Article from A&B issue 01|2023
Wro. Wro. Breslau. The capital of mysterious Lower Silesia. The city of Eberhard Mock. The most densely populated by dwarves (there are more than a thousand of them here!) place in Poland. The headquarters of the famous zoo. The place of action of the series „Great Water”. Home of fourteen Nobel laureates. The largest of all the Recovered Territories. A key heir to the Polish legacy of the lost city of Lviv. All these perspectives in their own way describe this extraordinary city—an archipelago of islands on the Oder River.
I have always liked Wroclaw. I have always associated it well. But I also didn't quite know how to put it together in my mind. The time has finally come for that. I intend to attack Wroclaw from several different angles. I'll certainly use some of my Wroclaw experiences for this: I'll use them as keys to this city from a different fairy tale, because, after all, Wroclaw has a completely different story to tell us than the ones we know from eternally Polish cities. After all, Breslau is painfully German, the post-German afterimages are present everywhere here, and—in my opinion—they are what make this place such an outstandingly interesting, non-obvious urban organism.
Wroclaw is a carrier of the Lviv gene—formerly the most important in the entire Polish genome
© Wroclaw City Hall
This atmosphere of Breslau is brilliantly conveyed in his books by Marek Krajewski—the stories about Eberhard Mock are my favorite Polish crime series, I have read them all and more than once. I will definitely wander through—taking the opportunity—Breslau as seen from the rather grim perspective of the German investigator. I like that atmosphere—because post-German Breslau must also be a bit dark, menacing. In Krajewski's books I feel what I look for most in cities: a heavy fascination with a place, a deep, complex feeling, love, but after transitions, a life rich in adventure, but not easy, paid for by suffering, which perhaps ennobles... the genius loci of Wroclaw and Lower Silesia—because I believe that this city should not be seen in isolation from the entire region—is one of the most powerful souls of place I have encountered.
So—with immense pleasure—I invite you to visit Wrocław.
Ostrów Tumski, an island with a cathedral; one of the most important islands in the Wrocław archipelago
Photo: Grzegorz Rajter © City Hall of Wrocław
Breslau was a completely German city before the war, few today sense how important it was to Germany. According to many of my interlocutors, Breslau before the war was to Germany what Krakow was to Poland. When the German capital (formerly of the Kingdom of Prussia) was established in Berlin, it was from Breslau that most of the intellectual elite came to Berlin, it was Breslau that was the most important forge of cadres for the capital. Since Munich was part of the independent duchy and later kingdom of Bavaria in Prussian times, one can venture the thesis that there were times when Breslau was simply the most important German city.