Day Trip on Bicycles to Milicz

One of my favorite activities is bicycling. I have thousands of photographs from many short bicycle trips around Wrocław and many from an eight-day wycieczka rowerowa (bike tour) along the Baltic Sea coast of Poland (at the end of May that I intend to write about here). Most of the rides are with my friends, Marta (and Łapa) and Tom, and last Sunday, we took a day trip to Milicz. (I am dating this post Sunday, 4 Wreześnia (September), even though the actual of time of posting is nearly a week later.)

Some recent historical information about western Poland: At the end of World War II, Poland’s borders were redrawn and violently enforced as Stalin and the Red Army took the eastern territory, forcing those Poles westward to populate the former lands of eastern Germany from which the Germans were expelled.

 

Thus, Wrocław, for instance, is still shown in German airport boards as both Wrocław and Breslau, its former German name. Poland, which is more than a thousand years old, has withstood many territorial shapes.

Back to bicycling and Milicz and a lovely, warm Sunday in early September: Tom, Marta, and I (and Łapa — Łapa always implied) boarded a train at Wrocław Główny for the short trip to Żmigród, about 40km (25 miles) north of Wrocław, where we started our bike ride. Łapa ran alongside us, unless she “hop-hopped” into her przyczepka (trailer), either for a break or because traffic conditions were unsafe for her to run.

ŻMIGRÓD (from Old Polish meaning “Dragon Castle,” formerly Trachenberg). The route Tom planned was to follow DW439, a two-lane highway through the Dolina Baryczy (Baryczy River Valley, Baryczy’s being a tributary of the Odra River), beginning here where we very soon came upon the ruins of Hatzfeld Palace.

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It was only after looking for information about Żmigród that I understood the significance of this whimsical statue in the ruined palace.

Leaving Żmigród:

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That’s Tom in front, then Łapa, then Marta. I, as usual, bring up the rear flank (when Łapa is not riding in the przyczepka attached to my bike), because I stop often to take quick snaps.

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Łapa riding in the przyczepka (not pictured) means that I have to lead and set the pace, which means not stopping to take pictures, so now you will have to imagine this road for the next 30 or so kilometers, sometimes passing through vast fields (some flat, some of corn and other crops), sometimes through woods, sometimes through villages, sometimes right next to the river (or some narrow part of it), and one time through a very strong smell of farming (if you know what I mean). It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day with light traffic, perhaps because it was Sunday. Perfect bike-riding conditions.

We passed through villages, such as Radziądz (English speakers, this sounds roughly like “rah’-jones”) and Niezgoda. I laughed when I saw the name of this village and shouted to Marta and Tom, “This is where I should live!” I knew that “zgoda” means agreement, consent, accord. Adding the negative “nie” could only mean we were passing through the village of Discord or Disagreement. Being as I can be contrary, I took ridiculous pleasure out of “Niezgoda.”

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Besides, there’s a bike shop.

 

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Leaving Niezgoda heading north.

And along we went, through Łąki (pronounced “wonky” – hehe! I love some of these Polish words!), which means “fields,” appropriately, until we came to Sułów (“sue’-woof”).

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Made a left entering Sułów, and lo!

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Kościół Matki Boskiej Częstochowskiej.

SUŁÓW (formerly Sulau) is known for two timber-frame churches, the one above, Our Lady of Częstochowa, built 1765-67, and Sts. Peter and Paul, built 1731-34 (which we did not see). Even though it was Sunday, the doors to this church were locked. That sounds like I’m insinuating something, but I’m not, but if I were, it’d be that the villagers were locked inside to prevent them from leaving during the service. But I’m not saying that.

Sułów’s small rynek (town square) serves a population of about 1,400. I used a bit of post-processing in one of those photographs to accentuate the cobblestone road, which can be found even in Wrocław. Imagine riding a bicycle on that. Yeah. We rested for a half-hour before riding the last 9 km to Milicz.

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Tom and Marta just before we got back on our bicycles and headed for Milicz.

MILICZ (formerly Militsch). More than a year ago, Marta read Countess Maria von Maltzan‘s autobiography, Bij w werbel i nie lekaj się (Beat the Drum and Do Not Be Afraid) and regaled me with the tales of this heroic woman’s life. The book, originally in German, wasn’t (and isn’t) available in English, I had to be satisfied with Leonard Gross’s The Last Jews in Berlin to read about von Maltzan’s cunning and resourcefulness in helping 60 Jews escape Berlin during WWII.

