A Couple of Days in Wroclaw, Poland

Market Square, Wroclaw.

Market Square, Wroclaw.

     I feel like writing tonight, and I feel like writing about my first experience in Eastern Europe. It was only a 3 days stay in the great city of Wroclaw, Poland, but I’ve learned a lot from it. I discovered I had more prejudices than I thought, and that they were completely wrong. It is a good lesson for the rest of my life.

How I ended up in Wroclaw is an easy story. One night, my American and Canadian friends decided to seriously plan a trip in Europe. We gathered in a room and soon had three plans. We could go to the Baltic States and Sweden, or we could go to Norway, Poland and Spain. We opted for the later one because it seemed good to end up at the beach. I already told you about the trip to Oslo in a previous post. This here is the chronological continuation of the trip.

We had left Norway at 4 a.m., and we landed in Poland around 7 a.m. Seen from the sky, the place was like I was imagining: dark greens and dark browns. The houses in the country didn’t look so good. The primary roads were in concrete but the secondary roads were unpaved. The overall looked cold, monotone and sad.

Poland in sight!

Poland in sight!

Arriving in Poland!

Arriving in Poland!

We had barely slept in Norway.. and barely ate too. We landed in Wroclaw soon in the morning and we immediately rushed to the local McDonald’s. The food was so cheap that I couldn’t believe it and just ate as many McMornings as I wanted. Yesterday, the meal was $15, today it was $4. It really makes you feel like the richest man on Earth. During our entire stay, we just ate whenever and wherever. The best restaurant was still cheaper than the average ones from back home. The staff was awesome and the food tasted so much better.  All of the places we went to were amazing. We tried a few bars with real vodka. We also went to a beer house where I got served a mug the size of my head. It was pretty epic.

A beer bigger than my head. Polish people don't joke around.

A beer bigger than my head. Polish people don’t joke around. I usually don’t put photos of myself but this is the only way I could show you the size of the mug!

I was expecting Polish people to be somewhat rude. That’s how we picture them back home, maybe because of the hostile climate and poverty. Well, it was nothing like it. People were nice. None of them spoke English but they were really happy to see us trying to communicate in Polish.  It took us 30 minutes to buy a stamp for Canada at the post office but everybody was trying to help us and understand what we wanted. I know that a lot of people disagree, but I find the Polish language pretty cool. I wish I could speak it. I only knew a few words but I was happy to use them as much as I could. I think if I had the opportunity I would come live here and learn this language.

The city center was lovely and the buildings were properly maintained. I had the joyful feeling of really be in Poland. I thought people would be sad around here but I was totally wrong. There were people everywhere, shopping and wandering around. Most of them sure looked Polish. Some guys looked like angry bouncers with whom you do not want to mess with, but it was just the way they looked. It’s like the soldiers in the airport, they really fitted with the stereotype of the extremely tough Kazak soldier. Before coming to Poland, I also assumed that this country being a poorer country than France, people would not be into fashionable clothes. I was wrong. Polish people are way ahead of the French on that matter. The ladies had diverse but very nice looking styles of dressing. French ladies, you should stop looking at yourself and realize that it can be better in places you wouldn’t expect it to be. I thought they would also have cheap and used cars, but I felt ashamed when I saw all these brand new German cars.

Church Wroclaw city center

St Elizabeth’s church. One of the many churches in the city center.

In the city center of Wroclaw.

In the city center of Wroclaw.

Tumski Bridge

Love padlocks on Tumski Bridge.

Wroclaw Cathedral from the botanic gardens.

Wroclaw Cathedral from the botanic gardens.

Wroclaw Cathedral from the other side of the Odra river that runs through the city.

Wroclaw Cathedral from the other side of the Odra river that runs through the city.

Peace and silence in a church. Do not expect to find beautiful and rich decorations in Polish churches.

Peace and silence in a church. Do not expect to find beautiful and rich decorations in Polish churches.

University of Wroclaw and University Bridge at night.

University of Wroclaw and University Bridge at night.

The city center was beautiful and lively, but I soon felt the need to venture myself farther in the suburbs of Wroclaw to have an accurate view of the real Poland. I wasn’t disappointed.  I walked as far North than I could on one day, and then as South as I could on another. I saw very interesting things. What immediately comes to my mind is that as soon as I left the historical center, the concrete sidewalks were replaced by mere dirt paths. The more I was walking, the uglier the buildings were getting. But it is what I was precisely looking for. I found a mysterious beauty in these unattractive bricks and towers of concrete. At some point, I randomly came across a market, set in a parking lot in-between two hideous buildings. This market was the biggest surprise. It was over crowded by typical middle-class Polish people. It was very lively. Merchants were selling all kinds of stuff and everything smelled and looked delicious.

Surprise for my Scottish friends. It was really fun and unexpected to come across a pub of this name in the suburbs of a Polish city!

Surprise for my Scottish friends. It was really fun and unexpected to come across a pub of this name in the suburbs of a Polish city!

A typical building in a typical street.

A typical building in a typical street.

Big Eastern European style block of concrete in South Wroclaw.

Big Eastern European style block of concrete in South Wroclaw.

A market in South Wroclaw.

A market in South Wroclaw.

Next to the local market I found in South Wroclaw.

Next to the local market I found in South Wroclaw.

