Like many cities in Central Europe, Wroclaw is a city with a troubled past, having seen much violence and devastation.
Prior to the Second World War, Wroclaw (Breslau in German) was the capital of the German province of Prussian Lower Silesia. It was annexed by Poland when, after the War, the Soviets moved the German/Polish border westward to the Oder/Neisse Line. Wroclaw was almost completely destroyed during the end of the War as the Red Army fought its way into Germany towards Berlin, being declared a “Fortress City” by Hitler. However, it has been wonderfully restored and can now be counted amongst the highlights of Central Europe.
Ostrów Tumski is frequently referred to by tourists as the Cathedral Island and is the biggest of a small group of islands situated inside the Oder River, in central Wroclaw. Archaeological discoveries confirm that settlements lived right here as long ago as the 7th century, with an essential bishopric becoming established right here more than 1,000 years ago. Attractions on the Ostrow Tumski consist of the twin-towered Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, St. Giles Church, and the Church of SS Peter and Paul. Also really worth investigating is the Church of St. Mary on the Sand, which is situated on the adjacent Piasek Island.
Aula Leopoldina - Named after the Austrian Emperor Leopold who founded the university in 1702, the Aula Leopoldina is a beautiful Baroque Hall on the first floor of the main University building. The English information booklet remarks that “the visitor absorbs the beauty around him, sensing his individual existence as being a particle of the universe”. Not sure we would go that far but for four and a half zloty it’s worth a butcher’s hook! You can also visit the 300 Years Exhibition and Mathemician’s Tower in the same building.
A Centenary or Centennial Hall (Hala Ludowa)- was built in 1911-13 by Max Berg who is a pioneer of `modern engineering and architecture. At the beginning of the 20th century it was the largest reinforced concrete building in the shape of a dome (65m diameter, 42m high, seating for 6,000 people). Today the building is used for conferences, exhibitions and sporting events. The Centennial Hall belongs to UNESCO World Heritage.
Panorama Raclawicka is a large painting showing the Battle of Raclawice (Kosciuszko Uprising). The painting is located inside a characteristic rotund building. The painting is exceptional not just because of its historical value but also because of its enormous size. It is literarly a panorama - cycloramic painting that gives viewers (who stand inside the circle) an impression of being inside the battle. There is a commentary in the Polish language during every presentation (30 mins) but foreign visitors can also hear the explanations in various languages using personal equipment that they will collect at the entrance.
The Japanese Gardens - Located in Szczytnicki Park close to Hala Ludowa (Centenary Hall) on Mickiewicza St. it is one of few traces of the World Exhibition in 1913 that remain in the park.
Prepared and set up by the noted student of Japan Count Fritz von Hochberg, together with Japanese gardener Mankichi Arai, It was a jewel of the exhibition. However, many of the Japanese-style details were borrowed for the time of the exhibition and have since been removed. Thanks to the presence of Japanese specialists, the entire work corresponds to the style of Japanese garden art down to the fine details. Each element of the renewed garden has its place and meaning - which is often not visible to Europeans. The garden, bearing references to historical groundwork from 1913, acquired a lot of new elements that make its character really consistent with the rules of Japanese garden art.