A Travellerspoint blog

July 2017

Peeping into Bermuda Triangle

Time stood still in ul. Miernicza


Police are there again...

“Bermuda Triangle” is the nickname of a quarter in the east of the city which has a very bad reputation. It roughly consists of the area east of ul. Pułaski, between ul. Traugutta and ul. Kościuszki. Due to its triangular ground plan it received this nickname.

After World War II many settlers (or rather expellees, but this term did not exist in communist Poland) from the East, namely the region around Lviv, were accommodated in the suburb along Oława river. The quarter was poor. Children had nowhere to play, youths had nowhere to go. Violent street crime was frequent, and in those times it was really really dangerous.

Things have changed. I hear from locals that a lot has quietened and it is by far not as bad as it used to be, and that other parts of the city are much worse. New apartment houses have been build that attract different people, new businesses have settled around it, and the crime rate has dropped notably.

Nevertheless it has an uncomfortable feel.

I was alone, hence I just walked ul. Traugutta, and did not venture further in. When I took photos, somebody shouted something at me that I did not understand. So here are a few snapshots from the main street along the northern boundaries of the quarter.



Buildings in this quarter are mostly late 19th century apartment houses, tightly lined up along the streets, a typical poorer residential quarter from the era of industrialization. Since the end of the war, not much has been done in terms of renovation. One street, ul. Miernicza, has gained particular fame as setting for various movies. This street has preserved the appearance from the years around World War II – apart from the many satellite bowls on the facades, which are removed every time a movie is being filmed.



The quarter includes a couple of much older buildings of historical significance. The former summer palace of the bishops is now the seat of the Museum of Ethnography.

At the northwestern end, close to the wide bare grounds of plac Wróblewskiego, two churches frame ul. Traugutta: the small chapel of St Lazarus on the left, the baroque church, convent, pharmacy and hospital of the Bonifratrzy order (Brothers Hospitallers of Saint John of God).

The far side of plac Wróblewskiego is occupied by another church, St Mauritius. Its white baroque facades and elegant steeple do not betray neither that the origins of the church actually date back to the 13th century, nor that the eastern parts are a work of the late 19th century.

Plac Wróblewskiego is a tram hub and I gladly hopped onto the next tram back into the centre…

Plac Wróblewskiego with the church of St Mauritius

Posted by Kathrin_E 00:56 Archived in Poland Tagged wroclaw Comments (4)

Cmentarz Grabiszyński: Polish Cemetery Culture


I like visiting cemeteries in other countries. Not only the historical ones which are listed as tourist attractions, and I am also not after visiting the graves of celebrities. I want to see the plain ‘everyday’ ones where normal people from the city are buried, where normal people from the city go to visit, mourn and commemorate their defunct loved ones. How a people deals with their dead, tells a lot about the respective people’s culture.
Cmentarz Grabiszyński is one of the largest graveyards in Wrocław, located in the southeast of the city not far from the airport, along the tram line to Oporow.

Military cemeteries and memorials are also part of Cmentarz Grabiszyński, the Polish soldiers’ cemetery on the hilltop with the two giant stone pillars, and also an Italian one, but I only heard of their existence afterwards. These are located on the other side of the road in the grounds of Park Grabiszyński, a bit of a walk away, which would have been too much for my tired legs anyway. So they have to remain on my to-do-list for next visit.
This blog entry is about the main cemetery, known as Cmentarz Grabiszyński II., which has been opened in 1881 and has served as burial place ever since. The other parts I and III had been given up and removed after World War II, thus only this one is still active.



I got off the tram next to the main gate, on the northeastern corner of the graveyard. Shops are lined up along the wall by the main entrance, selling everything that visitors need: real flowers, artificial plastic flowers, wreaths and floral arrangements, angel figurines, lamp oil, vases and gardening tools, and an amazing selection of votive candles and oil lamps in all varieties, shapes and colours. (I was particularly impressed by the green ones in the shape of a little Christmas tree – it was December, after all.)

The brick architecture of the gate and wall as well as the buildings inside indicate their origins in the late 19th century. Few historical family tombs are preserved, though, and I don’t remember anything pre-war. Most German tombs were removed in the 1950s for political reasons.



The entrance leads straight towards the main chapel. Funeral services are held in there. The chapel is a cross-shaped building under a high dome.

The shape and ground plan remind of renaissance models, but the ornaments on the brick facades are distinctly neo-Romanesque. It is a typical example of the eclectic style in the Wilhelminic era and reminds us of the city's history as part of the German Empire.



