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Observations on the Public Transport Network

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Wrocław's centre is walkable but if you stay and/or want to visit places outside the centre, the trams are the most convenient means of transport. The city has a combined tram and bus network but I have to admit that I entirely relied on the trams and never needed to use any bus apart from the airport line 106. Anyway, both can be used on the same tickets. For the night network other fares apply.

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Each tram line runs every 20 minutes during the day, every 15 minutes during rush hours. At most stops there is more than one line. The vehicles in use are a varied mix. You’ll see everything from new, shiny, ultra modern trams to oldies of the „shake, rattle and roll“ type that were roaming the tracks already in the socialist era. The trams reach more or less everything that's of interest to a visitor. There are several attractions outside the immediate city centre, so the use of the transport network saves you a lot of walking and precious time.

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Trams are also great for people-watching. Everyone uses them, there are all kinds of people on board. I was amazed at the politeness I watched and experienced myself. While in my country few kids would even give their seat to an elderly person with obvious walking difficulties, Polish youngsters have been taught better manners. Everyone is observant if an elderly passenger boards. When a young man and a woman around 50 (= me) aim for that one empty seat, the lady gets the seat.

Polish men are still dżentelmen. Yes this is how they spell „gentleman“, LOL. However, Polish men know much better what a real gentleman is, than their mates from countries that know how to spell it right. Polish men of all ages have preserved that certain chivalry towards ladies which is almost lost and forgotten in our Western societies. Being treated like a lady, being 'taken' to a cafe or restaurant by someone who is just a friend, being offered a seat on the tram - I enjoyed that very much. I hear that even the handkiss is still in use now and then, but I have never observed that, let alone been offered one.

Once I got into a situation that describes the Polski Dżentelmen in a nutshell. I was sitting on the tram, one of the rattling oldies, when an old man with a crutch boarded with some difficulties because of the high steps at the door. I immediately offered my seat, so did the girl behind me, but the man put his hand on my shoulder and pushed me back on my seat, then the same to the girl, and he only accepted the seat from a young man further behind us. He could hardly walk, but taking a seat from a lady - never!

What are those Stickers?

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Most trams sport football stickers attached to the side mirrors and to the front window. Śląsk („Silesia“) Wrocław is the local football (soccer) team and very popular in the city. Their colours are green, white and red, with green being the main colour of jerseys and fan t-shirts. On match days the green colour will be impossible to overlook in the streets...The team is playing in the first Polish league. Their greatest recent success was winning the Polish championship in 2012. Since the Euro Cup 2012 and the completion of the new Stadion Miejski in the western suburbs of the city, this arena has become the team's new site for home matches.

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Are the tram drivers all Śląsk supporters? No, not necessarily. But the stickers protect their trams from attacks by local hooligans! Instead of causing trouble the Śląsk fans would rather protect such a tram from the opponent‘s supporters. That indicates that hooligans exist and are a problem. I once ended up in a tram full of Śląsk fans after a match, though, and they were totally peaceful, many families with children among them.

Route planner

The transport network runs an online route planner which is simply genius. The weblink is https://wroclaw.jakdojade.pl It can be switched to English and German. You enter your starting point and destination and the hour and then get a detailed description of the route. You can enter a bus or tram stop, or a street address anywhere in the city, or set the markers on the interactive map. You will receive a list of connections, including informations on fares and tickets, alternative lines and routes, and when the next bu or tram will be running should you miss a connection. For every stop you have to use, there is a separate little map that shows where exactly your tram or bus will stop. This is particularly useful if you have to change, as there may be up to half a dozen different stops in a big street crossing.

Fares and Tickets

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Ticket machine at a stop
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Ticket machine on board
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Stamp your ticket here
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Luggage ticket

There are a couple of particularities that tram and bus travellers should know.

