As a mid-semester “break”, three friends and I decided to take a trip outside the UK, giving ourselves the challenge of going for a cheap weekend away to escape the repetitive student lifestyle of sleeping, eating and studying. Searching on google flights, we found three places that were the cheapest = Copenhagen [Denmark], Poznań [Poland] and Wrocław [Poland].
Our final decision was the latter as Bety had been to Copenhagen and Poznań was pricier than Wrocław! We flew from East Midlands Airport near Nottingham direct to Wrocław–Copernicus Airport that is situated to the west of the small city. The city has the River Oder running through it like many strands separating the city into various islands like Venice [but it isn’t a city built on water]. For this reason, there are over 100 bridges dotted around the city, hence the city is also known as ‘The City of 100 Bridges’. These link city’s different districts such as Students Island, Cathedral Island and so on. Wrocław is a great city to do when you’re on a student budget and have an adventure in a rather unfamiliar area of the world. [Well, I’m basing this on my little exposure to Eastern European culture].
The large town square in the centre of the city is coloured with pointy-roofed buildings facing inward to towering Town Hall and adjacent square of buildings filled with alleys and shortcuts. To the north-west side stands Kościół pw. św. Elżbiety Węgierskiej (St Elizabeth’s Church), a large church with a tall tower in its left corner. On the Saturday morning, in the sunshine, we stole the opportunity to get a panoramic view above the cities buildings by climbing this tower. However google did not pre-warn us of the 300 tiny spiralling staircase that seemed to go on for an eternity. It is around 91 metres tall. But, as always, the climb was worth it. Although the chilly breeze whipped our faces, the city sprawled out in all directions, the coloured buildings and bold copper roofs glowed in the morning sunshine.
There are sights to see and things to do in all directions from the central part of the old city. To the east, there is the famous painting ‘Racławice Panorama’ which is a 15m by 114m painting of the historical Battle of Racławice, the Grunwaldski Bridge, Wrocław Zoo, the grand Centennial Hall with adjacent sprawling gardens of all styles and shapes. The only flaw of our trip was the timing. I can imagine that the city glows with even more colour in the warmer months with the amount of trees and flowers that cover the city. I would dedicate at least half a day to do this part of the city [which we didn’t do…] to fully explore all the sights that I’ve listed above!
To the west, there is a Museum of Contemporary Art which is full of peculiar, abstract, but also powerful and impressionist artworks. The circular building has six floors with different types of artwork on each one.
To the south, there are more modern and less touristy sights to see however if shopping takes your fancy and you wish to take advantage of the cheaper prices offered by the Polish zloty, this is the place to go! There are a few shopping centres in which both international and local brands can be found. I was intrigued to see H&M, M&S and Zara were very popular and the stand out brands among these centres. Even though this isn’t necessarily a cultural side of the city, it definitely shows the growing development of Wrocław with more modern buidings; including the tallest sky scraper in Poland ‘the Sky Tower’. It is 212 meters and has a viewing deck facing north across the city. It costs around £2 to visit the viewing deck which is a pleasing price for a good view! There were also these statues at one of the major crossings. They are going into the ground on one side and coming out the other!
Last but not least… to the north, there is the hub of sightseeing locations but also street art. Just above the city centre lies the University building that is a large 200 metres long! Across the bridge to the northern side, the view back on the city is picturesque and offers the opportunity for a wander along the river towards Cathedral Island. Walking along the river, over Student Island, and across to Cathedral Island takes you past two grand pieces of street art, gives you a view of Wrocław’s Art Museum with 19th century pieces, and the government offices. The stark contrast between the architecturally historic museum and the plain square German-built offices (built during WW2) demonstrates the complex history of Wrocław. If you carry on into the city’s northern district, there is some street art dotted around but is a more realistic view of the city’s current state. It was really nice to wander up through this area of the city to catch the murals of street art dotted among the residential buildings.
and.. the best part of the city for me was the dwarves! It was like a treasure hunt already laid out for us to win. It is said that there are over 350 spread across the city! In September ever year Wrocław celebrates ‘Dwarf Festival’.
The first dwarf is known as ‘Papa Dwarf’. One theory / fairytale explains that the Wrocław was the first place that dwarves appeared and humans only began to inhabit the city many years later. They lived in harmony and in honour of the dwarves helping to construct the city, the districts of Wrocław are named after some of the dwarves. Yet, the first dwarf was placed in the city in 2001. Below I’ve added a slideshow of the ones we found… as you can see, we weren’t too close to the 350 mark!!
This is the official page for them, http://krasnale.pl/en/ however there isn’t too much detail in English (but for some reason there is in Spanish!!) so I recommend this article which explains it really nicely: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/poland/wroclaw/articles/wroclaw-dwarves-the-anti-communist-protest-movement-tourist-map-why-history/
In short, Wrocław is a city of colour, eclectic surprises, and culture with cheap beer (it’s £1 whaaaaat) and great food that I’d recommend to anyone. It has certainly re-alighted my passion for travelling and I definitely won’t be sitting at my desk for too long in the future.
Another perspective of our adventure: danny made a quick vlog of our trip ^_^