We’ve had a good couple of days in Wrocław, even though the weather has been rather cold. It’s quite a compact town, so it’s easy to see most places on foot. As we visited on Easter Sunday and Monday, lots of places were closed, but that didn’t stop us sightseeing and there were plenty of cafés and restaurants open.
Wrocław has a long and unusual history, having been Polish, Bohemian, Habsburg, Prussian and German over the centuries before becoming Polish again. Until 1945 it was a German city called Breslau, and in February 1945 the Nazis turned the whole city into a fortified compound when it was besieged by the Red Army, defending the city until May and executing anyone who refused to fight. During the battle, 75% of the city was razed to the ground. Some 30% of the prewar population of more than 600,000 died. Under the Potsdam Agreement the remaining Germans were expelled to Germany, and the ruined city was resettled with people from Poland’s prewar eastern regions, mostly from Lviv, which had been ceded to the Soviet Union. This would be called ethnic cleansing today.
Walking round the main square in the city today, it’s difficult to tell what’s original and what’s not. It looks very Flemish though.
Wrocław is famous for its dwarves. These were the symbol of the Orange Alternative, an anti-Soviet resistance movement born in Wrocław which helped topple Poland’s oppressive communist regime in the 1980’s. Today there are over 400 brass dwarves dotted around the city, and you can buy a map showing where they all are.
There aren’t may stolpersteine to be found in Poland, which is surprising considering the number of Poles that were sent to Auschwitz. Wrocław is one of the few cities with stolpersteine, and as these were within walking distance of the main square we went to check them out.
Today (Easter Monday) is apparently national water fight day in Poland, but unfortunately we didn’t see any water fights ourselves.
Tomorrow we will drive further east to Katowice and spend a couple of nights there before moving onto Kraków.