  1. A single ticket is 3 PLN. This is for one single ride and does not allow changing tram/bus. Then there are timed tickets - 30, 60, 90 minutes etc., 24 hours, the longest is 168 hours (= 1 week). All these can be bought from ticket machines at the stops, from ticket machines on board, or from (some) kiosks. These cover the whole city, there is no division into zones.
  2. The 24-hour-ticket is of most interest to short-term visitors, it costs less than 3 single rides. A one-week ticket costs the same as 10 single rides, thus really worth considering if you are staying for a couple of days.
  3. For longer periods, i.e. monthly passes etc., you need to obtain an electronic Urban Card with passport photo which is then uploaded at ticket machines.
  4. The language of the ticket machines can be changed to English, German, and Russian.
  5. In the streets, the ticket machine is often not directly at the tram or bus stop but located on a nearby street corner. Look for a 'box' with a blue top.
  6. Ticket machines outside take cash and cards, while those on board accept only 'plastic', no cash!!!
  7. The ticket must be stamped immediately when you board the tram or bus in one of the yellow boxes as in photo 5.
  8. For large luggage (rule of thumb: items that are too big to place on your lap) you need to buy an additional luggage ticket for 1.50 PLN.
  9. School and university students can buy reduced tickets at 50% of the normal fare, but only if they hold and carry either a Polish Student ID, ISIC, Euro26, or a foreign university card together with a certified translation into Polish.

Ticket machines are often blocked or broken or won't accept a foreign credit card or are in a bad mood or suffer from hiccups... It is wise to carry a spare unused ticket, just in case you can't buy one when you need it.

Ticket inspectors are said to be merciless and have zero understanding for ignorant tourists travelling with invalid tickets. I was controlled only once and did not notice any particular problems, but better have a correct ticket.

Historical Trams

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Jas i Małgosia in ul. Szewska in front of the Institute of Art History

Historical trams from the pre-war era, carefully restored and maintained, can be spotted on Wrocław's tram rails every now and then. On weekends they do round trips for everyone, you can ride them from the city centre to Hala Stulecia and back. Special tickets are needed, though, normal tram tickets aren't valid. I imagine they can also be rented for groups.

The tram cars have names. I have seen three different ones. The red „Baba Jaga“ was the one I encountered most often. Then there is a yellowish-white tram named „Juliusz“, and a double streetcar with hanger which are known as „Jas i Małgosia“ (Hansel and Gretel) like the two houses in Rynek.

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Pit stop for a pizza?

Posted by Kathrin_E 04:48 Archived in Poland Tagged wroclaw Comments (3)

Panorama Racławicka: In the Middle of the Battle

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The panoramic painting depicting the Battle of Racławice is considered one of Wrocław's main tourist attractions. It is a circular painting of 114 metres total length and 15 metres high, presented in a rotund which was built for this purpose in the 1980s. The spectators seem to stand on a small hill in the middle, with the battle raging all around them.

Once inside, you'll listen to a comment that explains the painting and its historical background – this is why they have timed visits. The commentary is well done and easy to follow as the scene that’s currently explained is highlighted. The main comment over loudspeaker is in Polish. If you need a translation, get a headphone from the guards, there are 16 languages available.

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The battle on April 4, 1794 saw a victory of the Polish troops and peasant volunteers lead by General Tadeusz Kościuszko against the Russian army. It was just a temporary success, in the end the uprising and the fight for independence failed, but it has an enormous significance for Polish patriotism.

The painting was created for the centennary in 1894 and first displayed in Lwów. At the end of World War II, when Lwów became part of the Soviet Union, the painting was rescued and brought to Poland under rather dramatic circumstances. Its restoration could not be done until the 1980s for political issues. Since 1985 it has been on display in Wrocław inside this rather ugly concrete building.

Practical Hints:

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Tickets are sold for time slots every 30 minutes, 70 tickets each. I was lucky to get hold of a ticket for the next entry time one minute after my arrival - perfect. But don't count on that, you may have to wait or buy a ticket for a later hour and come back. The website http://www.panoramaraclawicka.pl/jak-kupic-bilety.html informs about tickets and options to prebook. The audioguide is included.
Entrance fee: 30 PLN (adults), 23 PLN (families per person and concessions)
Photography is in theory not allowed. Everyone does despite this rule, though, and the guards don't interfere - but keep the flash turned off, and maybe it's wise not to snap away right under the guards' nose.
Website: http://www.panoramaraclawicka.pl

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Posted by Kathrin_E 00:08 Archived in Poland Tagged wroclaw Comments (1)

Album of Wroclawian Morning Skies

Or: I hate those thin curtains!

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5:30 The natural alarm goes off

A unique quality of my room at the Kredka was the sunrises. I have probably watched more sunrises during this month than in my whole life so far, due to the fact that my room faced east and the thin, pale grey curtains did not keep the daylight out so the 'natural alarm clock' woke me up every morning before 6 a.m. (it was August).

