Wroclaw Local Customs

  • Local Customs
    by Kathrin_E
  • Local Customs
    by Kathrin_E
  • Local Customs
    by Kathrin_E

Most Recent Local Customs in Wroclaw

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    Assumption Day

    by Kathrin_E Updated Feb 17, 2015

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    Assumption of Mary (August 15) is a big holiday in catholic Poland. It is a public holiday with about everything closed, so plan accordingly if you are there on that date. Most shops are open on normal Sundays but will also stay closed on this holiday.

    In the morning many people go to church, and it is customs to bring a bouquet of flowers, grain, and berries which is then blessed during mass. Outside the churches you will see people selling these bouquets. They look very pretty - but since I'm not catholic I did not buy one, I didn't want to pretend.

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    Street Artists in Rynek

    by Kathrin_E Written Sep 19, 2014

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    Street artists can be encountered in Rynek any time. Some come every day, like the portrait painter, the guitar band, the soap bubble guys, or the Invisible Beggar whom I granted a separate tip. Others are travelling and there just for one day or a few, and others come occasionally. There are all sorts.
    Musicians, of course. Some stay in one spot, others tour the outdoor seatings of the restaurants and cafes. Some are professional musicians or students, others are amateurs. The variety of instruments is as wide as the range of quality and the size of their repertoire;-) Acoustics are excellent in Rynek, which can become a problem if you are in a spot where you hear two or three bands at the same time...
    Others put on a show of acrobatics, or magic, and ask people from the audience to participate.
    Living statues are there often, too. One guy was performing his soccer skills, one day I watched two dancers, another day a guy had set up a huge concert piano in the middle of the square.
    Rynek was my favourite place to hang out. There is always something going on which is worth watching for entertainment. There is no real pressure but all of them appreciate receiving a little donation, of course.

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    The Divine Mercy Image

    by Kathrin_E Updated Sep 15, 2014

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    A copy of this painting can be found in many, if not most, catholic churches in Wroclaw and all over Poland. The inscription translates to, “Jesus I trust in you”. A closer look reveals that it shows rays of light going out from Jesus’s heart but seen from a distance or through misty glasses it looks like a long gown. (Forgive the blasphemy but at first sight I could not help thinking of Conchita Wurst...)

    The art historian in me could not be restrained from doing some serious research, though. I found out that this image, entitled the Divine Mercy, is based on a vision of Saint Faustina Kowalska. She was a nun in the convent of Plock in 1931. One night she had a vision of Jesus. Jesus' right hand made a gesture of blessing, while his left hand rested on his heart, and from there two rays of light emerged, one red, the other white. Faustina made a vow never to forget this image and to have it painted.

    Three painters did three versions of the picture according to Sr. Faustina’s description. The one by Adolf Hyla (1943) became the most popular image and has been reproduced countless times.

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    Polski Dzentelmen

    by Kathrin_E Written Sep 13, 2014

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    Yes this is how they spell "gentleman", LOL, with a dot on the z of course. However, Polish men know much better what a real gentleman is, than their mates from countries that know how to spell it right.

    Polish men of all ages have preserved that certain chivalry and politeness towards ladies which is almost lost and forgotten in our Western societies. Being treated like a lady, being 'taken' to a cafe or restaurant by someone who is just a friend, being offered a seat on the tram - I enjoyed that very much.
    I hear that even the handkiss is still in use now and then, but I have never observed that, let alone been offered one.

    But I got into a situation that can serve as a model to describe the Polish Dzentelmen. I was sitting on the tram when an old man with a crutch boarded, with some effort because of the high steps at the door. I immediately offered my seat, so did the girl behind me, but the man put his hand on my shoulder and pushed me back on my seat, then the same with the girl, and he only accepted the seat from a young man further behind us. He could hardly walk, but taking a seat from a woman - never!

    Pan i Pani
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    Soap Bubble Making in Rynek

    by Kathrin_E Written Sep 12, 2014

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    The pavement of Rynek must be the cleanest place in the whole city centre, regarding the amount of soap that goes down on it every day... Soap bubble making is and watching is a popular pastime and entertainment. There is always a guy or two or three with a bucket of soapsuds and self-made constructions of two sticks and a thin rope tied into either one big or a couple of smaller slings. The rope is dipped into the soapsuds and the wind does the rest of the work. The result can be gigantic. Usually they also let children use their equipment and make bubbles.
    Of course the guys appreciate a little donation.

    The soap-bubble men are always surrounded by spectators. Proud parents and grandparents love taking photos of their offspring. Children love making bubbles, and they also love chasing bubbles to pop them. Others, like me, love taking photos of the bubbles, so there can be a conflict of interests sometimes, LOL. Anyway, the delicate, rainbow-coloured artefacts call to be banned into pixels before they end their short existence. Even wedding photographers have discovered this photo option.

    More photos in my travelogue: http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/tt/ca1b0/

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    Bigos

    by Kathrin_E Written Sep 7, 2014

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    The most famous Polish dish is known as Bigos. The name is untranslateable and its origins are unknown. Bigos is one of those classic "simple" dishes made by throwing all ingredients into one big pot and then cooking them all together. Be assured that it is delicious!

