Saturday, 28 March 2015

Panorama Racławicka

As you know, I am really fond of art. Therefore when I came to Wrocław I planned to visit the exhibitions of the National Museum.

But a little friend has advised me that instead of visiting the main building I take a look at a special exhibition.

This special exhibition is in a special building that is round-shaped.

The reason for this special shape is that it houses a special piece of art - the Panorama of the Battle of Racławice.

A separate building for just one painting you may ask. Well, it is not any painting. It is a huge, 15 meters high and 114 meters long. And all this made at the end of the nineteenth century!

Let's move on to the main gate, the place is very popular amoung tourists and school excursions and we still need to buy tickets.

The Panorama shows a battle that took place in April 1794, during the Kościuszko Uprising, where the existence of Poland was in danger. Its neighbours, Russia, Austria and Prussia have divided most of the territory of Poland between them and were trying to annihilate it completely. Tadeusz Kościuszko was a prominent general, a hero of the American Revolutionary War.

Inside the museum there are some smaller exhibitions directly related to the Panorama, with some small sketches made during the preparatory work. It took 9 months and 9 artists to paint the final picture.

Additionally, there is also an interactive 3D presentation of the battle, showing the movements of the troops. It is round-shaped of course.

Last but not least, before we enter the main part of the building we may look closely at miniatures of soldiers that time. One amazing think about the Battle of Racławice and the Kościuszko Uprising in general was that the professional Polish cavalry ...

... was fighting arm in arm with the peasants. This democracy was very unusual at that time. You will notice that the peasants do not have sabers or firearms but scythes in the upright position.

The soldiers in green are professional Russian Jägers.

 Time to finally see the main attraction of the place. The Panorama is a cycloramic picture, which means that the viewers are in the middle and the picture is all around them. This gives and impression of really taking part in the battle itself. Here comes Kościuszko on his faithful horse, wearing a long white coat. behind him you see the scythe-bearers.

 You can see how determined they are.

 The cavalry is not lazy either. One amazing thing about this particular panorama is that the picture is "extended" by some additional elements. Like this cannon - it is not painted, it is a real one, just like the sand and some of the tree trunks.

 Here you can see the green Russian soldiers fleeing in panic. The battle of Racławice was a huge success of the Polish forces.

Unfortunately, one won battle did not translate into a won war. Kościuszko and his forces were defeated a few months later and Poland lost its independence for over a century. The memories of the battle of Racławice were a national jewel for a nation without a country. The Panorama was created in 1894 and was originally exhibited in Lwów, which at that time belonged to Austria.

After World War I, Poland regained its independence and Lwów was a Polish city again. It did not last long, since after World War II the borders of Poland were changed again. Lwów became part of Ukraine while Wrocław (which used to be a German city known as Breslau), became Polish. The Panorama of the Battle of Racławice was moved from Lwów to Wrocław (together with many inhabitants of the city) but was not exhibited for many years since the communist party would not allow to celebrate a victory over Russians. The picture was made availabe to the public only in 1985.

P.S. I know many of you follow my blog via RSS or google. To make it even easier, I have asked my secretary to add in the top left corner of the blog a link to my fanpage on Facebook. I hope that you will enjoy it.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Secret life of Wrocław dwarves

During the time that I have spent in Wrocław so far, I had a feeling that someone was watching me. Finally I found out who it was - the dwarves! O no, my friends, I did not lose my mind. Dwarves really exist and they have chosen Wrocław as their capital city. Whenever you go, you can find some. They have different occupations and different habits but they keep up taking care of Wrocław, its inhabitants and guests. Therefore, I have decided to dedicate to them a separate post on my blog. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome warmly the Wrocław dwarves!

First of all, the dwarves are hear in case you get hungry or thirsty. They can even take care of desserts and refreshments.


Some of them perform important professions, working for utilities or serving and protecting humans.

Gas-specialist (lighting up gas lighting)
Veteran Soldier

Many dwarves are engaged in the financial sector. They have their own banks but also work in human banking system. Have you ever wondered so far how does an ATM work? Just have a look and be grateful.

Stock-exchange clerk
ATM for dwarves
Secret mechanism of human ATMs

Since Wrocław is a big city, dwarves use many different means of transport. Many have copied from humans the motorcycles. Others are using traditional pigeon transport. Those who need it, travel on wheelchairs.

Handicapped dwarves also have their place in Wrocław

The dwarves support the inhabitants of Wrocław in many ways. They are bringing laughter to children hospitals, they motivate students, they support political movements or they simply bring sunflowers to those in need of a smile.

Clown (next to Children's Oncology Hospital)
Student (next to Wrocław Technical University)
Party Member
Friendly Dwarf

But they do not limit their activity to inhabitants of Wrocław. If you come to Wrocław as a tourist and need some support, you can always ask the dwarves for help. They can show you the way or lend an umbrella. They even have gifts for those who really fall in love with Wrocław.


Obviously the dwarves are not busy all the time, they like to enjoy themselves. They party (hard), they play (and listen to) the music and finally they sleep until some impolite tourists wake them up to take some pictures.

Busker and Music Lover

Honestly, to find all the dwarves that live in Wrocław is a sisyphean work.


But I have a hint for you. If you are really determined and patient, you can simply sit by the entry to their kingdom. Sooner or later they will for sure try to sneak in or out.

Entry to the dwarves' kingdom and its guard

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Crossing Odra in Silesian Venice

When I was preparing my trip to Wrocław I have read a number of tourist guides. In most of them I have found the expression "Venice of the North" . I always thought that this term refers to Amsterdam or Saint Petersburg but it turned out that Wrocław also has a number of islands and canals on the Odra river. Let's then have a look at some of them.

We will start at the Piasek Island where we finished our last walk and move on to Ostrów Tumski, an island between two branches of Odra. It is the oldest part of Wrocław - the archeological excavations show that people lived there already in tenth century. Obviously nothing remains from these old days.

So let's cross Odra for the first time today by the Tumski Bridge. It is 125 years old and nowadays it is only open to pedestrians. On the fence you will find hundreds of padlocks left by lovers, just like on the Pont D'Arts that I have shown you in Paris.

The name of the island literally means "cathedral island" and as you have guessed the place is mainly built up with churches. The first church that you have seen already from the bridge is the Collegiate Church of the Holy Cross and St. Bartholomew. It is unique because it is a two-storey church. The upper one is devoted to the Holy Cross and the lower one (devoted to St. Bartholomew) was in the past used by ethnic Germans and later by the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

In front of it there is a monument devoted to John of Nepomuk. I was told it is the biggest monument of this saint in the entire world.

Obviously the most important church on the island is the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, a huge gothic church. The archeologists say that it is the fourth cathedral in this place and that its construction has started in the thirteenth century.

It is not easy to take a good picture of the entire building but luckily, just like with the Wrocław Town Hall, there is a miniature of it next to the main porch.

Inside you can admire the high gothic ceiling and the stained glass windows.

The main altar was destroyed during the war, this one, dedicated to the Dormition of Virgin Mary, was moved from Lubin (a city close to Wrocław). It is an original gothic construction and was sculpted in 1522.

Obviously a church that is that old and that has survived wars and conflicts includes also elements that do not match its original design, like this baroque pulpit.

Next to the cathedral you can see the seminary (or the theological college) of Wrocław.

One special thing about Ostrów Tumski is that it is still lit up by gas lighting.

Let's take another bridge and move to a completely different island. The canal we need to cross is very narrow.

And we land up on Bielarska Island that was populated in the past mainly by craftsmen bleaching clothes.

When you look in one direction you will see Ostrów Tumski and the towers of the cathedral.

On the other side a completely new city of Wrocław lives in the pace of any big city in the world.

And what is in the middle, you ask? Well, believe it or not but the island is now almost entirely dedicated to children, with a huge playground in the middle.

It is a surprisingly peaceful place. If you don't believe it you can ask the insiders.

Yes, yes, these are swans.

Alright, let's take another bridge, it will be the last one I promise. It leads back to the Old Town and faces one of many buildings of the Wrocław University.

It is special because on this bridge we will be able to say hello to the Flood Rescue. This statue is a tribute to all volunteers who worked tirelessly to save Wrocław and its treasures during the 1997 disastrous flood. The monument shows a woman carrying books - thousands of books from Wrocław libraries were in danger and saving them was a titanic task.

If you think this is the end of our story you are wrong. We need to see Odra once more, from a different perspective. To achieve this we need to go to the Wrocław Technical University.

One important thing that you need to know is that the Wrocław Technical University has buildings on both sides of the river. Obviously, students were often late for classes (and exams!) claiming it took them too long to cross Odra. To remedy this, the professors had a brilliant idea - after all we talk about the Technical University. They have built a gondola lift.

You need to buy a ticket and present it to the machine. The price is the same as for a single ride on a bus or a tram.

Here comes our car.

Let's get in my friends.

The trip is not long and for sure not as fascinating as the one we had in Taipei on the Maokong Gondola.

But it is still possible to see Ostrów Tumski from a new perspective.

Alright, we are almost on the other side.

I hope that you have enjoyed this close encounter with Odra and the Silesian Venice. This is not yet the last attraction that Wrocław can offer so watch out for next posts.