Mexico City the sweetness of chocolate, dynamics of dance and magnificence of culture

Mexico City dance performance

The highlight of our stay in Mexico City was a dance performance we saw one evening. It took us on a journey through dance history of Mexico. Let me share some of it with you.

The Jarabe Tapatío The Mexican Hat DanceThe Jarabe Tapatio – The Mexican Hat Dance was named the national dance of Mexico in 1924 in an effort to bring together several different cultures together as one national identity. Since it became the national dance it has also become a symbol of Mexico around the world. The dance tells the story of love and courtship. It can be performed either by a couple or a group of couples. A charro, dressed in the traditional charro suit, a three-piece suit composed of a vest, jacket, and pants bearing silver buttons down the seam, makes initial courtship gestures to la china (wearing the traditional China Poblana outfit). It looks almost like a mariachi band’s attire. They flirt throughout the beginning of the dance, during which time the man attempts to woo the woman with his zapateado (stamping and tapping) and his machismo. Just as he has impressed the woman, he becomes drunk with glory, and is shooed away as a borracho (an inebriate), but ultimately, he succeeds in conquering the china, throwing his hat to the ground and kicking his leg over his partner’s head as sheThe Mexican Hat Dance bends down to pick it up. The two do a triumphant march to a military tune called a diana, and the dance ends with a romantic turn or the couple hiding their faces behind the man’s sombrero in a feigned kiss. I only have pictures of Dance of the Rope which developed in Jalisco which roots it with The Mexican Hat Dance.

La Danza del VenadoLa Danza del Venado, known as the Deer Dance, is a ritualistic dance illustrating a deer hunt, with dancers playing the roles of the hunters and the dying deer itself. This evening this was a one man show and I can’t say you often see such a craft. It was amazing, the movements mastered to perfection, a tribute to dance and human body. The performers (pascolas) wear wooden masks and bells. The performer playing the deer wears minimal costuming except for a headdress, usually of a deer.La Danza del Venado The Deer dance He also carries rattles in his hands, and tied around his legs are tenabaris, dried butterfly cocoons, which also ratter as he dances. It is still performed almost identically to the way it was originally choreographed. While the Mexican Hat Dance has changed with the times, this dance has remained true not only to its theme, but also to its steps and rhythm.

La Marcha de Zacatecas (called Mexico’s Second national Anthem) is a result of a bet between Villapando and Genaro Codina, Mexican dancewhich consisted of writing a military march. Both compositions were submitted to a jury composed of friends and relatives, who gave the victory to the song of Genaro Codina. The original title was “Marcha Aréchiga”, to be dedicated to the governor Arechiga, but he suggested that the name was changed to March of Zacatecas. After the revolution the “Zacatecas March” has become a forced identifier of any civic or commemorative heroic event. It is used in remote villages and large cities to announce the beginning of every activity from a civic assembly to the curtain raiser of a circus function, a starter for a movie theatre show or a school event; and it is recognized by every single Mexican national, as the second national anthem.

Spanish dance dressIn some of the dances we could clearly see Spanish influences. This was because of style of the dance but more evidently because of the costumes. The Spanish costume shows the white guayabera pants and shirts and red waist sash and straw hat. The women wear imported white lace dresses; their hair up in buns in a comb and shawls, or rebozos, accompanied by fans. The style of dance: bambas, and huapangos, which are greatly influenced by flamenco steps. The music is mostly acoustical, violin and harp, which were influencedspanish dance during the conquest and also penetrated by elements of the Arab, African, German, Dutch, and other European cultures.

In 1910, the Mexican working class began their long battle for land reform against accordions, guitars, electric bass, and drums. “La Cucaracha” talks about revolutionary leaders Francisco (Pancho) Villa and Emiliano Zapata. In Revolución: Tierra y Libertad“La Adelita,” the most famous corrido, is about a woman who followed her lover into battle. “La Adelita” is now known as the archetype of the woman warrior, the soldadera who cooked and cared for the wounded and fought alongside her brother, son, or husband. Her story allowed for the perception of the Mexican woman to change, and today the name “La Adelita” refers to any strong and fearless women. In Revolución: Tierra y LibertadThe dancers wear the traditional ranchera style clothing from the era. Men wear striped pants, white shirt, zarape (blanket-like shawl), bullets, straw hat, and black boots. The women have added bullets and rifles to their colorful daily wear to represent their struggle for justice.

