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Charlotte's Sister City, Wroclaw, Poland

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I just returned from a visit to Charlotte's Polish Sister City, Wroclaw (pronounced Vrots-wav). Although virtually leveled by the Nazis in WWII and held back by the Communist regime for 50 years, the place is amazing! Street cars that take you to virtually anywhere in the city of 700,000 that you want to go, beautiful architecture, great art (old and new), clean streets, good food, friendly people (we got on the wrong streetcar one night and the driver not only directed us to the right tram, he came over to make sure we were standing on the right platform and directed the driver of the tram to tell us when we had reached the correct stop), and incredible public works projects. All in all, a great trip. The really cool part? On the wall in the lobby of city hall, a listing of Wroclaw's Sister Cities. There it was in big letters, "Charlotte, USA".

The Main Square



Has anyone else ever visited one of our Sister Cities? Which ones?

Edited to add photo.

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Thanks for the trip report MC. I havn't ever been to any of Charlotte's sister cities but I will say that it can be depressing to go to a place like Wroclaw and then come back to Charlotte and see how far we have to go before becoming a real city.

For anyone interested you can go the the 2nd Floor of the Char Meck Govt Center downtown where they have a hallway of display cases on stuff from our varouis Sister Cities around the world.

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Thanks for the pics! That looks like a beautiful city. The first picture of the main square reminds me of Oporto for some reason. I haven't been to any of Charlotte's sister cities yet, but I will be going to Arequipa Peru sometime because my wife's grandmother and several of her aunts are from there. I've been to my wife's hometown of Lima but we did not have time during that trip to go to Arequipa, so we will be going there the next time we travel to Peru. I will share pics whenever that happens.

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This is interesting. I knew we had sister cities around the world but I didn't know anything about them. This got me thinking...what a great venue for public artwork or even something bigger one day. About 5 years ago we had rocking chairs as art pieces placed all over the city. I think it would be cool to so something similar and place some interesting artifacts around uptown from our sister cities along with some information about that sister city. It would be pretty unique for our area I think. The light rail stations would be great locations too. It could tie in with an art exhibit at a museum with even more information, pictures, and artifacts. Maybe if Charlotte sends them something of ours to display they will send back something in return. I know it's very Disney, but how cool would a venue such as Epicentre be if buildings were modeled off of famous landmarks from our sister cities? I'm thinking what Epcot does for countries but on a smaller scale and for retail purposes. It's a pipe dream I know, but that would be awesome to see.

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In the spirit of glasnost, I'll mention that I went to Wroclaw, too (those paying attention know that a few of us are friends behind the scenes).

It really an incredible city that deserves more attention from Charlotte leaders, since they could learn a great deal from the place.

For one, they are rebuilding and restoring many buildings that were damaged over time. I'm not pretending that Charlotte should have all the benefits of being built in the baroque period, but I think that this city could learn a lot from this and other European cities about saving or rebuilding its architectural treasures, even if they are badly damaged. I have mentioned it a number of times on UP before, but I absolutely want this city to rebuild a couple of its best buildings that have been torn down. Charlotte wasn't that wealthy 100 years, so I think that they could do it with maybe $5m or less. While it would feel less authentic than the European examples being on their original location, they could even rebuild many of them in a row in a selected street (like Brevard or Stonewall or something) that could help create a new destination area. Take a look through here to see what I mean when I say Charlotte had many buildings that would be worth rebuilding to original architectural details. It would be much better than the guilt-inspired faux-mill brick buildings like the arena. It really isn't that hard for many of them, just a matter of building a modern shell matching the scale of the original structure, and having architects carefully detail the facade design for the builders. (Note that many of the facades above are rebuilt since the war.)


Another point that I think Charlotte could learn from Wroclaw and many other European cities is that ones to grow to a certain point, it is okay to convert certain streets to pedestrian-only or pedestrian and transit. It has been brought up before on UP by others, but I think it would be great to close Trade and Tryon for one block from the square (Church, 4th, 5th, College) to through traffic and make it cobblestone or brick. Not only would be truly be a square again, but will allow for College and Church to grow up like Tryon has as more eyeballs will go there. It is just an idea worth exploring at some point once uptown has stabilized with residents and retail, etc.

