Wednesday, June 8, 2011

159/365: Karst springs in Tomaszów Mazowiecki

159/365: Karst springs in Tomaszów Mazowiecki
June 8th

There isn't a better remedy against a bad mood than a long and exciting bike ride. This time I decided to take a train South-East to Tomaszów Mazowiecki and tour the area, which is very picturesque with the Pilica river winding through it.

The picture above is of the karst springs in Tomaszów, the so-called Blue Sources. The light didn't lend itself to making the blue show up in photos, but the sand at the bottom, pushed out by the spring geysers, gives an idea of the colour.

There were also swans with their swanbabies!!

Swan family


This was actually my last stop on the tour, right after the Pilica River Open Air Museum, where, among old millstones and river barges I saw these:

T-34/85 and SdKfz 8/DB 10

On the left, the T-34/85, supposedly the best of its kind in WW2 warfare. On the right, a rare prototype vehicle from the Luftwaffe, recovered from the bottom of the Pilica where it sank in 1945. It's the only one in existence, and it still works! The museum plans to give rides in it at some point.

They also had an old train station:
Pilica River open air museum

and a model of a floating mill:

Model of a river mill

The part of my trip that was supposed to be the most exciting turned out to be a bust- although a bust with a promise. The 14th century castle ruins in Inowłódz are no longer ruins- they are being reconstructed!

A castle appears!

Which also meant that I couldn't walk onto the site and visit it. So, I took a walk around the little town and saw, instead, the church of St Idzi:

Church of St. Idzi

Or St. Gilles, if you will.Said to be built in 1086 by Prince of Poland Władysław Herman in gratitude for the conception of his son, Bolesław Wrymouth, but other sources say it is more likely to have been funded by Bolesław himself, around 1138. A statue of said father and son stands nearby:

Władysław Herman and his son Bolesław Krzywousty

Done with that, I went to seek out traces of the Jewish community in Inowłódz. Before the war they made up a third of the locals...before the war. Four hundred people, all gone.

This is a horrifying reality I keep encountering while touring my country- mere traces of a people who were once very much at home here. We all know about it, but...

Well. A curious memento of Jewish presence is an early 19th century synagogue:

The old synagogue

It was badly damaged during the war, and used as a storage facility until its renovation in the early 80's. From then on, it was a library, and finally it was sold to a private owner who turned it into a store.

Yes, a grocery store.

The shop that was once a synagogue

The polychrome inscriptions are the only thing remaining from the original decor, and they are unique in being prayers for the Russian Tsar (the building dates back to times when Poland was partitioned and this area belonged to Russia). The southern wall has an inscription in Hebrew, the northern wall in Russian. The names of new tsars were painted over the old ones upon succession.

The shop that was once a synagogue

I asked the owner about the controversy of keeping shop in an old prayer-house. He claims to have spoken to authorities of the Jewish community in Poland about it, and that they do not consider it a holy place anymore since the Torah scrolls were removed from the building long ago. However, the synagogue is on the list of national artefacts and so the building and inscriptions must be preserved.

With a little help from the local librarian, I found my way through the forest and terrains belonging largely to a chalcedonite mine to another sign of Jewish presence in Inowłódz: the cemetery.

Jewish Cemetery in Inowłódz

Jewish Cemetery in Inowłódz

Built in 1820, it is now abandoned and difficult to locate in the forest- you have to do some mild trespassing. Most of it was destroyed by the Germans in WW2.

Jewish Cemetery in Inowłódz

After the cemetery I took a shortcut (which, proverbially, made for a long delay) through the forest to the amazing bunker in Konewka:

Anlage Mitte

The Anlage Mitte, another memory of the war, was built as an operative HQ for the Nazis. It was never used as such, but it's impressive nevertheless. The railway bunker is 380 metres long, and was meant to house two of Hitler's personal trains.

Anlage Mitte train bunker

I suffered from a lack of tripod, but plan to come back again. The tour is kind of crazy, it leads down a ladder into the service duct, which besides being creepy, is dank, dark and dirty:

The service duct

All in all it was a very nice ride, and I want to do it again- in better weather, light, and perhaps with some company...

On the map, as usual, the planned route is in red, the actual ride in blue:

View Okolice Pilicy in a larger map


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