Our journey from Swidnica to Wrocław was pretty straight forward and nice and short. Rather than pay the extra 30% fee to get into the campsite early we opted to park outside and take the tram to the city centre. We were staying around 20 minutes away from the city centre and as we thought we would be using the train quite a bit, we bought a 48 hour ticket for 20 zlotys. To make this worth it we only needed to make seven journeys over the next 48 hours (a single journey ticket costs 3 Zloty). We didn’t know much about Wrocław before we visited but had heard good things about Polands fourth largest city.
Before we started our city sightseeing we had to make one very important stop. On Zoë’s last trip to Poland she had discovered E. Wedel (thanks for the tip Dad), a chain of chocolatiers and cafes. We just had to take some time for a hot chocolate and some sweet treats. Surprisingly, it was fantastic! Matthias had a chocolate and raspberry hot chocolate and Zoë had a mug of melted dark chocolate. We also ordered a chocolate cherry ice cream Sunday and chocolate and banana pierogi (Polish style ravioli). Needless to say it was very rich and chocolaty and fulfilled our chocolate cravings for a while. The only disappointing part of our visit to E. Wedel was that we were so full that we couldn’t taste any of the food on the market stalls or restaurants. Luckily we had another day to do just that.
Wrocław has a beautiful old town filled with baroque town houses and a very old and impressive town hall. We wandered through the old town to the university and cathedral which were both worth seeing, although we were a little disappointed by the dark interior of the cathedral. The cathedral is situated on one of the city’s islands and forms part of the Wrocław spirit. It was badly damaged in the second world war but has since been restored. The people of Wrocław also made a huge effort to protect it from flood waters by piling sandbags around its perimeter. After a couple of hours walking the city, we decided it was time for a break and settled in a microbrewery bar next to the town hall. While we sipped our beer we had time to watch the hundreds of school children on tours be taken for dinner in McDonald’s or Burger king. We have never been in city were do many school groups were on guided tours, and we have to say the city was nicer without them.
One part of our city tour that Ted really enjoyed was seeing all the dwarves. The dwarves of Wrocław began as anti-Soveit graffiti and slowly evolved into statues that form a tourist attraction. There are over 150 dwarf sculptures scattered around the city. Some were easy to spot in squares or fountains, while others were hidden in door ways or under cash machines. Each one is unique and shows dwarves in different scenarios. We didn’t see them all but the ones we did see were good fun (once all the school children move don’t of the way).
Our second day in Wrocław was a little more relaxed. Originally, we planned to visit the Raclawice Panorama and then maybe the city museum as the weather was supposed to be pretty showery. Instead, it was gloriously sunny so we decided to swap the museum for the zoo. First we visited the Raclawice panorama, which like a lot if sights in Poland is seen via a tour. We joined a Polish tour but had audio guides in English. The Raclawice panorama is a painting depicting the battle of Raclawice when Polish people fought back against the Russians for independence (a war they lost but they were victorious at Raclawice). It is a gigantic work of art, 180m in length and 15m high, designed to make the viewer feel as if they are in the centre of the painting. It’s well worth spending the 30 minutes learning a little more about Polish history and seeing a fantastically restored painting that has survived both world wars by being hidden in churches.
After out whistle stop tour of Polish history we jumped on a tram destined for Wrocław zoo. It was once the largest zoo in Europe and is currently undergoing modernisation. The largest part of the modernisation to date is the Africarium, which is included in the ticket price of 45 zloty per person. We really enjoyed wandering through the leafy zoo and seeing animals that neither of us has seen in zoos before including flying foxes, manatees and cow nosed rays. The enclosures we larger than we expected in a city zoo, and animals such as the brown bears seemed to enjoy their enclosures waterfalls and abundant trees to climb. The Africarium was impressive to say the least. It’s a huge building with outdoor aquariums that walks you through from Northern Africa to Madagascar and to the skeleton coast of Namibia. Inside there are undergound aquariums and a walk-through tunnel full of fish, sharks and rays, as well as, viewing windows for the outdoor exhibits so you could see the penguins, seals and manatees swimming. It was awesome!
Before the zoo closed and they locked us in, we caught the tram back to the centre to have dinner. We ate in a canteen style restaurant called Bazylia, where food is weighed and you pay just 2.79zloty per 100g or half that if like us you turn up after 6pm. The food was very heart but all tastes good. We paid just 30 zloty for two huge plates of food which we struggled our way through but had no space for pudding.
Before we returned to the campsite we had one last attraction on our list. The multimedia fountain next to the centennial Hall. This fountain was built in 2009 to mark the 25th anniversary of the first free election in Poland. Since then it has been entertaining visitors with light and water shows hourly on summer evenings. Our plans were almost ruined by a long lasting thunderstorm but despite the rain we decided to go for the 9pm showing. We arrived early and saw the lights ands fountains on standby with some colourful lights ans small jets. At 9pm the real show started with music clips and fountains and lights in time to the music. We really enjoyed the 10 minute show and so did a couple of groups of school children. We really wish we could have seen the weekend performance where images are projected onto sheets of water; maybe next time.
We left Wroclaw early the next morning. Next stop Klodzko and Zloty stok.