”Bydgoszcz – more beautiful than you think”
Interview with Łukasz Krupa - Deputy Mayor of Bydgoszcz

Bydgoszcz is the beautiful capital of the Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship, picturesquely situated on the Brda River, which flows through the very center of the city. This is where important road, rail and water routes intersect. There is also an airport in the city named after famous polish pianist, composer and politican Ignacy Jan Paderewski. The city is not only an important cultural and economic center of Poland, but also has great achievements in international cooperation.

Ewa Kotus: Mr. President, first of all, my congratulations! “Bydgoszcz – more beautiful than you think” – a crazy two-minute film, after winning top marks from the jury committee, was awarded the Grand Prix in the competition of the 18th FilmAT Festival -. – International Festival of Tourist Films, Television Documentaries and Corporate Films. We are all pleased, because the way in which such an important and beautiful city is showcased has caught the attention of experienced promotion experts. The film is made by professionals, but what mattered above all was this crazy concept of showing Bydgoszcz, hence my first question, who came up with the idea of making such a film?

President Łukasz Krupa: It depends on how we define the word “such” in this question… As for the idea of the Big Bike Orchestra being the leitmotiv of a new promotional spot for Bydgoszcz, it may sound immodest, but it’s my idea. The question of the detailed script and implementation is already a collaboration between my team and the City Centre of Culture, the guys from the orchestra and the film crew. As director of the City Promotion and International Cooperation Office, I had planned to make a new promotional film with my colleagues, but we didn’t really have an idea for it. One day I was chatting over a coffee with the Director of the City Centre of Culture (which is the initiator and the originator of the Big Bike Orchestra) about a completely different music project and the idea of a spot and the Big Bike Orchestra spontaneously came into my head. Instantly, everyone picked up on this and we started to act.

E.K.: No viewer can be indifferent to the film, I am thinking about tourists from all over the world who want to visit Poland. It not only promotes the largest city of the Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship, Bydgoszcz, which is beautiful and with a rich historical and cultural heritage, it really has something to show tourists, but the film attracts people to our country. This production wins the viewer over with its atmosphere, it emanates youth, joy, fantasy, humour, good music, pride in one’s heritage, it is also an unusual invitation to use a bicycle in a big city and finally the shots from the airport, with which the film begins and closes, emphasising the openness to the world of a resident of Bydgoszcz and Poland. Was that the film’s premise?

Ł.K.: In the spot, we wanted to show a big, ambitious developing city on the one hand, a city of smiling and happy people on the other, and on the third, to show all this through the prism of 3 elements that play an important role in the promotion of the city – music, bicycle and water.

We feel and we are a city of music, which was confirmed by the city’s acceptance into the UNESCO Creative Cities Network exactly in the field of music.

As a city we are the initiator and organiser of the largest cycling competition in Poland for the Cup of the Cycling Capital of Poland, in which around 160 cities and municipalities from all over the country and tens of thousands of their inhabitants take part.

And the water? Well… the Brda, the Vistula, the Bydgoszcz Canal. Bydgoszcz is surrounded by water and it is in the surroundings of water that many entertainment, sports and cultural events take place.

The Bydgoszcz Big Bike Orchestra has combined these 3 elements in an excellent, but at the same time unconventional way.

Bydgoszcz Canal, photo: Robert Sawicki
Yacht harbor, a modern marina on the charming Mill Island, in the very center of Bydgoszcz,
photo: Robert Sawicki

E.K.: Despite its somewhat crazy or wild form, the film did not forget to strongly emphasise that Bydgoszcz is a Royal City. The musicians, entering the Old Town from the south, place a symbolic flower at the noble monument to one of Poland’s most eminent rulers, the last monarch of the Piast dynasty, King Casimir III the Great. Casimir the Great issued a foundation act under Magdeburg Law for Bydgoszcz on 19 April 1346. It is commonly said that King Casimir III the Great was very fond of this city, is that so, Mr President?

Ł.K.: Historical records actually say this. This is confirmed by deeds – the city was granted a very large patrimony, one of the largest among the cities founded by Casimir the Great, a castle was built and the city was granted quite extensive privileges, including the right to carry out float trade, which was very important for the city. In general, we were lucky with Kings. During the reign of Sigismund III Vasa, the Royal Mint functioned in Bydgoszcz, where in 1621 a gold 100 ducats coin was minted, which today is the most expensive coin in the world. One of the six existing pieces sold at auction in 2018 for a record $2.16 million.

E.K. The famous Bydgoszcz Venice, a very important and charming corner of the city, certainly deserves a tourist’s attention. Just like in Italy, the buildings here were built on water. Today, it is, above all, a great place to rest after visiting the city with a guide, taste delicious dishes, or traditional drinks at the Regional Beer Brewhouse. But let’s start from the beginning, let’s reach the history of this extraordinary place…

Ł.K.: Today, this historic river island in the Old Town area of Bydgoszcz, with an area of approximately 6.5 hectares, housing cultural and recreational venues, surrounded by boulevards and hydrotechnical facilities, is the pride and pearl of our city. This is confirmed by the ‘Best Tourist Product’ Certificate awarded by the Polish Tourist Organization. In the central point of the island there is a green glade and the restored Rother’s Mills, which are the site of dozens of cultural and entertainment events a year.

