I had no concrete plan in going to Wrocław, other than I wanted to go to Poland because I’m part Polish. And I lucked out— a lovely spring weekend, flowers blooming, and timing that always worked.
The forests on rolling hills I saw on the train ride reminded my of the places where fairy tales come from— and the cityscape of that blend of curling Baroque architecture, cheerful pastel building colors and some Soviet-esque, solemn concrete apartment buildings I’ve come to associate with central Europe. And whoever decided to put the dwarf statues everywhere had a stroke of whimsical genius. (I’m a little torn about if I like these or Ann Arbor’s fairy doors more.)
Maybe I was looking for the answer to the question: why we are drawn to the places our ancestors are from?— even if that heritage isn’t necessarily part of our every lives. My great-grandmother was Polish, and I lived for a year in Hamtramck, the ethnic melting pot of Polish bakeries and Catholic churches, hijab stores and Yemeni cafes tucked inside Detroit’s borders— but neither of those things necessarily means I’m Polish. (I still can’t make pierogis, with any degree of success, yet.)
It was really neat to see the two local favorites of Hamtown— pierogis and pączkis— freshly-made, advertised and sold outside of Detroit.
I was wondering about food— but with the Internet, and vegetarians popping up all over, I didn’t have to worry. First place I wound up, under the train tracks and close to the train station, had a delicious pile of risotto (there’s a good bit of broccoli hiding under there.)
For vegetarians and vegans, I totally recommend going to Vega— it’s easy to find, right in the main square. More importantly, for the non-Polish speaking traveler, they have photos of the food up on a electronic screen, making ordering super easy. The falafel and potatoes were tasty together— (and yes, I get the irony that I leave Dearborn, travel to Poland and order falafel. Hooray for globalization!)
Another veggie-friendly place I’d recommend is Machina Organika. One of the neatest things about this place is how you order smoothies: they have the fruit already chopped in glasses, and you can pick whichever group of fruit you like the best. The potato croquets, stuffed with cabbage, were quite tasty. Only drawback: the cafe is a little pricy, but the ingredients and flavors are worth it.
But, I did have a revelation about language: I’ve heard a few native speakers of Czech say they can understand other languages— like Slovak— without much difficulty. (Same with speakers of Macedonian understanding Serbian.) These comments baffled me: isn’t it a whole other language? I mean, I can pick out words from German, and phrases in Spanish. But to understand another language— isn’t that what intrinsically separates languages, is being able to be easily understood?
After hearing spoken Polish right after Czech, though, I totally get it. Polish sounds like a louder, more cheerful version of the serious, more formal-sounding Czech. (Also, I could instantly spot the word for “gluten free” in Polish: bez glutenowe, similar to bez lepku in Czech. “Bez” just means “without.”)
Above, is one of the city’s many churches— despite not being religious, there’s something so intriguing about church architecture. How things in Europe have been rebuilt I find just fascinating: if you look closely at the church spires, you can see how one is more much detailed than the other.
And this photo of the night sky in Wrocław was one of my unexpected favorites: on the left is a sign that dates from the Communist era, and reads (I think) “good evening in Wrocław.” On the right is a sign for its 2016 designation as a European Capital of Culture.
(Sadly, I was not able to track down a gluten-free place to get a pierogi fix. Next visit!)