June 4 – July 2, 2022 (Summer)

Poland was high on our list to revisit, and after excellent stays in Warsaw, Krakow, and Tri-City, it was clear what our next destination should be: Poznan! Then we learned that Wrocław hosted something called the Good Beer Festival at “Tarczyński Arena” and our lives had a singular new purpose.

The journey was not without its difficulties. Warsaw’s small and efficient airline usually accommodates tight connections. Not this time. Our plane from Bucharest was delayed by a no-fly zone around some more-important flight (we assumed on the way to the ongoing war in Ukraine). Just two customer service people worked to rebook the hundreds of displaced passengers.

Thankfully our rebooking was a simple hop on one of several daily flights from the capital and not a complete upending of some convoluted international itinerary.

It wasn’t long before the troubles were a distant memory. Wroclaw (pronounced vrot-swav) is one of many that claim the title “Venice of the North” for the meandering Oder River and miles of canals weaving through its center. We didn’t find it terribly Venetian, but we did find it extremely pleasant.

Many waterways outside the core are lined with trees and trails. Others have paddle-boat and kayak rental stands. Beach bars opened in a few spots for the summer season. From our apartment we could walk 10 minutes in any direction and reach a charming waterfront stroll.

One of those directions brought us to the city center, where trees and trails gave way to landscaped parks and the colorful buildings of the Old Town. Midstream islands host summer events like concerts, and are favorite picnic spots.

The urban side of the old center is beautiful too. The grand Town Hall dominates one of several main squares. A rich blend of Polish and German history has resulted in a fascinating mix of ornate architecture.

While soaring churches tower above, some of the city’s best attractions scurry below. Wroclaw teems with tiny gnomes✨. They run the gamut from armed✨ and noble knights✨ to little troublemakers✨. Try to stay on their good side!

And then we came to the main event of our stay, the aptly-named Good Beer Festival at Tarczyński Arena✨. There were more than 150 breweries, each sampling an impressive range of offerings. Kevin was in heaven. Danielle could only look on and admire the colors and aromas. We’d looked forward to this for months, but just two weeks before we got some rather important news✨ that precluded her participation. So while Danielle was eating for two, Kevin had to drink for two!

Kevin’s favorite beer (and Danielle’s envy) was a Port-barrel aged stout that captured the imagination and satisfied the palate. But why chose just one? Polish breweries excel at experimenting with different styles and flavors. From bright-green kiwi to hemp beer to simple and tasty lagers, they’ve mastered it all. Fortunately there was plenty of agreeable street food to help soak up the excess liquid. Both of us could enjoy tasty tacos and Portuguese natas in the relaxed (and surprisingly family-friendly) atmosphere.

Just being at the arena was a sort of pilgrimage for us. Our family name has been Anglicized and Americanized, but Tarczyński is the original Polish spelling. A food company of the same name sponsors the Wroclaw Arena (along with a local football team), but really, who’s to say it’s not our name up there? It felt delightfully personal to see it in giant letters everywhere we looked. Even with the change in plans, our trip to the Good Beer Festival was a remarkable memory and more than worthy visit. And Kevin owes Danielle a return someday.

With Danielle teetotaling, we sought out some delightful tea and coffee spots instead. This included the cozy, student-oriented FC Caffe. Their lattes were far more memorable than the snacks, but luckily an excellent donut shop, Dobra Pączkarnia, is just a block away.

And of course, all manner of food was still on the table. Well, except for chicken, Danielle’s main anti-craving. And that week where she couldn’t stand chocolate which convinced her she was expecting a boy, because quote “a girl wouldn’t do this to me.” Luckily the market at Hala Targowa had plenty of everything. Warm pastries, tasty produce, fresh cut flowers and small shops upstairs for oddball chores. The restaurant Targowa at the entrance was a little touristy but had decent food and beverages for a relaxing evening.

Summer days were hot and Danielle tired easily, so we enjoyed plenty of comparatively cool nighttime walks (sometimes with charming company✨).

Streets were quieter as well. The buildings put their best facades forward at this hour with well-placed lights highlighting their architectural features and grandeur.

As mentioned, Tarczyński✨ sponsors the local football team, but not the kind you think. We’re talking American football! Our visit was just in time to enjoy✨ the opening game of the season and cheer on the home team Wroclaw Panthers.

Excitement was high. Both teams had a few die-hard fans with drums, cheerleaders, and intimidating chants. It did feel a bit like a high school game, both because of the modest stadium and because the level of play was a touch underwhelming. Still, with skill (and a bit of luck✨) the Panthers came home with the W!

Any stay that ends at a train station instead of an airport is a happy one. And Wroclaw definitely made us happy. It’s a lovely city with many of the things we enjoy – parks, beer, festivals, our name in lights. It was a strange month though. We started prenatal doctor’s visits and jumped into planning where we’d be for the birth of our baby. We spent more time looking forward than around us, and the city got a bit lost among the trees. Fortunately we can return someday, a new Tarchenski in tow, and Danielle can finally get to try a few beers.

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