My name is Alexander, I am a first year law student at the University of Nottingham. I came to the UK straight from Poland, but have also lived in the Netherlands for three years. I come from Gliwice, a city in the South of Poland.
It is the westernmost city, forming the Silesian agglomeration, with a population of roughly 200,000 people. The history of Gliwice can be traced back to the Palaeolithic era, when the first settlements were established in the area. The settlement became a major trading outpost, located midway between Wroclaw and Krakow, and was given city rights in the year 1276. After the end of the Piast dynasty, the first dynasty in Poland, Gliwice frequently changed hands. The city fell into the territory of the Czechs, then again into Polish, then was incorporated into Prussia and consequently Germany. It was under German control that the city rapidly expanded and built its famous townhouses, which can be seen in the pictures.
The “Gliwice Incident” was also a direct trigger of World War II. In the eve of the war, a number of SS officers, disguised as Polish soldiers, took over the Gliwice Radio Tower and broadcasted a call for an uprising to the local population. This gave the Nazis an excuse for retaliation, which was consequently carried out and formed a part of the September Campaign – the Invasion of Poland. The city returned to Poland at the end of the war in 1945. In the same year, the Silesian University of Technology was established, becoming one of the top technical universities in the country.
“Gliwice is also a partner city of Doncaster in England and has, in my opinion, the best restaurants in the region”
As the biggest minority in Poland, Silesians have a strong presence in the city. Their language and culture is very similar to that of any Pole, but they have some Czech and German influences. The big political question is what kind of recognition this minority should obtain. Currently, Gliwice is a highly prosperous city. Just last year it was called the third richest middle-sized city in Poland, with an income of approximately £300m. It is a popular tourist attraction and a crucial business centre for the area. Gliwice is also a partner city of Doncaster in England and has, in my opinion, the best restaurants in the region.
“What you must try, however, are the local pretzels, made in the city for decades and sold in stands around the old town”
In terms of places to visit, there are a variety of interesting locations. Go and visit the history museum – Piastowski Castle, which contains traces of all of Gliwice’s past. For more recent history, go to the mentioned Gliwice Radio Tower and learn more about the beginning of World War II. If you are more interested in local culture, head to the Villa Caro, located in the heart of the city. There, you might learn much more about the Silesian minority as well as the customs of the region. If you need more tranquillity, see the Gliwice Palm House indoor gardens, containing species from all around the world. More than a hundred years old, the gardens are a popular destination – even for the locals.
You will also find a variety of restaurants and cafes in the old town. Regardless of whether you enjoy a traditionally-made pizza, sushi, fish, soups or prefer to try the local cuisine, the city has something for everyone. What you must try, however, are the local pretzels, made in the city for decades and sold in stands around the old town. You will not miss them and they cost as little as 20p. In the afternoon, make your way to the centre to get something a little bit more substantial. You will find the city at night to be particularly vibrant and lively. There are dozens of pubs in the old town, each offering distinct beverages and each having a distinct vibe. Try some of the locally made beers or cocktails and take your friends or family with you.
Offering a different experience from visiting mainstream tourist destinations like Warsaw or Krakow, my city is truly worth seeing. If large cities aren’t your thing, you should certainly consider visiting Gliwice! I am certain you will find the city to be full of surprises…
Featured image courtesy of ‘János Korom Dr.’ via Flickr. License here.
Article images by Alexander Kalisz.
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