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Bydgoszcz - A City of Two Cultures

Updated: Aug 25, 2023

On April 19, 1346, Bydgoszcz received city rights from Polish king Casimir the Great. From that moment onward, Polish and German influences continued to intertwine until 1945, when Bydgoszcz became Polish territory once again.

Bydgoszcz, called ‘Little Berlin’ by the visiting Germans, flourished in the pre-war period. In the post-war period under a communist regime, it lost its charm and transformed into one of the most industrial Polish cities in the north. The city became known primarily for its production of bicycles made in the Romet Bicycle Factory. Since 2004, Bydgoszcz has gradually regained its former glory thanks to its membership in the EU: Inscriptions stating that a given building was built with EU funds became as common as pictures comparing war damage. In 2019, Bydgoszcz was placed on the Tripadvisor list of the 10 top places to visit in Poland.

In Bydgoszcz, German influences are felt everywhere. This can be seen in the city’s architecture, conversation (many words in the dialect have German roots), German-like surnames (Krauze, Handke and Shwalbe are very common) and overall mentality. People of Bydgoszcz are very calm and reserved and they lack that spontaneity typical of people from South and East of the country. They love, what they call German order: Bydgoszcz is one of the cleanest cities in Poland. Beavers can be found in the city centre on Mill Island, and in the Brda River, anglers can catch trout.

The people of Bydgoszcz, however, seem to have an ambivalent attitude towards its German past. On one hand, National Independence Day on the 11th of November is celebrated very loudly; the people still remember Nazi crimes such as mass executions in Stary Rynek (Old Market Square) and the Death Valley in Fordon (now a district of Bydgoszcz). On the city’s trams, screens display the stories of Polish activists who fought against the German occupation.

On the other hand, there are visible tendency of bringing pre-war German artifacts back to life throughout the city, whether in the form of architecture, names of the companies or cafés, monuments of the past or inscriptions on the walls. For instance, the recently opened Bromberg café is a mirror of the pre-war model, which once existed in the very same location at the intersection of the two most important streets, Gdańska and Dworcowa.

Here are the latest highlights of Bydgoszcz:

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