Version for the lazy: Puff Puff Puff…. Oder…. river cruise….
Wrocław. Heat. Over 30 °C. We melt. What can we do here on such a day? We found ourselves under the trees in the park. It didn’t help. So we continued to melt the fat and squirm with stuffiness. And then a miracle happened.
Wrocław, everyone knows, lies on the river Oder. We, however, unaccustomed to similar views from Ireland, did not expect to be in the place from which a river excursion boat departs.
Ha! What more beautiful could have happened to us on that day! Ostrów Tumski could not even dream to compare with such a fascinating attraction.
Three tired bosmen sat on a fence along the shore waiting for the next cruise and dreaming of a sofa, a TV and a bottle of chilled beer… 🙂
We bought the tickets and after a few moments Passenger Ship Driada left the quay, from the stop under the aforementioned Ostrów Tumski and with a beautiful gentle murmur of the engine we caught the wind in the sails 🙂 Well, no! There were no sails. But it was still good.
Wrocław, as many probably know, is an exceptionally beautiful city. Particularily in its centre. More on this in a second. But is it equally beautiful on the outskirts? Well, not really. The road from the airport, for example, by bus route, leads between rather neglected blocks of flats.
Wrocław’s location in the Lower Silesia region means it has many German influences, but above all Prussian. Some of the edifices, inhabited of course, which remained from those centuries of the foreign rulings, are however in a deplorable state, scaring visiting tourists.
And how is it from the Oder side? Well, it is different. Personally, being an admirer of nature and open spaces, I was definitely impressed by swamps and rushes with a diversity of birds and other creatures that repeatedly jumped out in front of our noses.
The heat was merciless. We walked back and forth around the deck, slurping cooled mineral water. Guys on board took off their T-shirts, which was not necessarily a welcome occurance, because their sweat, which previously had an opportunity to soak into the material, now spread its deadly venom without any inhibitions. Hence we were forced to evacuate ourselves to the opposite side of the boat….
Ah whatever… there is one bridge in front of us, then another, a little further away a dude in a boat and a few canoeists. We choo choo slowly, without making any unnecessary maneuvers and not piling up the water neither behind us nor on the sides. Because what for… Lazy means lazy.
At that moment I thought of my beloved Mississipi River. You surely all know Mr. Samuel Langhorn Clemens. No? And how about Mark Twain? Yes? O.K. well, that’s the same guy.
As a child I could not stop reading books about Hackelberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. Remember how much of it involved the Mississipi River?
There is a similar cruiser that runs from the city of New Orleans which I plan to board one day but in reality, I’d love to go on a boat trip accross the entire country along with the currents of this Queen of the Rivers. Who’s with me? Think of all the places along the way!
There is a house in New Orleans…
Ufff I must have cought some sunstroke from all that heat ‘cos seem to be raving…
…so, yea, we blissfully sailed until it was time to turn back. Well, nothing good lasts forever.
We were definitely reluctant to go ashore again but rumbling tummies forced us to hit the city in search of some food.
The food tastes delicious in Wrocław and there are cult places that are always worth a visit. Many of them at the Market Square and in the vicinity of Stare Jatki, a street remembering thirteenth century. At that time, it was a butcher’s quarter – 42 wooden houses arranged in two rows, intended for the meat trade. To this day, only 12 tenement houses from pre-war times have survived. It is an artistic and gastronomic centre. And to commemorate the old times, a very peculiar monument “In honor of slaughter animals” was erected here. And not long ago the dwarf Butcher too. But later about the dwarfs.
The boundaries of the Wrocław Market Square were also marked out in the thirteenth century. Its current area is about 40,000 m², which puts it in the 5th place according to the size among all Polish medieval market squares. However, this one is one of the few in Poland where there are urban buildings with a network of streets in its centre. There are as many as 11 streets there.
In the central part of the Market Square stands the Old Town Hall, which is an extraordinary achievement of Gothic on a European scale. Its construction lasted about 250 years. Until the first half of the nineteenth century, when the New Town Hall was built, to which the city authorities moved, the Old Town Hall served as the seat of the court and the city council. Today, the Old Town Hall is a branch of the Wrocław City Museum. The mayor of the city also has his office here and this is where the meetings of the City Council are held.
Who likes, can stand in the middle of the square and turn himself into a wirlpool 🙂 You are surrounded by sixty tenement houses funded by urban patricians and one is more beautiful than the other. The most famous are: the tenement house under the Blue Sun, under the Seven Electors or under the Griffins. And my favorites are definitely the Tenement House under the Golden Deer and Hansel and Gretel. Behind the latter is the entrance to the magical world of Wrocław dwarfs. “Is it a fairy tale, or not a fairy tale, think whatever you want….”
Imagine that yet until the 70s of the 20th century trams ran through the Market Square. There was also a gas station there.
I invite you to watch the vlog of Radosław Gajda from Architecture is a good idea about Wrocław’s Market Square, just switch on the subtitles!
After Radosław, I will only add a few curiosities related to the three buildings about which he talked so beautifully.
The Barasch Brothers department store, today known as Phoenix, once had a beautiful ornament, a 6.5-meter, glass globe on top of the building, which was destroyed by a lightning strike in 1929.
In the Tenement House Under the Golden Sun (Rynek 6, do not confuse with the Tenement House Under the Blue Sun standing next to it at number 7) there is a Museum of Pan Tadeusz – Różewicz, a Polish writer. (Pan Tadeusz is also a title of one of the most Polish of Polish books, there’s a bit of a pan here for the Polish natives).
