Wroclaw

The capital of Lower Silesia (Dolny Slask) has a huge Old Town built on several islands connected by over 100 bridges. Apart from its unique location, Wroclaw amazes with its volume of Gothic, Baroque and Art Nouveau architecture. Several musical and theatre festivals, as well as its busy nightlife, attract innumerable visitors from all over Poland and abroad. Wroclaw's extremely complicated history, combining the cultural influences of Germany, Bohemia, Austria and Poland, has left its mark on the atmosphere of the city.

The very epicentre of life in Wroclaw is the Main Market Square -  'Rynek' -in Polish . This amazing space was painstakingly reconstructed after WW2 to recall the Baroque splendour of its heyday. Here the good citizens of Wroclaw gather to eat, shop, drink, dance . Wroclaw’s complex and dramatic history is embedded in the city walls. We are reminded of the early medieval times in Ostrów Tumski, where one of the most beautiful sacral architecture buildings in Europe has been preserved. Wroclaw Town hall is considered one of the most splendid Gothic buildings in central Europe .  In Wroclaw one can also see the largest baroque-style interior in Poland, which has remained until today - the Leopoldine Hall, located in the 17th century University building.

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Adjoining the Market Square is the equally beautiful Plac Solny (Salt Market). Many a nobleman built his mansion on this prime spot and today you can admire their colourful facades whilst perusing the picturesque flower market that trades on the square itself.

Also adjoining the Rynek is the towering St. Elizabeth's Church. Built in the 14th Century the Gothic monster is one of the city's most famous landmarks and offers splendid vistas from its viewing tower.

Venture a little further off the Square to the West and you will find what was once the     Rynekcity’s Jewish Quarter. The crumbling, but extremely evocative, White Stork Synagogue is the only evidence of this once vibrant community district and is well worth a visit.

History

The history of Wroclaw is one of tumultuous and dramatic events. It began in the 10th century on Ostrow Tumski (the Cathedral Island) where Czechs founded the first town. Wroclaw then came under Polish rule, brought about by Prince Mieszko I in the 10th century. In 1000 it was already quite a large stronghold and the seat of a bishopric. After the Tatars invaded Poland, the town was moved to the left bank of the Odra River and rebuilt on a pattern that has survived to the present day.

During the divisions of the Polish state, Wroclaw was for a short period a capital of the separate Duchy of Silesia, later annexed by Bohemia (practically in 1335, formally in 1348). Under Czech rule, Wroclaw increasingly developed and extended its territory, while continuing to maintain cultural and trading links with Poland.

The Polish, Czech and German communities lived there in harmony until 1526, when the Bohemian king died without an heir and Silesia passed to the Habsburg Empire. The staunchly Catholic Austrian dynasty was fighting against the Reformation, which gained new supporters among the Czechs. The religious Thirty Years’ War left the city severely damaged. The Austrian anti-Protestant programme was coupled with a policy of Germanisation that continued when Wroclaw passed to Prussia in the 19th century as a result of the Austro-Prussian war.

Renamed Breslau, it became the second most important city of the country (after Berlin). The process of intense industrialisation in the 19th century included the construction of the first railway as well as a train carriage factory. Following World War I it remained within the German state. Nine German scientists and a writer who won the Nobel Prize were born there or were associated with the local university. Breslau played a key role during World War II, holding out against the Red Army for about three months, which was longer than Berlin. The results of the siege were dreadful: over a half of the city was razed to the ground.

After the war, Wroclaw was incorporated into Poland and resettled by Poles from other parts of pre-war Poland - while most of the pre-war inhabitants of the city left or were expelled to Germany. The restoration of the city took a long time and was eventually completed in the1980s. In 1997, Wroclaw's Old Town suffered significant damage when the Odra River flooded, but after some repairs the effects of the disaster can hardly be seen.