This city is “Venice of the North”, or the “Polish Venice”, so its was an obvious city on my list! I was eager to see how Venetian characteristics have adapted to Poland… the truth is that they haven’t! This title really is a little bit of a far reach. I should have expected this, being familiar with the fact that there are more than 10 places that apparently warrant the name “Venice of the East”, and even a “Venice of Holland” and a “Little Venice” in Croatia! “Poland’s Venice” is just a catchphrase thrown around as there are apparently about 123 bridges around the city, but other than that I didn’t see even one gondolier or tacky mask shop, let alone a public transport system based solely on boats and canals. It may not be Venice (nothing ever will be!), but Wroclaw is the European Capital of Culture 2016, and that tells you something!
I must admit that upon arrival I wasn’t Wroclaw’s hugest fan. It was raining, I had been on an overnight bus, and I can’t for the life of me pronounce its name! Apparently you don’t use English phonetics and say “Rock-law”, but instead something more like “Frot-Suave”…which makes sense… Having given the city a second chance after dumping my heavy bag in the hostel I began to enjoy Wroclaw a lot more!
First of all, it is a great place to be vegan! Possibly the best place I have visited, what with the 100% vegan restaurant right in the main square, and the huge vegan supermarket, to point out but a few of my options! Second, its a very quirky and wonderfully strange place! For one thing, it has hundreds of little gnomes dotted around the city! These little statues are each getting on with a different task and never fail to make you smile. A lot of them are very hidden, whilst some a really obvious, and what is fantastic is that no one knows how many there are for sure! Apparently they can be linked to a group of anarcho-performance artists in the 1980’s called “The Orange Alternatives” who staged Dadaist anti-communist protests which took form of dressing up as gnomes and running around the city! Something else that I really enjoyed in the city was the street art. Not only the crazy murals, but also the owls painted on buildings by “The Mysterious Theordor”, apparently one of Wroclaw’s undercover artists!
As with the other amazing Polish cities I visited, Wroclaw has a spectacular main square. Along with Warsaw, Poznan, Gdansk and Krakow, Wroclaw’s central square is colorful and really spoils you for the beautiful ancient architecture with stucco decorated facades! Both toy-like and ornate, it really is a treat for the eyes! There is no shortage of cool and diverse pubs in which to enjoy a beer with new hostel friends, nor is there a lack of tourist information points in this central space!
A few things I would really suggest doing whilst in Wroclaw are the Raclawice Panorama, Botanical Gardens (if you are in season!), standing on the banks of the Odra river contemplating it’s differences and similarities to the unique Venice before strolling onto Slodowa Island, and climbing up to the towers of the Cathedral to get a new perspective of the city! Other than that, I suggest strolling alone around the city, allowing it to surprise you, and allowing yourself to fall slowly in love with it.