I was going often to Warsaw for personal reasons. I had visited Krakow a couple of times during those weekends when to go and to come back for a short trip was still easy and most of the times cheap. Especially from Barcelona thanks to Wizzair or Ryanair`s low-cost flights, among other companies. But the rest of Poland was to me something like an unknown Comanche territory populated by unpronounceable cities that I did not know even to place on the map. It might be for that reason that Poland became trendy among Spanish travellers, and the rest of Europeans, in recent times. Since it allows to get out of the common script towards the unexplored, keeping a very good value for money, makes a good balance between what is still exotic and different on one hand, and how accessible it is (or it was) to reach its cities, on the other hand. Those unknow cities treasure a disciplined and well-maintained old beauty.
Wroclaw is the capital of Lower Silesia, in 2016 it was chosen as Capital of European Culture and since then, although tourism has increased significantly, services have also been increased. Nevertheless, the city is today at its right point among the facilities to have fun as a visitor and the authenticity of a place still not fully-spoiled, which continues to live minding more the locals rather than the tourists.
Despite this, it has a still silent tourist claim that is still a nod to families and children…
There are more than 180 bronze goblins scattered all around the city. Some of those goblins live in open spaces like squares, others occupy more discreet corners and they are only visible to those good hunters of moments who devote themselves conscientiously to find them. As a trick for those less persistent here I leave you the Goblins Map of Wroclaw.
We made to the downtown at night, on a car trip from Krakow of almost three hours. Parking is difficult in the city centre, so we left the car a little far away from the centric hotel we had chosen to spend the night. Upon reaching it, we realized that we had chosen well. It was the Best Western Prima Hotel. The street was practically empty on a confusingly quiet Saturday night. It was cold and in Poland the fun is often indoors. There were many bars, many of them rebuilt on a new age style upon a delightfully old background. We went in one of them for a beer and the draft selection was excellent.
We looked for a place for dinner, but having gotten late we had no other choice but to get into globalization offering. There are new places to taste ramen, salads, hamburgers and ethnic food of any kind. Later on, it was possible to finish off the night in one of the vodka bars that abound in the country, all of them full of people waiting along long bars that provide a thousand types of booze and drinks to a young and festive audience. When we left, we walked a bit towards the hotel and near a corner, there he was, as if shy at our inopportune appearance: a goblin raising his elbow to get into fun.
Goblins come from an ancient Polish popular tradition, the “Krasnoludk”, a kind of pixies that fight against bad luck. And certainly, the city, now flourishing, could have had a bit better luck in its past, if we look back to its dramatic history, full of opportunities, but also important challenges.
In Wroclaw, two important trade routes converged: The Royal Route and the old Amber Route, which linked Saint Petersburg with Venice, passing through the Baltic republics. The city belonged to the Hanseatic League and the Sacred German Empire during the modern age, becoming part of Germany for a part of its history. It was from the Yalta and Potsdam agreements that Poland obtained the city and the entire Silesia region. The German population was almost fully deported and the city repopulated by new Polish inhabitants. Therefore, Wroclaw needed to rebuild its identity but currently now it is projecting bridges to the future.
Bridges are an important feature of Wroclaw’s personality, which has even been called the Venice of Silesia. The city stands on 12 islands and many bridges over the irregular course of the Öder River, among which the Grunwaldzki Bridge stands out for its greatness.
Each of them gives the possibility of a new open and natural panorama that contrasts with the narrow streets of the old city, filled by buildings from Central European and Hanseatic style around the terraced squares, among which Rynek Square stands out. It was the old market square, currently the main epicenter of any itinerary for the visitor.
That morning, the day dawned radiant and the sunlight early reflected on the colourful landscape of old houses. The river seemed to offer endless viewpoints to get carried away with. On the other side, the Tumski Bridge, my favourite, seemed to lead to a magical sneaky neighbourhood hidden into a lost-time tunnel.