Wroclaw Favorites

  • Cheongbae from Korea
    Cheongbae from Korea
    by magor65
  • St Stanislaus, Wenzel and Dorothea
    St Stanislaus, Wenzel and Dorothea
    by Kathrin_E
  • A modern church
    A modern church
    by Kathrin_E

Most Recent Favorites in Wroclaw

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    Summer Language Course at University

    by Kathrin_E Updated Oct 26, 2014

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    Favorite thing: Each year during the summer holidays the university of Wroclaw, to be precise: the School of Polish Language and Culture for Foreigners which is part of the Faculty of Philology, offers a four-week language class for foreigners. It is open to everyone, you do not have to be a university student. It consists of language lessons in the morning and lectures on cultural topics in the afternoon. Of course everything is in Polish. Language immersion and thorough language studies with competent teachers is the best way to learn. You do a placement test on the first day and according to the results groups of about 12 students are formed.

    Accommodation for the participants is organized at a student dorm. Three local students were hired as "pilots" to organize some activities outside lessons and to take care of any problems the participants might have. These three did an excellent job. They were always there, took people's wishes and needs and worries seriously whatever they were, and undertook any effort to solve every problem.

    If you are interested in more details about the course, please check out the school's website: http://www.sjpik.uni.wroc.pl

    My personal experience, however, is not entirely positive. I surely learned a lot. Trouble was that I ended up in a class that was far, far too difficult for me. Everyone does the same test, and the division into groups is done according to the points/percents scored - a fairly inaccurate method to estimate people's actual skills or lack thereof. After just one year of evening class I ended up in group 5 while others who had been studying much longer and spoke much better were in group 2. No idea how I scored those points. After two days of desperate struggle I changed to class 4 but still it was very hard, rather too hard. Until the second week many others changed groups, too, because they were not placed right.

    Usually each class stays with one teacher all four weeks; we changed in the middle of the course but that was all right. Both teachers were good and nice - although they did not realize my problems. Trying to understand the teacher, understanding the text on the sheet in front of me, understanding the grammar problem we were dealing with, figuring out what we were supposed to do with the text AND thinking about the correct answers, and all this at once, was often impossible to cope with. Most others either had a Slavic language as their mother tongue or knew at least some Russian. For them it was much easier to understand (or guess) what the teacher was saying, and to grasp the grammar which differs in many respects from our western languages. My biggest problem was my limited knowledge of vocabulary, compared to the others. Learning a hundred or more new words per day doesn't work. I'm not 20 or 25 any more...

    Although the school, or university institute, has been in existence and doing research and teaching for 40 years, I could not recognize a structure how the different levels were distinguished. It seemed to me that all groups started at the same point with repetition of basic grammar but speed and vocabulary then differed so the higher groups went further ahead. What if someone comes for the second time and has already done a course on a certain level there - will s/he be doing the same stuff again? (I am comparing to similar classes I took in Italian at a private school in Florence, which was a lot better organized.)

    Teaching materials consisted of a mess of photocopies with compiled exercises and grammar schemes in between, assembled from various other schoolbooks - although the school has published their own textbooks and teaching materials, but these were not used. Each teacher had to compile their own materials. Allow me to mention that this was not the first but the 40th time they were doing such a summer course.

    The lectures in the afternoon were done by university docents from various subjects and dealt with many interesting topics on Polish history, culture, and society. However, being entirely in Polish they were far too difficult to understand for the majority of the participants including yours truly and wasted time. The school will have to think about that.

    Conclusion: Attending this class makes sense if your Polish is already at medium level or higher and/or you know another Slavic language well. For beginners or people with weak skills like me, it is not as promising.

