Things I Have Learned In Wroclaw, Poland

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Things I Have Learned In Wroclaw, Poland

We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.” – Hilaire Belloc

Wroclaw is a particularly hard city to pronounce. It is pronounced something close to Vroslav.

Wroclaw has had a long a varied history stretching back over a thousand years. For many years Wroclaw was a German city named Breslau. and this influence can be seen in the architecture throughout the city. Wroclaw is now part of Poland, but it has also been part of the Czech Republic and Austria.

Preceding World War II, Breslau (now Wroclaw) had the third largest Jewish population of all German cities.

Because of the many rivers, islands, some 200 or so bridges and the sheer beauty of the city, Wroclaw has a growing reputation as the Venice of the North.


Some could argue, but Wroclaw is allegedly the most beautiful city in Poland.

In Wroclaw, the bar and pubs don’t prepare to kick you out at 11pm; they are just getting going around this time. As a general rule, some places will stay open until the last person leaves.

The market square is another one of those most picturesque squares in Poland.

It was totally rebuilt after World War ll.

Many of the buildings in Wrocław’s picturesque old town are painted with bright colors that reflect the city’s youthful and creative vibe.

Wrocław is one of the leading academic centers of Poland and is home to a number of universities.

Students flock to Wrocław not only because of the excellent standard of education it offers but also because of its vibrant, cultured way of life.

There’s an interesting history behind the gnome settlement in Wrocław.

Back when the city was controlled by the USSR, gnomes slowly began appearing as a sort of subversive calling card of the underground Orange Alternative movement who began to protest against the oppressive conditions with silliness and fun.

The police while covering up anti-regime slogans looked the other way about the gnomes.

The gnomes have become a symbol of freedom in Wrocław ever since.

Gnome hunting makes for a fun, unique afternoon.

They are hidden all over the city. See how many you can spot!

Today there are over 250 dwarves hiding in plain sight around Wroclaw, serving as a fun tourist sight and sometimes even a surprise for locals.

Tourist maps and GPS coordinates are available at tourist shops for those who want to go dwarf hunting.

It sounded like a stupid thing to do but when I got there, I was in.

The gnomes are cool.

Fly safe,

JAZ

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Things That I Have Learned In Krakow, Poland

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Things That  I Have Learned In Krakow, Poland

“Cities were always like people, showing their varying personalities to the traveler. Depending on the city and on the traveler, there might begin a mutual love, or dislike, friendship, or enmity. Where one city will rise a certain individual to glory, it will destroy another who is not suited to its personality. Only through travel can we know where we belong or not, where we are loved and where we are rejected.” Roman Payne

Perched on Wawel Hill in Krakow, Wawel Castle is one of the most important structures in Poland. It was the residence of Polish kings for centuries before being converted into a museum and extensive art gallery in 1930.

The ornately decorated cathedral (no photos please)  and the royal staterooms are good to include in your visit.

The castle represents nearly every European architectural style, including Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque and consists of a number of structures situated around the Italianish main courtyard.

As in other countries, it is good to be the king.

In Wawel Castle, there is an exhibition of one painting. It is an original painting by Leonardo da Vinci “Lady with an Ermine.” Only five other cities in the world can boast a painting by da Vinci, so don’t miss it. The painting was bought in 1800 by Adam Czartoryski, a Polish prince. It was moved to Paris in 1836 and returned to the Czartoryski Museum in 1876. Hidden from the Nazis in 1939, the painting was found and formed part of Hitler’s Berlin collection before ending up in Waiwei as the property of Krakow’s Nazi commandant, Hans Frank. With Soviet troops getting close, the painting was rushed back to Germany. American soldiers finally confiscated it and returned it home to Kraków in 1946. The painting has since become one of the city’s most loved treasures.

Krąków’s Jagiellonian University was established by King Casimir III the Great in 1364 and is the oldest university in Poland and second oldest in Central Europe.

Krakow is an old town of young people. The twenty-eight Krakow institutions of higher education have over 200,000 students attending them. The population of Krakow is 760,000 thousand. 

St. Mary’s Trumpet Call can be heard playing hourly from the tower of St. Mary’s Basilica – a major symbol of Kraków. The melody always stops short, which symbolizes the legend of a trumpeter who, in 1240, wanted to warn the locals of an approaching enemy, but was killed by an arrow.

Krakow is a city of churches, which is especially visible in its historical center.

In the Middle Ages, the inhabitants of the city willingly gave themselves into the hands of the Saints, who would protect them and help them with all life problems.

Krakow is one of those European cities that takes pride in having a cold cut produced and branded there -like Parma. Kielbasa Krakowska  or Kielbasa Lisiecka are the products whose taste has been synonymous with Polish sausage.

Another specialty of Krakow is the famous bagel (obwarzanek krakowski). The ring-shaped braid of bread covered with poppy seeds is sold on every corner in the city.

It was baked in Krakow since the Middle Ages and popularized by the Jewish community who emigrated throughout the world. 

MOCAK is a very interesting and thought-provoking contemporary art museum.(art makes you free)

The museum has a wide range of contemporary art and sculpture, all well presented and explained in a spacious modern building.

There were some excellent pieces challenging nationalism, globalization and war.

There are both Polish and International contemporary artists represented.