And in the aforementioned modernist office building designed by Heinrich Rump from 1930 (at the corner of the Market Square and Salt Square), there is one of the few “paternoster” elevators in Poland, which runs without stopping and you get into it on the run. Unfortunately, it is not generally available.
And finally, what few people know, and what must not be forgotten – the monument to Alexander Count Fredro! Previously, it stood in Lviv and on the Wrocław Market Square it replaced a monument of none other than the King of Prussia himself, Frederick William III. Well, how not, when Aleksander Fredro is considered the most outstanding comedian in Polish literature of the Romantic era, and on an earlier monument the inscription proclaimed “An mein Volk”, which was to commemorate the proclamation of this king published in Wrocław in 1813. Poles are not Prussians and have their own language….
However, this romanticism of Fredro is not necessarily reflected in a romantic way in his works, an example of which can be: The Tale of three Brothers and Princess (definitely not for children!). Both manuscripts of his most famous play “Revenge” are kept in the Ossoliński National Institute in Wrocław. Fredro himself came from the Podkarpackie Voivodeship and was an outstanding not only artist, but also a politician and Freemason. Well, he was a Count and that’s it. And he had the “guts” to write about taboo topics. Super cool dude!
We settled on Pigeon Square, next to the “Zdrój” fountain, named after the city President, Mr. Zdrojewski, in 2000, when it took its honorable place on the Wrocław Market Square. A nice souvenir in the style of “I will give it to myself by myself”.
And finally, full, tired and burned by the sun, we go for a well-deserved rest to a nearby hotel, only to find ourselves at the beautiful Central Station the next morning and take a train to where the sun rises…
On the way, however, we pass another very worth mentioning thing – a gas lamp:
In Wrocław they still exist and day after day they are lit and dashed by a Lamplighter – one of the last in Poland.
In the very center of the city, on Ostrów Tumski, every night he lights up (in the summer at 9 p.m. and in the winter at about 4 p.m.) and extinguishes, just before dawn, a total of 103 lanterns. He devotes about ninety minutes to complete this task.
The first municipal gas lanterns were launched in 1809 in London. You’ve probably watched Mary Poppins!
10 years later, they were already operating in Paris. The trend continued on the mainland and German cities such as Berlin, Leipzig and Austrian Vienna soon after treated themselves to similar forms of urban lighting.
Robert Louis Stevenson, sick in his childhood with tuberculosis, often dreamt to be Leerie, the Lamplighter:
THE LAMPLIGHTER (published in 1885 in his book: A Child’s Garden of Verses)
My tea is nearly ready and the sun has left the sky;
It’s time to take the window to see Leerie going by;
For every night at teatime and before you take your seat,
With lantern and with ladder he comes posting up the street.
Now Tom would be a driver and Maria go to sea,
And my papa’s a banker and as rich as he can be;
But I, when I am stronger and can choose what I’m to do,
O Leerie, I’ll go round at night and light the lamps with you!
For we are very lucky, with a lamp before the door,
And Leerie stops to light it as he lights so many more;
And O! before you hurry by with ladder and with light,
O Leerie, see a little child and nod to him to-night!
To little Robert, something that was considered a banal work by everyone else, was magical and unique.
On May 23, 1847, punctually at twenty o’clock, a festively dressed Lamplighter lit the first city gas lantern on the streets of Wrocław and so this continues to this day. It was on the day on which, after the completion of construction works on the new municipal gas plant, gas flowed from it for the first time.
The construction of the gas plant itself was inspired by the trend emerging in the west and the first gas lamp, which was lit up here in the Złota Gęś restaurant on June 16, 1843 in the company of the mayor and members of the magistrate. The authorities of the town, fascinated by such technical novelty, at this very moment made the decision to immediately implement it to the urban life of Wrocław.
The above mentioned gas plant was built at Tęczowa Street 🙂 how else! Less than six months later, more than 700 gas lanterns lit up the city. However, they did not shine as brightly as those that illuminate Ostrów Tumski today. The source of their light was a single flame. It was not until Auer’s grids, invented in 1885, that the brightness of the lanterns significantly improved. At that time, gas was used not only to illuminate the streets of Wrocław, but also hotels, restaurants, factories, schools and private apartments.
At the end of the 19th century, when the city authorities decided to replace the entire lighting system with mercury lamps, those at Ostrów Tumski were on the verge of disappearing too.
I managed to find a Job Offer for the Lamplighter. I liked this passage the most:
According to the ZDiUM guidelines, the Lamplighter must wear a black cylinder in the chimney sweep style and a two-piece black cape – long to the knees and short covering the shoulders. Capes must be waterproof, with a stand-up collar and made of the same material. In addition, the cape is fastened with two gold metal buttons. On a short cape you should embroider the coat of arms of Wrocław. A lamplighter at work should wear dark pants made of tailoring material and black leather shoes. Shoes must be clean.
Dear ZDiUM (Roads and City Maintenance Authority) – wouldn’t it be easier to make such uniforms available to employees? Maybe someone came up with this idea between the offer from 2020 and today. If not, then I think it is worth normalizing this issue. Particularily that a Lamplighter is a magical person indeed and should be valued as one.
And since we are talking about Wrocław, I would also like to mention Mr. Antoni Gucwiński, who, together with his wife, delighted me as a child with stories about animals. He was the Director of the Wrocław Zoo and to this day I remember how they both held animals on their laps and talked about them in the program called “With a camera among animals”. Antoni Gucwiński – I wish you to settle on a soft cloud, surrounded by animal sprites. In such a private, unique Eden in heaven 🙂
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