A little bit about the place I live, Wrocław.
Try and read it to yourself. Now forget how you think it’s pronounced because unless you know Polish, you’re absolutely wrong.
It’s pronounced vro-suave. Yes, that is crazy. Yes, it does actually make sense, but once again, you’d only get it if you speak Polish. Something that might help is knowing the German name, which is Breslau.
Do you hear it now? No? That’s just me?
Whatever, I tried.
The city of Wrocław is the capital of Lower Silesia, which is a secondary fact for most people who are still coming to terms with how little sense this pronunciation makes to them. It’s okay. You’ll get over it, I promise. Just remember to breathe deep breaths. In, out. In, out.
Anyway, I won’t go into a boring history lesson ’cause y’all got Google and can do that shit yourself. Suffice to say, Wrocław was party of Germany until after World War II, when it was given to Poland. (My grandmother, who left Europe after the war, still calls it Breslau. And sometimes she forgets that it’s not in Germany anymore, but she’s almost 95, so she has an excuse.)
I would like to say something about how this results in an fascinating mix of cultures but, like, ugh. No. This is starting to sound like a Rick Steves travel book. I’m not going there. Suffice to say that Wrocław fancies itself one of the more cosmopolitan, tolerant cities in Poland, but that bar is pretty low so I feel like it doesn’t say much. It is, in my estimation, a pretty good place to live. The city center is beautiful, it’s relatively easy to access by public transit, and it’s very cheap. A lot Polish people complain that it’s not cheap, but they have never lived in Los Angeles or the Bay Area so they maybe don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.
If you are ever traveling around Central Europe or Poland, I would definitely recommend stopping by. The whole city can be covered in a day, but the nightlife is great and you can always find a good time if you want to stay a bit longer. In this post I’ll cover my recommendations for sights to see, and I’ll talk about restaurants and nightlife in another post. I may very well miss a few sights some might call “must-sees”, because like I said in my first post, I will only recommend things that I can vouch for myself and not things I pulled off Google. Also, disclaimer, I am a terribly lazy tourist, and even worse when I actually live somewhere, because I only do tourist-y things if someone comes to visit me. So, you’ve been warned.
This is what a city center market squares are called in Poland (so if you go to Krakow or Warsaw, they will also have a Rynek). This is also where most of the pretty pictures you see on Google are found. It really is quite beautiful, and I’m a sucker for colorful paint jobs. During the summer, most restaurants have outdoor seating and while these restaurants are more expensive (obviously), it’s nice to grab a beer (the beer is fantastic) and enjoy the atmosphere. The main building in the middle of the square looks like a church, but it’s actually city hall. I’ve never been inside, but you can go in and I’m sure there’s a tour or something. (I’m such a knowledgeable guide, I know.)
Just off the market square, St. Elizabeth is a beautiful church with amazing stained glass windows. You can also go up to the clock tower and see the closest view of Rynek, It costs about 5 zł and there is no elevator. And there are 300 stairs. Not for the faint of heart. Also, it’s closed when it’s raining so keep that in mind.
St. Mary Magdalene’s
Also right off the market square, but on the opposite side of St. Elizabeth’s, this church also has great views although the stained glass is not as impressive, in my opinion. You can also climb to the top of the tower for about 5 zł, and again, there are a lot of stairs and no elevator. Does not close in the rain. It’s a great view at dusk, because it faces west.
North of the market square, in the middle of the Odra River. The whole island area is beautiful and fun to explore, with great bridges, old and new, connecting the different islands. The biggest island is Cathedral Island (Ostrów Tumski in Polish) where the main cathedral is. Since I am obsessed with climbing to the top of high towers and taking in the view, I can also recommend seeing the view from this church. This one, however, does have an elevator. (You still have to climb some stairs.) So if you’re not in good shape, I’d go for this one. It is closed on Mondays, I think, so check the schedule ahead of time.
One of the islands in the Odra River, this one is the nicest for chilling and drinking beer in warm weather. There are also a couple river boats with bars, which again, is a bit more expensive than a normal bar, but I’m a sucker for the ambiance. There’s also a couple great art pieces on the sides of the buildings on this island.
The main University building in Wrocław is right near the islands, just south of the river, and is pretty cool. It is actually a operational university, so you don’t actually want to explore the whole building, but there are parts open to the general public. They have a couple exhibition halls about the history of the university, plus a truly spectacular lecture hall (above) that puts everything at my university to shame. The Wieża Matematyczna (Mathematical Tower) has an exhibit on the scientific history of the university plus an observation deck, in case I haven’t given you enough of a leg workout yet.
A neighborhood north of the river with lots of great street art and murals. You can walk around and see what you find, or there is also a free walking tour that specializes in street art.
Go Dwarf Hunting!
There are these cute dwarves all over the city center, in tribute to the movement that fought against the Soviets in the 80s. (See: the header) The free walking tour company also does a special dwarf tour, although I have never been on it. My experience of the dwarves is basically me noticing a dwarf I’ve never seen and yelling, “Ahhhh! Another dwarf!” and scampering off to take a picture of it.
There are probably more things that I’ve forgotten, but this entry is already pretty long and no one is actually reading this to plan their trip to Poland, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves. See you guys soon!