    Being a student once more Opening of the summer course in Oratorium Marianum Deputy rector gives a speech Faculty building on plac Nankiera
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    Quarter of Tolerance

    by Kathrin_E Updated Sep 18, 2014

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    Favorite thing: ... or the quarter of the four religions: that's what the southwest of the old town outside the ring road (ul. Kazimierza Wielkiego) is known at. Four religious denominations have their houses of prayer in more or less close vicinity:
    Jewish: White Stork Synagogue (photo 2)
    Protestant Christian: Court Church next to the royal palace (photo 3)
    Catholic Christian: Church of St Antonius (photo 4)
    Orthodox Christian: Cathedral, of the Birth of the Holiest Mother of the Lord, former Church of St Barbara (photo 5)

    The city promotes this situation as Quarter of Tolerance. How tolerant the different groups were towards each other in reality, that's another question.
    Besides, there have never been all four different communities active at the same time. The pre-war Jewish community was extinct under the Nazi regime. The White Stork synagogue is now a museum and cultural centre, hence not used for religious purposes any more. The present, small Jewish community of Wroclaw hold their services elsewhere. On the other hand, St Barbara used to be Roman Catholic and became an Orthodox church only in the later 20th century.

    Fondest memory: This quarter is also Wroclaw's most popular nightlife area with many pubs and clubs. Those who have met me know that I am not a party animal, though... so you'd have to ask someone else about this topic.

    Symbols of the four denominations Synagogue Protestant Court Church Catholic church of St Antonius Orthodox church
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    "Churching"

    by Kathrin_E Written Sep 18, 2014

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    Favorite thing: I stole this newly invented term, which describes art historians' favourite travel activity, from my colleagues in Wroclaw... Their city is, in fact, the perfect location for that. Wroclaw is full of churches. There are seven on Ostrów Tumski alone, three more on Sand Island, I counted 14 in the old town within the former moat, and an unknown but large number in the outer quarters and suburbs. Some of them have separate entries in my To do tips, but I can't write about them all. SO here is a personal shortlist, written with a twinkle.

    Fondest memory: My church awards in these categories go to:

    Most impressive buildings: Holy Cross, Cathedral of St John Baptist
    Most impressive gothic interior: St Elizabeth
    Most impressive baroque interior: Hochberg chapel in St Vincent
    Most impressive construction site: Facade and steeples of St Mary Magdalene
    Least impressive attraction: Crypt of St Vincent
    Prettiest facade ornaments: Corpus Christi
    Baroque overload: Jesuit church of the Divine Name of Jesus, aka University Church
    Nicest and friendliest reception of visitors: Greek-Catholic Cathedral of St Vincent
    Highest steeple climb: St Elizabeth
    Easiest steeple climb: Cathedral of St John Baptist
    Cutest: St Egidius
    Best reflection: St Wojciech (in the facade of Galeria Dominikanska)
    Finest ensemble: St Clara, St Mathias, St Vincent, Ossolineum and the abbey buildings
    Most entertaining: St Mary on Sand Island for the mechanical nativity
    Richest in art treasures from protestant era: St Elizabeth
    Fullest with furniture: St Stanislaus, Wenzel and Dorothea
    Kitsch award: Holy Cross, for the exhibition of contemporary church art, especially the Internet Madonna
    Darkest: Cathedral of St John Baptist
    Lightest: Protestant Court Church
    Best post-war reconstruction Oratorium: Marianum
    Finest portal: St Mary Magdalene for the Romanesque side portal
    Closed Door award: Protestant Court Church
    Ouch! award: to the 1980s and 1990s catholic churches in the suburbs

    St Wojciech Corpus Christi St Stanislaus, Wenzel and Dorothea A modern church
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    Traces of German Breslau

    by Kathrin_E Updated Sep 15, 2014

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    Favorite thing: Until 1945 Wroclaw/Breslau was a German-speaking city. After the war many inscriptions in German language were erased. The new regime wanted to extinct the German past. Using the German name "Breslau" was forbidden in the socialist era.

    Nowadays, however, my German-speaking Polish friends happily use the name Breslau when they talk about their city in German. I have learned that the name of the city is and has always been "Breslau" in German and "Wroclaw" (with slash through the l) in Polish through all eras, while the original name was "Wratislawia" which is actually Czech. It is not a renaming but just a translation, and they find it silly if modern Germans say "Wroclaw" instead of "Breslau". Okay, lesson learned.

    Traces of German Breslau can be found all over the city. There are of course the big sights like the churches with their many grave monuments, epitaphs and inscriptions, there are the historical objects on display in the museums, there is the old Jewish cemetery. Then there are the hidden, forgotten or reappearing little items with inscriptions in German language. Wroclaw belongs to Poland and is a Polish city now, but history cannot simply be erased.

