Tuesday 7 February 2012

Pictures of Przemyśl

One attractive Polish city I've never written a travel article about is Przemyśl. It lies in the southeast of the country in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains, and has a mighty river (the San) running through it.

It shares the experience of many Polish places in having belonged to many nations in its history. In its early existence, Przemyśl (pronounced pzhem-ishl) was variously claimed by Moravia, Hungary, Kievan Rus and Poland, then had a long period of prosperity within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth before being absorbed into the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Since the 1920s it's been part of modern Poland, though for a period in World War II it was divided along the San River between the occupation forces of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

All these cultures have left their mark on the place, so it's a good city in which to wander around with an eye for an interesting image. Here's a selection of shots I've taken there during my Lonely Planet research trips...

1. King on a plinth. This is a statue of King Jan III Sobieski, who in 1683 achieved a seeming miracle in leading his troops to a defeat of the Turkish army at the Battle of Vienna.

It marked the furthest point the Ottoman Empire would ever reach in its conquest of Europe. He was a fairly local lad, having been born a little further east near Lwów (now Lviv, Ukraine).

2. Ukrainian connection. The border between Poland and Ukraine was shifted dramatically westward at the end of World War II, and is now only about 15km to the east of Przemyśl. Hence you see some Ukrainian language on signage around town, in the Cyrillic script. This sign, at the bus station, indicates where to buy tickets:

3. Papal monument. This statue of Pope John Paul II in the main city square struck me as notable because it showed the late pontiff as he appeared late in his life, rather than as an idealised heroic figure:

4. Pipe dreams. Also in the market square (or Rynek in Polish) is this curious piece of street art. It's symbolic, it turns out, of Przemyśl's historic renown as the manufacturer of pipes. Not far away, in fact, is the Museum of Bells and Pipes.

5. Soldier in the square. Another feature of the sprawling Rynek is this statue of the title character of The Good Soldier Švejk, the satirical comic novel by Czech author Jaroslav Hašek.

It focuses on the soldier's misadventures as a member of the Austro-Hungarian army during World War I, summing up the futility of war. Švejk spent some time in Przemyśl in the story, hence his presence here:


6. The good pizza.
And finally, here's Švejk recommending a local pizzeria:

This post was sponsored by Grata Apartments in Kiev, Ukraine. Check out its site for deals on accommodation in Kiev.

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