Wroclaw is the city of a hundred bridges. Because of this the city is also called the ‘Venice of Poland’. Water all around you. One of the major waterways in Wroclaw is the Oder, a winding river that runs through the city center. And it’s not just a simple river, it’s the second largest river in Poland and it crosses the country all the way up to the East sea. So far the Wikipedia facts, let’s return to the city. Wroclaw is the place where this water meets some beautiful architecture. The river shows you a route characterised by what I can only describe as superlatives. It all gets bigger, better and more beautiful.
The most elegant district: the University area
If you have seen every inch of the Rynek, then it’s time to explore the back alleys. Take for instance the University area. Romantically situated along the Oder and full with historical buildings and pretty baroque influences. A place for the most wise and noble people in this world. For instance, nine Nobel Price winners studied at this university and even emperor Leopold lived here for quite some while in the seventeenth century. To remember him, the university dedicated a room to the man: the Leopoldina Hall. An overtly decorated chamber with a seiling made out of colorful frescos.
The oldest place: Ostrow Tumski
Along the Oder you can see several islands. Some are still isolated, others already grew together with the mainland. Ostrow Tumski is one of them, and if you ask the people of Wroclaw it’s the most important part of the city. Ostrow Tumski marks the beginning of the city back in the ninth century. With its secluded position surrounded by water it was a very safe place. Even more when Christianity took hold, which explains the name of the island: Ostrow Tumski, meaning ‘Cathedral Island’. The place is filled with churches, priests in black robes and whispering nons. A peaceful and quiet area in an otherwise busy city.
The largest art work: Panorama of Raclawice
Normally when I travel I let the local museums pass. I rather spend my time in the city, the parks and the back alleys soaking up the atmosphere. But in Wroclaw I made exception. Our Airbnb host recommended us to visit the Panorama of Raclawice. A local museum situated near the Oder. Apparently this was a major must see in Wroclaw. Frankly I didn’t expect much of it. It’s a painting, what else is new? Oh boy, what was I wrong. The panorama is not your everyday painting. It’s a gigantic circular art work that goes 360 degrees around. It’s 120 meters wide and 15 meters high. An unique piece of art and one of the few in the world. The painting shows the battle between Polish peasants and the Russian army in 1794 near Raclawice. Miraculously the army of peasants defeated the Russians and so the painting is kind of a symbol of national pride. Considering their difficult history (Poland has been partitioned for at least three times) I would be proud too.
I was pretty impressed. Maybe I’m not so well culturally educated, but I’ve never seen an art work this size. Moreover, the events of the painting are so realistic and don’t stop when the canvas ends. The illusion goes on because of the use of real wood, sand, trails and carts. At one point I couldn’t tell the difference anymore. ‘Is that piece of fence real or not?’ A surprisingly fun experience.
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