I staggered to the airport bus stop as the time drew near 4am and hopped into the express which would wing me to the distant Frankfurt-Hahn. Worth noting if you get a budget flight to/from Frankfurt – check the actual airport. Frankfurt Airport itself is barely 15 minutes from the city centre. Not that it made much difference to me. I was asleep within three minutes of buying my ticket and didn’t open my eyes again until we pulled into the airport parking lot.
Unlike on the bus, I could barely sleep a wink on the plane. No real reason, I just couldn’t nod off. We landed early, and I made my way through the immigration at Wroclaw (pronounced Vrotswahf) and onto the number 406 bus, getting off at the main train station and waiting for my guide and hostess, Gosia. Gosia and I worked together at Matrix / Soft Solutions for a couple of years and I’d not seen her since some time before I left the UK. It didn’t take her long to appear and it was great to see another friend again after so long. This European jaunt is turning out to be full of reunions!
Gosia loves Wroclaw and it shows. We spent a good day walking around, from 10am until after 9pm. Basically, dig out the Lonely Planet, look up Wroclaw and we did everything. And then some.
The church off the main square (though we couldn’t get up the tower), the two small buildings in front, beer in one of the oldest bars in Wroclaw, ice cream in a lovely little restaurant, KFC in a mall (yay!), the beautiful town hall, the university buildings with their stunning painted walls, street statues, the museum (which wasn’t that great to be honest), the Panorama (which was), cheap internet (this is where the Berlin idea bit the dust)… Wroclaw’s got a lot, particularly if you like churches. There are some fantastic buildings, and some near bridges.
I apologise to Gosia for rushing this post and not giving all the proper names of places. I’m just so far behind on posts right now I’ll need to return to this one when I have more time and beef it up! Even better if I can get to somewhere where I can easily insert Polish characters for that authentic “I know what I’m talking about” feel. Even though my attempts at speaking the language sound like a lisping man trying to speak with a mouthful of water.
I will rattle on a bit about the Panorama of Raclawicka. This is a huge circular painting created in 1894, showing details of a battle which took place 100 years earlier. The building in which is is housed was erected in the 1970s (if memory serves) and really showcases this 114m x 15m artwork well. “Real” objects lean up and “into” the painting, some so indistinguishably (there’s a new word for you) as to look like they just ooze from the canvas. It gives the whole thing an amazing sense of depth.
Entry isn’t cheap at 20 Zloty (around UK3.50 – expensive by Polish standards) but includes a mandatory guided tour and entry to the museum over the road as well. No photos or video allowed at all. Shame, as it really is something special – but if it encourages more visitors then that’s fine by me.
By the time we had one last beer in a street cafe, it was getting cold and dark. We just squeezed onto the last bus to Jelenia Gora for the 90 minute ride to Gosia’s home town. And indeed the very house she grew up in!
It was definitely dark by the time we got there, but her granny was still up to welcome us home. You couldn’t meet a more stereotypical grandmother – shorter than either of us, hair drawn back with clips and a lovely granny smile. I felt welcome the second I walked through the door. Of course, we were fed and watered before bed. A whole room to myself – luxury!