Day 5: Matthiasstraße
Margaret, June 13, 2004


Sunday we slept in. It was our last day in Wroclaw and it began sunny. The hostel let us leave our bags at the desk as we checked out and we first made our way to the bus stop where we would later catch the bus to the airport. We wanted to see what time to catch it. As we neared the stop, however, pedestrian traffic increased. We hadn’t expected much to be open on a Sunday morning and were surprised the streets weren’t as deserted as they had been on Thursday morning. Then we realized what was going on: a fair. Tents set up with stalls inside. Everything was being sold, from strawberries to kittens. We mingled into the crowd and pressed through endless rows of tents. Clothes for sale, fresh vegetables, strawberries, kitchenwares, perfume, strawberries, candy, kites, strawberries, shoes, jewelry, strawberries. And strawberries.

Suddenly I spotted it: my bathing suit. We had been walking to the train station on Thursday when I had seen the type of bathing suit I’d been searching months for. It hung in a display window of a big store, which was closed for the Corpus Christi holiday. We planned to be gone on Friday and Saturday, I lamented, and Sunday it would be closed. No hope of getting that bathing suit.

But lo, here was the same style, displayed in a tent to my left. I stopped and gestured to it. “Tak.” Yes, that one. They had a tiny changing area at the back of the tent, separated from the crowds by a flimsy curtain, and I was able to try it on. Too small. But good, because the designs a size larger were more appealing. The salesman offered a price and I accepted eagerly, only realizing later that I was probably supposed to barter. But no matter; it was inexpensive compared to German or U.S. prices and I finally had the long-sought-after two-piece.

We bought a couple pastries for breakfast as we maneuvered our way out of the masses and headed up towards the Rynek. We visited the university first, where my grandmother had spent her first two winter semesters as a theology student, before heading to Leipzig for the remainder of her studies. The baroque Aula was in fact, quite impressive, and I enjoyed seeing portraits of academics where saints would normally fit in the murals along the walls. And in the middle of the ceiling fresco, normally reserved for Christ or the Virgin Mary – or even God – was a solitary dove. Outside the main university hall we encountered with surprise and delight a statue of a fencer, apparently quite new and with no inscription, a shiny new epee in his right hand.

Then we walked up Matthiasstraße, despite the fact that it had begun to drizzle. The street reflected the same mishmash of architectural styles we’d seen elsewhere in the city – nineteenth century, Communist era, modern, all on top of one another. Somewhere along Matthiasstraße, my great-grandmother had grown up in a farmhouse that had in her lifetime been encompassed by the expanding city. In the university hallway, we had encountered a man selling books about Wroclaw, including a portfolio of history and maps similar to the one we’d seen of Trzebnica on Friday. One map form the 1800’s clearly showed the farm plots along Matthiasstraße, one of these surely belonging to my great-great-grandparents. I didn’t have an address this time, just a description. And it was impossible to tell where the old farmhouse might have been, although we did find the nearby brewery and shunting yard.

That was the last of our excursions for the trip. We took a tram back to the Rynek and had lunch at Vega again. It rained on and off during the afternoon as we sat, people watched, and ate ice cream cones. Around 4:00 we took the bus to the airport as planned and then flew back to Munich As we got off the plane, I was amused at my own thoughts: “I’m so glad to be back where I speak the language!”