Blog WHS Visits
WHS #702: Zamość
Zamość, located in the Far East of Poland near the border with Ukraine, was one of the two WHS goals of my recent Pentecost trip. This year especially I am trying very hard to cover isolated sites like these in my quest to visit all European WHS. In January 2017 I calculated that I had 98 to do - now, in June 2019, I have only 24 to go (after excluding Turkey, Russia and Israel which are a bit too far and complex for weekend trips). I might be confronted however with an additional 4 to 9 after the 2019 WHC meeting that takes place early July.
I arrived in Zamość on Saturday around dinner time after a long day of driving and had looked forward to eating a meal at the famous Rynek square. But, lo and behold, a full stage had been set up there and a classical concert was about to start. Everyone who had managed to secure a spot at one of the terraces obviously stayed put to listen in.
Some time ago in our Whatsapp group we discussed what spoils a WHS visit (or a photo thereof): a parked car in front of the object, a person wearing too bright coloured clothing. But a full-size concert stage obscuring parts of the famous colourful ‘Armenian’ houses certainly was a low point for me.
The next morning I started my town visit with a full loop outside of the fortifications. These are mostly reconstructions from a later date than the early 17th century origins. A footpath has been created along most of them and it was a pleasant walk. There are information panels along the way to read as well. Some mentioned the similarities with Naarden-Vesting (part of the TWHS Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie). But it reminded me of Visby as well.
It took me only 45 minutes to complete the full circle. This demonstrates how small the historical center of Zamosc actually is. When you have seen the Rynek, the central square, you’ve seen most of it. The Town Hall with its 52m high tower is the major point of attraction, plus the row of 5 colourful houses next to it with façade reliefs. In the surrounding streets you’ll find the restored synagogue and a number of churches. The latter were fully in use as it was Sunday morning when I visited: at some of them people even had to stay outside to follow the sermons as the church was full. This is a common sight in Poland, something I had noticed before on a tour along the Wooden Tserkvas (they either build churches that are too small or the population grows more than the number of churches).
I had to think hard about my final ‘verdict’ on Zamość. It surely is special to find such a well-designed urban center in what is now a remote corner of Poland. And the restorations have been done very well. But it is a bit museumish and I couldn’t stop thinking about vibrant L’viv, just 130km away on the other side of the border. Part of the same trade route, but with a more obvious cultural mix of Armenian, Jewish, Hungarian and German heritage.
Els - 16 June 2019