I soon decided to take a picture every morning. The old story about the lemon and the lemonade, you know. Every day the sky, the pattern of the clouds, the light and the colours would be different. My collection is almost complete. Only once or twice I forgot about it.

So here is a selection from my collection of Wrocławian morning skies.

sunrise0308.jpg August 3: first morning

sunrise0508.jpg August 5: dramatic

sunrise0608.jpg August 6: brilliant

sunrise0708.jpg August 7: At the crack of dawn

sunrise0908_1.jpg August 9: There she is!

sunrise0908_2.jpg August 9: Big Orange

sunrise1508.jpg August15: Almost like a painting

sunrise1508_2.jpg August15: Half a sun

sunrise1508_3.jpg August15: Triple sunrise

sunrise1608.jpg August 16: Rain! I promptly overslept

sunrise1908.jpg August 19: Delicate artwork

sunrise2108.jpg August 21: dull

sunrise2208.jpg August 22: Pale moon at daybreak

sunrise2208_2.jpg August 22: behind the Olympic stadium

sunrise2208_3.jpg August 22: Laundry

sunrise2508.jpg August 25: bright

sunrise2708.jpg August 27: foggy

sunrise2808.jpg August 28: colourful

sunrise3008.jpg August 30: Hala Stulecia

sunrise3108_1.jpg August 31: Farewell!

Posted by Kathrin_E 16:39 Archived in Poland Tagged wroclaw Comments (2)

By the River Odra

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So far I have discussed some attractions within the city centre/old town and a couple of places ‚off the beaten path‘. About time to talk about Wrocław’s finest cityscape and the best panorama. I am, of course, talking about what you see from the banks of the river Odra (Oder).

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The river runs through the city in several branches, forming various islands. Wroclaw counts a total of 90 bridges. In former times there were even more river branches. Many waterflows have been controlled by a system of dams and canals, or have disappeared altogether. A pond in a park may be all that has remained.

A walk on the river banks and over to the islands is a must for any visitor. Recently, during the preparations for Wrocław’s year as Cultural Capital of Europe in 2016, the river promenades have been refurbished and redesigned. Steps of white concrete invite to sit down by the river and enjoy the views, have a picknick, rest and relax. There is the skyline of Ostrów Tumski with its many steeples and spires, Sand Island with its church and convent, the parks on the smaller islands further west, and on the southern bank, the Ossolineaum and adjacent churches and the long front of the Old University.

The river views can also be enjoyed from little cruise boats. They depart from Sand Island and go upstream to the zoo, and back. The keyword to look for is „rejs“, and their advertising is hard to miss. The boats are driven by funny paddle wheels at the back. I have not done the cruise but it is certainly pleasant.

Sunny Morning Walk on the Islands on Assumption Day

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A walk on the islands offers new views of the buildings by the river bank and the Oder river. The footpaths have, or most of them, recently been redesigned and newly paved. The islands are connected by footbridges and covered in parks. So you can explore to your liking.

Wyspa Piasek (Sand Island) is the seat of some abbeys and has three churches. There and on Wyspa Mlynska (Mill Island) watermills used to be working, one 19th century mill building over the canal between the two is still there. From Wyspa Mlynska a path and bridge lead over to the parks on Wyspa Slodowa and Bielarska. A favourite of mine is the statue of Socrates on Wyspa Bielarska, with its big hands and feet.

However, I would not do this walk in the evening. I walked there on a holiday morning and there were a lot of „previous night leftovers“ - broken bottles and garbage on the one hand, drunk guys sleeping on several of the benches on the other. I felt a bit insecure. Not sure what (and who) is going on there at night. It was August, though, hence no university students. I have been told that the islands, especially Wyspa Slodowa, are a favourite meeting point of the students to sit and drink beer, so during the semester the atmosphere will be different for sure.
Footnote: Drinking in public places is officially not allowed, but everyone does, and everyone knows that they do. The students' trick is, if a police patrol arrives, putting the beer to the ground and telling them, „This isn't our beer, we do not know who it belongs to.“ (Let’s hope the police aren’t so thirsty that they would confiscate the beer.)