Maybe it’s specific to Wroclaw, but at no time I felt unsafe. I mean, one evening, there was a soccer game, and fans seemed pretty excited and violent. They were throwing huge dynamite sticks in the middle of the central square and the whole city was resounding to the sound of their explosions. But besides that, I never felt like I was in danger. Oh no, actually, we had a pretty bad experience in the bus on our way out of Wroclaw. It was very early and the bus was crowded with middle-class people going to work. At some point, a guy started to be very loud in the back of the bus. It was a massive skinhead whom nose was almost nonexistent after probably so many breakings. He started to swear with great violence, hit and slammed the windows of the bus and yelled in people’s faces. It was really scary because this guy was visibly insanely violent and I couldn’t understand a thing of what he was saying. His swearing in Polish was really freaky. At some point the driver stopped the bus and called the police who never came. The skinhead reached the front part of the bus and started banging the driver’s protection window like a mental neurotic. A woman and a man got into the bus because they didn’t realize what was going on. The guy started yelling at the newcomers. With an immense courage the lady started talking to him to reason him but the guy was just crazy. He aggressively dragged the lady’s friend out of the bus obviously to beat him up, but the guy was very courageous and he succeeded to come back in the bus, kick the psycho out and the driver closed the door. The skin head started kicking at the door like a bull but that was the end of the episode. I hope he didn’t kill anyone after that because he must have been even more furious. Anyway, I think there are psychos everywhere and I don’t consider this story as descriptive of Poland. If I’m wrong, correct me.

Street art in North Wroclaw.

Street art in North Wroclaw.

Street art in North Wroclaw.

Street art in North Wroclaw.

Street art in North Wroclaw.

Street art in North Wroclaw.

The kind of environment I was expecting to find in Poland.

The kind of environment I was expecting to find in Poland.

I would say Wroclaw was an incredible experience for all of the above, but also because I went to my first opera ever! We passed by the Opera a couple of times during the first day, and the girls decided to check the prices out. It was insanely cheap, like 10 times cheaper than back home. We didn’t think about it twice and we bought tickets for the night. It was so hilarious. I could not believe I was attending an opera, in Poland, in Polish. It wasn’t in Polish actually, but in Italian, subtitled in Polish. Even if I speak Italian, I could not understand a thing of what they were singing though. But I will never forget this experience.

The opera of Wroclaw, attending the Bohème play.

The opera of Wroclaw, attending the Bohème play.

Previous destination of the trip : Oslo, Norway
Next destination : Alicante and Valencia, Spain

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19 Responses to A Couple of Days in Wroclaw, Poland

  1. aj vosse says:

    How many of those ‘small’ beers did you need to sort out your thirst?? ;-)

  2. Hi Orel,

    Great post. My grandparents came from Poland, and I want to go someday. I too picture most of the country as dreary and depressing, so it was nice to read your post and find that it’s not true. Scary skinhead story, though!

    I recently posted a photo of padlocks in Dubrovnik, and I just added a link to your image (http://weirdandcoolstuff.wordpress.com/2012/12/13/sunday-post-concept/).
    This tradition isn’t well known in America, and some people have never heard of it.

    • Hey thanks for the link.I don’t know if I wrote the truth about Poland but it’s what I felt during these 2-3 days there!
      I like padlocks, it looks pretty cool whether there are many or just a few.
      I have a paradoxical feeling about this stuff. I find it cheesy now that it’s so widespread, but at the same time I like the idea and the symbolism of it a lot. What do you think?

      • It may be cheesy, but I like it. It would be interesting to know how many of these couples are still together years later! :) Someone commented on my post that he thought they were like graffiti. I suppose he’s right, but like some graffiti, the padlocks are fun to see.

        Have a great week, Orel!

  3. Pingback: Sunday Post: Concept | weird & cool stuff seen while out & about

  4. Beti says:

    I`m happy that u like or Polish city:) u have to come back and start learn polish language;P About this guy in bus… I didn`t meet sth like this guy but I think that everywhere are the same crazy people:/ Dziękuje i zapraszamy ponownie;)

    • Cześć Beti! Dzięki za komentarz.
      Hehe yes crazy people are everywhere. But it’s even more scary when you know they are skinheads and you have no idea why they are freaking out :D.

  5. awesome. that graffiti caught my eyes. thank you for sharing.

  6. Thanks for the realistic portrayal of a unique place. Enjoyed both the pictures and your description. Are things going well in New Orleans?

  7. Alex Autin says:

    Another great story Orel, and yes, and travel that ends at the beach is good travel! And as usual….awesome pics! I really like the Love Padlocks, very cool idea. I also like the picture of you and your beer. The only thing bigger than the beer is the smile on your face…I would be smiling too!

  8. Great story – fantastic photos. Thanks for sharing.

  9. McEff says:

    Hi Orel. I’ve been to many places in Poland but never Wroclav. You’ve just sold it to me.

  10. Verónica says:

    What are love padlocks?

    • Hi Veronica. Idea is you buy a locker with one key with the person you are in relationship with. Then, you write both of your names on it. You lock it somewhere in a place that has water nearby. Then you take the key and you throw it in the water so you can never get it back and unlock the locker.
      The locker that you can’t unlock anymore is a metaphorical way to say you will never break up with the person you locked the locker with. I hope that makes sense :)

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