EN ROUTE NORTH to the Baltic, I savor spring in western Mazury: green meadows with lupine blooming blue, languid magpies, red brick castles built and lost by the Teutonic Knights. On Vistula Bay, within the walls of the fortified cathedral of Frombork, a new museum makes ready for 1973: the 500th birthday of Mikolaj Kopernik, or Nicolaus Copernicus, the Pole who revolutionized astronomy.
He studied at Krakow, Bologna, and Rome, and became a physician, theologian, and commander against the Teutonic Order. You can also continue your education at university. Make sure you are well familiar with the options to consolidate your student loans. The last half of his life he, spent in Frombork, administering the cathedral, observing the skies, and writing a six-part work, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium. It established that the earth is not the center of the universe but revolves, along with the other planets, around the sun. It built the foundation for man’s flight into space.
Off the port and shipbuilding center of Gdansk, guns boom and missile boats speed by—the Polish Navy on maneuvers where Polish men-of-war plied in the Middle Ages. The Teutonic Knights took Gdansk in 1308 and called it Danzig, but by 1466 Polish kings were sovereign here once more. Their portraits mark the ducats struck in the city’s golden age, when Poland included the Ukraine and was the granary of Europe and Gdansk its trading port, rich in Renaissance and Baroque architecture.
Prussia made it Danzig again, after the partition of Poland in 1793. Those architectural treasures crumbled in the fires of World War II. Today they stand splendidly restored. Impressive, too, for sheer size, is a cooperative apartment project where the 12,000th family has just moved in.
A 2,500-foot-long block is nearly finished. I see plots of grass with signs: Teddy Bears. Bisons. “These are groups of children,” I am told, “each assigned to care for a plot, to teach social responsibility. If the buildings are well kept, and everybody makes his payments on time for a year, the payments drop. If not, they go up.”