Changing the subject. I’m a chocaholic. I love dark chocolate in all types and forms. I don’t like milk chocolate that much anymore, but anything from cakes to House of chocolate cakedrinking chocolate is always welcome and mostly this is how I sin. Eating too much of this mouth watering delicacy. In Mexico I got a piece of cake that was so rich that I couldn’t eat it. I’ll put it to having a rough day, but I was shocked. No less were shocked those with me. Anyway I have only one picture of the place where they serve it. have a look on the left. I did a small investigation and the restaurant is located in Cerrada 5 de Mayo. I think anyway. It felt a bit like in an old bath house because of the walls being covered with tiles all over. if by any chance you know this place please let me know.

National Museum of Anthropology Mexico CityThere is so much that can be said about the National Museum of Anthropology (Museo Nacional de Antropologia) that one doesn’t even know where to start. I highly recommend visiting. The museum is located on Avenida Paseo de la Reforma and Calzada Gandhi, Colonia Chapultepec Polanco. It is just outside the gates of Chapultepec Park. by the way the park is really nice as well. Here are some highlights for me:Carved conch National Museum of Anthropology Mexico City

  • Carved conch
  • Man smoking a cigarette, you can see how peaceful he is and how much he enjoys it even though it’s not very detailed figure
  • Maya Display in the open air garden of the Museum including statue of Death
  • Grolier codex which is a folding-screen book painted on bark paper which has been coated with stucco
  • A skull with preserved teeth with little stones in them (Filling? no the people had semiprecious gems soldered on to their teeth as a pure form of decoration. The ornamental gemstones (including jade) were attached with an adhesive made out of natural resins, such as plant sap, which was mixed with other chemicals and crushed bones. SkullThe dentists likely had a sophisticated knowledge of tooth anatomy. The other doctors did brain surgery drilling the skull)
  • Jade mask of the Zapotec Bat God in Oaxaca exhibit room

In front of the Museum we were witness to The Danza de los Voladores (Dance of the Flyers), or Palo Volador (Pole Flying), which is an ancient Mesoamericanceremony/ritual. The ritual consists of dance and the climbing of a 30 meter pole from which four of the five participants then launch themselves tied with ropes to descend to the ground. The fifth remains on top of the pole, dancing and playing a flute and drum. According to one myth, the ritual was created to ask the gods to end a severe drought.

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Two weeks in Mexico from ancient ruins to paradise beach

map of mexico trip

Our two week tour of Mexico was full of sun and attractions. We started from Mexico City, busy metropolis, and then through ancient ruins we arrived on a sunny beach for surfers in Puerto Escondido. We mainly travelled by bus and then from Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido by minibus which is a road not to be forgotten. If you like adrenaline and roller coasters you might love it. Just kidding! No one could love this ride as it’s 7 hours journey while every second your vestibular system is put to hard work and when you can’t establish even one still point to concentrate on. Anyway, more about it later.

I pre-booked first two nights in hostel in Mexico City. Hostel Mexioc CityIt was a flat in an apartment house in a walking distance to Zocalo. Very nice staff and bright, cozy living area. Then small kitchen, curious showers and a hole in the ceiling in our room. We spent there little time and mainly drinking tequila.

Tenochtitlan - Mexico CityMexico City is located in a valley what adds to its picturesqueness. More and more houses are being built on the slopes of the valley as the city expands. The city was originally built on an island of lake Texcoco by the Aztecs as Tenochtitlan, which was almost completely destroyed in the 1521 and rebuilt in accordance with the Spanish standards. According to the legend the god indicated the site where Aztecs were to build their home with a sign – an eagle perched on a cactus with a snake in its beak. Scholars estimate that between 200,000 and 250,000 people lived in Tenochtitlan in 1500, more than four times the population of London at that time. During and after the Spanish conquest Cortés rased the city and rebuilt it to bury the memory of Aztec empire. Spanish built Catholic churches over the old Aztec temples and claimed the imperial palaces for themselves. So now almost every monument you visit had a double history. The city developed and now you can’t see any traces of the lake anymore.Mexico underground

Now some of the things I found interesting not to repeat all the information you can easily find elsewhere. The underground is very useful but I found the wheels of the train quite astonishing have a look on the right.

