Poland - Wroclaw

Trip Start May 30, 2013
Trip End Dec 09, 2014

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Flag of Poland  , Western Poland,
Friday, July 12, 2013

How we traveled from Prague to Wroclav...
We woke up in Prague where we came the night before and stayed at my friend's place (Sarka). It was necessary to get up quite early since we had a lot of things to do that day. First I had to deal with some common procedures (administrative as well as medical). Then we bought a flower and went to see Sarka's graduation ceremony. She has just graduated from the Faculty of Mathematical and Physical Sciences of the Charles University which is the largest and oldest university in the Czech Republic and one of the oldest in Europe as well as in the world. Therefore it was quite interesting also for Gonzalo to visit the representative hall of such a university.

At 13.00 the ceremony was over and we even managed to take a few pictures with Sarka and her family. Then we went back to her apartment, got our things ready and after 15.00 we started slowly heading to the main train station. We bought our tickets in advance so there was no rush at all. Both tickets from Prague (Czech Republic) to Wroclaw (Poland) cost us CZK 701 which we found surprisingly cheap. To be more specific we had to buy one group ticket for 2 people from Prague to Kolin (CZK 151) and then a special ticket for the region of Pardubice and Poland (CZK 275 per person). The whole journey took 5 hours whereas we had to change the train in Pardubice. Just when we saw the train that was supposed to take us from Pardubice to Wroclaw we were a bit unsure since there were two small, locally looking carriages instead of a huge international train. After a while we understood why...there was almost no passengers. Besides a weird guy with a cute white doggie and a creepy lady with gummy shoes we were probably the only people on board. 

We arrived at 21.30 in Wroclaw and even though it was raining very heavily we decided to walk to our hostel. The hostel was supposed to be located approx. 1,2 km from the train station which meant 15-minute walk. We reached our hostel without any problems so we could have a rest in order to get ready for the first tiring day after quite a long time.

Day 1: July 12, 2013

We woke up at 8.00, had breakfast in the hostel and at about 9.15 we were ready for our first Polish adventures. Since our hostel was located in the real center of the city we took only 3 minutes to reach the market square - Rynek Ratusz. We were immediately impressed by a very well decorated construction which turned to be the Town Hall that was hiding a museum inside - Museum of City Hall. Before entering the museum (PLN 7 per student) we decided to go to the tourist information center so as to get more ideas about what can be seen and visited in the city of Wroclaw. After that we finally entered the Town Hall of which construction began at the end of the 13th century and continued for about 250 years. Basically it was patched together from pieces of a dozen different buildings. The Town Hall was the center of life up until the early 20th century, housing the Town Council, merchant's stalls as well as a beer cellar. Another important monument situated on the market square is the statue of Alexander Fredro which was one of the Polish most distinguished literary figures. Now his statue is supposed to be the principal meeting point for couples, students or political agitators.

Then we started walking towards the Centennial Hala (Hala Stulecia), passing by many beautiful churches as well as by a modern shopping mall called Mercure-Panorama and crossing the river Oder through Grunwaldzki Bridge which is one of the longest bridges of its kind in Poland being 112.5 meters long, 18 meters wide and weighing 2.3 thousand tons. After approx. 40-minute walk we reached the Centennial Hall. It was completed in 1913 (this year they're celebrating 100 years from its finishing). The principal architect who dedicated 4 years of his life to this construction (1909-1913) is called Max Berg. The Centennial Hall is said to be one of the most important architectural monuments of the early 20th century. It has an inner diameter of 69 meters, a height of 42 meters and a capacity of 10 000 people. Thus it became the highest structure of this kind in the world. The Centennial Hall also belongs to the UNESCO sites. Fortunately we had an opportunity to visit the Centennial Hall together with its Discovery Center which is a special very interactive exhibition devoted to the Hall's construction and its history.

Later on we walked around for a while, took a quick look at the Wroclaw Fountain which may be found in front of the main entrance to the Centennial Hall. Since we decided to come again at 22.00 to be able to see one the famous performances (mixture of water, lights and music....everything pretty well synchronized). There is also a Japanese garden behind the fountain, however, we had to skip it due to the lack of time.

