Sunday, March 8, 2009

Wroclaw (vrat-slav), Poland

Wroclaw was one of very few European cities I really wasn’t looking forward to visiting. I expected a boring town with no character…thankfully I could not have been more wrong! Wroclaw is a pleasant little city, with a thriving student population, and several unique, historical oddities. The arena we played had once hosted Nazi rallies lead by Hitler himself!
I literally stumbled over my first surprise; at the corner of ul. Pilsudskiego and u. Swidnicka is a sculpture of 7 bronze statues descending into the pavement on the east side of the street and ascending on the west side. I’ve since found that this is called the Passage Sculpture and was created to commemorate the installation of martial law in 1981 to end Soviet oppression.
As I ventured into old town, I was awestruck by the vibrant Town Hall in Rynek, the main market square. Most of the old town area was destroyed in WWII, but like Warsaw, has since been rebuilt to model its original appearance. The Polish towns that I have visited are so colorful, it says a lot for the resilience of the Polish spirit considering the many sufferings these people have endured over the centuries.
In the corner of Rynek I found the Hansel and Gretel houses, two charming buildings linked by a archway dating back to 1728. Originally it lead to the nearby Church of St. Elizabeth’s cemetery, which explains why the Latin inscription reads “Death is the Gateway to Life.”
As I left the square, I noticed a row of decorative marble balls lining the street, the lead ball being pushed by a pair of cute gnome statues. Later, after I had my giggle and a photo, I learned that these unusual dwarf statues were all over the old town area. The dwarve's connection to Wroclaw began with Orange Alternative movement, when graffiti of happy dwarves were painted over anti-communist slogans on city walls in a peaceful, alternative protest to communism. Today there are more than 40 statues, which made for an extremely fun, and educational, day of dwarf hunting for the amateur travel photographer. And the cultural/fun – pierogi eater, sleepyhead, etc. -- background of each statue was very entertaining.
Maybe I am just easily amused, but those little statues really changed my entire outlook on Wroclaw. Had it not been for them I would not have discovered how beautiful or interesting this city is…and most importantly, I would not be looking forward to returning as much as I am now.

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