The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary of Mexico City

Next to Zocalo The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary of Mexico City is located. It is the largest cathedral in Americas. I found there a couple of curious things. First a board with a lot of small golden praying figures attached to it. Another – large XVIII century organs with some pipes sticking out at a 90 degree angle. As I found out it’s called En Chamade. It’s a term describing pipes placed horizontally instead of vertically, and often projecting from the front of the organ case. This method is generally used for powerful reeds,Organs in The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary of Mexico City like Trompette en Chamade, whose tone becomes more intense and penetrating through such placement. (Chamade: a military signal intended to be heard in the enemy camp).

Pendulum – for years the cathedral has been sinking into the soft soil of what was once a lake. Extensive underground engineering efforts have largely stabilized the building. Pendulum Mexico City The CathedralThe pendulum suspended from the ceiling tracks the tilt, marking a record on the floor.

A bronze statue of Pope John Paul II with keys melted at its sides. This is because hundreds of Mexicans contributed to the material for making the statue by donating keys. It was unveiled by the Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera on All Saints Day in 2006. John Paul II bronze statue Mexico CityIt is said that our Pope loved Mexico.

The Torre Latino Americana naturally. It has 45 stories (183m). There is a legend that on the day of the 1957 earthquake, Dr. Leonardo Zeevaert was inspecting something or other on the roof of the tower, and that he got to see and feel how his tower withstood the quake while the surrounding buildings collapsed. The truth is that during the September, 1985 earthquake, Latinoamericana tower Mexico Citywhich took place at 7:19, Adolfo Zeevaert was already inside his office on the 25th floor. From that vantage point he was able to witness the destruction taking place while several buildings collapsed and the dust cloud that followed, all the while feeling the movement inside the tower. It could arguably be said that it was the first time that a builder and designer of a tall building witnessed first hand its behaviour during a massive earthquake.

I guess this is enough for one post, there is more about Mexico City I would like to write about and so instead one there will be two posts.

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Saragossa – not what I expected after reading the famous book “The Saragossa Manuscript “

Aljafería Palace Qasr Aljafariya

Don Pedro Velasquez: We are like blind men lost in the streets of a big city. The streets lead to a goal, but we often return to the same places to get to where we want to be. I can see a few little streets here which, as it is now, are going nowhere. New combinations have to be arranged, then the whole will be clear, because one man cannot invent something that another cannot solve.

Zaragoza is the capital of Aragon, Spain. I mention it cos the name brings to mind Aragorn from Lord of the Rings. The most famous sights are Basilica del Pilar, La Seo Cathedral and the Aljaferia Palace (above). Together with La Seo and the Aljaferia, several other buildings form part of the Muddejar Architecture of Aragon which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.Streets of Saragossa

We landed in Saragossa late evening and got to the city centre by bus. Then walking through wet and empty streets we admired the architecture and urban atmosphere of the city. When we got to our cheap hotel what welcomed us was crystal chandelier, bronzes and magnificent mosaics on wall tiles. I can recommend it as a very nice place to stay with a good breakfast. If I can remember correctly it was called Hotel Paris Centro at San Pablo, 19, 50003 Saragossa. We got a one bed apartment in the building just opposite to the entrance to the hotel. Clean and fresh. Inside the room we found tea and herbal tea and kitchen space with electric kettle. Very useful after a flight. The only thing we couldn’t find was an open shop selling cheap but nice red wine. We got to a restaurant that was supposed to be closed but the owner treated us to some tapas.

