Szczecin, Poland

Photo: Żeglarz [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
Lately, you’re all about side trips. You wandered from New York City to Beacon. You escaped Lisbon in Sintra. You traded Venice for Pula and Rome for Ariccia. You even saw Uruguay—a whole other country—while you were supposed to be in Buenos Aires.

Now you’re thinking, or rather not thinking, about Berlin. It’s not that you don’t enjoy the German capital. Quite the opposite, actually. You’ve become so comfortable there that you even claim Prenzlauer Berg, the Williamsburg of Berlin, as your own neighborhood. And, now that you feel at home, you can start exploring the surrounding area.

Poland is part of the surrounding area. Pomerania, a region along the southern shore of the Baltic Sea, straddles the two countries. It’s a picturesque region full of thick woodlands, glacial lakes, and windswept beaches. It’s also where you’ll find Szczecin, a city that resembles Paris, another one of your European favorites, since it had the same designer.

Photo: Matejki 8

Szczecin is just two hours, by car or train, from Berlin. The capital of the West Pomerania Province lies south of both the Szczecin Lagoon and the Bay of Pomerania. Though the area was first settled by Vikings in the 8th century, the city truly began to develop when Ducal Castle was built by the Dukes of Pomerania in the 12th century. Sweden, Prussia, and Germany all ruled the important port in the years that followed. It only became part of Poland after World War II.

World War II completely changed the look of Szczecin. Before the war, medieval buildings sat above the Oder river. Then the Allies destroyed more than 65 percent of the city during air raids. Only a small number of Gothic and Renaissance buildings remained. They’re now part of Stare Miasto, the little Old Town, which sits above Wały Chrobrego, a waterfront promenade. This is where you find the castle, the National Museum, and Szczecin Cathedral, as well.

You quickly get lost in Szczecin’s history. It’d be hard not to. That’s when your day trip starts to feel too short. Luckily, there’s a luxury hotel with an elegant restaurant on the other side of Park Stefan Żeromski. Matejki 8 is in a restored Neo-Renaissance villa that a Szczecin architect built for his family in 1882. Art Deco decor now fills the interior. Suites have bold wallpaper and park views. Polish and French dishes, featuring garden-fresh herbs and vegetables, look like pieces of artwork in the restaurant. While snooker, a billiard game, is played in the clubby fireplace room. This side trip is a history buff’s dream.

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