Dreamily intriguing, Nowy Tomyśl exudes a modestly quiet charisma

As sleepy as it might appear, there’s no shortage of weird little frills to jolt you awake such as this 20-metre-long wicker basket made from 12 tons of wicker and 11 tons of steel tubing. Kalbar/TFN

It’s been two weeks since I last checked in with you lot, and in that time I’ve been reminded that travelling around Poland is nothing if not a bumpy learning experience full of unexpected twists and cautionary tales.

But I’m proud to announce that I’ve recently unearthed an absolute gem: Nowy Tomyśl.

Set sixty kilometres west of Poznań, by all accounts this is one of the younger towns in the Wielkopolska region.

Occupying a plum place on the Rynek, the swan-coloured Town Hall strikes an elegant pose, its gentle sense of beauty disrupted only by the knowledge of what happened within: on the walls, a plaque solemnly informs about the Poles that were once imprisoned here during the town’s Nazi episode.Kalbar/TFN

First settled in the 18th century by the Olenders, a Dutch group with largely Mennonite associations, their numbers were later bumped up by an influx of Protestant German farmers.  

It was this migration that motivated local landowner and nobleman Feliks Szołdrski to build an Evangelical church, with his plan ultimately foreseeing the development of a small town that could act as a trade and crafts hub for all the immigrants that had relocated to these rural pastures.

His idea caught on, and on April 8th, 1786, King Stanisław August approved the project and issued a privilege that saw the birth of Nowy Tomyśl.  

A town of just under 15,000 people, modern day Nowy Tomyśl impresses by its smart aesthetics and low-lying, neat rows of houses.Kalbar/TFN

But how’s this for childhood trauma: aged just seven, the town found itself absorbed into Germany under the partitions, and thereafter its identity crisis was deepened by a fleeting stint as part of the Napoleonic Duchy of Warsaw followed by more than a century as a bulwark of Prussia.

Regaining its Polish character in 1919, the hope offered by this period lasted just two decades. Subjected to an aggressive policy of Germanization in 1939, much of its population was subsequently expelled or deported to work as slave labour. Only on January 27th, 1945, did the Polish flag again flutter from the rooftops.

Witnessing much of this drama was a Town Hall built in 1879. Occupying a plum place on the Rynek, this swan-coloured building strikes an elegant pose, its gentle sense of beauty disrupted only by the knowledge of what happened within: on the walls, a plaque solemnly informs about the Poles that were once imprisoned here during the town’s Nazi episode.

Exuding a modestly quiet charisma, you walk pristine lawns and un-littered back streets to pass architectural nuggets such as a villa once owned by shipping magnate Carl Gustav Goldmann.Kalbar/TFN

A town of just under 15,000 people, modern day Nowy Tomyśl impresses by its smart aesthetics and low-lying, neat rows of houses. If the place suffered previously, you wouldn’t really know beyond its smattering of monuments of various historical figures.

Exuding a modestly quiet charisma, you walk pristine lawns and un-littered back streets to pass architectural nuggets such as a villa once owned by shipping magnate Carl Gustav Goldmann; a former synagogue that, during the war, housed a local branch of the National Socialist Motor Corps; and a rich spread of religious and industrial structures that pertain to the town’s glory years.

Though many of these landmarks have since veered from their original intended use, it is a credit to the town and its people that many have retained their exterior glory.

Winding across town, visitors can traipse past an assembly of wicker oddities.Kalbar/TFN

Tranquil in its air, the sedate pace of Nowy Tomyśl flatters to deceive. As sleepy as it might appear, there’s no shortage of weird little frills to jolt you awake: startling modern installations appear at random, but these pale compared to the town’s “trail of wicker”.

When they first arrived, the Olender people quickly set about doing what they did best – working with willow.

Specializing in making wicker (and producing hops), the impact they made cannot be underestimated.

Kalbar/TFN

A mini zoo whose assembly of grunting animals is complimented by wicker beasts that are far safer to fondle.Kalbar/TFN

To this day, this ancient craft has survived and thrived and any doubts are dispelled back on the Rynek. It’s here that one can view one of Wielkopolska’s finest alternative sights, a creation that’s recognized as being “The Largest

Wicker Basket in the World”.

The idea of locally-based visual artist Maria Gawron, the first basket was erected in 2000 and proved such a quirky curiosity that six-years later the natives decided to up-size and break a Guinness World Record.

The Wigloo is an immense spherical wicker igloo built in 2008 to mark the inaugural edition of the World Festival of Basketry and Wicker in 2008.Kalbar/TFN

To do so, fifty weavers were recruited from the local workshops and over the space of two-days they constructed a bizarre 20-metre long mega basket made from 12 tons of wicker and 11 tons of steel tubing.

Their work was not in vain. Completing their task at 8 p.m. on the 30th August, 2006, officials from Guinness affirmed that a new record had been set. This, however, is but the tip of the iceberg.

Winding across town, visitors can traipse past an assembly of wicker oddities that reaches its zenith at Park Szołdrskiego.

Kalbar/TFN

The Museum of Wicker & Hops founded in 1985. In a pleasant half-doze, you amble sluggishly by an array of baskets and displays of yellowing dog-eared books penned by enigmatic figures with names like Charles Crampton.Kalbar/TFN

Entered past a wacky metallic sculpture of a cartoonish lamplighter, the park unfolds to present a trove of oddities along its curving, leafy pathways.

Walking under the so-called Wigloo, an immense spherical wicker igloo built in 2008 to mark the inaugural edition of the World Festival of Basketry and Wicker in 2008, just steps beyond sits a mini zoo whose assembly of grunting animals is complimented by wicker beasts that are far safer to fondle.

But all this is just a precursor to the main attraction, a Museum of Wicker & Hops founded in 1985.

Outside you truly appreciate the versatility of wicker: melded and twisted to form cars and human figures, it’s an astonishing display that leaves a smile on your face.Kalbar/TFN

Set inside two buildings, one of them modelled on a typical Olender barn, the interiors are the cultural equivalent of boshing back Xanax; in a pleasant half-doze, you amble sluggishly by an array of baskets and displays of yellowing dog-eared books penned by enigmatic figures with names like Charles Crampton.

Infinitely more rewarding, spend more time outside for its here that you truly appreciate the versatility of wicker: melded and twisted to form cars and human figures, it’s an astonishing display that leaves a smile on your face.

And that, I think, is why you visit Nowy Tomyśl.

Still and silent as it might be, it’s a town that reveals itself to be dreamily intriguing.