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Tuesday, 31 March 2015 00:00

Portrait of a City: Wrocław

Breslau bridge
Photo: Tobias Melzer

On the Tumski Bridge in Wrocław

As part of a new feature for Sixth Sense, E&M photographer Tobias Melzer will be exploring lesser-known European towns and cities on look out for hidden gems and unexpected wonder. First up is the Polish city of Wrocław, a place of decidedly mixed heritage.

It is hard to imagine a city that sums up the tangled histories of Central Europe better than Wrocław.  Straddling the Oder, itself a river that unites Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic, Wrocław has seen the rise and fall of many an empire. Whether as part of the Kingdom of Bohemia, the Duchy of Silesia, the Habsburg Monarchy or Weimar Germany, Wrocław has always maintained its position as a cultural hub and will in fact be a European Capital of Culture in 2016.

Since the terms of the Potsdam Conference saw Wrocław pass to Poland in 1945, it has grown to become the forth largest Polish city, with a population of over 600,000. The architectural variety of the city gives an insight into its chequered past. The university, in particular, with its exquisite Aula Leopoldina and the stunning views to be had from the Mathematics Tower, harks back to the days when the city went by the name of Breslau and was counted among the most revered seats of learning in the German-speaking lands. Nowadays, Wrocław is also home to a number of dwarf figurines (known as krasnale in Polish), whose presence – besides the obvious tourist appeal – commemorates local opposition to communsim. Graffiti dwarfs were the calling-card of the underground movement Pomarańczowa Alternatywa (Orange Alternative) during the 1980s.

Published in Postcards from Europe
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