Over the Hill, Part Seventy-Nine: Wroclaw, You Have Gnome Idea
It was three hours on the train to get to Wroclaw (which is pronounced Vroclov, or something to that effect), and when we got off the train we were greeted by Alex’s best friend Alicia, her husband Ted (who was born in Poland), Ted’s parents (who were over in Poland for a wedding) and Ted’s aunt. So it was quite the party that exited the platform, but after warm greetings with everyone it was time to find our apartment, which was a bit of a walk from the train station. Alicia and Ted accompanied us, Alicia insisting on carrying Alex’s bag no matter how hard Alex tried to get it back (she’s such a sweetie). We self checked in to our apartment, which had perhaps the dodgiest elevator I’ve ever seen (it was basically a platform that moved up and down with a door at each floor), but the apartment itself was really nice.
We needed to get some dinner, as it was getting late, but all of the restaurants were located around the old town, which was a twenty minute walk from the train station; in the other direction. So it was a forty-five minute walk for us. At the entrance to the old town we found a donut shop that was about to close up, and grabbed a donut each to try them out, and they were amazing. Best donut I’ve had in a while. Walking into the old town, the first thing that strikes you is how beautiful it is; there’s a large hall in the centre, and it’s ringed by restaurants, with smaller shops dotted around the middle. It was really late, so a lot of the restaurants were already closed, but we finally managed one that would let us order (as long as we were quick). We decided to get two different types of polish dumplings, but when they came out they looked (and tasted) like ravioli (even an Italian would have agreed with us on that). They were nice; they just weren’t polish dumplings, which is what we really wanted.
After heading home and getting a nice rest, and an even nicer sleep in, we walked back into the old town to meet up with Alicia and Ted and have some lunch. At the edge of the square we found a restaurant that specialised in pierogi (actual pierogi, unlike last night), and soon food was flowing to our table. We were sitting in the front area, with a great view of the old town, and there were many people walking by, so the people watching was excellent. We watched gypsies try the trick of handing someone a rose, before demanding payment, while another person dressed up as Tigger would walk around, trying to pose for photos before asking for money for a charity. Whether the charity was real cannot be determined. It was highly entertaining, and the food was great as well.
After that we had a nice wander around the old town, where we discovered a curious little fact; the whole town is obsessed with metal gnomes. Apparently it started in 2001 with just the one gnome as an art piece, but quickly grew, and from 2005 it started to become a big tourist attraction. You can get a map showing the location of a hundred of the most famous ones (and yes, of course we bought one), but the person at the tourist desk told us that there are upwards of five hundred now, because people often get them made for publicity; so shops will have one placed outside to try and attract more customers. We had a lot of fun walking around, trying to find as many as we could, with some of them quite easy to find, while others required a bit more effort.
The day was getting on, so we decided to go and visit the Raclawice Panorama, a massive fifteen metre high painting that is 114 metres long, and depicts an epic battle in 1794 between a Polish army composed mainly of peasants, and the Russian army, which was trying to conquer Poland (as they are wont to do). The Poles actually won that battle, and while they eventually lost the war to the more heavily armed Russians, the fact that they won that first battle is a source of deep pride for Polish people, even today. As we went up, an audio guide took us through the different sections of the painting, which depict different parts of the battle, really giving us a glimpse into how the battle took place. It was fascinating to listen to, and the picture itself is amazing to behold. Fun fact; when the Nazi’s invaded, the panorama was rolled up and shipped to England, and then Canada, in order to protect it from destruction.
Heading back into the old town, we found a small, cool little bar that would slot straight into the Melbourne bar scene, and sat down to have a few drinks. They had a large amount of vodkas, many of them flavoured, and almost all of them Polish (and cheap), so we started ordering shots, enjoying some beautiful vodkas as we talked and chatted. Starting to get hungry, we decided to leave the bar and get some food, and because we’d had such a good time at lunch, we decided to go back to the same restaurant, in order to sample more of their menu. We had more pierogi, but also some other traditional Polish dishes, and everything was really good; so good that we stayed until closing time!
After that it was a long walk back to the apartment, and a chance for a nice long sleep. We had a big day planned; we were travelling all the way to Krakow, as our tour of Poland continued.