I arrived in Lodz at around 10 in the night.
The first major building that I saw from the taxi’s windshield was Poznanski Palace.
Next to it was “Andel’s” Hotel where I stayed.
Andel’s is a converted factory and part of a huge building complex called “Manufactura”.
The owner of the complex when it was a factory was Izrael Kalmanowicz Poznanski, the textile industrialist that made a fortune in the 19th century. Poznanski Palace was his residence. His status as a leading textile industrialist made the use of the term “Palace” almost natural.
Lodz is the third largest city in Poland, the first being Warsaw and the second Krakow. Years ago it was the second largest city in Poland, with almost 900.000 inhabitants. Today it has approximately 750,000 inhabitants. Warsaw is attracting a lot of people with its spectacular growth and still reasonable prices. Still, this is not bad for Lodz, a city that back in the 1790’s was a small town with fewer than 200 inhabitants!
The spectacular change of a small town to a major urban center was due to textile manufacturing.
The development of the textile industry in Lodz started at the beginning of the 19th century.
Once called the Manchester of Poland because of its thriving textile industry, Lodz today has only few small SMEs in textiles. Times have changed and so has Lodz, but it retains its industrial aura.
In the 1815 Congress of Vienna treaty, Lodz became part of Congress Poland, a client state of the Russian Empire. Lodz had been part of Prussia before and the Czar encouraged Germans to move into town and build houses and cotton mills. The first cotton mill opened in 1825, and 14 years later the first steam-powered factory in Russia and Poland commenced operations.
Thanks to bauhausgirl I can sharetwo photos of Adam Osser’s old cotton mill.
In her introduction to the photos, we read:
“The Factory complex was built in 1903 for one of Jewish cotton industrialists Adam (Abe) Osser. The Cotton Mill is a typical example of a mixture of Neo-Gothic (gothic revival) and Art Nouveau architectural style which dominated industrial buildings in Lodz.”
During the boom days of textile manufacturing, Lodz had a mixture of inhabitants: Polish, German and Jewish.
But things for the workers of the factories were not exactly perfect.
One might even speak of ruthless exploitation.
It therefore comes as no surprise to see the workers rising against their oppressors. The Łódź insurrection, also known as the June Days, happened in 1905.
“For months, workers in Łódź had been in a state of unrest, with several major strikes having taken place, which were forcibly suppressed by the Russian police and military. The insurrection began spontaneously, without backing from any organized group. Polish revolutionary groups were taken by surprise and did not play a major role in the subsequent events. Around 21–22 June, following clashes with the authorities in the previous days, angry workers began building barricades and assaulting police and military patrols. Additional troops were called by the authorities, who also declared martial law. On 23 June, no businesses operated in the city, as the police and military stormed dozens of workers’ barricades. Eventually, by 25 June, the uprising was crushed, with estimates of several hundred dead and wounded. The uprising was reported in the international press and widely discussed by socialist and communist activists worldwide. Unrest in Łódź would continue for many months, although without protests on such a large-scale as before.” (Wikipedia).
In arts the city of Lodz has a famous pianist and a famous film school.
Arthur Rubinstein the pianist, was born in Lodz in 1887. He lived in Piotrkowska Street, the son of a Jewish textile industrialist.
The National Film School was founded in Lodz in 1948. Andrzei Vajda and Roman Polanski are two of the school’s students.
Wajda shot his movie “Promised Land” in the city of Lodz.
I did not have time to explore the urban landscape, just got a glimpse of the city.
Piotrkowska Street is the Main Street of the city of Lodz.
But my heart belongs ot Gdanska Street, which gave me a different view of the city.
There is no sign of the “new” development that one can see in Warsaw in Lodz’s Gdanska Street.
The old buildings from the early 20th century are still there, and they dominate the terrain.
The buildings on Gdanska Street have personality. They speak to you.
The peanut green is popular.
The entrances to the buildings are panels of visual splendor.
The advertising boards seem to be out of place.
On the gastronomy front, one day I asked to eat kielbasa, which is Polish sausage. It was as if I had asked for Beluga, at a lower price. This may be due to the tendency to modernize, i.e. abandon the traditional cuisine in favour of the staple of international “artifices” like plastic pizza, plastic burgers and plastic pasta. Even the hearty peasant soups have been neutralized, and became boring and tasteless.
In any case, I got to taste some kielbasa, and then some kashanka, Polish blood sausage.
My intuition tells me that the farther away you get from the big cities, the better the sausages you taste.
But such an expedition has to wait until my next visit to the land of Adam Mickiewicz.
And what better time to pay tribute to Mickiewicz and his praise of bigos, the traditional Polish meat and cabbage stew, which the nineteenth century national poet, philosopher, publicist and political writer even describes bigos in his epic poem, Pan Tadeusz (many thanks to foodcentric).
“In the pots warmed the bigos; mere words cannot tell
Of its wondrous taste, colour and marvellous smell.
One can hear the words buzz, and the rhymes ebb and flow,
But its content no city digestion can know.
To appreciate the Lithuanian folksong and folk food,
You need health, live on land, and be back from the wood.
Without these, still a dish of no mediocre worth
Is bigos, made from legumes, best grown in the earth;
Pickled cabbage comes foremost, and properly chopped,
Which itself, is the saying, will in ones mouth hop;
In the boiler enclosed, with its moist bosom shields
Choicest morsels of meat raised on greenest of fields;
Then it simmers, till fire has extracted each drop
Of live juice, and the liquid boils over the top,
And the heady aroma wafts gently afar.”