    Photo 1 and 2: Manhole cover from the pre-war era on a shaft for district heating. The location is plac Legionów close to the corner with ul. Kosciuszki.

    Photo 3: Erased German inscriptions on tombstones at St Barbara church

    Photo 4: Inscription and portrait busts on a neoclassical house in ul. sw. Mikolaja, commemorating the founders of the pharmacy at the Hospital of the Holy Spirit

    Photo 5: Inscription of a carpet shop ("Teppiche") that reappears under post-war paint, corner ul. Kotlarska/ul. Szweska

    Acknowledgement: I owe the major part of this wisdom to Stefan - thank you for the special tour!!!

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    Art Nouveau Shop Buildings

    by Kathrin_E Written Sep 8, 2014

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    Favorite thing: In the early 1900's Wroclaw/Breslau must have been a shopping paradise. Countless shop buildings in art nouveau style were built in the city centre. A notable number of them is still preserved or restored, there must have been many more - if you know what to look for you will easily recognize them. Their most striking feature, in addition to art nouveau ornaments, are large shop windows not only on the ground floor but also on the first, second, or even third floor.

    Fondest memory: The best area to look for art nouveau architecture is around Rynek and Plac Solny, and in the adjacent streets on the western side of the old town, ul. Ruska, Kielbasnicza and Rzeznicza.

    Ul. Ruska Ul. Ruska Department store Two buildings in Rynek
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    Bauhaus and International Architecture of 1920s

    by Kathrin_E Written Sep 5, 2014

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    Favorite thing: The era after World War II was full of problems for the city, the economy was down, apartments and houses for living were scarce. Only after 1928, when the boundaries of the city were extended and many new settlements were built, the situation improved. In those years around 1928/1930 a couple of remarkable shop and office buildings influenced by Bauhaus and International Architecture were erected in the city centre.

    One which is often overlooked is the (now) Marks&Spencer store on the corner of ul. Olawska/ul. Laciarska (photos 1 and 2).
    The most famous is the former Wertheim department store, now Renoma shopping mall, i, ul. Swidnicka, built in 1929 (photo 3).
    Many people consider the bank Zachodny (photos 4 and 5) in the southwestern corner of Rynek a "commie" building - no it isn't. It was built in 1929-1931 and has more architectural value than most think. Note the egyptian reliefs round the main entrance. - The bank does not fit into the general appearance of Rynek square with its old facades. In the late 1920s, however, there were plans to rear down all the "old stuff" and rebuild the whole Rynek in Bauhaus style. We're glad now that this project never became reality.

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    Traces of World War II

    by Kathrin_E Updated Sep 4, 2014

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    Favorite thing: "Favourite thing" is definitely the wrong headline as I do not count myself among the so-called "history buffs" who believe in "military glory" and regard World War II sites like a theme park or the setting of some movie plot. We are discussing reality here! It is hard to imagine from a modern point of view what went on in Breslau during those last weeks of the war when the city was declared a Fortress and systematically destroyed.
    The attack of the Sowiet army came from the south and west, not as expected from the eastern side. The southern and western quarters of the city are destroyed almost completely. In the north and east you will find older qaurters with a notable amount of pre-war architecture, often in bad shape but still there.

    Wroclaw is full of remains from the war. Traces can be found all over the city if you know where to look and what to look for. 70 years later there are still occasional ruins. Air shelters are said to be underneath many squares and buildings - in some places their ventilation shafts remain visible. The most spectacular "souvenir" is probably the unexploded bomb which is stuck in the spire of the cathedral.

    Noticing these remainders, and realizing how many there are, is quite scary...