Another area that has definitely been mentioned here, but deserves perhaps the most significant attention is that Charlotte should look at building a streetcar network that saturates the central part of the city. Charlotte once had one, so its current density would definitely support one. The issue is affording to rebuild one since the tracks have been ripped out (whereas Europe retained and slowly upgraded theirs). However, it seems that they are exploring a tax structure to get the neighborhoods to pay for the streetcar on Eastland and Beatties Ford, so I am hoping that structure can be scalable to create the streetcar to other areas. Here is their tram map as an example:


The last point that I think Charlotte should learn from this and many other European cities is to end the severe restrictions against pets. Pets could sit at restaurants, get on transit, walk leashless, etc. If your pet would run off or bite, you have them on a leash for their safety or have a muzzle for the safety of others. However, 95% of the dog population has been selectively bred for hundreds or thousands of years to fit into the human world. If they don't crap in the house, they won't crap in the restaurant or the train. It is hardly a health risk since most germs are species specific and it is very rare to get sick from a dog (the whole reason for the myth of dog's mouths being clean). We wouldn't even have to just let it be a free-for-all, we could actually make pet licenses where if they pass certain obedience and friendliness tests, that they could be allowed places. Beyond that, we already have the laws to punish owners if they do not make the right choices for their pets. To me it is a no brainer, but of course I have a golden retriever puppy at licking my ankles at the moment.

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I finally got the pictures from our visit to Wroclaw uploaded. We had typical weather for nothern Europe during winter so nothing spectacular, but here's some of the typical "squares" and old buildings that are throughout the city. And if anyone is interested, we also visited Berlin, Krakow, Auschwitz, Prague and Dresden on our trip, I'll post those in the main forum once I get them all uploaded. Enjoy!

Wroclaw 3-4-08





Check out the artwork made out of the cobblestones in the squares.



A building from 1903








The churches in Europe are amazing, with the detail in some small town churches rivaling what some of our most famous churches have. I had no tripod for this so no better angles then setting my camera down on a bench.






And this was very interesting, just some random street corner where they put in some statues that appeared to be walking under the roadway, same thing was on the other side of the street. Its amazing how much more a poor country can do with art then a corporate city like Charlotte.



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I was floored with what I saw in Wroclaw too. Just to add to what was already said, even entering the city through the sea of commieblocks and American, sprawl-like development, trams were full and people were everywhere. Just to add to what Mo posted, here are a few of my pictures from Charlotte's Polish sister city

Bars, restaurants and other "specialty" retail utilizing the space underneath the rail viaduct



Newer tram riding in traffic...


and an older one


Ped street near the main square


Typical street in the city center


There were all sorts of gnomes throughout the city center. Charlotte should have some sort of art project like these!


In and around the main square




I highly recommend a visit when possible :good:

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Wow, those are some amazing picture guys! You know, honestly, a city like that doesn't really come to mind when I hear "Poland." It just goes to show how different our sides of the world are when it comes to architecture, city planning, and preservation.

On a side note, while not a sister "city" of Charlotte, I did go to a sister university of UNC Charlotte outside of Sydney called Macquarie University. In the student union they had different items and pendants from all of their sister schools around the world. We had the honor of having "Charlotte" plastered on the back of a pair of pink cheerleader shorts! I wish I had taken a picture.

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Between the Piast and the Zywiec, I do not recall that strip of bars.

Seriously, great photos, gentlemen. I think I mentioned this sometime before, but the retail beneath the rail viaduct is exactly what I think Charlotte should do uptown. Otherwise unproductive real estate (other than carrying trains a couple of times a day), gets utilized all the time this way.

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Indeed. I've not been to this part of Europe, but I noticed that in Japan there was not a scrap of unused space. I am of the opinion that every bank tower in downtown Charlotte should rip out their elevator lobbies, even the pretty ones, and replace them with retail space that opens directly onto the street. Too bad so much stuff is still being built now where they still don't get this.

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