Tag Archives: Venice of the North

Thursday Doors, The Anne Frank Secret Doorway

Anne Frank Secret Doorway

It was an interesting experience to go through the hidden door behind the bookcase and to climb the steep steps into the rooms where they lived and hid.

Imagine staying hidden and quiet all day without a mobile device and the internet!

The little guide book calls it a ‘Museum with a Story’ and this sets it out against other museums that do not have the same emotional connection.

Read The Full Story…

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

Wroclaw, Cathedral Island, Padlocks and Museums

‘… In a few short years, the heart of Paris has been made ugly, robbing Parisians of quality of life and the ability to safely enjoy their own public spaces along the Seine…. The time has come to enact a ban on ‘love locks’ in order to return our bridges to their original beauty and purpose.’ – Petition Against Love Locks, Paris.

At customer feedback I rated the Best Western as excellent and awarded high marks for everything but it is has to be said that it is not a hotel for sleeping in late into the morning.  The room faced east and was adjacent to a very busy road so the combination of bright sunshine leaking in around the curtains and trams regularly clattering past meant for an early breakfast.

Leaving the hotel we walked towards the River Oder and the handful of islands that sit in a wide stretch of the river and which are connected by several bridges which immediately entitles it to the tag of the ‘Venice of the North’.  This isn’t a title that it holds uniquely of course because this has also been applied to AmsterdamBrugesSt. Petersburg, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Manchester, Edinburgh and even Birmingham amongst others.

Actually, I have to say that here in Wroclaw this description is stretching it to its absolute limit but it was pleasant enough criss-crossing the river on the bridges and strolling across the islands one by one towards our objective of Ostrow Tumski, the Cathedral Island, which actually isn’t an island any more since part of the river was filled in two hundred years ago.

To get there we had to cross the Tumski Bridge which has now become known as Lovers Bridge on account of that awful modern obsession with attaching padlock graffiti to any available railing which seems to have become an irritating epidemic all across Europe.  This is a lover’s plague whereby signing and locking the padlock and throwing the key into the river they become eternally bonded.

This tradition might sound all rather romantic and lovely but apparently all of these love tokens do lots of damage to the bridges because as they age and rust this spreads to the ironwork and thousands of padlocks need to be removed every year from bridges across Europe.  In Venice there is a €3,000 penalty and up to a year in prison for those caught doing it and that is a much, much higher price than I would be prepared to pay for eternal bondage!

This is what Tumski Bridge used to look like before mindless love lock vandals began to consider it acceptable to add metal graffiti…

This is what it looks like today…

I know which way I prefer it, I’ll let you decide for yourselves.

To anyone who thinks this is mean-spirited please bear in mind that in June 2014 the ‘Pond des Arts’ in Paris across the River Seine collapsed under the weight of these padlock monstrosities and had to be temporarily closed.  They are not just unsightly – they are dangerous!

Cathedral Island is the original site of the first permanent settlement in Wroclaw, sometime in the ninth century and shortly after it became established and became a bishopric work began to build a Cathedral.  Named after John the Baptist, Patron Saint of Wroclaw, the current incarnation of the cathedral started life in 1241 although it has had a great deal of restoration work since then because just like every European church it has suffered a mandatory burning down or two and the odd bomb over the years including the destruction of the twin towers in 1945.

 

There is a lift to a viewing platform up to the top of one of the towers and so we took the ride and enjoyed the views over the city and the surrounding countryside and after a couple of circuits or so of the spire we took the first available lift back to the ground where the temperature was more agreeable.

And so we left the islands and returned to the old town where we walked for a while along the south bank of the river.  Here we passed by two museums, the especially impressive National Museum built in the style of a German sixteenth century palace and over the road the Panorama of the Battle of Raclawice.

This is a concrete rotunda with just one exhibit, a 114 metre long by 15 metre high painting of the battle of 1794 when a Polish army defeated a superior Russian force in a struggle for independence.  This makes it the second largest panorama painting in the World just slightly shorter by six metres than the Arrival of the Hungarians in Ópusztaszer in Hungary and just ahead by 5 metres longer than the Gettysburg Cyclorama in Gettysburg, USA.

After the museums we went to the indoor market but it wasn’t as vibrant as some that we have been to and compared badly for example against Riga and Budapest and it seemed tired, run down and unexciting.  The guide book pointed out the importance of the roof as one of the best examples of early halls made of concrete in Europe and if you like concrete then I am prepared to concede that it was rather impressive.  Personally, I am not a huge fan of the grey stuff!

We had been walking  for over two hours and I was beginning to detect that the needle on Kim’s whinge meter was beginning to twitch so the priority now was to find somewhere for a coffee break so we walked back in the direction of Market Square and found a modern café where we stopped for a while for some of the group to top up sugar levels with cake in preparation for more walking in the afternoon.

The Official Travel Guide in Wrocław – visitWroclaw.eu

Entrance Tickets – Anne Frank House, Amsterdam

Anne Frank House Entrance Ticket 1Anne Frank House Entrance Ticket 2

“Writing in a diary is a really strange experience for someone like me. Not only because I’ve never written anything before, but also because it seems to me that later on neither I nor anyone else will be interested in the musings of a thirteen-year old school girl. Oh well, it doesn’t matter. I feel like writing.” – Anne Frank

The entrance ticket is rather plain but this seems strangely appropriate because there is nothing inside to see because it is all about the experience of being there…

…. We were close to the Anne Frank House now on Prinsengracht and as this was on our ‘to do list’ we thought we might check the queue situation which the guide book warned could be quite lengthy at peak times.  Although it was mid afternoon there was no queue at all so we decided that this was an opportunity not to be missed so we paid our entrance fee and went inside.

The house was built in 1635. The canal-side frontage dates from a renovation of 1740 when the rear annex was demolished and the taller one which is rather the point of the visit now stands in its place was built. The Frank family left Germany as the Nazis established power and Otto set up his spice and pickling business in the premises.  Later Nazi persecution spread to the Netherlands and over one hundred thousand Jews were deported so the Frank family went into hiding inside the house in an annex at the rear.

The Secret Annex, as it was called in the English version of Anne Frank’s ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’ enjoyed a secluded position which made it an ideal hiding place the family and four other Jewish people seeking refuge from the authorities. They remained hidden here for two years and one month until they were anonymously betrayed to the Nazi’s, arrested, and deported to their deaths in concentration camps. Of the hidden group, only Otto Frank survived the war.

Anne-Frank-21-007

After those in hiding were arrested, the hiding place was cleared by order of the arresting officers and all the remaining contents of the Frank family and their friends were seized as Government property. Before the building was cleared two friends who had helped hide the families, returned to the hiding place and rescued some personal effects. Amongst the items they retrieved was ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’.

It was an interesting experience to go through the hidden door behind the bookcase and to climb the steep steps into the rooms where they lived and hid, the little guide book calls it a ‘Museum with a Story’ and this sets it out against other museums that do not have the same emotional connection.  It is only small of course so the visit doesn’t take too long before finishing in the inevitable book shop at the end.

I read the diary after a previous visit to Amsterdam but the problem with it of course is that even before you start to read it you know the tragic and heartbreaking end and it is also worth remembering that the Franks weren’t unique in Nazi occupied Amsterdam and across the Netherlands it is estimated that twenty thousand people sheltered Jews at considerable risk to themselves.

Anne Frank House Secret Passage

Poland (Wroclaw), Cathedral Island, Padlocks and Museums

Cathedral Island Wroclaw poland

‘This is most apparent on the Pont des Arts, which has been terribly degraded, both visually and structurally.   In a few short years, the heart of Paris has been made ugly, robbing Parisians of quality of life and the ability to safely enjoy their own public spaces along the Seine, which has itself been polluted by thousands of discarded keys…. The time has come to enact a ban on ‘love locks’ in order to return our bridges to their original beauty and purpose.’          Petition Against Love Locks, Paris.

After an above average (put rather pricey) breakfast at the Sofitel Hotel it was immediately time for more walking and sightseeing and there was perfect weather this morning with a crisp blue sky, bright sunshine and not a threatening cloud in the sky.

It was quite chilly however but the hotel desk clerk told us that this was unusual and unseasonably mild because normally at this time of the year the people of Wroclaw would expect to be shovelling snow several centimetres of snow and dealing with average temperatures some way below zero.

We stayed a while in the Market Square where some stage scaffolding was being erected in preparation for a musical event and then we left through a lop-sided archway and made our way north through the handsome University district and towards the River Oder and the handful of islands that sit in a wide stretch of the river and which are connected by several bridges which immediately entitles it to the tag of the ‘Venice of the North’.  This isn’t a title that it holds uniquely of course because this has also been applied to Amsterdam, Bruges, St. Petersburg, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Manchester, Edinburgh and even Birmingham amongst others.

Actually, I have to say that here in Wroclaw this description is stretching it to its absolute limit but it was pleasant enough criss-crossing the river on the bridges and strolling across the islands one by one towards our objective of Ostrow Tumski, the Cathedral Island, which actually isn’t an island any more since part of the river was filled in two hundred years ago.

