City trip Wroclaw
Wrocław is a medium-sized city in candy colours in southwestern Poland on the Oder River. Although not as famous as its bigger brother Krakow, this city should feature on your bucket list. Due to Bohemian, Austrian and Prussian influences, Wroclaw has a unique architectural and cultural makeup. The city has 12 islands, 130 bridges and several parks. This Hanseatic city is also known under the name of Breslau. However, in 1945 the name was officially changed to Wroclaw.
Dwarves in Wroclaw
Besides a fantastic colour palette, this city boasts a remarkable ethnic minority, dwarfs (or gnomes)! The first gnome settled here in 2001. Seven years later, female gnomes arrived in Wroclaw. The Polish ‘Orange Alternative’ facilitated the arrival of the gnomes. This playful resistance movement was founded in the communist era. They used the gnome as their symbol.
At the time of writing, the municipality had already welcomed hundreds of these tiny immigrants. And the population is still growing. Commercial organisations and local authorities sponsor newcomers.
Power to the gnomes
Although the immigrants are tiny, they still have to work for a living. Some of them are argonauts or artists, others mountain climbers or bankers.
‘Big Brother’ is keeping a close watch on the aliens. Every gnome is registered with its location, profession and juicy details about their lives on a dedicated website. So much for privacy!
However, they are not left entirely powerless to the benevolence of tourists and locals. Apparently, they have to be treated well, or they become tormentors, and of course, that may not be desirable.
So be sure to make small talk with them about your quest through the city when following their trail.
Stare Miasto, central market Wroclaw
Start the search for dwarves on the main market, Stare Miasto. This is the heart of the city with candy-coloured buildings.
Pay particular attention to the town hall. This example of medieval architecture took almost two centuries (1327-1504) to complete. The astronomic clock on the front of the former town hall is made of larch wood. It was built in 1580. The building houses a national museum with an impressive regional art collection.
St. Elizabeth Church
St. Elizabeth is a Gothic church. Climb the 300-plus steps of the tower for a great view over Wrocław. Of course, you need to be eagle-eyed to be able to spot gnomes from this high up.
Botanical Gardens in Wroclaw
The city has several parks along the river. The park Juliusza Słowackiego is located in the centre, with gardens spread over almost six hectares. Except for dwarf statues, there are many other attractions nearby, such as the National Muzeum Narodowe, which has one of the largest art collections in the country.
National Muzeum Narodowe
Furthermore, don’t miss the imposing war memorial in the park: An image of an angel looking down on a grieving woman, holding the body of a loved one in her arms.
The monument was erected in memory of the Katyn massacre. In the spring of 1940, an estimated 22,000 Polish officers and intellectuals were assassinated by the Soviet secret police near this town. With the elimination of the intellectual elite, Stalin hoped to nip any resistance of the Polish people against the communist regime in the bud.
You will find the equally bloody Panorama Raclawize a few meters from the monument.
The Panorama of Raclawize is a circular painting of the struggle for Polish independence.
The work depicts the battle fought between the Polish and Russian armies at Racławize on April 4th, 1794. The Polish won but to no avail. Months later, they were crushed by the tsarist army.
The artwork measures 15 by 114 meters.
Tickets can be purchased at the box office. Note that during the high season, there are long delays since only 85 people are allowed in at a time. Therefore, best to buy tickets for the Panorama of Raclawize beforehand.
Ostrów Tumski or Cathedral Island
The idyllic Cathedral Island, the oldest part of the city, is a must for lovers of Gothic architecture with many religious buildings. They are owned mainly by the Wrocław diocese. Nowadays, Ostrow Tumski is not really an island anymore. Sustained floods in the 19th century led to the draining of a tributary of the river. The district can be reached via the central bridge over the river.
Katedralna Street, in particular, is atmospheric. To this day, gas lamps still illuminate the road. These are lit by hand during twilight, which is also an excellent time to spot gnomes.
The cosy Rzeźnicza apartment is in a fantastic location in the city centre, with several restaurants and a big market within walking distance. It is suitable for four people.
If you prefer to stay in a hotel with a reasonable budget, try the five-star Radisson Blu opposite the Panorama Racławice.
Polish Armed Forces on August 15th
The Day of the Polish Armed Forces (Polish: Wojska Polskiego Święto) is celebrated on August 15th. A national holiday commemorating the victory over the Russians at the Battle of Warsaw in 1920 during the Polish-Soviet War.
Throughout the country, military parades are held to commemorate the event. During the communist regime (from 1947), these celebrations were banned. However, in 1992 the tradition was revived.
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