Then we started walking back to the city center, having lunch at Pizza Hut...yeah, I know...sooo Polish ;) Our next stop was supposed to be Ostrow Tumski. It's literally a place where the city began. A few centuries ago it was a little town by itself and later the first bridges were constructed and the original small settlement started to spread beyond the river banks. We could admire several huge cathedrals over there - Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, The Church of the Holy Cross, the Russian Orthodox Church of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, the Gothic Church of the Blessed Virgin on the Sand. There can be also found the theological faculty of the Wroclaw University. We left the island by crossing the Sand Bridge which is the oldest bridge in Wroclaw, built in 1861. Today it's full of lockers being hung over there by people who wish to be in love forever. Nowadays the lockers are so heavy that they are seriously jeopardizing the old construction. Actually Wroclaw is said to have the biggest number of bridges in the world after Venice.

Leaving Ostrow Tumski behind we went to Hala Targowa which is supposed to be the Wroclaw's proper marketplace, in fact it's an old church.

After that we went back to our hostel since Gonzalo needed to check if one his friends who he met in Milan and now she lives in Wroclaw had answered him regarding the proposed reunion. She did respond and we were supposed to meet at 20.00 in the market square. At that time we still had more than 2,5 hours left before meeting Gonzalo's friend Karolina so we decided to visit a few more monuments. First of all, we went to Raclawice Panorama which was unfortunately closed so we had to come back the next day. Then we started walking to the famous Wroclaw University of which main building is situated in the old town. The university itself has quite an interesting history since it was founded already in 1670 by the Jesuits. Since the start in the 20th century, the university has produced 9 Nobel Prize winners and today over 40 000 students are enrolled (in Wroclaw there is said to be over 150 000 students, the education is for free if you're a full time student). There is a statue of the Naked Swordsman proudly standing at the entrance of the main building. It was erected in 1904 and according to the legend it's supposed to represent an extravagant gambler who squandered all but his sword in drunken card games, thus serving as an example for all university students.

Then we passed by St. Elizabeth's Church which belongs to the oldest and tallest construction in the city of Wroclaw. The church was built in the 12th century and its tower is 91 m tall. Just two blocks from the church there is a famous street called Jatki. This street used to be filled with butchers' stalls and later this fact was reflected by putting several cast-iron farm animals.

One of our last stops was the corner with the Anonymous Pedestrians which is a memorial reminding tge introduction of the maritial law in Poland on December 13, 1981.

I would like to devote my last important note to one of the most popular attractions in Wroclaw - Gnomes. It's basically a legion of little people (dwarfs) spread out through the whole Wroclaw. It's not still sure how many gnomes there are even if tourists as well as local people have made so much effort to count them. In any case it's said that there are more than 200 of them.

At the end of the day we met with Karolina, her boyfriend and two more friends (btw. one of them was Italian). Well....I believe it's enough to mention we had many shots of Vodka...Polish guys are really tough...hahaha...waking up at 9.00 the next day was kind of cruel :))))

Day 2: July 13, 2013

That morning we were really optimistic when we set up our alarm clock for 9.00. Of course, we woke up a little bit hangovered, had a super quick shower and even a quicker breakfast. We wanted to take the free walking tour around the old Wroclaw. Since we were facing some troubles with placing of our bags to the luggage room in the hostel we reached the meeting point too late - at about 11.08 (the tour was supposed to start at 11.00). Fortunately we weren't the only ones...there was also one more couple from Poland that had made the same mistake. They tried to call the number stated in the flyer and in the end we managed to join the tour approx. 200 m from the market square.

Well, honestly I'm not sure if it was good or bad. Although our guide was doing his best he was somehow boring. He definitely knew a lot about the history of the city of Wroclaw, however, unfortunately he didn't know how to entertain us. Hence, we weren't able to pay attention for a long time and we decided to leave the tour earlier without leaving any tip. Yeah....we felt like a rubbish but isn't the whole concept of free walking tours about tipping just in case you liked the tour? And we know it's possible to prepare a really interesting tour (Barcelona can serve as a great example).