    Photo 1: Scars on a factory building in ul. Senkiewicza

    Photo 2: Unexploded shell stuck in the wall of the cathedral's southern spire

    Photo 3: Air bomb shelter in a backyard behind plac Kosciuszko

    Photo 4 and 5: Bomb shelter in the basement of a building on Ostrów Tumski, original grid with German inscription "Luftschutz"

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    Architecture mix and first impressions

    by german_eagle Updated Aug 25, 2014

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    Favorite thing: When visiting Wroclaw please keep in mind that the city was severely affected by the war in 1945. About 80% of the buildings in the centre were destroyed. Thus you'll see a relatively small (for a city this size) reconstructed old town around the Rynek square and rather ugly post-war architecture (I know that sort of architecture has fans, too, LOL).

    I probably forgot that (wishful thinking I guess). I was quite disappointed when I left the railway station and walked along Jozefa Pilsudskiego street - a mix of a few nicely restored buildings and many buildings that were still waiting for taking care of. Besides I was immediately put off by the air pollution/exhaust emissions. It got better in the centre of the old town but still ... there was a certain smell in the air. Reminded me of the old times before the fall of the wall.

    UPDATE: When I re-visited in 2014 I was pleasantly surprised by the very beautiful square in front of the central railway station: Pedestrian area with benches, trees, lawns, free WiFi ... and the odd smell was gone, too.

    What had not changed was the large number of buildings in decay/need of renovation. I noticed that some public squares and roads were nicely reconstructed, but not the apartment blocks from the communist era or 19th century apartment houses along/around them. Instead of reconstructing/renovating old houses they built new ones in abundance: Shopping malls, office buildings ... see the sky tower e.g. on pic 5.

    square in front of central railway station in 2014 apartment blocks - in 2009 and 2014 a street near central railway station apartment blocks from communist era in 2014 Sky tower
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    In six days across Africa and Asia

    by magor65 Updated Jul 25, 2013

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    Favorite thing: Brave festival held in July in Wroclaw let me travel to distant places without leaving my home city. And it was a very emotional, spiritual and authentic journey revealing unknown customs and traditions of the tribes and people who don't act to please the tourists but because of the inner need.
    This years's edition was dedicated to "lost rhythms". I, as a part of the public, had a chance to find, or at least grasp for a moment the rhythms expressing such positive emotions as respect, dignity or love.

    Fondest memory: I had a pleasure to participate only in some of many festival events. Here are several of the artists I truly admired:

    Bachu Khan from India ( Thar Desrt region) with his sensuous love songs. His band accompany him vocally and play the traditional string and woodwind instruments ( sarangi, algoza, murli) and also wooden castanet. The power of male voices enhanced by the sound of instruments simply enchanted the audience.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGAi6vovQNs

    Mohini Devi and the Kalbelia - a wandering tribe of Gypsies from Rajasthan. Their ancestors used to be snake charmers. Now, with the ban on performances with snakes, the reptiles have been replaced by women dancers. Proud, colourful and beautiful - it was an unforgettable experience to see and listen to them.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PofLuZJxkVQ

    Addal - a dance of Moroccan women from the Ameln valley. What makes their performance outstanding is the fact that all the dancers are covered with one common long veil, so the audience can't see their faces. In the past this veil was a symbol of resistance against French colonisation and the Addal dance is performed in this manner to this day.

    Ngqoko group - a women's choir from the Xhosa tribe in South Africa. The most extraordinary performance I have been to. The unusual language using click consonants, the unique musical bows and low voices of the singers accompanied by drumming, clapping and stamping made the performance very interesting to watch.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYj-55T6Uzs

    Bachu Khan by Slawek Przerwa Addal by Joanna Stoga Ngqoko by Bartek Janiczek Mohini Devi by Slawek Przerwa
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    Brave Festival

    by magor65 Updated Jul 23, 2013

    Favorite thing: Every July since 2005 Wroclaw has been hosting Brave Festival, the unique event during which we can meet the forgotten cultures and traditions from around the world. When I say "meet", I do mean it. The contact with the artists is not restricted to merely watching their performance, but everyone can participate in a lot of workshops, meetings and open shows in the city centre.
    As Grzegorz Bral, the initiator and director of the festival says: "This is the festival of the brave, of the people who say where they are from, what their values are, traditions and spirituality. This is not a festival about works of art but about the art which can save and protect thousands of forgotten, abandoned, lonely cultures and people."
    What's more, 100% proceeds from the sale of tickets goes to ROKPA International, an organisation that helps children in Nepal, Tibet and Africa.
    There's still another reason that makes this festival unique - Brave Kids project. This parallel event is to bring together children from around the world. They come from different social and cultural backgrounds, speak different languages, but what they have in common is openess and lack of prejudice. This year about one hundred children took part in different workshops which resulted in wonderful grand finale shown at the end of the festival.
    And last but not least - the festival film program offering very interesting films in three categories: Brave Focus ( this year dedicated to Cambodia and its most renowned director Ritha Panh), Brave Context (referring to each year's main theme) and Brave People Doc.

