Łódź – the Promised Land
Łódź is situated in central Poland and within easy reach from the UK thanks to direct flights provided by low cost carriers. A fascinating city with a rich heritage due to the success of its former textile industry blended with Jewish, German, Russian and Polish inhabitants.
In the 1820’s the city was designated as a centre for manufacturing textiles. Experts from around the world were invited to establish all aspects of the industry including spinning, weaving and dying of fabrics. Karol Scheibler, Izrael Poznański and Ludwik Grohman were amongst the businessmen that came to establish factories and from modest beginnings made their fortunes in Łódź – wealth and influence that is still present today with its numerous palaces and vast factory complexes.
In 1939 around a third of Łódź inhabitants were Jewish. Despite the atrocities of WWII the influence of Jewish wealth and contribution to society is still very much in evidence through palaces, hospitals, schools, banks and villas built or funded by Jewish wealth.
Łódź is also home to Poland’s most celebrated Film School – Państwowa Wyższa Szkoła Filmowa, Telewizyjna i Teatralna im. Leona Schillera founded in 1958. An elite establishment taking the best students form around the world and developing them in all aspects of cinematography. Several students becoming internationally acclaimed directors including Roman Polański.
Close to the Film School, there is Scheibler’s Palace – home to the museum of cinematography with an interesting collection of artefacts and exhibitions from the world of film including Pola Negri, one of the Polish actresses who made a successful career in Hollywood. The palace itself has beautiful wooden furniture and fine examples of marquetry in a grand and lavish style, leaving no doubt of the wealth of its previous owner.
Poznański’s Palace is even grander and heavily influenced by classic French design. Magnificent rooms, including a private theatre await visitors. The exquisite dining room with its lavish décor is still used for functions. When you visit, look for the Poznański’s family monogram which is evident throughout the whole palace.
Housing the city museum with rooms dedicated to some of the internationally acclaimed members of its community including Julian Tuwim, Aleksander Tansmann and composer Artur Rubinstein who gained Oscar for starring himself in a movie ‘Amour de la vie’. Each room provides a fascinating glimpse into Łódź history.
Adjacent to Poznański’s palace there is an enormous site that started life in 1872 as a modest weaving mill and then grew into a factory site covering more than 27 hectares. The site now contains a wonderful plaza, retail centre, climbing wall, skating park, bowling alley and cinema together with a 300 metre long fountain which dances to the rhythm of music.
Walking along the front of the former five storey spinning mill which is currently in the process of being converted into a luxury hotel and through the magnificent wrought iron factory gates it is impossible not to be impressed with the size and quality of the development called Manufaktura.
One more footprint of Poznański’s influence on the city history is his mausoleum in the Jewish cemetery. The mausoleum is the largest in the world with a 2 million piece Venetian mosaic covering the inside of its dome and a fitting tribute to the man who gave so much to the city. The cemetery itself is the largest Jewish cemetery in Europe with over 230,000 graves in an area of 40 hectares.
Walking along the 4-kilometre Piotrkowska Street running from north to south through the city is like walking along a timeline of Łódź. At the southern end of the street, there is former White Factory of Geyer – now a Central Museum of the textile industry. The museum houses not just machinery, but also exhibitions of fabrics presented by contemporary artists from around the world.
Piotrkowska Street is very wide and straight and has some extremely beautiful buildings, many of them are now shops, restaurants and pubs. The richness of stunning facades provides an insight to the grandeur of past times.
Street statues of famous Łódź inhabitants provide an entertaining and interesting interlude between shopping. Intriguing courtyards like the one housing a canon and office of the Honorary British Consulate. At present the city is very keen on hosting more cultural events and has submitted a bid to become the European Capital of Culture in 2016. More information you can find on www.lodz2016.pl .
There are plenty of places for a wide range of food and drink. Natural ingredients and ancient recipes are the hallmark of some very interesting products in the Benedictine Monks shop. Highly recommended is the delicate and sweet tasting rose petal jam washed down with a glass of apple juice infused with honey and herbs.
Summing up, Łódź is an exciting and vibrant city with a rich heritage that is definitely worth a visit.
Recommended places to visit
Geyer’s White Factory, Piotrkowska Street
Cinematography Museum at Scheibler’s Palace
City Museum, Poznański’s Palace, Ogrodowa Street
Manufaktura, Retail and Leisure centre, Ogrodowa Street
Buildings and Street statues on Piotrkowska Street
Grohmann’s Barrels at the entranced to the former mill at Targowa Street
Hotel Focus at Łąkowa Street – modern hotel located in previous factory warehouse
It is a Jewish restaurant with in Manufaktura Centre
97 Piotrkowska Street
This Pub and Restaurant with tables overlooking Piotrkowska Street and the most scrumptious deserts – hot plums with vanilla ice creams. Try this and you will never want anything else for your pudding.
Greenway at Piotrkowska Street
It is a buffet for vegetarians with organic food meals serving the best in the world carrot cake.
Recommended cafés and pubs
Please enter from 89 Piotrkowska Street into the courtyard. It is acclaimed as one of the most traditional café in Poland with delicious pastry.
Łódź Kaliska at 102 Ptorkowska Street
This pub is the home of the artistic association.
E. Wedel in Manufaktura Centre
Café serves the most delicious and thickest hot chocolate and offering lots of sweet goodies to take away.
In September 2008 three of the great-grand children of Poznański visited the city for the first time and presented a great grandmother’s dress to the city museum. All the ladies live currently in England. They were amazed at the interest in their visit and the impact their family ancestors had on the city of Łódź.
Hearing about the visit from the guide and how the genealogy professionals had managed to fill in some important gaps in the family tree, imagine our surprise when the ladies entered Jewish restaurant Anatewka. We dined together surrounded by traditional Jewish memorabilia and artefacts accompanied by music from a fiddler.
The ladies spoke about the generosity of the city towards them and were intrigued by the tasty Poznański Mushroom Soup served in a bread casket. It was truly fascinating to meet descendants of the great industrialist. It was an amazing visit to Łódź.
Martin Westall, Joanna Gulbińska