Wroclaw – risen from the ashes

Wroclaw is a beautiful, lively city with a troubled past. Once the Capital of Silesia, it was almost completely destroyed in World War 2, and now rebuilt. Now it is in Poland, but it was Breslau in Germany before boundary changes were made. It is situated where five rivers meet so visitors can enjoy walking cobbled streets at Ostrow Tumski, a group of islands on the Odra River, and taking boat trips.

Take a coffee in the central square, Rynek, and climb 304 steps up the St Elizabeth church tower for a panoramic view. The city has many interesting and colourful buildings from the Town Hall, Synagogue, and museums to cellar restaurants. Don’t miss Piwnica Świdnicka, reputed to be the oldest restaurant in Europe, with differently themed vaulted rooms. Keep your eyes open for many bronze Dwarf figures around the city.

In the central University district is Plac Grunwaldzki (Grunwald Square). In 1945 in WW2 the Germans raized the entire district to the ground, while people were in their homes, to make a landing strip. Only one plane ever took off from it as German Karl Hanke escaped the besieged city, and it is reported that 13,000 people died in the destruction. It was known as Kaiserstraße, scene of the Battle of Breslau. Nearby is a monument to 20,000 Polish army officers who were executed by a bullet to the back of the head on Stalin’s orders, also a memorial dedicated to POWs who died during the construction of the airstrip.

Travel is easy with trams and buses, so outside the centre enjoy walking in Park Szczytnicki, with its Japanese Garden and the early 20th century Centennial Hall designed by architect Max Berg.

Wroclaw hosts film, theatre and music festivals, and will be European Capital of Culture in 2016.

Flying direct is possible by a budget airline (Ryanair) from Malta.