Saragossa morning coffeeNext morning was all about picking up the car and leaving for Belchite, which I already described previously. We did some sightseeing later on, on our way back from Sant Carles de la Rapita. We failed to book accommodation in advance not knowing it was a holiday and everything will be booked. We ended up going from one cheap looking place to another finally installing ourselves in something that looked like an old socialist apartment block. On one floor some of the apartments were joined together creating a hotel. Interesting experience especially when a pipe outside in the street burst and we had no water to take a shower.Basilica del Pilar

The Aljafería PalaceAnyway, the city is beautiful. It has a lot of greenery and the Basilica, Palace and old town are amazing. What impressed me the most was Qasr Aljafariya – fortified medieval Islamic palace built during the second half of the XI century. It was constructed during the reign of the independent Hudid ruler of Saragossa, Ahmad I b. Sulayman , Sayf al-Dawla ‘Imad al-Dawla al-Muqtadir. Through the centuries it changed into a complex group of structures that have been built around one another from the Islamic age until modern times, including Christian modifications during the Middle Ages. The palace currently contains the Cortes (regional parliament). It resembles what one can expect to see in tales from the Arabian Nights. It’s possible to have a virtual tour of the Palace, but as you probably know it’s never the same. I’m so looking forward now to visiting Istambul.Aljafería arches

The most beautiful part of the Palace form diminutive, highly decorated spaces which have been interpreted as settings intended to evoke paradise for majalis – gatherings of the ruler and a highly exclusive group of companions – at which wine drinking and poetic recitation took place. The interlacing arches and carved stucco ornament of the Aljaferiya achieve a level of complexity and fantasy that possibly can beMagnificent details compared to those of Taj Mahal. But I can’t be sure as I haven’t seen it with my own eyes.

The Aljafería Palace was built using traditional models in Islamic palatine architecture: a large open central courtyard leading to all of the living rooms with two pools on the north and south sides. The ceremonial and private rooms, also located on the north and south ends of the building, are preceded by porticoes made up of mixtilinear and poly-lobed arcades that stretch the length of the central courtyard to serve as visual screens.inner courtyard
The best-conserved part of the complex is the north wing. In this area, on the east side of the portico and next to what is believed to have been the great audience chamber of al-Muqtadir, known as the ‘Golden Room’ or ‘Marble Room’, there remains a small octagonal mosque, whose location, intimate character and small size suggest that it was designed as a private oratory for the king and his family.

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Hoi An – pearl of Vietnam and UNESCO World Heritage Site

Vietnam hoi An Asia travel

Hoi An Japanese bridge

Exhausted, sick and sore we got to Hoi An. Bent under the weight of our backpacks we did not intend to look for a place to stay for long. I think we went into maybe three hotels. Streets of Hoi AnWe chose the least expensive, but still comfortable with a swimming pool and got straight into bed, ok shower (warm shower) was first. And let me tell you not everywhere we had warm water. And then the air conditioning was shut down because of some external works in the street. Hoi An I suppose for people used to living in hot climate the change between coolness of an apartment building and very hot outside is something usual but I felt uncomfortable every time it happened and straight away I got running nose. Being sick in hot climate, without air conditioning, feels really bad. Anyway, we stayed there for two nights and in that time we both got better. We used the swimming pool in the hotel with freezing water what felt good. It all goes into oblivion when you consider the beauty of Hoi An.

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Nha Trang – quick glimpse – appearances, snorkelling, rum & coke

Asia Vietnam Nha Trang

Nha Trang from the sea

From Ho Chi Minh City we took a night bus to Nha Trang. It seemed like a good way to save on accommodation cost and time and I do recommend it. The bus was cosy and I woke up in the early morning in Nha Trang.night bus vietnam

We had a company of two puppies in the bus. They didn’t make a sound throughout the whole journey and looked soooo cute, imagine this in Europe!

puppy VietnamAnyway when we got to Nha Trang we were hungry, mad and tired. We left the tauters behind and walked to one of the first hotels away from what we thought was main tourist area. There was marble on the floors and decorations that made us believe we can expect similar standard like we had in Ho Chi Minh. The price was $5 for a room without air-conditioning and $1 additionally to get it working. We had a look at the room and took it. Until today I don’t know what we were thinking. I can honestly say it was the worst room I have ever rented. It was dump. Everything including bedding was damp. We had a window that open on the corridor where the air-conditioning was throwing out the warm air from all rooms next to the corridor. It would even shut properly. The bathroom was a wet room with no ventilation everything in very socialistic style. I thought I has some pictures of it, but can’t find them.

