Autumn 2021. In theory we could travel to other continents, but destinations we had in mind such as Japan or the United Kingdom were impossible to plan ahead. Instead we organised a rail trip to Eastern Europe, travelling to Berlin, Gdańsk, Wrocław, Karlovy Vary, Pilsen, Bratislava, Poprad, Vienna, Linz and Salzburg. By travelling to Germany, Poland, Czechia, Slovakia and Austria, we explore an area which was in the (not too distant) past bonded together by the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and by Austria-Hungary.
At first we only had half a day in Wrocław, pronounced ‘Vrotswav’ and also known by its German name Breslau, but a change in the travel plans meant we didn’t stop in Warsaw. It gained us a full day in the capital of Lower Silesia.
Wrocław lies on the banks of the River Oder in the Silesian Lowlands. The official population of Wrocław in 2020 was 643,782, with a further 1.25 million residing in the metropolitan area.
Wrocław is the historical capital of Silesia and Lower Silesia. Today, it is the capital of the Lower Silesian Voivodeship. The history of the city dates back over a thousand years.
Wrocław became part of Poland again in 1945 as part of the so-called Recovered Territories, the result of extensive border changes and expulsions after World War II.
Wrocław is a university city with a student population of over 130,000, making it arguably one of the most youth-oriented cities in the country.
As does Gdańsk, Wrocław scores well on life quality indexes.
In the Old Town of Wrocław (Stare Miasto we Wrocławiu) several architectural landmarks and edifices are one of the best examples of Brick Gothic and Baroque architecture in the country.
Fine examples of Neoclassicism, Gründerzeit and Historicism are also scattered across the city’s central precinct. The Wrocław Opera House, Monopol Hotel, the University Library, the Ossolineum, the National Museum and the castle-like District Court are among some of the grandest and most recognizable historic structures. There are several examples of Art Nouveau and Modernism in pre-war retail establishments such as the Barasch-Feniks, Petersdorff-Kameleon and Renoma department stores.
The Ostrów Tumski or Cathedral Island is the oldest section of the city. It was once an isolated islet between the branches of the Oder River.
The Wrocław Cathedral of St. John the Baptist was erected in the mid 10th century and later expanded over the next hundreds of years. The island is also home to five other Christian temples and churches, the Archbishop’s Palace, the Archdiocese Museum, the St. John of Nepomuk monument, historic tenements and the steel Tumski Bridge from 1889.
A notable attraction are 102 original gas lanterns which are manually lit each evening by a cloaked lamplighter.
The early 13th-century Main Market Square or Rynek is the oldest medieval public square in Poland, and also one of the largest.
It features the ornate Gothic Old Town Hall, the oldest of its kind in the country. In the north-west corner of the square you see the St. Elisabeth’s Basilica (Bazylika Św. Elżbiety).
Beneath the basilica are two small medieval houses connected by an arched gate that once led into a churchyard; these were reshaped into their current form in the 1700s.
Today, the two connected buildings are known to the city’s residents as ‘Jaś i Małgosia‘, named after Hansel and Gretel.
North of the church are so-called ‘shambles’ (jatki), a former meat market with a Monument of Remembrance for Slaughtered Animals.
The Salt Square, now a flower market, opened in 1242 is located at the south-western corner of the Market Square.
Close to the square, between Szewska and Łaciarska streets, is the domeless 13th-century St. Mary Magdalene Church, which during the Reformation (1523) was converted into Wrocław’s first Protestant temple.
The Cathedral of St. Vincent and St. James and the Holy Cross and St. Bartholomew’s Collegiate Church are burial sites of Polish monarchs: Henry II the Pious and Henry IV Probus.
The Pan Tadeusz Museum, open since May 2016, is located in the ‘House under the Golden Sun‘ at Market Square 6. The manuscript of the national epos, ‘Pan Tadeusz‘, is housed there as part of the Ossolineum National Institute.
Not having really researched Wrocław beforehand, we just “followed our nose” and walked on Cathedral Island. We visited the Museum of Architecture (Muzeum Architektury) and afterwards we made our way to the Rynek.
Wrocław has a distinctively different vibe than Gdańsk. The architecture oozes more Central Europe and less Northern Europe. More Bohemia and Austria than Gdańsks Nordic, Baltic vibe.
We ended the day at Max Berg‘s Centenial Hall. Unfortunately it was too crowded to visit the visitor centre’s museum and the inside of the hall. We should have booked a time slot, although the attendant didn’t say anything about that.
The crew looked quite overwhelmed by the (not so spectacular) turn-out. That’s a bit of a shame.
As Hotel The Bridge was slightly outside the centre, we had dinner nearby at Lwia Brama². So we can’t tell if Wrocław is as much a party destination as Gdańsk.
2021 Rail Tour of Imperial Europe
- POTSDAM 2021 | Schloss Sanssouci.
- 1945 Potsdam Conference’s Cecilienhof Palace.
- Potsdam 2021.
- REVIEW | InterContinental Berlin.
- BERLIN 2021 | Pergamon, ‘Das Panorama’.
- BERLIN 2021 | Humboldt Forum in the Berlin Palace.
- BERLIN 2021 | The Bundestag in the Reichstag.
- Berlin 2021.
- By train from Berlin to Gdansk via Szczecin.
- Stopover in Szczecin.
- REVIEW | Restauracja Ritz in Gdańsk.
- REVIEW | Holiday Inn Gdansk.
- GDAŃSK | Museum of the Second World War.
- GDAŃSK | European Solidarity Centre or Europejskie Centrum Solidarności.
- A walk through Gdańsk.
- Gdańsk 2021.
- POLAND | PKP Intercity Gdansk to Wroclaw via Warsaw.
- Wrocław Museum of Architecture.
- The Dwarfs of Wrocław.