Maria, the last of eight children, spent her childhood exploring her aristocratic family’s 18,000-acre estate, land that was given to the family in 1590. When we realized that Milicz was only 60 km from Wrocław, we determined to make a kind of pilgrimage. And so today, we rode through the humble gate and saw this:

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Pałac Maltzanów

Incredible. Marta and I were giddy, telling each other what we’d remembered about the gutsy Maria. Marta remembered more, as the autobiography addressed, of course, much more of Maria von Maltzan’s childhood than Gross’s book did. We kept grinning to each other. Maria’s childhood home! Marta spoke with an older couple on bikes, telling them about Maria von Maltzan. I didn’t pay attention, because Polish. (I’m cobbling sentences together, able to speak the words slowly, but still lost when listening.) Then Marta said to me, “This is the back!” Following directions, she led us to the front.

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Łapa trotting up the driveway as if she lives here.

Even more impressive! Pałac Maltzanów is now a technical school, teaching forest management. As we walked around, Marta told me that one of her cousins, a forest ranger, had attended this school. I bit back on envy. Then I remembered how, during our eight-day wycieczka rowerowa a few months ago, Nature tried to kill me, or at least scar me for life, with swarms of horseflies and mosquitoes as we struggled to drag our bicycles through a swamp (by the way, part of the Euro Bike Path, thanks, Poland), and the envy disappeared.

 

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My bike and me in the reflection of a von Maltzan window.

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A photo of Pałac Maltzanów via dolny-slask.org.pl

We poked around for a bit before heading southwest for Trzebnica, about 35 km away. We figured the ride down would be as easy as the ride up and that we would pedal all the way to Wrocław, another 20 km south. Easy.

Excuse me for a moment. I must laugh. I must laugh and shake my head and stop laughing.

The WIND!

My god, the wind. Wiatr, in Polish. Not just A wind. A powerful, curse-inducing, pedalling-downhill/no-coasting sonofabitch WIND. (Tom cursed the wind, he told us later, after we caught up with him at Trzebnica where he sat on a bench, looking comfortable and possibly amused.) Not to mention the route, DK15, is hilly.

Yes, Marta hooked the przyczepka to her bicycle to give me a break – twice, for maybe 3 km each time – and she struggled worse than I did. I have to admit, I of the Power Thighs, do ride a lighter, speedier bike, even with the przyczepka. The “admit” part is that I was gratified to see Marta struggle, because it meant it wasn’t me; I wasn’t weak.. She kept complaining about the wind, but I didn’t feel it on my face so much as in my quads and calves. Maybe because my skin was covered by dried perspiration (or salt — Marta laughed at me, said that I had to white lines of salt on my neck. “Like lines of cocaine?” I said. She nodded and kept laughing.)–I mean, I felt some wind, but I didn’t expect it to  give us so much trouble.

We crept along between 12- and 18-kph–on the two-lane highway that was much busier than DW439. As we entered TRZEBNICA (formerly Trebnitz), I found finally a safe spot to pull over and looked back at all the trucks and cars that had gathered behind us (in less than a few minutes, because the back-up wasn’t that long until the truck couldn’t pass us). That was the only time we presented a delay (and of less than a minute!) for drivers, something I am always aware of, coming from the San Francisco Bay Area where even a moment’s delay can enrage drivers who will then attempt some kind of vehicular retaliation. I’m glad to say that no one even honked or showed any impatience — thank you, civilized drivers of DK15.

So–no pictures. It was beautiful, though. Pretty sure.

Marta and I joined Tom on the bench to rest and laugh about that crazy-strong wind (Łapa laid out on the dirt and weeds, legs splayed front and back, as if she were sunbathing on a St. Tropez beach — I love her imagination) and readily agreed to take the train the rest of the way to Wrocław. That settled, we sat for a few more minutes. Tom pointed to a tower and said that that was the monastery that Trzebnica is famous for, Sanctuary of St. Jadwiga (Hedwig), and that he’d wanted to show us. He looked at his watch (17:00), checked the train schedule (trains at 17:49 and 20:00-something), and we all instantly chose the 17:49 option. Tom laughed at the lack of niezgoda.

As we rode to the train station, I felt a few drops of rain on my face and shoulders.

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Trzebnica train station.

We waited outside by the tracks with others heading in our direction, feeling great about our bike ride, even with the wind, talking about the steep hill between Trzebnica and Wrocław (I am willing to face that hill, see it for myself; also, down hill, duh.), and already planning the next day trip.

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Łapa. Anywhere’s fine, as long as she’s in front.

Almost as soon as the train pulled out of the station, the downpour began. We watched the storm and the wind and lightning from the dry side of the windows and wondered how drenched we might get riding our bikes from Wrocław Główny to our respective homes. Less than an hour later, we disembarked the train…storm over. The storm left the city dripping wet and with puddles reflecting the early evening sun going down. We got on our bikes and pedalled home, grinning, I’m sure, like the luckiest bastids of the day.

Total km: 72.46 on bikes.

 

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Headmaster House

The building at ul. Poniatowskiego 13 first caught my eye last year in March during a bike ride with T and M. I took a few quick shots at the time, thinking I would return to take better ones, and despite many bike rides throughout the city, it was only today that my biking destination was this building, formerly the Headmaster House for Viktoriaschule, a school for girls on Blücherstraße [Breslau].

I’m not including photos of the school itself, which (re)opened as Liceum Ogólnokształcące nr 1 in September, 1945, and is the oldest operating high school in Wrocław (at ul. Poniatowskiego 9). A woman who came out of the school building to request that M put a leash on Łapa invited us into the school to show us the memorial plaque to Edyta Stein who was a student at Viktoriaschule.

According to wikipedia (the link above should open the Google Translated page), Edyta Stein was born on 12 October 1891 in Wrocław and died approximately 9 August 1942 in Auschwitz II-Birkenau. Of Jewish origin, Stein was a German philosopher who was baptized in the Catholic Church on 1 January 1922, eventually taking the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. St. Teresa was canonized by Pope John Paul II on 11 October 1998. That Stein’s birthplace is listed (at least in the translated page) as Wrocław and not Breslau speaks to the difficulty of navigating the city’s history.

As for the buildings themselves, both the school and the Headmaster House bear markers establishing 1907 as the year of their founding. The woman who gave us the impromptu tour (as it were) said that the city of Wrocław had bought the Headmaster House two years ago and plans to renovate it as an apartment building. I’m hoping that the structure will be merely repaired and cleaned, the interior configured as necessary for apartments without losing too many of its original details. Of course, I haven’t been inside the house, so I wouldn’t know what might be lost. If I never get a glimpse of the inside, at least I’ll have these pictures and my imagination.

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Approaching from the south on ul. Poniatowskiego.

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My bicycle at the front (or sidewalk) door.

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The Headmaster House from across the street.

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A kind of bas relief plaque on the street-facing wall. Festung Breslau Wrocław calls this plaque a coat of arms, and I did not search further for when it was attached to the building. The “W” obviously stands for Wrocław, and I recall reading in Gregor Thum’s Uprooted that city officials debated the design which was changed at least a couple of times.

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Windows with cool grills.

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A bespectacled bust of (I’m guessing) the principal or headmaster with a raven on one shoulder and an owl on the other. Behind the head: 1907.

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Door handle of the gate to the south door.

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“1907” over the side or courtyard door. The sundial is on this wall, higher and to the right.

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Sundial and window on the south wall.

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The side–and south–wall of the Headmaster House. Leaves obscure the sundial.

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The rear of the house from the high school grounds.

Note: “The school building was built in 1907, designed by German architect Charlot Cabanis,” per wiki.

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[Photos taken 9 July 2015.]

ul. Poniatowskiego 27

Seventy years ago saw the end of World War II and the rebirth of a German city, Breslau, as a Polish city, Wrocław.

For a minimalist explanation, during WWII, Poland existed on paper while Hitler took the west and Stalin took the east. Fortress Breslau was the last of Nazi Germany’s defenses to fall, on 6 May 1945. Three days later, the first Polish government session was held in Mayor Bolesław Drobner‘s residence at Blücherstrasse 27, now ul. Księcia Józefa Poniatowskiego.

At the time, the once beautiful city, “a jewel,” lay in ruins from the 80-day siege and the streets were not navigable except on foot. For an account of how Breslau became Wrocław, not just as a physical city but as a Polish city, I recommend Gregor Thum’s book, Uprooted.

There is much to the history of Wrocław, which has deep roots in Poland (ca. 990), and Wrocław is once again a beautiful city, with buildings surviving the Siege standing next to restored buildings standing next to Communist-era buildings standing next to the modern. Poniatowskiego 27, in which the city’s Polish government began, doesn’t reflect the significance of its role in the rebirth of Beslau as Wrocław; It isn’t one of the grander structures still extant, but I felt a shiver of excitement standing before its doors, imagining the immense task those in charge faced–of transforming a devastated German city into a city for Poles to call home again.

©Lisa Miyako. All rights reserved.

Ul. Poniatowskiego, formerly known as Blücherstrasse in Breslau.

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Looking straight up from the sidewalk in front of the doors to nr. 27.

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My bicycle in front of the doors to nr. 27.

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The plaque marking the significance of ul. Poniatowskiego 27.

Several old photographs of Tenement No. 27 can be seen at dolny.slask.org.pl

Another book recommendation: Hitler’s Final Fortress-Breslau 1945 by Richard Hargreaves

[Photos taken 2 July 2015.]

ul. Krasińskiego 21/23

On a bike ride along Promenada Staromiejska with T and M in April last year, I had seen beautiful buildings on ul. Podwale on the other side of the fosa miejska [city moat]. I had seen those stately buildings before and now wanted to explore the area behind them. (M said that the buildings lining the fosa were embassies. More on that in a future post. Probably.) The next street over from Podwale is ul. Zygmunta Krasińskiego, named for a Polish nobleman and “one of Poland’s Three National Bards — the trio of great Romantic poets who influenced national consciousness during the period of Poland’s political bondage. He was the most famous member of the aristocratic Krasiński family.” [See wikipedia: Count Napoleon Stanisław Adam Feliks Zygmunt Krasiński.]