Many European cities have an Old Town, but Kraków definitely has one of the best.

The medieval architecture is especially fascinating and it’s big enough that you can spend all day walking around it.

Kraków’s Market Square is the largest medieval commercial square in Europe (each of its sides is 200 m long).

It is forbidden to feed pigeons in Krakow. The locals hate them. (a few hungry pigeons)

There is a lot of weird sculpture in Poland. The big head in Rynek Square is one of them. It is a good meeting point because every tourist can find it. The head is Eros, the God of Love. Why the blindfold? Because love is blind?

The Vistula River, Poland’s longest, runs through Kraków just outside of the Old Town and Jewish District. There are more locals than tourists enjoying it.

The riverfront is long and wide and goes along both sides. It’s lined with a sidewalk, grass, parks, and a few boat restaurants.

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During World War ll, the Nazis occupied beautiful Krakow. Hans Frank looked over the terror from his office on Wawei Hill which is why Krakow was not destroyed.

Krakow is one of the most charming cities. it is hard to believe there was so much death and darkness in such a peaceful place with all those churches. 

I would like to thank Jo Fisher and Aryeh Maidenbaum of Jewish Heritage Travel for putting together such an interesting, well thought out trip through Poland. I have learned so much of the history and complexities of Poland and appreciated the thoughtful intelligent guides and of course, the great hotels.  Hope to travel with you again, some day.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Ten Things That I Want To Do In Poland

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Ten Thing That I Want To Do  In Poland

“It was a small room with dim light coming in the window, reminiscent of old Polish films.” Haruki Murakami

Choosing to visit Poland. is not an easy decision for me. There are many places in Poland where horrific events took place during World War Two. I’m trying to combine those with seeing what the country is like now. I want to have an open mind but racism seems to be under new management again in Poland.

Since I love street art, I will be taking a Krakow Street Art Tour. I haven’t done one in Eastern Europe before so it will be interesting to see if it has an activist, protest quality. Poster Art has been a tradition in Poland so it was probably be a natural transition to street art.

Krakow is one of the most fascinating medieval cities in Europe and one of the few that escaped destruction in World War II. Today it’s famed for its soaring Gothic church spires and cobblestone streets, while its Old Town is a UNESCO heritage site, it is also known for having one of the liveliest after dark scenes on the continent.

The story of Oskar Schindler and his employees is one which has been well-known. It was made famous by Steven Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List (which was shot almost entirely in Kraków). The factory has been turned into a museum about his story and the occupation of Poland.

A visit to Auschwitz is a test in humanity that not everybody is prepared to take, One can hardly call it a tourist attraction. The three million victims of the largest of Nazi Germany’s concentration camps don’t need high attendance records. What they need is a moment of reflection on what happened and what should be done so that this tragedy never happens again.

You wouldn’t imagine that a museum dedicated to people digging for salt would become a popular tourist draw, but that’s exactly what Wieliczka Salt Mine is. It is an easy day trip from Krakow. The mine was in operation from the thirteenth century till 2007 .Now it sees over a million visitors a year, who take the tiny elevator down into the depths and explore the “buildings” inside, which include chapels, statues, and even a whole cathedral carved out from the rock.

There are various ways to explore the music of Frédéric Chopin, Poland’s famous composer. While walking through the city there are many black benches with buttons on them. Simply press the buttons at any time and they play the music of Chopin. Chopin concerts are held regularly in venues throughout Warsaw, To understand all about the man himself and see his last piano, head to the Chopin Museum.

Before World War ll, Warsaw had the largest Jewish community in Europe.The WarsawGhetto was the largest ghetto set up by the Nazi’s during the war. Over seventy years ago, the area of Jewish residents (which numbered up to one million) was sealed off from the rest of the city. It was enclosed by a wall that was over 10 feet high, topped with barbed wire, and closely guarded to prevent movement between the ghetto and the rest of Warsaw. Life deteriorated quickly.  The world already knows the terrible history of the Jews in the ghetto. There are memorials and museums dedicated to remembering the victims. The Warsaw Ghetto was the location of the Warsaw Uprising where the Jews fought back from Mila 18 street.

Warsaw’s central Old Town neighborhood is one of the city’s most popular areas and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This historic district, which was rebuilt after bombings from World War II destroyed most of it, is filled with restaurants, art galleries, shops and cafes housed in structures designed to replicate the region’s former fourteenth to eighteenth century buildings.

The market square in Wroclaw is one of the largest in Europe with two town halls. Piwnica Swidnicka located on the square is the oldest restaurant in Europe. It is always crowded and fun.

Łódź’s Museum Of Modern Art (Muzeum Sztuki) is one of the oldest museums of Modern Art (ha) in the world and holds the largest collection of world art from the 20th and 21st centuries in Poland.

Recently, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki caused an uproar when he said that there were “Jewish perpetrators” in the Holocaust, along with Polish and Russian ones. Is it how everyone feels or is it like Trump saying ”There are are good people on both sides which means some good Nazis?”

I believe travel is one of the ways we can educate humanity about our similarities. It is how I learn that I am not so different from you. Since I have this opportunity to be there, it is my responsibility to see what is going on for myself and figure out the truth. I have to challenge my assumptions and not judge the people I meet based on history and the media.

Fly safe,

JAZ