Sunday, 9 December 2012

Wrocław, City of Neon

While in Wrocław last week I was struck by the return of the city's most memorable neons, shining brightly in a city that's had a thorough facelift for the Euro 2012 football championships (now a faded memory...). Although Wrocław Głowny station's remont is still not 100% complete, it is now a welcoming and aesthetically pleasing place. I remember coming here in 2001 on a business trip and sending a colleague to take a look at the city map in a dark corner just off the main concourse. He was struggling not to retch from the stench of urine and vomit. How different the place is today. Arriving at half past six in the morning after a comfortable journey on the night train, I'm greeted by the neons, below, at the western end of the platforms.

Below: the station's façade, built as Breslau Hauptbahnhoff in 1857, now beautifully restored and illuminated, topped off with a working neon. Sadly, across the main road (ie. directly behind me as I took this photo), the legendary neon 'Dobry wieczór we Wrocławie' is only partly working, with several of the letters unlit.

Below: back inside the station, there's more classic neon, mid-century moderne typeface at odds with the mid-19th century architecture, but a joy to behold anyhow. I remember this neon from 1976, queuing up to buy a ticket for a steam train to Kłodzko.

Below: another one of Wrocław's landmark neons - 'ubezpiecz mieszkanie w PZU' - the four burglars, on Pl. Tadeusza Kościuszki. 'Insure your flat with PZU' is the slogan, with a sequentially-illuminated series of masked and flat-capped burglars creeping from right to left, key in hand, ready to break in.

Other PRL-era neons that still light up Wrocław by night include this one advertising a hairdresser's salon, on ul. Tęczowa, below.

Below: another 'fryzier' neon, this one on Marszałka Józefa Piłsudskiego, opposite the Scandic Hotel where I was staying - a place I can very much recommend for service and value for money. Fryzier, by the way, is a loan word from the French friseur. Looking at Google Street View, I can see that this neon has only recently been restored and replaced. All of the neons in the post were around in the late '90s, when I first snapped them.

I'm very pleased that as in Warsaw, there's an appreciation in Wrocław for its old neons and that many have been preserved and still bring light and joy to the city.

This time last year:
Ronald Reagan remembered

This time two years ago:
Accident of birth

This time three years ago:
Under the Liberator

This time four years ago:
Jeziorki on old maps


Anonymous said...

Great post. I always thought Polish neon was under-appreciated. In my city of Bydgoszcz, all neon has vanished. :(

Michael Dembinski said...

Funnily enough, a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon some old postcards of Bydgoszcz neon, in particular the huge one on the front of the railway station ('Poznaj piękno ziemi bydgoskiej') Now that really was something!