Mill Island,
a green enclave in the heart of a vibrant city,
photo: Błażej Witkowski
Restored Rother’s Mills,
photo: Błażej Witkowski

For several centuries, the island was a royal estate, whence the old Polish name Royal Island. Its development began in the Middle Ages, when there was a desire to use the Brda river for economic and defensive purposes. The most significant transformation of the island was connected with the construction of the Bydgoszcz Canal. At the end of the 18th century, in the place of the mint, the largest water mill, the so-called Herkules, was built. A tannery was organised in the last surviving mint building, a distillery south of the sawmill, and a half-timbered White Granary was built on the Gothic cellars of its predecessors. In addition to industrial and warehouse buildings, residential buildings also appeared.

Between 1815 and 1825, the Prussians rebuilt the island. A causeway connecting the island to Focha Street was laid, also in this time a complex of mills, granaries and residential buildings was built. At the northern end of the island, Rudolf and Wilhelm mills – now a hydroelectric power station complex, a brick coach house and storage facilities – were built. In 1816, the originally wooden Mill Bridge was built as an extension of Ku Młyny Street. In the Royal Mills, the first steam engine in the city was put into operation in 1846. Between 1848 and 1849, the old mills were demolished and replaced by a large mill complex, still known today as the Rother’s Mills.

Lloyd’s Palace with decorative gables and Granaries located on the bank of the Brda,
photo Błażej Witkowski

It is worth mentioning that between 1870 and 1914 residential buildings were built, which are still known today as the so-called Bydgoszcz Venice, i.e. a row of tenement houses forming the frontage of the Młynówka river. The picturesque buildings going down to the river itself have become a tourist attraction and inspiration for artists’ works. Without doubt, the Mill Island is currently one of the most unique and atmospheric places in Bydgoszcz.

The enchanting climate of the Bydgoszcz Venice,
photo: Robert Sawicki

E.K. The music dominates the film, provoking an emphasis on the musical traditions of Bydgoszcz, the importance of Opera Nova in Bydgoszcz and the Ignacy Jan Paderewski Pomeranian Philharmonic Hall, which is one of the pearls of music venues in the world due to its very good acoustics. It is in Bydgoszcz that important cyclical musical events take place, so appreciated by music connoisseurs the world over. And only in Bydgoszcz is there a music district, is that so Mr President?

Ł.K.: Bydgoszcz hosts a number of important international competitions and festivals. Opera Nova is organising the 30th Opera Festival this year, during which, in addition to Polish artists, guests from Lithuania, Ukraine, France and Monaco will perform. The I.J. Paderewski International Piano Competition organised at the Pomeranian Philharmonic attracts participants from all over the world. The Philharmonic building is the central point of the music district, which also includes buildings of the Academy of Music, the Music School Complex, the Polish Theatre and the Pomeranian and Kuyavian Polish Radio. This unique place is complemented by Kochanowski Park, the Bydgoszcz Multimedia Fountain, monuments of composers and virtuosos, and even a playground inspired by musical instruments.

Opera Nova,
photo: Błażej Witkowski
Pomeranian Philharmonic Hall,
photo: Robert Sawicki

E.K. In the tourist’s memory must remain, the beautiful Roman Catholic Minor Basilica of St Vincent a Paulo, modelled on the Roman Pantheon, built in neoclassical style according to a design by Adam Ballenstaedt. This much-admired Bydgoszcz Pantheon is the pride of the city, isn’t it?

Ł.K.: Yes, it is indeed an impressive building. It is worth pointing out here that in addition to being a very important church institution, it is also famous in the city for helping those in need. The parish priest who works there – Fr Sławomir Bar – is a very committed and active social worker who organises many charity events and helps the poorest on a daily basis. His authority means that he is supported in this by many private donors and by us as a town.

Roman Catholic Minor Basilica of St. Vincent a Paulo,
photo: Bydgoszcz City Hall

E.K. Bydgoszcz’s excellent location and well-developed infrastructure provide the opportunity to develop an economy cooperating with the world, and the city authorities certainly want to emphasize the importance of the Bydgoszcz Industrial and Technological Park.

Ł.K.: Bydgoszcz is a very strong economic center. The logistics and IT industries have developed particularly strongly. Flagship examples include the ATOS company, which is a global brand and employs approximately 4,000 people from the city and region alone in Bydgoszcz, or the ZALANDO distribution center currently being built, the largest in this part of Europe. New investors are constantly locating in Bydgoszcz, and there are already about 160 companies employing several thousand people in the Bydgoszcz Industrial and Technological Park.

E.K. I write and paint, so I know how important the title of an article, book, poem or artistic work is. “Bydgoszcz – more beautiful than you think” is the best title for the city, for this film and for our conversation. Thank you, Mr. President.

Ignacy Jan Paderewski Airport and musicians – the heroes of the film,
photo: Bydgoszcz City Hall

Translation: Wojciech Jaworek

”Bydgoszcz – more beautiful than you think”