You wouldn't have been in Wroclaw very long before you find yourself tripping over one of the small bronze gnomes that are dotted around everywhere. There's so many of them that nobody really knows how many there are. The latest estimates are put at around 180. You can buy a map in the tourist office which helps you locate them but I've no doubt that it constantly needs updating. I'm sure many parents have bought one pretending that it's for the kids. There is even a website dedicated to these 'Krasnale' as they're known.
Although they have long held a place in Polish folklore it was the political events of the 1980s that escalated their importance. During communism any subversive slogans were quickly painted over by the authorities. In return, this was painted over again, this time with pictures of gnomes by protesters belonging to the 'Alternative Orange' movement.
Led by Waldemar 'Major' Fydrych, an art history student at the university, the Alternative Orange movement became a symbol of protest. People began to dress up as gnomes at marches and gatherings and subsequently the gnome became a symbol of Wroclaw - and has been ever since.
In 2001 a statue of the gnome 'Papa Krasnal' was commissioned to commemmorate the Alternative Orange movement and you can see it next to the tram stop at Swidnicka/Kazimierza Wielkiego where the movement often met to demonstrate.
Papa Krasnal is the largest gnome in Wroclaw but I defy any visitor not to keep looking for all his offspring around the city. You just can't help it, no matter how old you are.
It is customary in Poland that ladies toilets show a circle or the words "dla pan", whereas gents toilets show a triangle or the words "dla panow". This can be quite confusing when only the signs are shown on the toilet doors in a restaurant.
Public toilets usually charge anything between 1 and 2 Zloty, so make sure you have some change available.
I have seen this in some rare places at other Polish towns, but Wroclaw really has these special hous numbering system, where a triangle shaped illuminated house numbers.
Some of them appear to be 100 years old.
In Wroc³aw you can see a lot of Soviet-style blocks like the one in this picture.
It is interesting to see that people often customize their flat, which results in a mix of colours, flowers, etc. Quite unusual!
Poles are one of the most religious peoples in Europe. Catholicism is professed by over 90% of the population and the election of Karol Wojty³a to Pope with the name of Jan Pawe³ II (John Paul II) has contributed to revive the Catholic feeling also among the young generations. So it is not rare at all to meet nuns and priest even on the streets of big cities like Wroc³aw or Kraków.
When travelling around Poland you will notice some typical Polish meals. There are both popular national dishes and typical regional dishes.
Probably the most famous national-dish is Bigos which doesn't have a standard recipe, but roughly speaking is a stew of sauerkraut and meat. It has to simmer for a few days.
Another dish which is well known all over Poland are Pierogi. They are warm semi-circular dumplings traditionally filled with meat, cabbage or cheese. Other fillings are are possible as well.
A typical regional dish for Lower Silesia (Wroclaw) are Silesian dumplings - kluski slaskie. They are little round shaped potato dumplings served with gravy, often served as a side dish to Goulash or any other piece of meat.
Don't be surprised if you see people drinking their pints with a straw, especially girls.
The reason is that the beer is mixed with a syroup (you have to ask for it) and they serve it with the straw and actually you enjoy drinking it with the straw.
Normally you can chose between raspberries syroup or ginger. I tried the ginger one and it was very very good...
If you like it, than be careful, cause you can drink one glass after the other as the syroup makes the beer tasting lighter than it is. ;-)
I learned two Polish habits which I'm not proud of. One was jaywalking and another being late. At first I didn't like that I had to wait. But when I spend more time in Wroclaw I noticed that I'm always late as well :) I think that main reason why people were late was traffic jams but on the other hand Polish people are relaxed and they don't mind waiting others. Anyway it's always well-mannered to send message that you are not going to be on time even if it's common custom.
I tasted this in the heart of Wroclaw and I got the impression this is a very local thing to eat. You can by cheap, excellent beer with almost every flavour and from street stands you can buy a huge slice of bread covered with grease and herbs or garlic. It's a very unique taste when put together! I had some rasberry beer which was pretty and pink and tasted really nice. Can't remember the price (it was a few years ago) but it was anything but expensive. Just try it!
From 1919 until 1945 Wroclaw was the capital of the Prussian province Lower Silesia, which was part of the Weimarer Republic. At that time Wroclaw was known under its German name "Breslau".
Nowadays you will see busloads of German nostalgia tourists who come to seek their family roots in Wroclaw.
Even I have family roots in the region as my grandmother was born not too far from Breslau. I even visited a church where one of her relatives was baptised.
Poland is famous for a vodka-drinking tradition. Nevertheless, there are some popular Polish beers. One famous brewery is Zywiec which was founded in 1852 and nowadays owned by Heineken.
Another well known beer brand is Okocim; an old-established brewery (founded 1845), which is now owned by Carlsberg. Both Zywiec and Okocim lager contain more than 5 % alcohol.
Apart from these two beers, Piast seems to be a popular beer in Wroclaw. It used to be brewed locally in the Dolnoslaskie Piast Brewery which was closed down in 2004. Nowadays it belongs to Carlsberg Polska and is brewed in Brzesko and Szczecin.
Although Poland joined the European Union (EU) on the 1st of May 2004, they don't have the Euro as currency.
Poland's currency is still the Zloty. 1 Zloty is worth 100 Grosz. You can get your money with your credit or debit card from cash points or just by exchanging your local money at one of the bureaux de change.
Every day in the Main Square there can you meet many street artists. There on the pic is a man from Ukraine, he play the balalayka and sing ukrainian folks songs.
Pablos_new wrote me that this instrument this is not a balalayka. This is Bandura - Ukrainian unique instrument. And the person is called Bandurist. Thanks :)
The other this is a folks music ensamble maybe from Bielorussia, but I`m not sure :)
There can you meet too Indians and many more.
The painting and the inscription on this wall commemorates Pope John Paul II's visit to Wroc³aw in 1997. Karol Wojty³a or Jan Pawe³ Drugi is by far the most important man of the Polish history; who are today Adam Mickiewicz or Jan Sobieski compared to Him? Every Polish citizen seems to love Him, even the (few) who don't believe in Christ or don't go to the mass. This is due to the fact that Karol Wojty³a was not only the head of the Roman Catholic church, but, much more important, the main author of the fall of communism. That is why many people love Him in Polska and in the whole world and hope He will become saint soon.
Every year in June on the Solny Square there is the St. John`s fair. On the stalls you can buy jewelery, sweets, amber, handicraft, pottery, pictures ect.
This year I buy me this wanderful pendant: silver and turkuse. I pay 24 zl, about 6 Euro.