Given how little the average traveller knows about Kalisz (kah-leesh), its centre comes as a pleasant surprise, revealing a charming collection of city parks, gently curving streets and simple but harmonious architecture.
Kalisz has the longest documented history of any town in Poland: it was mentioned by Claudius Ptolemy in his renowned Geography of the 2nd century AD as Calisia, a trading settlement on the Amber Route between the Roman Empire and the Baltic Sea.
In more modern times, Kalisz was razed to the ground by the invading Germans in the first days of WWI. Within a month, the population dropped from 70,000 to 5000 and most buildings were reduced to ruins. The town was rebuilt on the old street plan, but in a new architectural style. Luckily, given the circumstances, most of the new buildings survived WWII without much damage.