To get there we had to cross the Tumski Bridge which has now become known as Lovers Bridge on account of that awful modern obsession with attaching padlock graffiti to any available railing which seems to have become an irritating epidemic all across Europe.  This is a lover’s plague whereby signing and locking the padlock and throwing the key into the river they become eternally bonded.  Now, this is an action where I would recommend extreme caution because it sounds dangerously impulsive to me; I think I would further recommend taking the precaution of keeping a spare somewhere in case I needed to release myself later from the implications of a hasty and ill thought through obligation.

Urban Wall Art Wroclaw Poland

Urban Wall Art near the Tumski Bridge

This tradition might sound all rather romantic and lovely but apparently all of these love tokens do lots of damage to the bridges because as they age and rust this spreads to the ironwork and thousands of padlocks need to be removed every year from bridges across Europe.  In Venice there is a €3,000 penalty and up to a year in prison for those caught doing it and that is a much, much higher price than I would be prepared to pay for eternal bondage!

To anyone who thinks this is mean spirited please bear in mind that in June 2014 the ‘Pond des Arts’ in Paris across the River Seine collapsed under the weight of these padlock monstrosities and had to be temporarily closed.  They are not just unsightly – they are dangerous!

Cathedral Island is the original site of the first permanent settlement in Wroclaw, sometime in the ninth century and shortly after it became established and became a bishopric work began to build a Cathedral.  Named after John the Baptist, Patron Saint of Wroclaw, the current incarnation of the cathedral started life in 1241 although it has had a great deal of restoration work since then  because just like every European church it has suffered a mandatory burning down or two and the odd bomb over the years including the destruction of the twin towers in 1945.

There is nothing especially remarkable about the interior of the church but there is a lift to a viewing platform up to the top of one of the towers and so we took the ride and enjoyed the views over the city and the surrounding countryside but we didn’t stop long because it was cold and windy and rather uncomfortable at the top so after a couple of circuits of the spire we took the first available lift back to the ground where the temperature was more agreeable.

And so we left the islands and returned to the old town where we walked for a while along the south bank of the river before turning our backs on it and walked south.  Here we passed by two museums, the especially impressive National Museum built in the style of a German sixteenth century palace and over the road the Panorama of the Battle of Raclawice which is a concrete rotunda with just one exhibit, a hundred and fourteen metre long by fifteen metre high painting of the battle of 1794 when a Polish army defeated a superior Russian force in a struggle for independence.  (Just for comparison, the Bayeux Tapestry is seventy metres long by only half a metre wide).  The painting has great patriotic and nationalist importance for Poland but we decided to walk on and leave this until tomorrow.

Instead of the museums we went to the indoor market but it wasn’t as vibrant as some that we have been to and compared badly for example against Riga and Budapest and it seemed tired, run down and unexciting.  The guide book pointed out the importance of the roof as one of the best examples of early halls made of concrete in Europe and if you like concrete then I am prepared to concede that it was rather impressive.  Personally, I am not a huge fan of the grey stuff!

We had been walking now for over two hours and I was beginning to detect that the needle on Kim’s whinge meter was beginning to twitch so the priority now was to find somewhere for a coffee break so we walked the short distance back to the Market Square and found a modern café where we stopped for a while to rest and warm up and to plan the rest of the afternoon.

Wroclaw Poland from the Cathedral Tower

Russia, Saint-Petersburg and the Venice of the North

Palace Courtyard Saint-Petersburg

After dinner we left the hotel again and used the mini-bus service to get to the Metro station and then we took the short trip to Nevsky Prospekt for the second time.  It was still warm and the sky remained cloudless and blue as we walked west to the Kazan Cathedral and at a statue of the Russian Field Marshal Kutusov who helped defeat Napoleon in 1812 we turned to walk along the Griboedov Canal this time in the opposite direction and we followed the granite walls of the waterway away from the busy Prospekt.

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Tulips to Amsterdam, Canal Cruise and the Anne Frank House

Amsterdam by Delft

The coach driver ran through a well rehearsed list of do’s and don’ts peppered with little quips – my favourite being an instruction not to stand up in the on-board toilet when taking a pee as this results in a waterlogged cubicle and then he settled down for the two hour drive to Amsterdam.

When we arrived he ran through some useful information and he had plenty of time for this because there was a huge traffic jam all along the main roads of Rokin and Damrak and progress was slow to our drop off point at the central railway station.  Before we got off the bus he reminded us that traffic drives on the right hand side of the road in the Netherlands and to be careful getting off or else instead of sightseeing in Amsterdam we would be in hospital instead.

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France, Day Tip to Belgium – Bruges

Bruges is the capital and largest city of the province of West Flanders in the Flemish Region of Belgium.  In the middle ages, thanks to the wool trade, it was one of the most important cities in Europe and the historic city centre is an important UNESCO World Heritage site because most of its medieval architecture is intact. The Church of Our Lady has a hundred and twenty metre high brick spire making it one of the world’s highest brick towers.

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