Month: September 2015

Wroclaw Diary

Neither of us really knew what to expect on our first trip to Poland and, seeing as it was just a week after getting sick in Prague; we were a little weary of hopping on a bus again. However, cheap beer and pork products beckoned so we were obliged to heed the call.

Food and Drink

Poland was probably the cheapest country we visited; I don’t think we paid more than $25 for even the fanciest meal out including drinks and tip. The food was all very good and consisted of the usual middle European fare: lots of pork, lots of potatoes, and lots of cabbage. Perogies, of course, were also available everywhere and universally excellent. They also have this, which I have vowed to try to replicate when I get back to the USA:

Things are starting off right in Poland with this crock of lard and onions. #breslau #wroclaw

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Beer is cheaper in Wroclaw than anywhere else we’ve been. Tyskie and Zywiek are the main brands and both are passable if unmemorable.

Sites

Most of the main sites are all within walking distance and the area around the market square is a nice pedestrian zone. The market square is one of the largest in Europe with a huge town hall on one end and a church anchoring the other end. The rest of the square is filled with restaurants, cafes, and a few shops.

We also went to the old Prussian Royal Palace which now houses a city history museum and to the Panorama of the Battle of Wroclaw. The panorama was nice but the history of how it was hidden from the Nazis and then the struggle to find a permanent place for it after World War II was perhaps a little more interesting than the thing itself.

Wroclaw was a nice city to wander around in.  It has a large university, many old churches, and lovely residential neighborhoods.  While it remains obvious that the Communist era took it’s toll, it’s former position as a rich market town also remains evident.

Main square. #wroclaw #breslau

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 Misc

  • The Renoma department store wasn’t worth the walk. It is a beautifully designed early modern building; but the inside has been gutted and it is now just a run-of-the-mill mall.
  • We went into a couple of old churches. They all had at least a picture of if not a small chapel dedicated to the late Pope John Paul II.
  • On both the bus ride out and back we had to stop just inside the Polish border so anyone who wanted could stock up on cheap booze and cigarettes. Poland: It’s like the Delaware of Middle Europe.
  • I was mostly unaware  of Wroclaw’s role in the Solidarity movement until I visited the Centennial Hall’s temporary exhibit.
  • Wroclaw is approximately pronounced vroswaf. I continue to find Slavic languages bemusing.

Prague Diary

We ended up going to Prague three times this summer. Unfortunately, our last trip was spoiled by a nasty bout of food poisoning.  Despite this, Prague remains one of our favorite cities.

I know I talked about Prague in a previous post but it’s just so damned fun there I’m going to make this second post.

Museums

During our first trip we visited the Castle area which included a visit to the old royal palace and “story of Prague” exhibit. They were both worth the entrance fee but the real gem at the Castle is the St. Vitus Cathedral and views of the rest of the city.

On our second visit we went to the very fine Museum Kampa which has a Czech-centric modern art collection.

Also on our second visit, we went to the Veletržní Palác which houses the Czech Republic’s national modern art collection. This museum quickly became one our favorite ever museums. The building is an old trade-fair hall and the exterior looks like a place you’d go to line up for permission to get a permit to buy a telephone in the Soviet era; but the interior is a beautiful, airy modern space.

We visited on a Sunday and pretty much had the place to ourselves. Our favorite part was the surprisingly large Picasso collection thanks to the Czech art patron Vincenc Kramář  who donated his collection to the museum. Another highlight was the fine collection of 19th and early 20th Century French paintings.

We visited the Veletržní Palác a second time (on our third trip) to check out the Slav Epic, which lived up to its name.

Veletrzni palac, modern art museum in prague. #prague #veletrznipalac

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Food and Drink

I talked about beer in my first post so I’ll just add that the 2nd and 3rd time did nothing to diminish my love of Czech beer. We had the chance to visit a large old-fashioned Czech style beer hall called Lokal,  a hole-in-the wall called  Pivnice  U Hrocha, and two places known for their beer variety.

Pivnice U Hrocha was a tiny bar full of locals. We were the only tourists in the place and when we first arrived I walked up to the bar to order some beers. The surly bartender peered over the magazine he was reading,  gave me a quick glance, muttered something in Czech, and then said “sit.” Sitting was initially something of an issue as the place was packed and sitting at the bar was clearly for locals only.

We were finally able to squeeze into a table with 4 or 5 locals deep into an evening of feasting on various pork products and swilling half liter after half liter of fresh, delicious Pilsner Urquell.  They were friendly enough once we sat down but they didn’t speak a word of English.

Despite not being able to communicate very well with the patrons or staff, Hrocha was warm and cozy and great for people watching. The beer, of course, was top notch.

#pivniceuhrocha #prague #pilsnerurquell

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One place that gets a lot of advertising is the Prague Beer Museum Pub. This is a medium sized bar with a very large selection of Czech beer. The beers are a bit on the pricey side so I’d say this is only worth a short visit to try something new.

A much better place for beer variety and food is the Pivovarsky Klub. They have a rotating 6 beers on tap and hundreds more in bottle. The food is also very good here. My biggest disappointment in getting sick on our third visit was that we weren’t able to go back here.

Food in Prague is pretty basic: lots of pork, lots of goulash, even more cabbage, and some potatoes for variety. One of our favorite restaurants was U Magistra Kelly. This restaurant near the Castle serves a great beet salad or, if you’re looking for something healthier, a delicious pork knuckle.

We also ate at U Kroka twice. This restaurant specializes in simple Bohemian fare like (surprise!) pork, duck, and goose.

Postscript

  • We are 99.9% sure this is the place that made us sick. We had been walking for a couple of hours and just stopped in for a drink and snacks.
  • We will never be able to drink Pilsner Urquell outside of Prague again; it just won’t taste the same.

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