European Capital of Culture 2016 (Part II) - Wroclaw
Following our focus on the Spanish city of San Sebastian, we now turn the spotlight to its compatriot European Capital of Culture (ECOC) for 2016 – Wroclaw in Poland.
This city in the west of the country is located on the River Oder as it runs through the Silesian Lowlands of central Europe. With an amalgamation of Austrian, Prussian and Bohemian influences, Wroclaw is a city filled of architectural marvels along with interesting history and culture to explore. Being Poland’s fourth largest city, it’s not just a cultural wonder but also a major commercial, industrial and educational hub.
The Flexicover Teams provides a glimpse of what this Capital of Culture has to offer the discerning traveller.
City of Bridges
Wroclaw is built across 12 islands and, before the Second World War, there were over 300 bridges spanning the Oder. But after many suffered severe structural damage, now only around 100 bridges remain. The latest addition to this collection is the Redzin Bridge, finished in 2011. It’s currently the tallest and longest bridge in the city. Tumski Bridge is the one all couples should visit as there is a long-standing tradition of placing padlocks on the bridge and throwing the key into the waters below. And after doing so, stroll across and head into the oldest part of the city, Ostrów Tumski, for sights like the magnificent Wroclaw Cathedral.
The ‘must sees’
Due to its mix of influences there’s a lot to see here. A great place to start is the Market Square (Rynek) which dates from the 14th century and is home to the old Town Hall where one of Europe’s oldest restaurants, Piwnica Swidnicka, is found in its basement. Wander through the former medieval marketplace of Salt Square to visit the flower market. Or take in the grandeur of the Royal Palace, home to the city museum, and peer inside Centennial Hall (a UNESCO World Heritage site) with its 23m-high dome. Then head to serene Szczytnicki Park with its Japanese garden, 17th century wooden church and a 500 year old English oak tree called Dziadek (‘Grandpa’).
A fun and unusual activity to participate in whilst sightseeing is to find the dwarves of Wroclaw. Since first appearing in 2001, the number of these fey creatures located across the city has been on the rise, so that there are now roughly 300 to track down. There’s even a special location map and an app to help you seek them out. The small statues come in many different guises, covering a multitude of occupations and scenarios from everyday life including a baker, a blacksmith, firemen and even one using a cash machine. To start you off, you’ll find Papa Dwarf (as nicknamed by locals) located at the crossroads of the streets Swidnicka and Kazimierz Wielkihas. Happy hunting!
To the left of Centennial Hall, the Wroclaw Fountain is an immense semi-circular water feature set within the Wroclaw Pergola and historic exhibition grounds. This multimedia spectacle is best viewed at night when 300 jets are used along with music and light to create a mesmerising show befitting one of the largest fountains in Europe. Depending on weather, the show runs from either the last week in April or early May right through to late October. But even in the winter months the fountain provides a spectacular base for another fun activity as, should its water freeze over, it becomes a 4,700 square metre ice-skating rink.
Thanks to its ECOC status a huge number of cultural events and activities covering dance, visual arts, music and theatre will be running throughout this year. Take a look at the dedicated website or visit the ECOC information point while you’re there to get the lowdown on what’s on offer. This includes many established festivals that have been running for almost 40 years including the Festival of Polish Contemporary Music and the avant-garde public art explosion that is Wroclaw Non Stop. Furthermore, this year sees Wroclaw named the 2016 World Book Capital plus it will host the Theatre Olympics and the European Film Awards in December too.
Wroclaw is a city full of surprises and with so much on offer there’s never been a better time to head eastwards. And if you feel inspired to visit either, or both, of this year’s European Capitals of Culture be sure to remember that we at Flexicover are committed to providing you with the highest level of protection to ensure that you are safe and secure 24 hours a day when away.
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