Wishing someone a Happy Birthday in Polish is a wonderful mouthful. Can you say “Wszystkiego Najlepszego”?
Lipiec (July) is a birthday month for us. Celebrating birthdays while traveling makes for memorable days. We celebrated one birthday with fireworks in Lisbon, Portugal in January and now one birthday with multimedia fountains in Wrocław, Poland in July. Read here to see how we spent our July birthday last year in Granada, Spain. https://ourtapestry.blog/2018/07/21/birthday-week/
Near the UNESCO awarded, sublimely shaped, Centennial Hall we discovered an enormous fountain. At the top of each hour throughout the day jets of water dance to the rhythm of the piped in music and the show was so appealing we wanted to catch it at night. There are 800 programmable lights that change colors, (for the night display) 300 adjustable water jets and three nozzles that shoot flames into the air. It was therefore, after dark when we witnessed our second and most spectacular show! The variety and number of colors of the lights, dancing water jets, and beautiful music, created a dazzling experience we will remember.
The fountain was built in 2009 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first free elections in Poland after the fall of Communism. It is bordered by a long ivy draped pergola which provides a quiet, cool and semi-private place to promenade.
Mosty (or Bridges)
Wrocław is called the City of Bridges. There are 112 bridges, many are small pedestrian bridges, connecting 12 Islands that make up the city. Here are just a couple of the brightly colored bridges we strolled across.
National Museum in Wrocław
The National Museum in Wrocław, opened in 1948, is regarded as one of the largest and most important museums in Poland. We were planning to visit 3 separate sites on this day but instead we spent the entire day exploring this one fabulous museum. There are more than 200,000 artifacts and six permanent exhibitions. We took hundreds of photos, broke them out by type or timeline and have attached a few of those links below. It was a very good day!
Wrocław is the capital city of Silesia, a province in southern Poland, and much of the historical art pieces in the museum were sourced from the Silesian Province including Silesian stone sculptures from the 12-16th century, Silesian art from 14-19th century, Polish art in general from 17-19th century, European art from 15-20th century and an enchanting Oriental collection.
Four Domes Pavilion Museum of Contemporary Art
Wrocław’s National Museum has three other branches including the Panorama of the Battle of Racławice which we visited, loved and wrote about last week, the Four Domes Pavilion Museum of Contemporary Art and an Ethnographic Museum we have not seen.
Each of the impressive Four Domes of the Four Domes Pavilion are of varying sizes and we were pleased to discover they each contained a museum, which gave us an up close look at the attractive domes as well. Housed within the Four Domes Pavilion is the Museum of Modern Art offering both permanent and temporary exhibitions. We found a wonderful collection of Polish contemporary paintings along with sculptures, prints, “science-meets-art” and multimedia projects.
There was an interesting and thought provoking temporary exhibition about computers and artificial intelligence. Created by polish designer, Edward Ihnatowicz, ‘Senster’ the 15 foot tall sensory robot, now 50 years old, responds to the sounds of people around it. It was the first robot to be controlled by a computer. As it was next to the cafeteria we sat with our coffee and were quite entertained by its movements and interactions.
Also part of the temporary exhibit were ongoing scientific experiments including the sounds of rocks dissolving as acid ever so slowly drips on them. We each had an opportunity to put on a headset and experience virtual reality; it was amazing. The entire temporary exhibit was meant to invite discussion about our human impact and relationship to this world. It was fascinating.
Butchers Street – The Shambles
Once upon a time the butchers of the city congregated in one narrow alley referred to Butchers Street or the Shambles. Today it is a clean and pleasant street where you can peruse through small art shops. Our favorite find was at one end of the street. It is a collection of bronze statues of farm animals including a goose (with a ‘golden’ egg), a rabbit, a goat, two pigs and a rooster along with an accompanying sign acknowledging the animals contributions as food: ‘In honor of Animals for Slaughter – the Consumers.’
Churches in Wrocław
Some of the most beautiful churches and cathedrals in Wrocław are located on Tumski Island, understandably nicknamed Cathedral Island.
Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese and is therefore the Wrocław Cathedral. Heavily damaged in WWII, it was completely rebuilt for the 4th time since its inception in the 10th century.
Located on Ostrów Tumski, this sensational landmark was one of our favorite sites. It truly is a majestic structure from any angle. The two tall towers can be spotted from all over the city and the red brick body topped with various shapes of green copper domes and roofs make it incredibly photogenic.
Cathedral of St. Mary Magdalene, one of the oldest churches in the city, was built in 1226-1232. The Gothic church we see today was built 1355-1360 and by 1459 the two towers were connected by the highest bridge in the Silesia Province at 150 feet above ground (46m). This high bridge was used as a platform for orchestras and from where fireworks were launched. There is a darker history to the bridge as well. It is about how the bridge became known as the “bridge of penitents” and “witches’ bridge”.