The only thing we were able to remember from this free walking tour is the following historical timeline highlighting the most important moments in the history of the city of Wroclaw.

990: Piast Duke Mieszko I seizes Silesia, incorporating it into Poland.
1000: A bishopric is established on Ostrow Tumski.
1163: The city becomes capital of the Duchy of Silesia.
1241: Mongols devastate the city, the market square is laid out, Germans become the dominant ethnic group.
1335: Silesia is incorporated into the Kingdom of Bohemia.
1418: The city's guild's revolt, beheading the major and six members of city council.
1453: John of Capistrano leads inquisition against Jewish population who is executed or forced to convert to Christianity.
1526: The Austrian Habsburg dynasty absorbs Bohemia, including Silesia.
1702: Founding of the Jesuit Academy, today's Wroclaw University.
1741: Breslau becomes part of Prussia.
1807: Napoleon captures the city and its medieval defences are destroyed.
1871: Unification the German Empire; Breslau enters as its third most prominent city.
1913: The Centennial Hall (Hala Stulecia) is built.
1933: The Nazis comes to power in Germany.
1938: Kristallnacht - Jewish synagogues torched, homes looted and burned.
1944: Festung Breslau - the city is declared a closed fortress and prepares for Soviet bombardment.
1945: Breslau capitulates on May 6th, WWII ends and Lower Silesia becomes part of Poland.
1947: Communists consolidate power after rigged elections.
1948: Wroclaw hosts the Recovered Territories Exhibition.
1980: The Solidarity trade union initiates strikes across Poland.
1981: The Polish military imposes Martial Law. Solidarity activists are arrested and interned.
1983: Martial Law lifted.
1989: First free post-war elections in PL.
1997: The Odra and Olawa rivers overflow flooding a third of downtown Wroclaw.
1999: Poland joins NATO.
2004: Poland joins the EU.
2010: President Lech Kaczynski and 95 other Polish delegates die in a plane crash near Smolensk, Russia.
2012: Wroclaw hosts the Euro 2012-Football Championship.

As I said before we left the tour roughly 40 minutes before its end and went straight to the market place in Hala Turgowa where we had a very good and cheap lunch (PLN 15 for both of us).

Then we went to Raclawice Panorama (yes, for the second time) and we bought our tickets (PLN 18 per student) so that we could enter the famous monument at 15.00. Since we still had more than 60 minutes before our tour began we decided to visit the National Museum of Wroclaw.

At 15.00 we started our tour in Raclawice Panorama which offers its visitors to make an amazing trip to the past through the 140m-long canvas depicting the legendary General Tadeusz Kosciuszko's victory over the Russian forces at Raclawice in 1794, and he took just over nine months to succeed. The painting was actually born in Lwow (Ukraine) one hundred years after the battle and sent to Wroclaw after WWII by the Soviet Union. Even if the tour was quite short (only 30 minutes), I personally enjoyed it a lot because I could use headphones with information in the Czech language which almost never happens to me :)

After that we went back to our hostel, made a quick reservation in one the cheapest and best rated hostels in Krakow and at about 16.30 we left (of course, after having some troubles with picking up of our luggage from the luggage room of the hostel...haha). We took a tram to the bus station and there luckily bought tickets for a bus leaving for Krakow at 17.30 (it was 17.05). It was perfect...no waiting time. One ticket cost us PLN 39.

We arrived at Krakow 3 hours later at about 20.30 and started walking to our hostel. Fortunately it was situated really close to the bus station. In the reception of the hostel there was a very nice girl who told us that we had made our reservation for the next week instead of the actual one and they didn't have anything available for that night. Finally they did impossible and got for us one bed for the first night and two beds in the same room for the other two nights...uf, that was close :) Awful day and everything was Vodka's fault :)))
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