I believe there will always come a time during the course of long-term travel when new sights start to lose their sparkle, when you want to stop playing tourist, when you don’t give a crap about seeing another cathedral. When that time (inevitably) comes, it is perfectly acceptable to just watch the world go by from your apartment, read books (or blogs), and eat at the same restaurant everyday, twice a day.
And yet you will still have the most lovely time.
Because this is the view from your apartment window:
And this is what you eat every meal:
And all of a sudden, travel is sparkly and magical again.
Wroclaw turned out to be the biggest surprise of our Europe trip so far. I didn’t have any preconceptions of what to expect, but it definitely wasn’t that I was going to fall in love. You hear a lot of European towns dubbed as a magical “fairy tale city”, but Wroclaw was the first one I’ve come across that truly made me feel like that I’ve stepped into Storybook Land. (Sorry Prague and Bruges, Wroclaw wins.)
We stayed for 4 nights in a pretty plum colored building with gold detailing right in Market Square, the cutest square in the whole world. Our kitchen window opened up to face the rows of pastel buildings that line all sides of the square.
What you don’t see in the pictures are all the different sounds and smells that drift up through our open window, allowing us to be part of the action even from the comfort of our home (and it really did feel like home). If only pictures can capture the other senses, then you’d smell the delicious aroma of freshly cooked food from the restaurants below. You’d hear the steady gallop of a horse and carriage as it makes its way across the cobblestoned plaza. There’s the cheerful accordion music from one corner, and the rock band that’s trying to overshadow it from another. There’re also the claps and cheers of the crowd that has gathered by a circus act duo. When they’re done with their performance, the crowd quickly disperses and the plaza quiets down; but not for long, as another performer quickly sets up shop.
Thus is the energy of the Wroclaw town center. It’s never too loud or too quiet. The music, chatter, and footsteps all melding into an intriguing harmony. I could sit at the kitchen window and watch the action for hours.
Wroclaw has every bit the charm of other more touristed cities, but none of their crowds, tacky touristy shops, or rudeness. It’s actually one of Poland’s larger towns, yet remarkably uncrowded and the atmosphere relaxed.
Everyday, we would walk across the square to Pierogarnia and eat pierogies until we burst. We would sit in the patio and look across the plaza, at the magnificence of the Town Hall and the pretty pastel buildings. Afterwards, we would meander through the side streets aimlessly. We would walk by a ton of cute, cozy cafes that we’d swear to come back and try. Yet, we never could get ourselves to stray from Pierogarnia (read whole separate post here!), and went back meal after meal. Our days in Wroclaw were breezy and repetitive, in the best way possible.
In between our pierogi feasts, we visited the Town Hall (located right in the middle of Market Square. You can’t miss it) – Wroclaw’s pride and joy. Construction started in the late 1200’s and took 250 years to complete!
We carelessly hunted for gnomes. This is one of Wroclaw’s more quirky characteristics! These little guys are all over town.
D bought me a sunflower from the flower market (right off to the side of Market Square).
We lazed around in cafes, while enjoying a bohemian band and a delicious concoction of thick hot chocolate with raspberry sorbet.
And we got swindled into taking one of those city golf cart tours. And so our entire sightseeing consisted of an hour’s ride on a golf cart, while speakers spewed out info about the history of the town. The tour took us by a few small churches, the university buildings, and finally across the bridge to the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, another one of Wroclaw’s pride and joy.
Annnnd… that concluded our exploration of Wroclaw. (Btw, I don’t recommend the golf cart tours. Wroclaw is small. You can walk.)
By all accounts, we were the worst travelers ever in Wroclaw. We didn’t go out of our way to explore everything the city has to offer (which includes a number of museums, cathedrals, and a large botanical garden). And we didn’t seek out any other Polish cuisine aside from pierogies. But perhaps it was the lack of sightseeing that made visiting Wroclaw so enjoyable. During our short stay here, we simply lived, like how anyone would typically live out a typical day. And life was really, really good.
By the end of our 4 nights, we were both completely, utterly in love with this charming town… even throwing around the words “the one”. We both knew that we would have to return one day and spend a proper amount of time here.
And you know what? When we return, you can bet that we will once again wander around Market Square and eat at Pierogarnia every single day. And it will still be every bit as magical.
[Update: 1 year later, we did exactly that! For a whole 7 days this second time around!]