Who knew Nicolaus Copernicus was a bit of a player? Well, that’s the rumor here in Gdansk at least. In fact, we stayed at the very house where some of his salacious behavior was supposed to have taken place…the Gotyk House, which is the oldest house in Gdansk, 1451, and now an award-winning B&B.Copernicus

Rumor has it that good old Nick was carrying on with a married woman named Anna Shilling, who lived in the Gotyk, which is adjacent to the church where Copernicus was putting the finishing touches on his astounding theory that the Earth revolved around the Sun, rather than the Sun revolving around the Earth, which everyone had believed for…well…forever.

Of course, I don’t want to spread rumors myself so I’m sticking with the facts: Copernicus changed the perception of the universe in his time and for all time to come. Way to go, Nick!

He upset the apple-cart of scientific thought in a dramatic way (maybe that’s why folks spread the sexy rumor?).

During this trip, I’ve stumbled on a lot of important Polish people who’ve made remarkably significant contributions to our world. Some I knew about, some were new to me. Here’s a very brief and very selective list of Poland’s stars in a variety of scientific, cultural, artistic, and political arenas.

  • Stanisław August Poniatowski: Last King of Poland who instituted the first Democratic Constitution in Europe in 1791, modeled on the new American Constitution. The sweeping reforms it included, such as the world’s first Ministry of Education, met with fierce opposition from the nobility. But he would not be swayed and ultimately was forced from power.
  • Zygmunt Wrobleski and Karol Olszewski: The first to liquefy oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide into a stable state. Their achievement made an incalculable contribution to a wide range of scientific developments.
  • Madame Curie: The discoverer of radium along with her husband, which led to the development of X-ray technology. She was awarded two Nobel Prizes in Chemistry and Physics, the first for a woman.
  • Marian Rejewski: Mathematician and cryptologist who designed a special-purpose machine in 1938 that led to the breaking of the Enigma machine ciphers of Nazi Germany in World War II. Just think what he could’ve done in the Dot-com age…
  • Frederic Chopin: Need I say more? Put on any piece of this genius’s music and you will understand immediately if you don’t already.
  • Joseph Conrad (Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski): My favorite Polish writer, whose novels and literary style have influenced everyone from Fitzgerald to Philip Roth. His adventurous life (too robust to detail here) includes captaining clipper ships in the South Seas to traveling into the depths of Africa, where his most famous tale takes place, Heart of Darkness. Fortunately, he was prolific so there’s lots of Conrad for you to get to know.Conrad copy
  • Henryk Sienkiewicz, whose novel ‘Quo Vadis?’ became a global rage, and Wladyslaw Reymont, whose four-volume novel ‘The Peasants’ (1902-09) became the definitive portrait of the Polish homeland. Both won Nobel Prizes for literature.
  • Czeslaw Milosz: Pre-eminent Polish poet whose powerful political voice railed against the Stalinist policies in Poland. He defected to the U.S. in 1951 and was a Professor of Literature at the University of Berkeley. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1980.
  • Arthur Rubinstein: Internationally revered pianist, one of the greatest pianist of the twentieth century and considered the finest interpreter of Chopin’s music.
  • Lech Walesa: He led the Solidarity Movement from his humble beginnings as an electrician on the docks of Gdansk. Through his fierce tenacity, he established the Solidarity Citizens’ Committee, which led to the freeing of Poland from Soviet control. Walesa won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983, and became the first President of free Poland, 1990-1995. His leadership was contributory to the path of Democracy that spread throughout Eastern Europe.
  • Roman Polanski: What can I say? A complicated Auteur.

My list is almost an embarrassment because it’s so short. If you’re interested in more, there’s tons of info on the web about the contributions of Poles to this spinning orb, starting with Wikipedia.

But I’ll bet you’re interested in what happened to Copernicus and the moral outrage of his late night visits with Anna? Nothing. The church had more than enough on its hands trying to prove that he was a madman to suggest the Earth was not the center of everything.

Gdansk PatioBy the way, the Gotyk house is a great place to contemplate the universe or your own navel for that matter. Spotlessly clean rooms, attentive service, and delightful continental breakfasts on the front patio overlooking what is one of the most charming streets in Gdansk. And guess what’s in their cellar? Yep, a Nicolaus Copernicus Museum…with all the juicy details revealed.

If you’d like to see more photos of our journey to Gdansk and Poznan (where I wrote this post), click here: Gdansk and Poznan.


First Street



9 Responses to Poland’s Selected Hits

  1. Kim says:

    I, too have been enjoying vicariously sharing in your travels. Madame Curie??!! Who knew?! I thought she was French all this time.

  2. William H Szych says:

    Another great entry about your trip to Poland. Can’t wait to follow in your footsteps someday.

  3. Frank. Thanks for sharing your story and widening myknowledge of Polish people.i didnt realise Conrad was polish.Great meeting you and Annete.Cheer Sunny

  4. Frank Z says:

    Thanks for the comments, guys. Wish you were here, we’ve got plenty of Polish vodka on ice!

  5. Maxwell says:

    Keep them cards & letters a comin. Great stuff!

  6. mark fink says:

    Great pics, Frank….sounds like an amazing journey! Safe travels.

  7. We are so enjoying this leg of your trip! Envious!! TAK!!! Yes 🙂
    Enjoy…..and we look forward to when you get a little closer to where we left part of our hearts!
    Warmest regards,

  8. Carol says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your trip with us! I am loving it! It looks and sounds magical. Continue to have a fabulous time! Big Hugs, Carol

  9. Andy Golebiowski says:

    Great to see that you got to Poland, Franek !
    All the best. Have a great stay if you’re still there.

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