This place was recommended to me as a good stopover before Prague. Now I will admit I knew only of Warsaw and Krakow, the two largest cities, before getting to Poland. Well now I know the 3rd largest. I also will also admit that I still don't know how to pronounce anything in Polish, especially Wroclaw! Poland uses the roman alphabet, which is deceiving, because about half the letters aren’t pronounced like they are in English. There’s a popular beer called Zwiec which I utterly failed at ordering in the bar. I also had a conversation with someone about my itinerary that went something like this:
Me: After this I’m heading to Wroclaw (pronouncing it ro-claw, like any normal English speaker would)
Him: Blank stare
Me: You know, the big, nice city not far from Prague, ro-claw!
Him: Ahh you mean Vlo-Slav
Me: Uhh yes… (shame sets in)
Anyway I still have no idea how to say anything. But if I need to, I can just type the word on my phone and show it to the person, and then they’ll be like “ahhh that” while thinking I’m a dullard. Polish is hard!...
A smooth 3.5 hour bus ride later and I’m in Wroclaw's nice new bus station. Once again it’s blue skies and mid 80’s, perfect weather. I hopped on the tram into the city, but their self pay thingy only has the tap reader for the credit card and not the one where you actually insert it, and tap reader never seems to work with my American cards. (why don't we have the tappy tap card readers in the US??). I could have probably paid the dumb tourist card and stayed on the tram, I don’t even think anyone was checking for tickets anyway, but I ended up hopping off and walking the rest of the way into the city. With only one small backpack and my shoulder bag, I’m free! I can walk around for a few miles with all my luggage and still not get worn out. It’s great. It was about a mile walk to the old town.
Soon enough I was in the center of the old town, and these places are just gorgeous! Gothic (I think??) style buildings line the square, painted in light pastel colors. The focal point was this very unique looking church with an Alice in Wonderland reminiscent clock tower. There was a hostel right across the street from this, but it was all booked up, not surprisingly. Eventually I found a room overlooking a different church a 5 minute walk away. I’ve noticed in Poland that there aren’t as many hotels as most places, but there are tons of tourist apartments for rent, and they’re pretty reasonably priced, most are around $50 a night.
I only had one day in Wroclaw, so I didn’t linger in my room for long. I had lots of walking to do. The thing I liked about Wroclaw is once you’re outside the main square, everything is still very nice, lots of outdoor cafes and all, but it feels like there are a lot more locals around as opposed to tourists everywhere. And the prices reflect that. I stopped in this restaurant with huge glass windows giving you nice views of one of the major churches in town; it’s the type of place where it buffet style and you weigh your plate at the end. I had a whole plate of food and a strawberry banana smoothie and the total came out to less than $4. Wroclaw seems like a very live-able city.
I eventually made my way around to the Panorama Racliette, which features a massive 360 degree panorama of some point in Polish history. Sadly I missed the last showing by 15 minutes. Oh well, there were still lots of nice things to see. I walked through a park and to the river path overlooking some new modern apartment buildings and 200 year old churches on the other side. The path was full of joggers and bikers. I really wasn’t expecting Polish cities to be this nice. I mean you see some pretty ugly concrete housing blocs but almost everything else was modern and clean with tons of quaint outdoor cafes and healthy looking people out and about. And on a random side note, Polish people walk quickly! I’ve never felt like a slow walker before, but these Poles burn rubber on the sidewalk!
In this part of the world the sun doesn’t go down till after 8:30 so you get lots of time for sightseeing and exploring. I finally made my way back to the main square to take some photos while the light was still nice. I’ve been taking way too many old town photos, but I just can’t seem to help myself! The downside to the sun going down this late is that it kinda hurts my social life. It kills me to not be out photographing between 7:30-10pm when the light is the best, but those are also prime intermingling hours at the hostel. So far the photography is winning out. So there is some benefit to the sun going down at 6pm in Asia!
Luckily I did find some people hanging out around the ping pong table and drinking. A mix of Swedes and Aussies. For whatever reason there seem to be lots of Australians in Poland and Europe in general. We ended up going out for some drinks on the square. I believe I might have already mentioned this, but Poland has some pretty decent craft breweries these days. Although these beer/burger bars need to take it easy on the word ‘craft’. They have ‘craft’ beers, ‘craft’ burgers, ‘craft’ wings, 'craft cocktails,' I mean c’mon, you can’t just throw that word in front of evert type of food/drink and expect people to take it seriously! Or can you…? All these places were crowded so maybe its working. I ended up just going for the classic Polish sausage and kraut, which at least didn’t have the word craft in front of it.
The next morning it was back to the bus station and off to Prague! Traveling in Europe is just so damn easy. I bought my bus ticket online in minutes, the people in the stations speak English, everything is on time, roads are nice, most places aren’t really that far, and you don’t even need to stop when crossing borders! I still have vivid memories of some horrendous border crossings in the Stans last year. Thanks Europe for being such a breeze!