August 7-11, 2022
Jary, The Village
About twenty kilometers northwest of Wroclaw, Poland lies the tiny village of Jary. Before World War Two Jary was a bit of a resort town; people from the city would escape to the forest on weekends, staying in the hotel and dining in the restaurant across the road. Some had summer homes here. Wroclaw (then called Breslau) and this part of Poland was part of Germany during the years leading up to and during World War Two.
Today Jary is still a destination for hikers and cyclists to escape the city, though it’s primarily day trips now. The hotel is long gone, and the restaurant has become the town community center. Only around 110 people live in Jary. You can walk from one end of town to the other in literally a few minutes.
Our friends Michal, Pati, and their daughter Roza live in Jary, in a house that was Michal’s grandparents summer home. He, Marcin, and Lukasz are also part of Jary, the AC/DC Tribute band. And when they decided to spend summers touring the world by motorcycle (which is of course how I met them), the inevitable result was MotoJary.
I was here in 2016 on my 250 as I crossed Europe, but this was Diana’s first time to meet most of them; Marcin and Ela had been to our place in 2018. We spent several days visiting with old friends and new in Jary and the surrounding area, and Team Jary was kind enough to give us a tour of the area as well as feed and entertain us.
Team Jary, The People, and The Tour
We began with a quick trip to Wroclaw. This is such a big and vibrant city and our time was limited, so we did a quick walking tour of the old town area. But first, food…
Lunch at Targowa Craft Beer & Food. We shared a “Meat Board”, which included a pork knuckle, pork ribs, fried Ruthenian dumplings, sausage, half a roast duck, pork schnitzel, baked potatoes, Silesian dumplings, and salads. What a feast!
Then it was off in search of dwarves in the downtown area. Since 2005, the number of these small bronze statues has continued to grow. It began when a large gnome statue was placed on Swidnicka Street as a monument to the Orange Alternative (Polish anti-communist movement). Since then, the number of small statues has grown to around 600, and they have become a tourist attraction in their own right. Many are associated with the businesses where they are located.
These little guys are generally less than twelve inches tall. This one is in front of the Raclawicka Panorama building, and is an imitation of part of the Panorama painting (below).
Another photo of part of the Raclawicka Panorama. Note how at the bottom the painting flows into 3D dirt, brush, etc. In some areas even wagons, and other materials are used to extend the painting and make it more life-like. The panorama is 50 feet tall and 375 feet long and depicts the Battle of Raclowice in 1794. Viewers stand in the center of the round building and the painting depicts different scenes from the battle as you move around it.
The building housing the Raclawicka Panorama.
Roza with two dwarves named after the local shopping area.
A dwarf sits and reads a book in front of a bookstore while a little boy admires the books in the window.
At the entrance to the Korona Hotel
The architecture in the old town square. It never gets old looking at these buildings.
This might be one of the stranger public art pieces I’ve seen. At the bottom (sorry, can’t read it in the photo) it says “Do It Yourself Crucifixion”.
On “Butchers Street”, where all the meat markets were located, is this memorial to the animals. It reads “In Honor of the Slaughtered Animals” and is signed “Consumers”.
The Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, across the Oder River on a large island in the middle of Wroclaw.
MotoJary, The Tour Guides: Part I
The next day we all jumped on bikes and did a tour of the local area.
The remains of a large palace stand in what is now a city park in Zmigrod.
These large man-made ponds were created to raise and harvest fish.
And with all that water comes the National Bird of Alaska (and Finland, and apparently this part of Silesia as well): the Mosquito.
There are these beautiful walkways/bicycle paths paved with bricks all over the area. I’m still not sure you’re allowed to ride motorcycles down it, but hey, we’re just a couple of tourists following the locals.
Near the fish ponds is this great seafood restaurant serving fresh carp. We had to try it. And thanks to Google Translate, we were able to read the rest of the menu as well.
Speaking of Google Translate, here’s a screenshot of another menu as it was translated by Google Translate’s camera function. Note that they serve lawyers with ice cream for dessert.
