Not only did Wroclaw have the prestige of being my first visit to Poland and the first stop on my Eastern Europe, but it was also the first destination I’ve been to where I had absolutely no idea how to pronounce it. Like the typical British tourist that I am, I started off just reading it phonetically, then turned the Ws to Vs and tried pronouncing it that way, then tried earwigging on locals’ conversations to see if I could get any hints. I eventually (with some help from people in my hostel) settled on “Vrots-waff” as a pronunciation but I still can’t be sure if that’s right.
Luckily, for blog posts I don’t need to pronounce it and can therefore come across as much more intelligent than I actually am. Wroclaw is a town in the southwest of Poland. It’s kind of Krakow-esque in nature but with less tourism. For me, my decision to visit there was mainly guided by a cheap Ryanair flight and its relative proximity to Prague where I needed to be a few days after.
Despite those practical motivations, I ended up falling in love the city, which is also Europe’s Capital of Culture for 2016. With its Balamory coloured houses, large parks and wide squares (not to mention cheap food and drink), it’s not difficult to see why.
Wroclaw’s airport is shiny and new and linked to the city by an airport bus which runs day and night and only costs 3zl (about 50p). However, I’m still baffled as to the correct way to pay on Wroclaw buses. Poland continued the tradition of just about every country approaching bus payment completely differently, as opposed to the more traditional method I’m used to of just getting on a bus and paying. With the Wroclaw buses, it seemed the only payment method was by card, which seemed a bit odd for a 50p payment. Also some of the machines only took contactless card (which I don’t have) so I wasn’t really sure what to do. As such, I began my time in Wroclaw as a criminal, spending the entire journey paranoid that I’d end up on ‘Wroclaw’s Most Wanted’ for failure to grasp the city’s complex bus payment system.
My hostel, Locomotive Hostel, was a little away from the centre joined to a theatre which was quite novel. The hostel was only a month old when I stayed there and, apart from being the cheapest place in the city to stay, was really great with friendly owners, a good common room and a friendly dog who had an inseparable relationship with a large plastic bottle.
My time in Wroclaw was spent primarily chilling, wandering and dodging thunderstorms. The central Market Square is a great place to start exploring with its colourful buildings and vibrant atmosphere. When I was there, there was some sort of market going on too with lots of souvenir and food stalls to offset the dominant Burger King and Pizza Hutt that sit on the square. Night-time is also a good time to visit as there’s a bit of a buzz alongside the ubiquitous European men selling those lighty-up things you throw in the air which serve no purpose whatsoever.