one, at the beginning of May, 2009, one could see through the secrets of medieval craftsmanship, admire artistry of knights, visit their camp, or could look at court dances.
You can easily reach the castle in Wenecja if you follow the road signs to the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum (Muzeum Kolei Wąskotorowej) . The ruins of this medieval fortress are located above the museum. You can leave your car in the large car park near the museum.
Museum on a railway track
This place is loved by both children and adults. The fairy-tale-like railway-engines and cars, the charming station, and the railway track only 60 cm wide (which is as wide as prams’ axle). The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum in Wenecja has the greatest collection of historic objects of this kind in Europe. The oldest steam-engine comes from 1899; a few others are dated back to the times of World War I. There are also diesel locomotives, motor-driven rail trolleys and hand rail trolleys, two- and four-axle cars that were used for various types of transport. There are forest cars, coal-cars, covered goods carriages, a tanker carriage, and passenger carriages. Many of them are open to entrance. You can also look at a swivel from 1908, switches, junctions, and a water crane for steam engines. In the building of a historic waiting room you will find minor souvenirs referring to the narrow gauge railwaymen’s work. A mail carriage is transformed into the museum shop. You can buy a postcard and stamp it with an occasional date-stamp.
The museum was founded in 1972 from the initiative of the group of amateurs of the Paluki region who had decided to prevent the local narrow gauge that was inoperative for ten years. Now, it is open from May to October, between 9 am and 6 pm and in other months from 10 am till 2 pm. When the archaeological fair in Biskupin takes place in September, the museum is open from 9 am to 5 pm. (www.paluki.pl/mzp/kolejka.php)
A train is coming
The rail track was opened 115 years ago and used for transport of agriculture products, mainly beetroots, as well as for passengers transport. In the 1950’s the latter one was systematically decreasing. Finally in 1962, after 78 years of the operation, the passenger transport was shut down.
The railway was reopened, this time as a tourist attraction, when the museum came into being. Trains carry passengers from Znin through Wenecja and Biskupin to Gasawa and back. The station in Wenecja is right next to the museum (www.paluki.pl/ciuchcia).
The ride in the air open cars makes unforgettable impressions on passengers. A locomotive starts with a whistle, and then the train rides slowly along the road and meadows, wind blowing through the hair of the passengers. The Biskupinskie Lake and the famous archaeological site on its marshy peninsula are seen far off.
If somebody finds the ride a bit trivial he can make it more adventurous with some additional attractions, for example the train robbery that involves kidnapping of women. The adventure ends with a campfire on a clearing in front of a beautiful landscape of the Wenetian castle.
Translated by Dariusz Balcerzyk
- It is a village in the administrative district of Gmina Znin, within Zninski County, Kujawsko-pomorskie Voivodeship.
[googleMap typecontrol=”false” directions_to=”false”]Wenecja, Polska[/googleMap]
- It is a village in the administrative district of Gmina Gasawa, within Zninski County, Kujawsko-pomorskie Voivodeship.
- GPS: 52° 47′ 06″ N, 17° 44′ 30″ E
Tagi: Kujawy region, Po Polsce [In English], Podróze, Poland, Wenetian Devil
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Photo: J. Kozierkiewicz