“In my hour of darkness, there is still a light that shines on me” – Paul McCartney.
My “Magiczne Miasta” (Magic towns) series takes me all over Poland to cities, towns and villages to write first hand accounts of them. Pelplin is gorgeous and was one of my holy summer adventures here in Poland, I visited just before my time in Starogard Gdański and just after my visit to Tczew. It’s a gorgeous wee town, but it’s unforgettable.
I made the pleasant, lonely walk out of Pelplin this morning to climb to the Hill of Jan Pawel II on a Sunday morning as well as touring the sights of this tranquil place. This is a really spiritual and holy town. It was a nice place to find peace, to pray, to dream, to love and to admire the beauty of the fields and sky around me. Nobody else was here. I’m trying to be a better person every day, to myself and to others. I stayed in the only hotel in the village – the Hotel Nad Wierzycą, the Only Hotel in Pelplin. When touring Pelplin, here are my personal top things to check out.
Pelplin Abbey is predictably the main reason why people come here. It dates back to 1258 and was an Abbey. It is now a fully functioning cathedral church and I caught a poignant Sunday service here. Since 1824 the church, known as Pelpin Cathedral, has been the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pelplin.
2.Hill of Jan Pawel II/John Paul II
This was another leaf from my backpacker’s tree of dreams. I awoke on a sun shiney, brisk Sunday morning. Times had been up and down for me this year, so I turned to religion a lot during this time of my life.
I walked all the way from the village centre of Pelplin to the Hill of Jan Pawel II/John Paul II. Basically this strategic hill sits on the edge of the village and features a huge cross. The former Polish Pope, Jan Pawel II once did a speech here and so the walk here felt like a pilgrimage.
I had a few poignant moments to myself atop the hill and nobody else was there. I’m trying to be the best man I can and I really did wonder about my life a lot when I was here. There is a rumour that this hill was only formed because when they were making the church, they had dug up lots of soil and had to put it somewhere.
For such a small town, it was incredible how many significant and holy things there were to check out. Not just the famous hill where the Pope preached and the Pelplin Abbey, but one of the only 49 remaining original copies of Gutenberg’s Bible is here in Pelplin!
I’ve included this as a sight of its own – the Bible is inside the Diocesan Museum and is the only one in Poland. It is really worth the trip.
4.Diocesan Museum/Muzeum Diecezjalne
And of course in order to see the only original copy of Gutenberg’s Bible in Poland, you need to visit the Diocesan Museum. Because I am studying Polish in Gdansk, I got student rate which is 4 złotys for entry. There is a double entry ticket that also includes the Cathedral tour, however I was here on a Sunday so the Cathedral was free.
The museum features some fabulous art, particularly the paintings upstairs. There are also clothes from down the centuries and a history of Pelplin and the region, it’s all very holy.
5.Urząd Miasta i Gminy Pelplin
The Urząd Miasta i Gminy Pelplin is a strong mustard coloured building on the main street. It’s the town hall. I didn’t go in but I walked past and took a photo of it. I later added it on my blog as a top backpacking sight in Pelplin.
6.Pelplin Train Station
I arrived into Pelplin by train from Tczew and I later left the village by minibus. The train station is worthy of a mention because it is a typical textbook remote Polish town train station. I love it. This is the sort of thing that inspires me when I travel!
On the rip in a holy town? I found out that there is really only one pub in town so on a Saturday night in Pelplin, it seemed the obvious thing to do to visit Pub Klimat. It’s a small and cosy bar down by the train station. Beers from 6 złoty (£1.20) so you can’t go wrong.
There are other licensed venues in the village of course, but Pub Klimat is the place to be at night. I just went in for one beer, but one of the locals bought me one and they didn’t want me to leave! I had to get some sleep.
8.Pizzeria Grill Bar (Pelplin’s International Restaurant)
You go all the way to Poland and you have your dinner in a “pizzeria”? And yes, yes I did! I have had my fair fix of Polish soups, pierogi and bigos down the years and for some reason, the only place open in town on the Saturday night for food was this pizzeria on the main street so in I went. As an original name it is called “Pizzeria Grill Bar”, you have got to love Poland with a name like that. I had a textbook sok pomaranczowy y pizza for about £2. The venue is also licensed to sell alcohol.
9.Hotel Nad Wierzyca
Is a hotel a “sight”? Yes in this case you should at least check out the fancy Hotel Nad Wierzyca and if you are staying the night, there are not many other options. Camping in a field or Couchsurfing could be the only other ways to spend the night. As a 36 year old backpacker, I’ll take my bed thanks.
10.Collegium Marianum (Mary’s College)
The Collegium Marianum is a cathedral school for educating nuns. It has a sad recent history though – In 1939, the school was closed by the German Nazis, most of the professors were killed and the building was turned into a German police school. The good news is it was reopened as a school in the year 2000 and still functions.
11.Gardens and Bishop’s Palace
Just behind Pelplin Church are the Gardens and the Bishop’s Palace and Residence. You can’t really intervene too much or go inside, as its private but I had a good walk around and spoke to one of the Bishops.
Dandering through the main street in Pelplin and I spot a nice ice cream shop – Lody Bonano so I stop for a cheap and cheerful chocolate ice cream. Delicious and what I love about small towns are these local businesses cornering the niche with no international brands in sight.
On the main road through the town, a fancy yellow building stands out. Although this is now used as offices and flats, it was once the Pilgrim’s House.
14.Church of Corpus Christi
This church is on the other side of the road from the main Pelplin Abbey and attracts much less visitors, but I took time out to tour it. It has a graveyard and is also known as the Church of St. Joseph.
As well as being a travel writer, I also write poems. On my visit to Starogard Gdanski in Summer 2016, I penned a poem/song called “Starogard Girl (in a secret)”. If it ever gets released, I’ll do a pilgrimage from Starogardzka Street in Pelplin. The street is famous as there is an old post-cicercian sluice there.
16.KS Wierzyca Pelplin Stadium
Despite the fact that it’s a small town, I still managed to find and visit the football stadium. I was surprised at how big it was, considering the town houses less than 10,000 people.
The team here, KS Wierzyca play in the Polish fourth division and incredibly at the time of writing, they are top of the league, above big clubs like the one in Starogard Gdansk and in Gdansk.
17.Former Sugar Factory Grounds
This could be a sweet bit of backpacking for those who love abandoned buildings. The sugar factory here was quite big and obviously provided lots of jobs for the locals. The buildings remain but are largely boarded up.
The best coffee shop on the main street is simply called Cukiernia, which means bakery. The lady’s name was Iza, very friendly and welcoming and good coffee, cake and ice cream.
And in one night and one day I managed to see all those and a few other places. It’s a quiet and tranquil town and one which I needed to visit to talk to God and keep my story alive. I won’t forget the village of Pelplin. I left by mini bus to Tczew and I couldn’t even get a seat.
Here are some videos from my time touring Pelplin: