We’re returning with Part V of our Polish Perspectives series by guest blogger Cailin Szczesiul…
Having spent a substantial amount of time in both regions, it is apparent that there is a difference between the east and west side of Poland. I quickly discovered whereas the east side of Poland truly treasures their culture and way of life, the west side of the country is considerably Americanized. That’s not to say western Polish residents do not respect their own culture, but in my eyes Poland is at a crossroads with it’s own identity. To maintain its deep-rooted culture for generations to come or to become just another country sacrificed to American ideals and values.
The next city on my journey was Wroclaw. This city boasts a population well over 600,000 residents and is where my husband was born. The city is built on tiny islands surrounded by the Odra and several smaller rivers. Wroclaw has over 100 bridges within the city limits. Wroclaw is Poland’s fourth-largest city and a driving force in the country’s current economic boom.
Wroclaw’s history is long and tumultuous. Having belonged to a handful of countries at one time or another, Wroclaw was finally given back to Poland after the Second World War. With first inhabitants dating back to the 10th century Wroclaw is filled with rich historical backgrounds and striking architecture. It’s because of this innate connection to Poland’s early history that I found it surprising that much of this lovely city is being engulfed by American fast food chains and big box stores.
Take for example the historic and visually stunning Rynek (market square). I cannot even begin to explain the true beauty and sheer size of this magnificent place. It is said to be the most beautiful square in all of Europe and I do not doubt it. While I was extremely pleased that most of the shops and cafes maintained the Polish ethnicity I have come to love, there are small signs that things are slowly starting to change.
Although Wroclaw is changing and building, efforts are being made to protect and preserve it. For example, take the astounding Racławice Panorama. This panoramic painting depicts the historic Battle of Racawice during the Kosciuszko Uprising. The painting is said to be one of the most historical artifacts in all of Poland. It was hidden during the Second World War and communist era and only opened to the public in 1985 after extensive restoration. The painting should be on the itinerary of every tourist visiting Wroclaw. It is an excellent work of art and Poles should be proud of its historical significance and beauty.
Another piece of Wroclaw history untouched by modern times is Ostrów Tumski, meaning Cathedral Island. Being the oldest part of the city, this small island dates back to the 9th century. I loved this exquisite little place with its fascinating architecture and poignant sculptural art. I cannot put into words what it was like walking around this extraordinary place. You must see it for yourself.
All in all, I recognize that things change and that without it, progress cannot be made. It just saddens me. I find that too many countries have fallen victim to American ideals, values and corporations. I also understand that without industrialization the country would not be what it is today. I ask that the Polish citizens stop and take a long hard look at what is happening to their county and culture. My wish for Poland and her people is this; as much work is put into changing and revitalizing the country the same amount of effort must be used to preserve it.
About Cailin Szczesiul
In addition to being a successful young professional Cailin is an avid traveler and blogger. She writes about everything from baking to music to home décor. For more information please check out her blog . You can also follow her on Twitter.