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Resembling a different type of Venice, Wroclaw is a city with countless bridges, little green islands and gothic architecture. Something out of fairy-tale, full of mystery and playful energy, hugging the river banks of Oder with cobbled roads and gardens with elegant mansions.
We started our day with a nice aromatic coffee at FC CAFFE, which can be found a few steps down from Kalambur bar with crocodile floating by red balloon. In the window display of the well-known stara pacykarnia donut shop next door a dwarf appeared with a fresh doughnut. Zenakos just discovered his new favourite place with the tastiest morning treats in Wroclaw!
It smelt of summer rain. Tiny drops started falling over the Oder River, shaping concentric music circles. The air brought jazz music from the surrounding islands. The large university campus is full of music festivals, colourful street art and luscious green islands. Outside of the university we met another dwarf who had just closed his umbrella. He showed us around the bridges of Wroclaw as well as the six islands that we can visit on the north side of the river: Wyspa Piasek (Sand Island), Tamka Island, Slodowa, Bielarska, Młyńska, Daliowa and Ostrow Tumski (Cathedral Island).
A few blocks further down we met Ossolinek, the book lover. The thinking dwarf was sitting on a pile of books whilst looking after the collection from the Ossolinski National Institute. Ossolinek comes from an old family of nobles, he is classically trained and speaks multiple languages. We wanted to go inside the institute because we heard that there was a mystical garden, where many concerts and events take place. At that moment Ossolnek looked at us from inside his big hat and pointed us in the direction of the Piasek Island, where the University of Wroclaw built a large library. We decided it probably wasn’t the right time of day to visit and left smiling discreetly.
We passed from bridge to bridge and island to island.
Wyspa Piasek is one of the most interesting islands from an architectural standpoint. The island got its name from the 12th century Catholic Church: ”Our Lady on the Sand”, it was built in the footprints of an old circus. Then next to that is the Catholic church of St. Anna, which has now been turned into a kid’s nursery, the Orthodox Parish of St. Cyril and Methodius and the library of the University of Wroclaw.
Although, my favourite island of all is the green island named Wyspa Slodowa. The island gets busy every summer with students full of youthful energy: Music festivals, athletic activities, summer cinema, dance lessons, board games and an open library free for everyone.
One of the most impressive bridges is Tumski, where lovers from all over the world have locked their love with colourful padlocks. The idea isn’t unique but it is interesting to think that it’s full of people’s stories intertwined all on one pebbled bridge, connecting the past with the future.
As we crossed, Gazus greeted us from above! Gazus lives inside a lamp from where he listens to all the people’s stories and is in charge of lighting at night. His goal is to spread a magical atmosphere across the bridge’s pavement.
Cathedral island or Ostrów Tumski is one of the oldest parts of the city, the cathedral itself (St. John the Baptist) dates back to 10th century. A tiny little dwarf stopped us close to the cathedral and gave us story book to read. Around the other side of the cathedral we discovered a very picturesque alley.
Kawiarek was relaxing on the corner of Cafeteria Chic, enjoying his coffee, or perhaps it was tea. It’s rude though to stare at a dwarf’s cup. But I would sure have found out if we sat down together, but we didn’t have enough time. We wanted to stop at a food place close to the botanical gardens and then continue our outing towards the technical university.
One of the most amazing things about Wroclaw is that even though the majority of the city was destroyed during the Second World War, the city was reborn from the ashes. The medieval architecture of Wroclaw is the most amazing in Poland! Most of the buildings have been restored, there are many modern buildings (to the north of Piasek), and meanwhile some other buildings still have signs of their dark past. It is a vivid reminder of what happens when there is hatred. I noticed holes in the exposed plaster and brickwork that looked almost artistic in its ugliness. In this city it seems as though time is frozen and the past is reconciled with the future.
At every corner on the river Oder, some artist draws a water painting. A picture within a picture, like a dream inside another…
In the city of water, time is counted differently. It feels like every day sinks into a different story.
Outside of the technical university, we met yet another dwarf sitting on a pile of books, writing his doctoral dissertation on the magic of water. Zenakos just had a brilliant idea as to how to finish the day. We boarded a cable car that took us to the other side of the river. He wanted to surprise me, so I had no clue where we were going.
We just passed outside the University of the Geology; I felt a strong sense of nostalgia. Many years have passed since I changed my career path, but I’m always moved because science is a big part of my life… We passed beneath a curtain of water as we entered the most unique and special, state of the art museum, a magnificent building next to the Geology department, the Hydropolis! This Museum of Water was one of the most relaxing experiences… It felt like a journey into the Blue Planet documentary by David Attenborough…