Cities / Towns Visited: 49
Countries Visited: 15
Steps Taken Today: 21,026
Steps Taken Around the World: 1,717,177
With no solid plans in the calendar, we allowed ourselves a well deserved sleep in before skipping into town to meet up with my best friend and her husband, who for the sake of making this less complicated we’ll call Wifey and Hubby. Reuniting once more in the old town square we took a little time to marvel in the beauty of this historical area. It soon became obvious that this city has two things in abundance; gypsies, who are literally everywhere in the town square trying to swindle people out of their money in a full selection of methods; and gnomes. Now, for anyone who has never been to Wroclaw, the city has some 500+ bronze gnomes placed all over the place with more than 100 in the old town alone. These gnomes are all doing something different, with many posed in situations which correspond with the establishment they are outside of, for example: a gnome withdrawing money out of an ATM outside a bank, or two gnomes heisting pastries out of the window of a cake shop. Apparently the gnomes are technically supposed to be dwarves but we just called them gnomes, and are to pay homage to the Polish anti-communist movement, called the Orange Alternative.
After snapping a few, and by a few I obviously mean many, photos of the illusive statues, we picked a spot for lunch, which had the draw cards of both offering pirogi which have great reviews online, but also outside seating which meant that we could do some top quality gypsy watching as we indulged in a long lunch. Settling in and ordering a feast of the delectable dumplings, the people watching commenced. After sharing stories of the gypsies we’d all encountered across Europe so far, we were surprised to see just how many tactics were being used in just this square alone. From one lady dressed as Tigger, from Winnie the Pooh, asking people if they wanted photos with her then demanding payment for the photos afterwards; to a number of teen gypsies carrying round roses and almost forcing them into the hands of unsuspecting tourists, then once again demanding money; to the breastfeeding mother wandering round begging for change.
It was hard to have sympathy for them when you watched them targeting young teen travellers (we’re talking 14 or 15 year olds) who are obviously old enough to walk alone, but not well travelled enough to pick up on the scam before it was too late. At this point we giggled about the skit from Little Britain where the neighbourhood watch coordinator demonstrates how to turn away gypsies by putting your hand in their face and saying ‘No Gypsy! No!’. Thus for the remainder of the day, and our time together, this became the running joke, and go-to response to deflect them when they tried to swindle us (obviously just the words not the rude hand usage).
Having stuffed ourselves sufficiently, we wandered back into the square, and decided to dedicate some time to gnome spotting, with help from a gnome map we had bought at a tourist shop. Wandering to the far side of the square, we unwittingly ran into Hubby’s parents, who are Polish, and who were back in the country for a family member’s wedding. We took a moment here to stop for a chat and a vodka, as seems only natural here, before heading back out to continue the hunt.
Out the front of the town hall sits a small market full of stalls selling trinkets and food, and stumbling across one of our favourites, chimney cake, I thought it only appropriate to introduce my Wifey to the wonders of its existence. Skeptical of how good they would be, and not wanting her to be disappointed by her first experience, we were pleasantly surprised to discover they were perfect; soft and warm on the inside, golden brown and crisp on the outside, and dusted with fragrant cinnamon sugar. All of a sudden I was back in Brno, with my first Chimney cake, all over again, except this time I was sharing it with both of my soul mates.
Returning to reality, we finished our treat, and decided we should probably go and do something vaguely more sightseeing based than gnome hunting, thus we wandered off to the Racławice Panorama. Now if you’ve been keeping up with the blogs, or if you’ve been to Waterloo, you’ll know the kind of thing I’m taking about, but if not it’s a giant circular room with a massive 114 metre long, 15 metre high hand-painted scene of the historic battle of Racławice in 1794 in which the Polish forces (including many angry peasants armed rather impressively with scythes) under the direction of Tadeusz Kościuszko, managed to fight off the Russian forces invading their territory, despite being greatly outnumbered. The Polish won the battle but unfortunately lost the war for their independence at that time. The painting was originally displayed in Lviv in Ukraine, however it was rolled up and hidden in a Benedictine Monastery during WWII to save it from being destroyed. It was brought to Wroclaw after the war but was hidden in a storeroom until 1985, as Poland was under the control of the Communist regime and they saw it as politically sensitive (due to the fact it depicts Polish forces defeating the Russian forces) and banned its restoration and showing for a long time. It is truly impressive, not only because of the skillful brushwork, but because of the artificial terrain which runs between the painting and the viewing platform. This mix of dirt hill, bushes and bracken, and broken fences give the unnerving sense that you are standing on a hill looking down on the battle below. It matches up with the picture so seamlessly that it’s almost impossible to see where one finishes and the other begins.
With our visit complete, we walked back into town, losing Hubby on the way, as he went back to their hotel for a rest, as he wasn’t feeling too crash hot. Deciding it was a bit too early for dinner, and having much to catch up on, we picked a cute little bar with a decent vodka selection, and settled in for an impromptu drink and gossip session. Talking of anything and everything, from our travels, to our future cake shop (my Wifey and I are both pastry chefs and have wild plans), the hours slipped away as smoothly as the liquor. Lost in laughter, and excited chatter, it wasn’t until we realised it was growing dark that we made the sensible decision to source food to sop up the shots. Thus catching up with Hubby once more, we found ourselves at the very same place we had so enjoyed at lunch. More pierogi were had, and much more conversing passed before we were, less than tactfully, told that the restaurant was closing and we needed to leave. Still, our good mood couldn’t be dampened, and we happily tumbled back out into the square and parted ways once more, wandering into the night to our respective accommodations, to rest before our travels the next morning.
As I nestled into bed I couldn’t help smile at our expanding plans for a future business of our very own. Whether it becomes a reality or not, only time will tell, but regardless, there is something magical about making plans. As someone who has often struggled with my depression, to the point of self harm and suicidal thoughts, it has always been plans and hope for the future that has pulled me back from the edge of that irreversible abyss. When everything seemed hopeless at the present, or I was weighed down by the past; working at building my career as a chef, planning for my world trip, and everything beyond that, gave me something to hang on to. People are fickle, and many of them retreat when they that see you are guarded by the black dog, thus I focused my energies on goals, regardless of people. The future was my lifeline; the thing that kept me above water. If you find yourself in that darkness, where everything seems lost, I beseech you to find something in the far off horizon, a goal, a hope, a dream; find anything that helps you take one more breath, and one more step. Find people who support you in this, as have been lucky enough to find a few dear souls who do, and if you can find none, find me.