    Fondest memory: Although this year it was already the 9th edition of this unique festival, it was the first time for me. Earlier, I always travelled abroad in July, as it is the time of summer holidays here in Poland. But these six days of Brave Festival were so unusual and inspiring that from now on I'm not going to miss it. And I invite everyone - come to Wroclaw in the first half of July and participate in this amazing event.

    PHOTOS come from Brave Festival presspack

    The poster of Brave Festival 2013 Nqgoko from South Africa Cheongbae from Korea
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    Local Tourist Office + Useful links

    by pieter_jan_v Updated Oct 10, 2012

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    Favorite thing: The CENTRUM INFORMACJI TURYSTYCZNEJ or local tourist office is located at:

    "The Meeting Point"
    ul. Rynek 14, 50-101 Wroclaw
    Tel: +48-71-3443111

    Business hours:
    Summer:
    Daily: 10AM - 9PM
    Winter:
    Daily: 10AM - 8PM

    Useful Wroclaw links:
    Wroclaw City page
    Wroclaw weather
    Wroclaw Internet Service

    The Meeting Point - Wraclow Wroclaw map + The Meeting Point Wroclaw map The Meeting Point - Interior
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    Wroclaw by night

    by HORSCHECK Updated Mar 15, 2012

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    Favorite thing: Wroclaw by night is well worth seeing, as most churches and historic buildings in the Old Town (Stare Miasto) are beautifully illuminated.

    So don't miss a night stroll across the Market Square (Rynek) and the surounding streets. Also the churches on Ostrow Tumski are a great panorama at night when seen from the left bank of the river Odra.

    Town Hall at night Wroclaw Glowny at night St. Elisabeth Church at night
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    Architecture of Wroclaw

    by HORSCHECK Updated Mar 15, 2012

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    Favorite thing: Although about two-thirds of Wroclaw were destroyed after WWII in 1945, the city is nowadays rich in architectural styles from Gothic to 20th century architecture.

    One building which I especially liked in Wroclaw is the main train station (Dworzec Glowny). It looks more like a fairytale castle than a train station.

    It was constructed between 1854 and 1856 in Neo-Gothic style (Tudor Gothic). It was also affected by WWII but rebuilt and renovated afterwards.

    Dworzec Glowny Dworzec Glowny Dworzec Glowny
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    Bridges of Wroclaw

    by HORSCHECK Updated Mar 15, 2012

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    Favorite thing: Can you believe that there are only 3 European cities that have more bridges than Wroclaw?
    They are Venice, Amsterdam and St. Petersburg. Wroclaw is home to more than 120 bridges that connect the 12 islands on which the city is built.

    One of the most famous bridges of Wroclaw is probably the Grunwaldzki Bridge (Most Grunwaldzki). Former names of the bridge were Imperial Bridge and Adolf Hitler Bridge. It was completed in 1910 and still is Poland's longest suspension bridge.

    Grunwaldzki Bridge
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    The Market Square

    by HORSCHECK Updated Mar 15, 2012

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    Favorite thing: Wroclaw's touristic heart is the Market Square (Rynek) which originally dates back to the 13th century, but was almost completely destroyed in 1945. The 3,7 ha large Market Sqaure is surrounded by beautiful buildings with facades from Gothis to Art Nouveau.

    It is home to the City Hall, the Stone Pillory, various statues and a relatively new glass fountain. Apart from many nice restaurants, cafe and pubs with outdoor seatings, the Tourist Information can be found here.

    Market Square: Historical building facades Market Square (Rynek) Market Square: Behind the Town Hall
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