Stepping out of the plane in London last Monday night I experienced a bit of thermal shock. Barely three hours earlier I was in Poland, bathed in glorious sunshine and relishing a temperature of 30°C. I know for many of you Poland and Eastern Europe generally is associated with terrible cold – everyone has heard about the severe Russian winters with thermometers frozen below -20°C – but not many people know that this part of world also has beautiful long hot summers, starting in May and going all the way to the end of September, turning after that into glorious warm autumns. That’s why I would love to invite you all to consider Poland as your next holiday destination because apart from fab weather this country has so much more to offer.
This time we spent the long bank holiday weekend in Wroclaw, the biggest city of the Silesian Lowlands in the western part of Poland. It’s one of the oldest and most beautiful Polish cities (going back to Roman times) with one of the first of three bishoprics of Poland established in the 10th century.
Wroclaw’s unfortunate location close to the borders of other countries meant that it became one of those European cities which changed hands every hundred years or so. It was established as a Polish city, then moved to Bohemia, Hungary, Austria, Prussia, then Germany and back to Poland again, becoming a truly multicultural city.
Obviously the most spectacular place to visit in Wroclaw is its huge 13th century Main Market Square with one of the most beautiful and well preserved late medieval Town Halls I have ever seen. The Main Market, and attached to it Salt Square is a great place to start your exploration. It’s colourful and lively, surrounded by picturesque late-Renaissance and Baroque merchants’ town houses, packed with restaurants, bars and microbreweries serving great and really fresh beer. Make sure that when you wander around you do not miss the famous Wroclaw’s dwarfs hidden everywhere – symbols of anti-Communist resistance. While you there you may want to pop into the university, one of the oldest in Poland, with its Renaissance and Baroque colleges, or one of the thousands of churches famous for their architecture and artwork.
Than if you are a bit tired take a stroll along the Oder River or even better, take a boat trip. Wroclaw by night seen from the river is a feast for the eyes.
On the other side of the river I would highly recommend visiting Ostrow Tumski, known as Cathedral Island – the oldest part of the city and formerly an island. It’s a destination in itself, a complex of churches and diocesan buildings including the Bishops palaces surrounding the main 13th century cathedral.
One of the prettiest places I’ve seen in Wroclaw is the Centennial Hall – a masterpiece of engineering built by Max Berg at the beginning of the 20th century with its graceful sandstone domes. In the courtyard of the Hall are dancing fountains surrounded by a spectacular promenade almost completely covered with ivy. Beyond the promenade the park sprawls out with gorgeous Japanese garden of ponds and gentle bridges, all drowning in blossom of multi-coloured rhododendrons. It’s a wonderful place to relax and chill at the end of a busy day.
As a very old and big city Wroclaw has plenty to offer: museums, art galleries, parks and gardens, concerts, happenings and much more. In here I’ve mentioned only a few of the places I liked the best. It’s worth getting a guidebook so you don’t miss anything. Believe me you won’t be bored