    The base is sauerkraut (fermented white cabbage), also fresh white cabbage can be added. Then there is meat cut into small cubes, often more than one type of meat, and kielbasa (sausage). Further ingredients can vary, for example onions, mushrooms, carrots, tomatoes, prunes, apples... Black peppercorns are a must, and other spices. Probably each family have their own special recipe. Cooking time is something like 5-10 hours. The dish can be preserved and reheated for several days in a row, each reheating is said to increase the taste.

    Because the cooking process takes so long, in most private households it is made only for special occasions nowadays, for example at Christmas, or when they have foreign guests who want to encounter Poliosh traditons;-) In traditional Polish restaurants it is usually on the menu for a rather low price. Bigos is served with either bread or potatoes.

    Bigos and potatoes
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    Love Locks on Most Tumski

    by Kathrin_E Written Sep 5, 2014

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    The disease is spreading... the tacky but inevitable custom of attaching love locks to a bridge has reached Wroclaw, too. Here the site is Most Tumski, the bridge between Sand Island and the cathedral area. The rails are literally covered in padlocks. I wonder how many of these "forever" lovers are actually still together...

    However, if you must, go ahead. Some guys have set up a stall right by the bridge where they sell locks. So there is no need to run around shops trying to find a suitable padlock, you can buy it on the spot. The price is 10 to 15 PLN depending on the size. They also have Edding pens ready to write your names on the lock.

    I am not in favour of this custom. The detail (photo 2) gives an idea of the damage that the padlocks do to the painted iron rails. And I think it is silly...

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    The Invisible Beggar

    by Kathrin_E Written Sep 3, 2014

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    This guy is in Rynek almost every day, or rather, he is not... who knows. There is a pair of shoes, an old baseball cap for coins, and a sign: "I am invisible".

    In those weeks I spent in Wroclaw I never saw who is behind it.

    After two weeks he had extended his business (see photo 2).

    Yes I paid him... just for the funny idea!

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    Slask Wroclaw

    by Kathrin_E Updated Sep 2, 2014

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    Slask ("Silesia") Wroclaw is the local football (soccer) team and very popular in the city. Their colours are green, white and red with green being the main colour of jerseys and fan t-shirts. On match days the green colour will be impossible to overlook in the streets...

    For the purists: I know how to spell it correctly but VT doesn't, so please imagine an accent on the S and a tail on the a in "Slask", and the slash through the l in "Wroclaw".

    The team is playing in the first Polish league. Their greatest recent success was winning the Polish championship in 2012. Since the Euro Cup 2012 and the completion of the new Stadion Miejski in the western suburbs of the city, this arena has become the team's new site for home matches.

    You will spot Slask stickers on most trams, attached to the side mirrors and to the front window. Are the tram drivers all Slask supporters? No, not necessarily. But the stickers protect their trams from attacks by local hooligans!
    That indicates that hooligans exist and are a problem. I once ended up in a tram full of Slask fans after a match, though, and they were totally unproblematic and peaceful, many families with children among them.

    Slask stickers on a tram Slask fans at a tram stop Stadion Miejski

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    Wedding Photos

    by Kathrin_E Written Sep 2, 2014

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    Wedding Photo sessions seem to be a big affair in Poland. You encounter bridal couples and photographers more or less every day of the week so I assume that they don't do their photo sessions on the wedding day itself but on a different day, also because they take so long. Photographers have plenty of ideas for romantic, strange, and sometimes downright silly poses so this is really hard work for the "happy couple". Besides I'd rather not ask what the beautiful white dress will look like at the end of the session, after having been in touch with, for example, a bicycle chain, soapsuds, and the generally dirty pavement...

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    Uwaga!

    by Kathrin_E Written Sep 2, 2014

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    This is one of my favourite words in the Polish language;-) I like the sound, and depending on undertone, emphasis and volume of the speaker's voice, respective size and colour of print, it can express so many different nuances. It can mean anything from a polite "Please note" or "Please listen to this important information" to a sharp "Attention!!!" or a serious "Danger! Keep out!"

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    The People Don't Like To Chat

    by briantravelman Written Aug 20, 2014

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    As much as I enjoyed my brief visit to Wroclaw, one thing I immediately noticed, is that the people here don't like to chat. Everywhere else I went in Poland, the people were really chatty, even if they were saying something rude, but here in Wroclaw, they were really closed off. We would ask about stuff, and get grumpy replies, if any. We went to purchase a ticket for a boat tour, and the guy didn't even want to answer any questions. He just gave us our ticket, and that was it. I'm not even exaggerating. No one wanted to talk to us, accept for the people we were with. And it's not like they didn't understand the language, because we all speak fluent Polish.
    We have been to places where the people wouldn't talk to us, because of the language barrier, but we have never been to a place where we spoke the language, and literally NO ONE wanted to talk to us. It was very strange.

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    Inviting People

    by wroclawiak Updated Jan 5, 2014

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    The Polish chicks like to be invited in a restaurant or a cafe. If you meet one here and you would like to invite her for dinner or for a pint you should pay the whole bill. Sometimes they want to pay their part of the bill but you should say that she is invited and you'll cover the bill.
    Inviting can be understood here as paying.

    Let the Polish ladies enter a resturant, cafe or tram first. According to the rule: "Ladies first".

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    The Gnomes of Wroclaw

    by EasyMalc Updated Mar 3, 2013

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    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.

    Papa Krasnal
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    Public toilets

    by HORSCHECK Updated Mar 22, 2012

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    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.

    Polish toilet sign
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Wroclaw Local Customs

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