Cities to be seen... Wroclaw and Poznan
As our attention is drawn towards Poland by Euro 2012, Heather Fitsell recommends her top sites in two of the host cities, Wrocław and Poznan.
Fellow Euro 2012 host nations Ukraine and Poland have something more in common than just football. In both Ukraine’s Sevastopol and Poland’s Wrocław you can find panoramic murals depicting great battle scenes. Our Europe Product Manager visited the Panorama of Sevastopol in 2010 and had the privilege of seeing Racławice Panorama in Wrocław. Measuring 140 metres by 15 metres, this breathtaking panorama depicts Kosciuszko’s legendary (and short lived) victory over the Russians in 1794 and is one of the only remaining panoramas in the world. Unlike it’s counterpart in Sevastopol, which was damaged during the second world war, the Racławice Panorama was carefully rolled up and hidden, thus preserving it.
The panorama itself is painted with exquisite detail, making it appear almost three dimensional, particularly given the relief in the foreground. A guided tour with a headset talks you through the battle and the painting. It is very much something that has to be seen to be understood and is certainly not something to miss on a visit to Wroclaw.
Ostrow Tumski Island in Wroclaw is home to Tumski Bridge, which has become a major attraction for couples, who close an inscribed padlock around the metal bars of the bridge and then throw the key into the water, thus signifying the seal of the couple’s love. This act has been taken up elsewhere in Poland and comes from a 1992 love story by author and film maker Frederico Moccia entitled Tre Mertri Sopra Il Cielo.
One of the striking things about both Wrocław and Poznan is the care and attention to detail that has been applied to the respectful restoration of each city following the heavy destruction of the second world war. Approximately 60% of the old town in both cities was destroyed during the war. One thing the city of Wrocław has done is to display images around the city showing the scene before you as it was left after the war, so you can see the great work that has been done to rebuild at least the facades as they once were.
The market square in the old town of Poznan is picturesque, with a row of narrow buildings restored to replicate those from the 16th century that were on that same site.
There is so much to see and do around the market square, from the little shops (pictured above), to the town hall and its two billy goats, to a musical instrument museum and the city museum detailing the history of Poznan. The highlight for me, however, was set just off the main square, a church. The Lesser Basilica of St Stanislaus stands at an impressive 55 metres long, 35 metres wide and 27 metres high. This strikingly beautiful baroque church, which took 50 years to build and decorate, left me lost for words. I have visited countless churches and cathedrals in my travels across the world, but this is my favourite. I only wish I had had more time to explore inside. The internal decoration was done by artists from different countries making it unique. It also has the best organ in the city and one of the best in Poland.
In Poland I found beauty where I did not expect it, a desire to restore rather than replace and a contrasting history of both ancient and modern that leaves the visitor with so much to explore and discover.
Visit Wrocław and Poznan on one of our luxury tours to Poland.