sitting buddha nha trang

Anyway, after a short nap we decided to wander around and visit Lam Son Pagoda famous for the Giant Seated Buddha. It was established to pagoda nha tranghonour the monks and nuns who died demonstrating against Diem government. To see the statue you have to climb stairs which in the heat can be very demanding, but it’s so worth the effort. Besides the giant Buddha you can see beautiful panorama of Nha Trang and surrounding hills.Pagoda in Nha Trang

During the rest of the day we hired some sun beds under the straw umbrellas where constantly somebody was offering us something to buy. It was very annoying after a while, also quite boring to lie there and go to the water after a while. I don’t think we got our money worth from this. Later on we decided to book a snorkelling trip for the following day. shivaWe also bought some local rum and cans of coke (low on budget) and sat down on the beach to watch beautiful sunset and teenagers seating next to bonfire. Yes bone fire on the beach, so close to a dream that still remains unfulfilled.bonfire

The snorkelling trip was stunning for P. – it was his first time and he absolutely loved it. We spend more than half day on a boat and in the water observing reefs. When we came back we decided to spoil ourselves a bit and visited Nhà hàng bia tươi Louisiane. Looks stunning and the prices tell you it’s luxurious. We had to wait around for another night bus and started to feel really bad. I suppose it was the combination of rum, sunstroke, flu and fatigue.

snorkelling nha trang

I remember we lied down on the towels in the sun and covered ourselves with whatever we had on us from the snorkelling trip and felt really, Island near Nha Trangreally cold. The wind was terrible.  I covered my head with the straw hat I bought in Saigon and fell asleep. We welcomed the bus arrival with relief, at least until we got inside. It was much less comfortable and we got our seats under the air conditioning that could not be turned off. Well ok, P. got. He stayed there for something like 5mins and as he felt worse than I did we switched places. He took blankets from all the surrounding seats and wrapped himself so I could only see his blue mouth mask and sunglasses. It was a hard night. divingEvery bone and muscle could feel every single bump on the hip-hop highway and endless interruption in our sleep made me even more exhausted. It felt like endless centuries of waking up, trying to make myself comfortable and falling back to sleep. When we got to Hoi An I knew it was time to slow down and rest.

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Mekong Delta Adventure

Vietnam Saigon Mekong Delta

Mekong canals

In Ho Chi Minh City we bought a Mekong Delta one-day trip. We decided against Cu Chi Tunnels and skipped floating market (I do regret it a bit); they say that Vietnamese market is not as colorful as the one near Bangkok. Still I would like to have seen it. We really enjoyed Mekong tour. Leaving in the morning wasn’t that bad even though I remember being very tired. We got some sweet buns on our way to the bus. They were sweet and freshly baked, I remember I loved them.

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Rogalin – XVIII century baroque palace – where we enjoy picnics

I haven’t been writing for a while now and really feel bad about it. I still need to finish my Vietnam story especially that now comes the time to describe Mekong Delta trip. It’s just that I don’t really know how to write about it, but bear with me. It’s coming.

In a meanwhile let me share some pictures from a lovely place near where I live in Poland. We went there with my best friend recently in an attempt to sightsee some of Wielkopolska nicest palaces and castles. More should follow.

Some facts:

  • Rogalin is primarily famous for its 18th-century baroque palace of the Raczyński family which has been in recent years renovated
  • It was erected on a rectangular plan. The centre part of the front elevation, which dominates the entirety, is crowned with a triangular pediment bearing the Raczyński (Nałęcz) coat of arms and the garden elevation has a semi-circular protruding terrace

The building has two storeys from the front and three from the garden side owing to the slope of the terrain. The entrance to the sala terrena on the ground floor is shaped like a sea grotto. The entire body is dominated by a cupolaed garret, the central part of which is crowned with a sculpture bearing the initials “KR” (from the founder Kazimierz Raczyński)

Palace in Rogalin view of the backyard

  • It houses an art gallery with Polish and international paintings (including Paul Delaroche and Claude Monet and the famous Jan Matejko’s large-scale painting Joanna d’Arc)
  • There is a lovely French garden at the back of the palace which then extends into an English style landscape park with famous 1000-year-old oak trees called Lech, Czech and Rus (‘ll tell you two legends about those three heroes so notice the names)
  • It’s has a cafe in old carriage house and stables you can visit, but what I would recommend is to make a picnic on Warta riverbanks as we used to do when I was a child

The picture on the left shows the view of the palace from the French back garden. It’s not very green yet so it might loose some of it charm,Rogalin garden statuebut you can still appreciate the building.