There are numerous variations of a legend that says women were sent to up the bridge as penitence for being lazy, frivolous, evil, flirtatious, vain, unfaithful, didn’t wish to marry, or in general, didn’t want to fulfill their family duties. They were obliged to clean and sweep the bridge during the day so that all the townspeople could see them. The story goes that the bridge is haunted by the ghosts of women still strolling and cleaning the bridge.
We climbed up the 246 steps to the witches bridge, admired the outstanding view of the city and sure enough, right before us appeared two witches.
Church of the Holy Cross and St. Bartholomew’s Church is also fondly referred to as the Double Church.
There is a story that in the late 13th century, two wealthy archrivals, Prince Henry and the Bishop of Wroclaw were ordered by the Archbishop to work together and build a church on Tumski Island. As expected, they continued to disagree on every detail. The compromise they finally reached was each build their own church, albeit one on top of the other.
The double church looks like a tall church on the outside, but inside there are two levels. On the ground floor sits St. Bartholomew’s Church financed by Prince Henry. Sitting on the second level is the Church of Holy Cross, named by the Bishop after a cross-shaped tree root was unearthed when the foundations were being dug.
St. Elizabeth’s Church is a 14th-century Gothic style church in Wrocław that continues to have an unmistakable presence in Old Town. It towers above all else at 300 feet (91 meters) and once was even taller at 420 feet (130 m). Today a Catholic church, but between 1525 and 1945 it was the principal Protestant church of the city.
This church has a reputation for being unlucky. In 1529 a heavy hail storm devastated it, during WWII it suffered severe damage and then again in 1976 it was gutted by fire. The glorious church organ was also completely lost in the fire but here is what it looked like.
Church of St. John of Nepomuk is a marvelous 17th-century small wooden church in Szczytnicki Park. It is partially hidden by large trees so you may need to keep a careful look out for it. It is no longer used as a church and was completely locked up when we visited, but the outside was indeed charming.
There is a very old medieval penitential cross planted next to the former church. The structure has recently undergone renovations and it looks like it may be around for another 100 years.
Muzeum Miejskie Wrocławia
The City Museum of Wroclaw was founded in 2000 and is located in the former Royal Palace of the Prussian monarchy. Originally built in 1717, the Palace was heavily damaged in 1945 during the Siege of Breslau. The most recent renovations were completed in 2008 and it is a beautiful space and location. We found this museum to be an invaluable source of information about this part of Poland. The exhibition includes displays over the last 1,000 years, but it focuses primarily from the Middle Ages through to the present day.
The baroque garden at the back of the palace is worth a stroll as well. Enhancing the garden is a temporary installation of elegant sculptures by artist Małgorzata Chodakowska.
Our Airbnb host gifted us with a wonderful bottle of Soplica Pigwowa, a quince flavored vodka. The amber colored liquor was warm and rich, tasting like baked quince. Really lovely over ice. The original 40 proof vodka has been made in Poland since 1891, the addition of fruit flavors a newer concept.
We have a fantastic Airbnb host here in Wrocław. Quick responses to our questions and, along with Google translate, we are able to easily communicate with each other. In addition to the Soplica Pigwowa, there was a bottle of sparkling water, a large Russian brand, Россия, coffee flavored dark chocolate bar (wish we could find it again) fresh ice cubes, plenty of coffee and tea, sugar, creamer, cookies, candies, oil, salt and pepper. We appreciate this level of thoughtfulness and tend to find it when we choose a “super host” on Airbnb.
A month ago however the pantry was the barest we have experienced yet. Inside one cupboard was a small salt and pepper shaker containing less than a teaspoon of salt and pepper each. Sadly, no ‘bnb’ or welcome feel to that Airbnb.
Then the month prior in Rome, we arrived fairly late so our sweet hostess began preparing a wonderful spaghetti dinner for us, including a bottle of red wine. That we certainly appreciated! As you can see, each Airbnb experience differs.
The concept of Sister Cities or Twin Towns, in general, was developed as a way to encourage friendship and understanding between cultures and to promote trade, tourism, commercial and business links between cities. Wrocław is a Sister City to Charlotte, North Carolina, United States, Guadalajara, Mexico and Oxford, United Kingdom among others.
Following World War II, the concept of twinning was introduced to aid in peace and reconciliation. A concept that continues to be relevant.
Na zdrowie (Naz-droh-vee-ay) from these Wrocławianie / Vratislavians:
Ted and Julia
View our National Museum photo galleries here: