This review is in 2 parts. The second part is attached as a reply to this first part.
PART 1 of 2:
My wife and I visited Poland for the first time in Aug 2017, staying in three cities: Wroclaw, Boleslawiec, and Krakow. The experience exceeded our expectations, especially Wroclaw. General impressions:
- The food was (contrary to our expectations) very good, though meat-heavy. When we needed a veggie fix, we were able to find a good vegetarian restaurant in Krakow.
There was quite a contrast between younger people and those middle-aged or older. Most of the young people we encountered appeared optimistic, ambitious, and spoke English. The older folks – who had grown up under a different political system – often wore guarded, rather mirthless expressions, and were less likely to speak English.
The highway system connecting cities was efficient, providing a smooth drive in our rental car.
We deliberately visited Auschwitz on our LAST day in Poland, before flying to sunny Croatia. This proved to be good planning due to the impact on our moods.
The motivation for visiting Poland was to attend the annual Polish Pottery Festival in Boleslawiec. We stayed two nights in Wroclaw, two nights in Boleslawiec, and five nights in Krakow. Krakow is well-covered in the Rick Steves guidebook for Poland, but we were on our own for Wroclaw and Boleslawiec. (Both of these latter two cities were part of Germany before WW2, and many older folks understand German.)
We flew into Wroclaw on Tue Aug 15. The airport was new, large, and uncrowded; we collected our luggage and were in a taxi very soon after landing. We stayed in an ok apartment (including washer/dryer) managed by LeoApart that was located within walking distance of everything; cost was about $60 per night.
Wroclaw was wonderful. The people were very kind and helpful. It is a university town with many coffee shops, restaurants, and Roman Catholic sites.
Though the city is small enough to walk, we did take the convenient tramway a couple of times. All one needs is a credit/debit card (not cash). Both before we boarded, and while on board, local customers kindly helped us understand how to pay, etc. – usually before we even asked.
Sights we especially enjoyed:
- The Market (or Town) Square, Rynek. Huge with a helpful TI center, many restaurants, and a free (and decent) city museum; many people were enjoying the square during the long, warm August days.
- Hala Targowa – The Public Market. Fresh foods, lots of fresh meats, an excellent coffee shop, an excellent pastry/bread shop, and shops with magnificent fresh floral arrangements. The second level was ringed with small shoe repair, clothing, etc. shops.
- The “Galeria” alley, a small short street lined with artist shops.
- Cathedral Island (Ostrow Tumski), loaded with Catholic churches and Catholic administrative offices. We entered the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and climbed to the top of one of the towers, which afforded a good view of the city.
- (Wine shop) Wina i Specjały. (Not a scenic attraction, but we liked this shop). After hearing our tastes, the older gentlemen who ran the shop kindly recommended three wines to us (in English), and highly recommended the least expensive. He was correct – we enjoyed that inexpensive Bulgarian red.
While walking around Wroclaw, one often stumbles across cute small metal statues of dwarves chained behind window bars, riding bicycles, or engaged in other activities.
Thu morning Aug 17, we picked up a rental car from Avis and drove 1.5 hours to Boleslawiec. (Though never connecting to the cellular network, I used a mobile phone navigation app to walk and drive around Poland. I had downloaded the map of the country before departing Seattle).