We were travelling with our friends Mike and Margaret and Christine and Sue and it was late afternoon when we left the hotel and made our way to the Old Town.
The sun was still shining so after a swift circuit of the Market Square and as we hadn’t eaten since breakfast we found a restaurant with outside seating arrangements with the intention of ordering a small snack to tide us over until evening meal time.
It seems however that the Polish people have a different interpretation to the English of what constitutes a small snack and what we thought would be a modest sharing platter turned out to be a mountainous plate of sandwiches, pastry, chips, bacon and sausage and something called Zapiekanka (a sort of baguette, about twice the size of a double Big Mac, with nothing left out and then smothered in tomato sauce) which provided in one setting our entire calorie allowance for the day and completely eliminated the need to make any more plans for evening meal.
After all of that food and drink the only sensible thing to do now was to try to walk some of it off so we left the Market Square and headed out-of-town along one of the long boulevards which brought us eventually to the City’s main railway station and being a train enthusiast was to be the highlight of Mike’s day. It was refurbished in 2011 in preparation for the Euro Football Championship and although it is an impressive structure it looks rather out-of-place, designed as it seems to be in the style of a North African Palace that would be more at home in Marrakech or Tangiers..
Image by Tim Richards – Lonely Planet
By the time Mike had tired of train spotting it was dark and becoming quite cool so we made our way back to the Market Square where various entertainments were in full swing.
This is one of the great pleasures of travelling to the Continent because the evening time is so very different to being in England where the town centres close up and empty of people very early and everyone rushes off home, close their gates and retreat behind their front doors. Generally we are suspicious of people who hang around town centres at night – when Polish people living in England walk out at night people get upset and start writing letters to the local newspaper complaining about anti-social behaviour.
Once in Krakow I asked a tour guide why Polish people walk out at night even in bad weather and his explanation was that many people live in small overcrowded units in apartment blocks and rather than spend the evening getting in each other’s way they go out instead for some recreation and to be neighbourly….
… and sometimes to get drunk!
Here in Wroclaw the Market Square was buzzing and vibrant and families and friends were flowing like lava into the Old Town from every side street and alleyway and filling the bars and cafés around the perimeter. I don’t know what they call it in Poland but this was the equivalent of the La Passeggiata in Italy or La Paseo in Spain and it was wonderful to be a part of it.
We walked around the square, several times I think, stopping frequently to watch the street entertainers and to throw some small coins in the collection boxes as we passed and when we had seen enough we looked for somewhere to stop for a drink.
We knew a place from our previous visit, a little place close to our hotel which is rather simply called ‘Drinks Bar’ which may seem unimaginative but avoids any confusion about what you are going to do in there or any other possible catastrophe such as inadvertently walking into a shop by mistake.
The really good thing about the ‘Drinks Bar’ is that it serves a variety of good beers and it is cheap so we stayed longer than we planned and drank more than we should have before moving on.
The Poles are statistically the fourth highest beer drinkers in Europe with per capita consumption of around one hundred litres a year just slightly behind the Germans and the Austrians at one hundred and five but some considerable way behind the Czechs who are way out in front with one hundred and forty-five litres per head. So we thought we might make a contribution to a Polish challenge upon the Czech Republic beer consumption statistic and on the way back to the hotel stopped off several times at anywhere that looked bright and cheerful and would dispense foaming glasses of ale!