Over twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and over six decades since 1945, you still know that there is something different about traveling east from Germany. Instead of a thick network of high-speed rail binding Frankfurt to Paris, and Cologne to Amsterdam, modern state-of-the-art train routes are nearly nonexistent across the eastern border. The backbone of the connection, itself somewhat new, is the Berlin-Warsaw Express, running several times daily between the capitals of Germany and Poland.

On this trip we’re only going as far as Poznán/Posen, the Polish (and formerly Prussian) provincial city that holds the remains of Poland’s first kings. The city presents Poland’s geographic dilemma in microcosm: successfully overrun from west, east, and north, changing rulers, governments, languages, religions, and administrations like a kind of cultural tidepool, the city today is a surprisingly well-preserved look at Eastern (or Central?) Europe’s turbulent centuries.

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