That day, more than a year ago, I followed T through the passage at nr. 21/23 and could hardly believe what felt like a few steps back into time and an enchanting atmosphere of mystery. Yesterday, on a late afternoon bike ride, we came to ul. Krasińskiego again, and I had to take another look. This is my kind of rabbit hole.

ul. Zygmunta Krasińskiego 21/23

ul. Zygmunta Krasińskiego 21/23

Exterior, from the street.

Exterior, from the street.

Passage door from the street.

Passage door from the street.

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Passage to the courtyard and doors.

Entrance to nr. 21.

Entrance to nr. 21.

Courtyard.

Courtyard.

Courtyard, with passage to ul. Z. Krasińskiego.

Courtyard, with passage to ul. Z. Krasińskiego.

Courtyard.

Courtyard.

A Google search for more information about this building found this blog post from August, 2011: Wroclawskie Kamienice, with many beautiful photographs. I felt a twinge of jealousy that the blog’s author had spoken to one of the tenants, obtaining information and access to one of the apartments (or, at least, views from a higher perspective, perhaps from a stairwell landing). Also, I learned that “the building was designed by master mason Steiner and Lindert” in 1899. At that time, Wrocław was a German city, known as Breslau.

In searching for more details about these architects, I found information only about Rudolf Steiner, who (if this is the same man, and it likely is) is a very interesting personage. According to wikipedia, “Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner (27(25?) February 1861–30 March 1925) was an Austrian mystic, philosopher, social reformer, architect, and esotericist. Steiner gained initial recognition at the end of the nineteenth century as a literary critic and published philosophical works including The Philosophy of Freedom. At the beginning of the twentieth century, he founded an esoteric spiritual movement, anthroposophy, with roots in German idealist philosophy and theosophy; other influences include Goethean science and Rosicrucianism.” [wiki link]

Moreover, I found a website, Rudolf Steiner web, which shows a couple of buildings for which Steiner is renown.

If I had the means, I would buy one (or two, as long as I am dreaming) apartments in this building. I gleaned that renovation of Krasiński 21/23 is imminent, and I hope that the restoration work honors the original design and all its Gothic (Nouveau Gothic?) details. If only I had the means….

[Photographs taken 25 June 2015]

ul. Stanisława Małachowskiego 24

One of my favorite ways to learn Wrocław is by bicycle, especially with M and T, with T as our intrepid tour guide. Both M and T are natives, but M is learning the city by tracing T’s routes with him. One recent Saturday, T led us on a nostalgia tour of his childhood (another set of photos I’ve yet to upload). On that same trip, we came up behind ul. Małachowskiego 24, a building that looked abandoned but, once T and I investigated inside, showed signs of residency. I have asked Google for information about this street (crossing at ul. Gen. Kazimierza Pułaskiego), and while I’ve found other photographs, I haven’t yet found historical information. I’ll be sure to update after I’ve found some.

One update [quoted with minor grammatical corrections]: [Małachowski] Street was marked by the Bureau of Police in Wroclaw on 20 September 1844. Its origin is connected with the construction in 1842 of the Upper Silesian Station, which was built on the road linking the highway [to] Suburb Oławskie Strzelin. Originally called Flurstraβe which translated into Polish is roughly ‘Łanowa Street.'” [link: wroclaw.fotopolska.eu]

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My bicycle at the entrance to the rear of the building at 24.

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Looking back at the rear entrance of ul. Małachowskiego 24

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The worn, wood steps are inset with lovely, metal grills letting in light from the window at each landing.

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The deterioration, stink, litter, and graffiti point to hard times in a building that retains details of its former beauty.

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No. 8 looks inhabited, at least from this side of the door.

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The landing from the topmost floor.

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Door to ul. Małachowskiego.

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The building from the rear.

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Rear entrance to adjacent building number 22.

[Date of photographs: 31 May 2015]

Wrocław 2016

I’ve been telling people that Wrocław was named European City of the Year 2016, and I’m not sure if that is a separate honor from European Capital of Culture, which Wrocław shares with Donostia-San Sebastián, Spain, in 2016.

In addition, Wrocław has been named World Book Capital for 2016.

All I know is I’m seeing much construction and renovation happening around, especially in Stare Miasto (Old Town), and it’s exciting. I need to post more photos of this beautiful city. (<–Note to self.)

Here’s a photo from the World Book Capital link:

©Grzegorz Grycner

Rynek, Wrocław [©Grzegorz Grycner]