I then walked the full round through the vast grounds. Some features that particularly struck my German eyes as, to me, unusual, included the many many votive candles on most of the graves.

I assume that many empty ones are leftovers of All Saints Day. No idea how long they burn – days? weeks?

And the fancy shapes, many of them on the brink of kitsch.


Attaching photos of the defunct to the tombstones is also uncommon in my parts of the world, although immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe have introduced it to German cemeteries in recent years, too.

This guy looks like he was a nice and fun old man. I like his smile and his big ears;-) But try to pronounce his first name…

This is one of many names that I collected as pronunciation exercises. Here are some more:




But there are also some German names to be found – people who stayed in Wrocław after the war, perhaps people from mixed Polish-German families?

I really felt sorry, though, for a guy who was born in 1934 and had to live with the first name Adolf, combined with a Polish surname. We can only speculate about his parents and their attitudes, political ideas, or perhaps just opportunism? After the war, this name certainly had no good influence on their son's life.


Many tombstones from the later years Socialist era were not made from solid stones but from artificial stone, like a fine concrete. (Lack of material? Costs?)



What I liked best, though, were the little benches and seats that are awaiting visitors at many graves. They don’t have to stand but can comfortably sit down, stay, pray and remember.

Many have, practical thinking, a locked box underneath where tools and vases and such can be kept. Judging from the ‘improvisation’ look, people built them themselves. There do not seem to be too many regulations, if any at all. All in all, the cemetery has a bit of a 'messy' look. Bushes and trees could do with a trim, too.


Posted by Kathrin_E 01:46 Archived in Poland Tagged cemetery wroclaw Comments (0)

Forum Muzyki: The New Concert Hall



Wrocław’s latest achievement in terms of culture is the large new concert hall, named Narodowe Forum Muzyki, National Forum of Music. This project was related to Wrocław’s year as Cultural Capital of Europe in 2016. The concert hall was opened in September 2015.
The building contains the main concert hall with 1800 seats, and three smaller halls for chamber music. The Forum has its own orchestra and choirs and organizes nine different festivals. Throughout the year they have a dense schedule of concerts: large classical symphony concerts as well as chamber music, jazz, world music.


The website explains about the architecture:

The NFM building was designed by Kuryłowicz & Associates Architecture Studio, selected through an international architectural contest. The architect was inspired by a musical instrument – its shape and the façade covering imitating timber resemble the body of a string instrument. The foyer, covered with black and white Corian, brings to mind the piano keyboard.
Source: http://www.nfm.wroclaw.pl/en/new-venue/architecture-and-acoustics



To me, the building seen from the outside rather resembles a slightly squashed cardboard box. The foyers with their black reflecting walls and stone surfaces are rather cold and unwelcoming. The main hall with its wooden surfaces has a more pleasant appearance.

The acoustics, however, and that’s the most important feature of a concert hall, are most carefully designed, and the result deserves any superlative.



Before my Wrocław trip in December 2015 I checked the programme and found a concert in the great hall with Sinfonia Varsovia, a renowned orchestra from Warsaw, that looked most appealing. Under a Russian conductor they played pieces by two Polish composers, Jan Górecki and Krzysztof Penderecki, as well as a symphony by Jean Sibelius. The latter was part of the 150th anniversary of Sibelius and thus under patronage of the Finnish embassy. The Finnish ambassador in person opened the concert with a speech.

The concert was fantastic. A top class orchestra and ditto soloists. From observing the conductor and his ways of communication with the orchestra, I am sure that they had lots of fun with him during the rehearsals!

I prebooked the ticket already from home through the website of Forum Muzyki: http://www.nfm.wroclaw.pl/ I started from the English version of the website, but through the process of registration and booking it all switched to Polish, and I was very proud of my limited Polish language skills when I coped with the booking and finally succeeded in printing a PDF file that looked like a ticket and was a ticket. Woohoo!


The price was amazingly cheap – 40 PLN for an excellent seat in the 5th row, front and center, which equals to 10 €. This was a steal for a concert of such quality. However, I assume that this was still an opening offer for the first months or maybe the first season. In the meantime the prices have doubled. But compared to other concert halls in the world, tickets are still very cheap. Their ambitions are high, the programmes are top notch. To lovers of classical music, I wholeheartedly recommend checking out in advance what Forum Muzyki are offering during their stay.


Posted by Kathrin_E 15:52 Archived in Poland Tagged music wroclaw Comments (1)

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