Night and Day

For the first time on this trip, it’s a rainy evening – though many of the ars have covered and heated outdoor areas, so the weather’s not a problem.

Near the University, Teatr Kalumbar is one of the quierkiest venues in Wroclaw. As the name suggests, it used to be a theatre, and today it features antique furniture, dimmed lighting and friendly service. It’s a relatively young crowd here but that doesn’t matter, as there are also plenty of passing visitors – although this photo suggests the place was empty!

There are so many bars in Wroclaw that each has to make a special effort to attract customers. This is entirely a good thing, as it means every place has its own distinctive character. Arounf the back of the main Town Square, Kombinat manages a great combination of being both easy to get to and great value.

This place has a distinctively industrial feel to it, with wood and steel surrounding the long bar. Shelves are stacked with different shots and cocktail ingredients – and there’s also a god selection of craft beer. Whatever you buy, you’ll rarely pay more than £4 – and that’ll be for a top range spirit and mixer.

As with any city of this size, it pays to explore the side streets away from the main crowd. From another non descript building comes the sound of music, and a great couple of guys playing guitars. It feels like it’s getting towards the end of the night, but at Oksymoron things are just starting to warm up.

The vibe is bohemian, and the music improvised. Well after 11pm, more musicians turn up and soon there’s a whole band playing to what mainly look like their friends. A girl in the audience suddenly grabs a microphone and works through some made up lyrics, blues style.

At first it’s enormously entertaining, but after a while it’s clear that this band loves to jam so hard, they make each song last for about 20 minutes. There are so many additional riffs and chords my ears can take, so it’s off home through the rain.

It’s my final day in Wroclaw so I head back to the Market Hall to pick up some provisions for tomorrow’s train journey to Krakow. Having previously dismissed the food outlets here as a bit basic, I strike gold with a stall selling tea and cake. From the outside, it’s just a hole in the wall of the market building, but the man behind the stall says I can “go and sit inside”. I’m expecting a couple of basic tables and wooden benches, but no – this is a tea salon filled with flowers and calming Japanese style music.

Tea is served alongside a delicious cheesecake with a chocolate brownie base. I all feels like a special occasion at your nan’s, where she would open the front room for selected visitors – though never the family.

Back on the street and there are a surprising number of teenage boys wearing army uniforms. Compulsory military service ended in Poland in 2009, but paid voluntary service was introduced in May 2022. And it may well be attractive to some of these young men – with a monthly salary of over £900 plus free board and lodging. Given the ongoing war n Ukraine, you can well see why the country next door might want to boost its recruitment to the armed forces.

It’s been a great few days in Wroclaw. It’s not an in your face, pushy kind of tourist place, certainly not in September. Unlike some cities, restaurant waiters aren’t ushering you in from the street. The visitor infrastructure is god – with plenty of cheap hotels and rented apartments – but there appear to be no large civic machine workin g to sell you extras you don’t need. I suspect Krakow may be different.

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