We returned to Marcin and Ela’s house, where Ela and baby Lilia had been preparing a wonderful dinner for us (okay, I think Lilia did some supervising between naps). Marcin’s and Lukasz’s father joined us, and showed us his own dwarf, a gift at his retirement from teaching.
Marcin, Zbigniew (with his dwarf), and Lukasz.
Dr. Dobrzanski is retired from the Wroclaw University of Environmental and Life Sciences, where he was a Professor specializing in Animal Production. Michal told us how as a child, each Easter he would see Dr. Dobrzanski on the national news, being interviewed about Easter chicks, and he became lovingly known as the “Chicken Professor”. Thus, his dwarf is holding a chicken in one arm and a weather measurement device in the other hand.
When his children asked where he was going to place his dwarf, the conversation went something like this:
Dr. Dobrzanski: “I want you to place him on my grave next to my headstone.”
Kids: “But Dad, someone will steal him.”
Dad: “Use two bolts and bolt him down.”
Kids: “Dad, they will just unbolt it and steal him anyway.”
Dad (with a sly grin): “No they won’t. Because I’ll be holding onto him from below.”
Dr. Dobrzanski is just a wonderful man to talk with. We loved our time sitting on Marcin and Ela’s back patio, having dinner and hearing the stories.
Jary, The Band
Later that evening, as Diana and I were sitting on the patio, we heard music in the garage. This could only mean one thing: Jary was in the house! Michal had a plan and had invited their bass player to join us. Their lead singer wasn’t available, so Michal stepped up to the mic, and we were treated to our own short set, including a couple of original songs. Here’s just a very short clip of what we got to hear that night.
Here’s a video of Jary, the full band, playing a larger outdoor show:
MotoJary, The Tour Guides, Part II
We left Ela, Lilia and Pati behind the next morning, but Roza joined Michal in the car and he lead Marcin, Lukasz, Diana and me on a tour around southwest Poland.
Next up was the monastery at Lubiaz. This place is just too huge to describe. No photos or words can do justice to the massive size of this building. It was in such a bad condition after the war (it had been used as a military headquarters) and is so huge that even the Polish government couldn’t afford to restore it. So it has been an ongoing process for decades, with many more decades to go. Only a few rooms of the building have been restored thus far, and work continues on the facade.
The ceilings were covered with wood during the war/building’s occupation, so many of them survived better than some.
One of the restored rooms.
There’s a fair amount of strangeness in this place as well, including many of the statues and paintings. And then there’s this, which is part painting, part statue, as the massive ceiling painting becomes three dimensional when the body of the subject emerges from the painting.
Another of the finished rooms. Only a small number of monks lived here when it was a monastery. The majority of them were not allowed into the main building, as they were deemed “not worthy enough”. They instead lived in much more modest accommodations and worked hard to support the lifestyle of the few.
Headed across the Silesian countryside, with Michal leading the way in his tent-top Duster.
We rode about fifty miles from the monastery to Zamek Grodziec, or Grodziec Castle, whose origins date back to 1155. Many attempts have been made over centuries to restore the castle, but it has never been finished.
The views from this castle on the hill are great. Rumor has it that MotoJary did a presentation several years ago about their travels in America to a large group of motorcyclists who camped at the castle one weekend.
Along a river not far from where we camped that evening, we saw this now-abandoned railroad bridge. It made me think about the conversation that took place the day the bridge’s architect/designer arrived to see the finished work: “Uh, Georg, did you ever stop to think maybe you were holding the plans upside down?”
That night we camped on a grassy riverbank in Włen. I had met Lukasz and Michal while camped on a grassy riverbank in Llano, Texas in 2014, and this place reminded all of us of that fateful day. They referred to the campground in Włen as “Polish Llano”.
After one night at “Polish Llano”, Team Jary headed back to their day jobs, and Diana and I spent one more night on the riverbank before heading to Prague.
Saying goodbye after our last lunch together in Lwówek Ślaski, Marcin on the right (who goes by “Doober” around the Jary guys) and Lukasz on the left (who Roza calls “Other Doober”).
So long til next time, Team Jary!