Lodz of Woodsch – Poland’s unique spelling
Poland is launching several new tourist areas there and I went to visit one of them.
When I told our Polish neighbours that I was going to Lodz, they said, ‘Oh, Woodsch.’ ‘No,’ I replied, ‘I’m going to Lodz.’ ‘Yes, Woodsch,’ they repeated. And they were right. Lodz is pronounced Woodsch!
So I knew that I was going to have trouble with the language. What looks at first like a simple word is covered in strange dashes pointing in every direction. I gave up trying to understand it on the first day. Luckily we had Piotr (Peter) as our guide! The word Lodz means boat and the city once had 18 underground rivers but they’re just a trickle now. Although it was granted City Rights in 1423, Lodz was only a small town and nothing happened there for nearly 400 years. Then, at the beginning of the 19th Century, Lodz was found to be a perfect site for the textile industry. It had all the rivers and was surrounded by thick forests, suitable for fuel for the huge furnaces. People were encouraged to move there to work. They were given land to build a house, and they didn’t have to pay any tax for six years. Over 400,000 people moved there in eight years.
The mill owners were mainly Germans and Jews. They earned vast fortunes in a short time, building huge palaces to display their wealth, usually next to the mills, which still survive today. The area around each of the biggest mills were cities within the city complete with houses, schools, hospitals, shops, churches, bars, etc. The people lived, worked and socialised there.
Within a short time, the town was a health risk. Smoke belched from the furnace chimneys and sewage ran through the streets, which were often named after the colour of the dye that ran along them, or the work that went on there, like Thread Street. Finally, William Herleein Lindley designed a sewage system, which is open to the public. You can see photos of the work in progress and groups of workers.
If I told you that some of the Lodz industrial buildings, old mills, chimneys, etc are now stunningly beautiful, you probably wouldn’t believe me. But a lot of them have been meticulously cleaned up, brick by brick, and they’re a bright reddish-golden-brown colour. When the sun shines on them, they glow! Quite a lot of the mills and tenement blocks are still neglected and show how black and filthy all the structures used to be. They’re an amazing contrast to the newly-restored ones.
We stayed in the Loftaparts, which are now desirable apartments, mainly residential, but some of them have been kept as hotel rooms. The foyer, preserved almost in its original state, is a popular place for wedding photos. I loved the highly professional street art on the side of buildings, all done with permission, painted by members of the Urban Group.
The Manufactura area, built up by Izrael Kalmanowicz Poznanski in 1862, has been completely modernised, although the main cotton mill has been transformed into the Andels Hotel. Ozzy Osbourne was there a few weeks ago, when he performed in the Atlas Arena. The hotel has a glass swimming-pool, which balances over the edge of the rooftop. It used to be an old water tank. Inside, the décor is totally original, ultra-modern with old machinery from the mill placed around as unique ornaments. There are shops, museums, volleyball pitches, restaurants, and much more outside in the grounds.
EC1, the oldest power station in Lodz, has been completely transformed and cleaned up, and will be used for many different things, including a planetarium, conferences, a library, restaurants, and much more.
The whole centre of Lodz is undergoing a huge revamp. The old railway, which used to transport the cotton to the mills, is being completely re-designed. At a cost of around 1.7 billion PLN it’s going 16.5 metres underground. And there will be plenty of opportunities for shops and businesses to open on top of it.
Lodz is built in a neat grid system. The backbone of it is Piotrkowska Street, which, at 4.9kms long, is one of the longest commercial streets in Europe. There are over 100 pubs and restaurants, open all night, and the atmosphere is great fun –the prices are cheap too! The street is pedestrianised, except for taxis and deliveries. Apart from the bars, there’s a large selection of shops, plus some interesting statues and monuments. The huge, historic houses that line each side of the street are ornate and, mostly, in their original state. In the pavement, on both sides of the street is the Avenue of Stars, like the Hollywood walk, with the names of the most famous people from Polish cinema.
I loved Lodz. It’s a really unusual city. And I could have spent a small fortune on shoes there as they’re so cheap! It’s an art-lover’s paradise, there’s lots to do, and the people are really friendly and helpful. We did loads of sight-seeing but I’d have liked another day or two for shopping and to sit and watch the world go by.
I highly re commend Lodz for a City Break. It’s completely different to anywhere else!
Loft Aparts: http://www.loftaparts.pl/
Piotrowska 97 Restaurant
Factory Museum http://www.muzeumfabryki.pl
Official Lodz website: http://www.lodzkie.travel/