Wroclaw pt. 2

Trip Start Oct 24, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

Loading Map
Map your own trip!
Map Options
Show trip route
Hide lines
Where I stayed
Sofitel Wroclaw Old Town
Read my review - 3/5 stars

Flag of Poland  , Western Poland,
Sunday, May 22, 2011

Pt. 2

If the Sofitel Wrocław is a five-star establishment, the
spectrum of luxury hotels must be vast. It was more pleasurable than most other
hotels I've stayed at, but then I usually choose places that have their prices
displayed on illuminated marquees and have rooms you enter form the outside of
the building. I know this category of motel well, and while the Sofitel was a
far cry from La Quinta, the two brands have more in common than I had expected.
To me, "five star" suggests rooms that have an environment like an upscale hair
salon and spa, with hints of eucalyptus in the air, luxurious, plush bedding,
and thoughtful service in the rooms, not cigarette smoke-infused bath towels,
hard beds with a duvet that does not quite cover the surface, and maids that
clear your room before you have actually checked out.

Update: I have just been informed by two veterinarians who frequently
travel for work and stay in four- and five-star hotels with regularity that the
standard for a five-star classification in Europe is much different than it is
in the United States. Typically, for lesser categories, the rooms are shoeboxes
and sometimes do not provide small toiletries. They also informed me that the
rate we paid was at a military discount, which was the equivalent of an eyelash
above $100 per night. Although this changes my tune about the situation, I still
do not think it is too much to ask that a non-smoking room not smell of smoke.

Whining aside, Tracy’s and my first day in Wrocław was wonderful, with
the only exception of an exorbitantly priced continental breakfast. Breakfast
expenses for the conference participants at the restaurant on the first floor
of the Sofitel, the Pan Tadjeuz, or some such, was covered, but not for spouses
and guests. Before we were familiar with the value of one Polish zloty relative
to the US dollar (1 zloty = .34 dollar), Tracy and I sat down to eat. I ordered
the continental breakfast for ten fewer zloty than the buffet, since many of
the extras available in the more ample spread consisted of meat; and I don’t
eat meat. I rather enjoyed my breads, yogurt, juice, fruit, and coffee, but was
later shocked to discover that my meal had cost about $28. That was the moment
I became thankful for the large supply of protein bars I had packed in a
cooler. Now, seriously, no more whining.

That morning, Tracy, DeAnna,
and I set out relatively early on the city to take advantage of their lone free day before the conference got underway early Sunday morning. The day was beautiful, bright, and cool, wrapped in a tranquil blue sky – perfect for exploring the newest city on our long and undetermined queue of future destinations. In similar fashion to how we often choose where to travel next,we drifted about, across plazas, down streets, pursuing whatever most attracted
us next. Usually that thing is the work of local artisans. Our hotel was adjacent to St. Elizabeth’s church, which towers over the plaza of the famous tenement houses of Jaś (Hansel) and Małgosia (Gretel). These two apartments, which were owned by vicars in centuries past, are dubbed Handel and Gretel because they (somewhat) appear to be holding hands via the connecting corridor. Sheltered between the church and the tenements sits the famous gateway to the subterranean dwellings of the Wrocław gnomes. Wrocław is reputedly the European
city of churches, bridges, and gnomes. Details forthcoming.

As the early hours gave way to the afternoon, the three of us had already stopped in more boutiques and seen more paintings, drawings, sculptures, and crafts of all kinds than I could possibly hope to remember. One, set back from the street and through an obscured
corridor, was maintained by students of the local university. I bought a coaster-type souvenir decorated with painted flowers there. On the other side of the street we came across a long and fairly ample alley lined with artisan stores along one side and adorned by bits of public art on the other. Tracy forged ahead, in keeping with her personality, and I remained behind to wait
for DeAnna to catch up to us. I made gentle fists around the heavy, cool metal of the gates separating the artisan alley from the sidewalk where I stood, and rested my forehead against it. Peering inside, I noticed a cluster of casted bronze farm animals: a goat, a pig, a duck, and others. Simultaneously, a dozen or so Italian tourists crowded through the open half of the gate, to my left. The tour guide wore a microphone on her collar and portable speakers somewhere on her person. As I continued to wait on DeAnna, I listened in as the guide spoke up. I didn’t get a good deal of what she said, but I did understand that the bronze animals were a visual reminder that the alley was a converted medieval slaughterhouse. It was in this row of boutiques that I found a graduation present for my brother, who is now Dr. John Warner.

The remainder of the day included a tasty meal at Spice Indian Restaurant, on Wita Stwosza, two scoops of ice cream off the main plaza, browsing the art collections of street vendors, a walk around the Galeria Dominikańska (a shopping mall), and the discovery of the world’s cleanest public bathroom and most enthusiastic bathroom maintenance lady. To my experience, most WCs in Germany are at least acceptably clean. Regardless, when it so happens that I have to find one, I always get this feeling that it ain’t gonna be pretty. WCs in Europe are often found beneath the street, too, so it feels like you’re descending to the bowels of the city.  Without getting into specifics, I always feel a little worse for women in public toilets because of the way nature dictates certain things be done. Thus, when Tracy returned from
her trip underground, I was half expecting a horror story. Instead, I got a report of an A+, five-star WC attended by a woman with the alacrity of a 1950s housewife. She raved that it smelled like a flower garden and that as soon as she walked out of the stall, the attendant ran in there with a brush and started scrubbing. Then, she ran over to the sink, squirted soap in Tracy’s
hands, turned on the water, and helped Tracy to form a rich lather by rubbing her hands together for her. When Tracy came back, she laughed and laughed as she told her amazing bathroom story.

I’ll end this blog with a cultural culinary observation: I was astounded at how much Poles in Wrocław seem to love ice cream and Pizza Hut. If you were magically teleported to a random location in this city of over 600,000, I guarantee that from wherever you appeared, you would see at least one person eating ice cream. The Pizza Hut in Rynek Plaza, as well, was always,
always, packed to capacity. Rynek is a popular spot for locals as well as tourists, and restaurants abound there. Some seemed busy at lunch and dinnertime, some not so busy, and some downright vacant. But Pizza Hut couldn’t have been more popular if they were giving free

Until next time
Slideshow Report as Spam

My Review Of The Place I Stayed

Loading Reviews
  • Your comment has been posted. Click here or reload this page to see it below.

  • Please enter a comment.
  • Please provide your name.
  • Please avoid using symbols in your name.
  • This name is a bit long. Please shorten it, or avoid special characters.
  • Please enter your email address to receive notification
  • Please enter a valid email address

Use this image in your site

Copy and paste this html: