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.


  1. Widzę, że mieliście okazję przejechać się kolejką linową. Słyszałam o niej, świetne założenie - fajnie, że ułatwia się życie studentom, dla której w głównej mierze została ona rozrobiona z tego co pamiętam ;)
    Budynek z okrągłymi oknami wygląda...interesująco, niby nic dziwnego, ale jednak po raz pierwszy widzę coś w tym stylu ;)
    Wrocław to ładne miasto, wiele budynków jest ciekawych, szczególnie budynki należące chyba do uniwerku, które są obrośnięte roślinami ;)
    Widzę, że wycieczka Wam się podobała, dużo ciekawych miejsc zobaczyliście :)

    1. Nam też się Wrocław podobał. I to jeszcze nie koniec wrocławskich historii :).

  2. Mam rodzinę we Wrocławiu, ale nigdy jej nie odwiedziłam :( A tak bardzo bym chciała zwiedzić to piękne miasto.

    1. No właśnie my też mamy rodzinę we Wrocławiu i od dawna nie mogliśmy się zebrać żeby ich odwiedzić. I wreszcie się udało :).