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These photos were taken on August 15, Assumption Day. Assumption of Mary is a big holiday in catholic Poland. It is a public holiday with about everything closed, so plan accordingly if you are there on that date. Most shops are open on normal Sundays but will also stay closed on this holiday.

We had no school on that day either. It was a fine sunny day, the perfect occasion to go for a nice long morning walk and take photos.

In the morning many people go to church, and it is customs to bring a bouquet of flowers, grain, and berries which is then blessed during mass. Outside the churches people were selling these bouquets. They look very pretty - but since I'm a protestant I did not buy one, I didn't want to pretend to be catholic while I‘m not.

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Church of Mary on Sand Island

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The majestic gothic church on Sand Island (Wyspa Piasek), dedicated to the Virgin Mary, used to be the convent church of the adjacent Augustine abbey. It is a hall church with rather narrow side aisles. A peculiarity are the vaults which look like „braids“ due to the alternating position of the pillars.

The church is furnitured with several late gothic altars. These are not in their original place - the museum of the archdiocese gave them to the church after World War II to substitute the (baroque) altars which had been destroyed by fire.

We could not get further in than to the gate underneath the gallery in the west - the nave seems to be barred except for mass. The side chapel on the right is also accessible – and its content alone is well worth the visit.

This chapel hosts a large nativity with countless figures and toys, a model train, and other mechanical pieces that move. A very old lady guards the chapel and turns on light and mechanics when there are visitors, plus some music that probably meets her taste, but it all matches well.

This nativity is fun to watch. It may even reconcile children with their parents' desire to visit yet another church...

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Where to Watch the Sunset

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The best spot for taking sunset photos by the river is Most Pokoju - the bridge that leads from Museum Narodowe over to Ostrów Tumski. The downstream side is facing west and you have the whole panorama of the historical buildings, the abbeys and their spires on the left river bank, Wyspa Piasek (Sand Island) ahead, and Ostrów Tumski with the cathedral on the right. The length of the bridge allows finding the perfect location to have the setting sun in a gap between the buldings and its reflection on the water. If you are lucky there will even be a boat passing in the foreground.

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This picture was taken from Most Grunwaldzki. The direction is also good for sunset pictures but the panorama is not as fine. The bridge is further away from the historical skyline and Most Pokoju gets in the way.

Posted by Kathrin_E 06:29 Archived in Poland Tagged wroclaw Comments (2)

Ogród botaniczny: Green Eden in the City

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The botanic garden of the university is a green oasis in the middle of the city. It is a place to relax and enjoy nature among the other sightseeing. The gardens are well-kept and have a lage assortment of plants from many parts of the world.

The churches on Ostrów Tumski form an impressive skyline in the background. Everywhere you will find benches, many even with tables.

For locals and long-term visitors, an annual pass is on offer, so people use this as their retreat to sit, read, write, study, or just relax.

What I loved best was the Arboretum with beautiful large trees of many specieses, cool shady paths which offer new views into other parts of the gardens round every bend, the pond with the fountains.

And the nymphaeas.
Whereever there is open water, they have nymphaeas. The shallow basin near the greenhouses grows the most varied collection.

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The greenhouses are rather small and more designed for scientific purposes than for „looks“. Maybe I had expected more flowers, but mid August after several weeks of summer heat is probably not the best time for that.

The main entrance is from ul. Sienkiewica, where the botanic garden also has its own tram stop (lines 0, P, 9, 17 - there also was a 71 passing and some other lines stop round the corner). Hence it is easy to reach. My advice is, however, to combine it with a visit to Ostrów Tumski. There is a second entrance from the southern side which is hardly 100 metres away from the cathedral.

There is a self-service place to get some coffee, icecream and snacks in the gardens - their outdoor seating is pleasant but be warned, their coffee is pathetic. The Cafe Flora at the western end of the gardens has a wider selection of food and drink and should be a better bet, although the hall they are located in is not as charming.

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The gardener gnome

Practical Hints:

Opening hours: daily 8.00 - 18.00

Entrance fee:
15 PLN for adults, compared to other attractions in Wrocław this isn't cheap, but I consider it absolutely worthwhile.

Timeframe for your visit:
Having two hours to play with would not harm, the garden may look small on the map, but it is surprisingly big and varied. Take your time and enjoy.

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Posted by Kathrin_E 07:04 Archived in Poland Tagged wroclaw Comments (2)

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