The statues, located here and there in the garden, are of mythological creatures and gods. I remember as children we used to run inside the green labyrinths and pretend we take part in stories full of mystery and danger.

We’d always visit the oak trees and then head towards the river banks for a walk and picnics. I can’t remember swimming in the river besides this one time in high school when we visited summer cottage of one of my friends near Rogalin. We actually swam in a small pond for bathing cows next to the river, not in the river itself. In the summer you can see some boats with anglers forever waiting to catch a fish. Meadows surrounding the banks are full of wild life and here is a picture of dragonfly I took on one of my trips there. Dragonfly

Now, first of promised two legends about three brothers.

Three brothers Lech, Czech and Rus went hunting together but each of them followed a different prey and eventually they all travelled in different directions. Rus went to the east, Czech headed to the south to settle in the Bohemian hilly countryside, while Lech travelled north. There, while hunting, he followed his arrow and suddenly found himself face-to-face with a fierce, white eagle guarding its nest from intruders. Seeing the eagle against the red of the setting sun, Lech took this sight as a good omen and decided to settle there. He named his settlement Gniezno (similar to Polish gniazdo – ‘nest’) in commemoration and adopted the White Eagle as his coat-of-arms. The white eagle remains a symbol of Poland to this day, and the colour of the eagle and the colour of the setting sun are depicted in Poland’s flag.

Anglers

Another legend with the three brothers refers to how the city of Poznan (where I was born and live nowadays) was founded. Several long years have passed from the time since the three brothers, Lech, Czech and Rus, said goodbye to each other. When a cheerful, golden autumn came Lech gathered his team and set out on a great hunt. They headed west and soon entered the vast forest. Time and time again the team came across cluster of timid or buck deer. Sometimes, the earth rumbled from heavy jog of herd of bison or aurochs. Then the forest was filled with dog clatter, clatter of horses’ hoofs and horns playing fighter announcements of triumph. On the third day morning, in pursuit of a powerful tur, they came to the Cybina river, where a fishermen village laid. Suddenly from the midnight forest rang the sound of distant horns came.
“Who can it be!?” exclaimed Lech. Warriors looked around – everybody was there. The first horn was heard then the second and third.
“The enemy is probably some invaded our lands” said Lech “we have to go back to the edge of the forest and prepare to repel the attack!” Archers and Javelineers hid behind trees, and the warriors prepared bows and swords and formed the order of battle. Meanwhile, playing horns were closer and closer. Wind has already reported the tramp of horses’ hooves and the buzz of people. Finally leaning out of the wilderness a large team of warriors appeared. At its head drove the two leaders. They were going straight towards the village.

Dragonfly

Lech ordered his warriors horn the battle-cry and then rolled his hands in a tube and exclaimed: “Who are you and what are you looking for in a foreign land?”

“It’s no Man’s Land and what we seek is ours!” reply came. There was nothing to wait on. Lech shouted the order to archers, and he along with his team hit the enemy like a whirlwind. Already were they to cross the swords, when Lech suddenly threw weapon on the ground and cried joyfully “Czech! Russ! I recognize you (poznaje in Polish)! Welcome!”

Amazed warriors of both teams Put your sword and then began to welcome each other. The three brothers, Lech, Czech and Rus, fell into each other arms and embraced long and heartily. Lech decided to celebrate worthily the meeting with the brethren, ordered to light fire and roast the deer. As they ate and honey loosened tongues, Czech and Rus in turn began talking about several years of their wanderings among the Slavs beyond the Oder.

When the cup of honey made a circle around the campfire Lech said: “This day will remain forever in our memory as the day we met after many years of separation. In memory of this meeting I will build on the site new settlement
fort and name it Poznan.

And so it happened. In the spring of next year Lech built on the right bank of the Warta fortified city Poznan. In the borough artisans and merchants started to build their houses. This created a city of Poznan, which with time expanded to the left bank of the Warta.

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