The Brda River in Bydgoszcz, Poland is not even close to the biggest river in the country, but what it lacks in size and capacity, it makes up with by providing a beautiful backdrop for the city. The Brda is part of the Odra-Vistula waterway, with the Vistula being the longest river in the country. The river has great potential for the future, that is if a dam in Belarus is deconstructed to allow full navigation as it connects to several other major European river systems.
Bydgoszcz is one of the largest cities in Poland with a population around 400,000. The city lies northwest of the capital, Warsaw – another metropolis that thrives along the banks of the Vistula; and is just a few hours’ drive from the Baltic Sea. Sometimes referred to as the “Venice of the North” due to its proximity to so many waterways and canals, the buildings of Bydgoszcz that sit along the Brda offer a tranquil scene that makes for leisurely strolls through town.
As legend has it, the city was founded by two brothers, Byd and Gost, who were traveling from the south of Poland, looking for an ideal place to set up a town. While the brothers were drawn by the pastoral nature of the river, ford and nearby hills, the location was a cross-roads for transportation and migration. Throughout its history, Bydgoszcz has been enthralled in conflict, as various entities have fought for the right to hold the city seat. In the 1870s, it was controlled by the German Empire, and for a time during World War II, the Germans again took hold of the city. In 1945, it was taken by the Soviet Army but was later assigned to Poland in the Warsaw pact.
As we have seen through our tour of this Small World, Poland also has its share of beautiful architecture, and much of it is religious. The Church of the Assumption of the Holy Virgin, which was built in the late 16th Century, has a unique charm to it as it is a single-aisle church built in the Gothic-Renaissance style. Another beautiful site in Bydgoszcz is Mill Island, a small piece of isolated land created by the intersection of the Brda River and the Bydgoszcz Canal. On the island you will find playgrounds, museums and beautifully landscaped gardens. The Bydgoszcz Canal, originally built in the late 1700s, also allows a willing traveler to voyage all the way to Berlin!
The city is home to its very own legend, that of Pan Twardowski. Allegedly Pan was a nobleman who entered into a pact with the Devil to have special powers, such as raising the dead. Pan tried to trick the Devil by saying that his soul could only be delivered to Hell when he was in Rome – a place he never intended to go. As all stories involving the Devil go, he eventually won out. Pan never went to the city of Rome, but he mistakenly went to an inn called Rome and this is where the Devil cashed in the contract.
Today you won’t find too much mention of Twardowski in Bydgoszcz, but his legend lives on in the literature, music and film dedications that have been a staple of the multi-faceted cultural offerings of the city. Known for its theater, music and museums, Bydgoszcz has a blossoming arts scene that could give rise to another tale such as Pan’s in the future.