Travelling through Poland in the 1590s (NL Embassy in PL)

Now that travelling has become more difficult due to the global pandemic, we may resort to books as a means to make mental journeys to other countries, for example to Poland. The first Dutchman to write a published account of his voyage through Poland was Joris van der Does/Georgius Dousa (1574-1599), who was the son of an acclaimed Dutch scholar. The young Joris passed through Poland in the 1590s during an educational journey to Constantinople. In 1599, a Latin description of his travels was published in Leiden, which was partially translated into Dutch and issued in Dordrecht in 1652.

Joris’s representation of Poland is generally favourable. Describing Cracow, he professed that: “it lies along the Vistula river, which also flows past the royal castle, placed on an elevated mound. Because of the splendour of its buildings, the affluence of all manner of goods, and various kinds of scholarly disciplines, the city itself contends with the illustrious towns of Germany.” In addition, Joris enthusiastically related his visit to the nearby Wieliczka salt mines, which attracted the attention of various foreign scholars and travellers. He also visited the poet Szymon Szymonowicz (1558-1629) in Lviv, and he befriended a Polish diplomat in Constantinople, who shared his interest for classical literature. Returning home, furthermore, Joris stayed in Zamość, a city founded in 1580 by the Grand Chancellor Jan Zamoyski (1542-1605), who was a friend of Joris’s father. Zamość also included an academy for higher education. Joris elaborately praised the city as “an effigy not just to Poland, but to the whole of Europe”, and he applauded the learnedness of Zamoyski himself. His flattering words were no doubt meant to strengthen his bonds with his Polish contacts. The account is an interesting testimony to the historical ties and friendships between Dutch and Polish scholars.

Joris died in 1599, while sailing to India. The following year, his brother Dirk (1580-1663) visited Zamość as a student, and later even accompanied Jan Zamoyski on a war campaign in Livonia (roughly modern-day Latvia and Estonia).

The image comes from the account’s Dutch translation, published in Dordrecht in 1652.

*I originally wrote this post for the social media outlets of the Dutch Embassy in Poland. This was post no. 21.

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