So here, without further ado, I present to you the very last Polish post from Wroclaw.
On our last full day we had a few places on our checklist that we wanted to go and see, the first being the Wroclaw City Museum, approximately a 2 min 43 second walk from our hotel. Located inside the Royal Palace, the former residence of the Prussian kings, the museum boasts an impressive exterior. The exhibitions were moved here in 2008 from the old City Historical Museum, and still houses the oldest museum project in the postwar history of Wroclaw. There are four major exhibitions; 1000 years of Wroclaw History, The Royal Apartments and Beyersdorf Room, The Gallery of Art in Wroclaw from 1850-1945 and The Gallery of Art in Wroclaw from 1945-2000. There are also temporary exhibitions.
We went to put our jackets and bags in a locker so we were more comfortable moving around the exhibitions. That was also free. This was turning out to be an expensive day.
You did have to pay for the audio tours (we didn't get them) which cost 15 zloty (about £3) and the Temporary Exhibitions when they are on (10 zloty or £2). You can also purchase a personal tour guide for the grand total of 400 zloty if you so wish (£80). This place is not going to break the bank.
The exhibitions are varied and interactive, with digital displays providing facts and figures in almost every room. All information is in Polish, German and English, so it was easy to understand throughout. Photography is allowed throughout (I checked), providing the flash is off.
The latter gallery showcases the post-war artists of Wroclaw including Eugeniusz Geppert, Eugeniusz Get-Stankiewicz, Maria Dawska and Józef Hała who were colourists, landscape painters and expressionists. There were also naked bottoms. Lots and lots of naked bottoms.
The final floor finished the Wroclaw Through The Ages exhibition with posters from the 1960's, as well as some very unusual costumes!
Unsurprisingly, there were also pieces commemorating the Nazi occupation of Poland. It felt very strange to be taking photo's of some of the Nazi memorabilia, but that time period was especially devastating for Poland, and I feel that it is important to remember and honour that.
We spent a good few hours exploring the museum, incredible value for the entrance fee!
Our next stop was Wroclaw's Cathedral Island, Ostrow Tumski, the original settlement site for the Slavic Slezan tribes' first stronghold, surrounded by the river Odra. At the turn of the first millennium, King Boleslaw the Brave earned the favour of the Holy Roman Emperor Otto III and established a bishopric in Wroclaw. The first Cathedral was built on Ostrow Tumski and has continued to be the centre of religious life in Wroclaw.
In his research, Steve had come across a number of places that said that Cathedral Island had a unique atmosphere - calm, peaceful and tranquil, so we started to walk in its direction, with the idea of finding a small coffee shop once there and relaxing for a while.
To get there, we had to cross the Tumski Bridge, a vibrant blue steel bridge built between 1888 and 1992, and one of the oldest river crossings, connecting Cathedral Island to Sand Island. It is a popular destination for lovers, who attach padlocks to the bridge wherever they can find space and then throw their key into the river. There are thousands of padlocks here, attached to the bridge and each other, some with the lovers names written on them or messages of love, others with strips of fabric from wedding veils tied to the lock or other novelty items (including a rubber duck). There is also a padlock seller who will be only too happy to sell you one for a few zloty if you haven't bought your own. The romantic in me likes to think that every couple who has ever attached a padlock to the Tumski Bridge is still living their happily ever after.
Once on Cathedral Island itself, there was a distinct shift in atmosphere. There were a few parked cars but no traffic at all; it was so peaceful and quiet. Wroclaw is a clean city in terms of litter and rubbish, but here there was no graffiti that marred so many other buildings, no litter, no fallen leaves, no bollards and very few streetlights. It was spotless. People were moving along the streets, conversing with priests that moved amongst them or heading to the Cathedral for religious observance. It genuinely felt like a whole other world compared to the bustling market centre.
The Cathedral of St John the Baptist itself soars at the far end, twin spires reaching to the heavens. The original Cathedral was built in 1272 and like so many European Cathedrals, has seen a lot of renovation due to fire and bombs over the years, and was almost completely destroyed during the 2nd World War and reconstructed in 1951. No pictures from inside the Cathedral I'm afraid - just take my word that it was beautiful!
The next morning, before we flew home, we made a final stop at a traditional Polish restaurant for breakfast. Pod Gryfami is located on the market square, and like most properties, is deceptively large. It goes back for what feels like miles, and there is even a secret tunnel entrance in the basement to the underground tunnels, blocked off by a large grill gate (the restaurant uses it as a wine cellar). Inside, it is the very definition of grandma kitsch, with low velvet seats, floral tablecloths and stained glass windows. The food is good though, and this was one of the only places we found where we could get a proper breakfast (pancakes with fruit, yoghurt and honey)!
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