I cannot claim that I know the city well. After all, I am just a passer by, staying there for a bit on the way to somewhere else. However, there was one little event, which made this particular stop special. Once we were walking around, checking the local market and the architecture, enjoying some sun before continuing on our way further towards Budapest. It was sunny and warm, it was a weekend, there were people in the street, some listening to the street musician, who played guitar and sang (what we thought sounded like) political songs. The trip has just started, we had a good breakfast, and everything felt perfect.
Then a very drunk man approached us, but instead of begging, swearing or any other anti-social activity, he looked so happy and he showed that he wanted to give us a hug. Somehow, it felt almost appropriate. I remember posting an instagram photo soon after, capturing it “Lomza is full of love.” And since then every time I think of this town, this is the line, which comes to mind. Full of love.
Why would you want to go to Lomza?
I guess the first reason would be that it is located very conveniently on the way, if you ever find yourself travelling between Vilnius and Warsaw. It is located almost in the middle and would make a great stop to stretch your legs. Or even better – stay overnight, have a walk in the city and a swim in the river, if you are passing Lomza in the summertime, and enjoy a couple of local Lomza beers.
Some history of Lomza
The city of Lomza dates back to the 10th century. It was a comparatively large cultural and political centre, alongside with other bigger cities of Poland all the way 17th century. Then the bad luck stroke. First a fire destroyed a bigger part of the city, and then a large epidemic broke out and killed another part of its population.
After a relatively quiet time, which lasted a couple of centuries, the misfortunes continued. As I said, Lomza is located conveniently on the way not only between Vilnius and Warsaw, but also in the past between the Russian Empire and the West. It served as a corridor for the armies to march back and forth. You probably know that an army passing through a city can in no way be defined as a responsible tourism. Finally, the city was once again destroyed massively during the Battle of Lomza in 1939 by Nazi and Soviet armies.
If you walk through Lomza today, you will be able to see some remains from the old past, blending naturally into more recent architecture from the 1940s, when the city started to be rebuilt.
For a long time of its existance and up to the 1940s Lomza was home to a large part of Jewish Polish population. In the 19th century the Great Synagogue, designed by Enrico Marconi, was built in Lomza. This magnificent building was destroyed during the Nazi occupation. The Jewish citizens for Lomza (together with others brought from the nearby villages) were confined to the Lomza Ghetto, where most of them were murdered, let to die of malnutrition, diseases and unbearable living conditions. Those who remained were later taken to the camps of Auschwitz. Not many Lomza Jews survived the Holocaust. If before the war the Jewish population of Lomza accounted to the 40%, it is currently less than 1%.
What to do in Lomza
For me the heart of the city is its central market square, and Lomza has one for sure. It is called Stary Rynek (Old Market). Remember to check out the town hall and its ancient clock tower. Not far from there you can find the Cathedral of St Michael and St John the Baptist. The cathedral is around 500 years old and survived the rough history this city had.
The arts enthusiasts could visit the gallery of contemporary arts, which is located within the Northern Masovia Museum. And if you would like to feel the history even more, check out the Old Cemetery. It combines the graves of Lomza citizens, belonging to those different confessions.
And if the weather is good and you are more of an outdoor person, check out the river and the Narew valley and National Park right next to the city. If its warm, make use of the nice town beach.
Where to stay in Lomza
On this I am slightly biased. We loved Mohito B&B so much that now we only stay somewhere else, if that one is fully-booked. Which actually happens.
So yes, Mohito had everything right: central location, private parking, tasty breakfast and (what doesn’t happen that often in small Eastern European hotels) really good coffee to wash it down with, cozy and modern rooms. But the best was the owner himself. First, he spoke fluent English and this is something you start appreciating it so much after travelling around Eastern Europe and having pain in your fingers from explaining everything in body language. Second, he was very friendly. He told us about the main sights, he brought a huge box of toys for Mark, and introduced us to his wife and little son. We could leave our luggage and the car parked, while we went around to explore the city.
You see, this place is really the best. But, if you are looking for something different OR the Mohito is fully-booked again, here are some other options.
The currency is Polish Zloty. You can pay by card in most of the shops, hotels and restaurants in Lomza. There are also a couple of cash machines. So in case the property does not accept your card, there is an opportunity to take out some zloty out.
The language is Polish, and apart from the hotel hosts, the English is NOT spoken very wildly in Lomza. But you can always get by by pointing at things and smiling. I survived several years in foreign countries without speaking the language, so I can ensure you that practise will make your pantomime act perfect.