Opolskie is a peculiar, unique in Poland… land of the heart. This smallest voivodeship is known for peace among its inhabitants, who differ in its ancestors, faith, language and preserved traditions. Peace builds – these words are not just an empty slogan here. Good management and well-kept communes are practically synonymous with Opolskie, and the avant-garde of national Rural Renovation programmes, while the towns are proof of how the conscious care of cultural heritage can repay with the appearance of renovated tenements, squares, manors transformed into exclusive hotels and restaurants. Our regional cuisine is rich with Silesian tradition blended into the flavours of the borderland dishes: delicacies! To tourists, Opolskie is like a pill which should be taken for the weekend, preferably with the entire family.
In the past, this was a borderland with a tumultuous, but very rich, history and preserved heritage. It was ruled and developed by the Piasts, the Czech Kings, the Austrian Habsburgs, Prussians and Germans. Since 1945, the Opole Silesia has belonged to Poland. Our voivodeship, which is located on the historical royal tract of Via Regia, which was used by the monarchs, merchants, builders, artists and pilgrims using the Way of St. James to get to Compostela, holds great tourism potential, both inherited and contemporarily created by the locals, who cannot imagine living anywhere else in the country.
The main communication artery of the region is the A4 motorway, which is a segment of the pan-European transport corridor between Berlin and Kiev. The main water artery – the Oder River – runs parallel to the A4.
The capital of the region is the city of Opole on the Oder. The historical and geographical nature of this capital is depicted best by the “Opolska Ceres” fountain, erected on Daszyńskiego Square. The goddess of fertility (Demeter) is surrounded with mythological deities, symbolising the historical pillars of the local industries: agriculture (Proserpina), rafting and navigation (Neptune, Glaucus) and the cement industry (Hercules). The Opole region is the birthplace of the European cement and limestone industry. The inheritor of the over-150-year tradition is “ODRA”, the oldest active cement plant in Poland.
The characteristic Piast Tower rising above the city and the image of the Opole amphitheatre bring to mind the 50-year tradition of the National Festival of Polish Song. Opole is also the arena of the National Theatrical Confrontations; it was here, in tenement No. 4, where Jerzy Grotowski’s world-famous “Theatre of 13 Rows” began its operations in 1959.
The renaissance city hall, built in the style of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, towers over the town square. The Piast tower on Pasieka Island is a remnant of the castle of the Piasts of Opole. The “Opole Acropolis”, which is located in the highest spot of the city, on a limestone hill, is home to Opole University, with the gallery of Silesian Baroque sculptures on the slope, St. Adalbert’s chapel and statues of the icons of Polish song, theatre and art.
The Opole Open-Air Museum of Rural Architecture in Bierkowice is a nationally-unique ethnographic park, which spreads over ten hectares. It transports tourists to the age of wooden houses with threshing floors, forges with bellows, apiaries, and mills, to the age of homemade bread and eating from clay pots.
Opolskie is a land of castles, palaces, and manors. The region is home to almost 200, the most in Poland. Ages ago, the Castle of the Silesian Piasts in Brzeg was the home of the intellectual and cultural life of Silesia. The preserved richly-sculpted facade of the gatehouse is one of the best examples of central European renaissance. One of the most important strongholds is Otmuchów – the former castellany of the Wrocław bishops.
During the Swedish Deluge, the walls of the renaissance castle of the Oppersdorffs in Głogówek provided shelter to the King of Poland John Casimir and his court. Kamień Śląski is the home of the “Sebastianeum Silesiacum” – a sanatorium specialising in treatment with water and herbs according to the methods of the Bavarian priest Sebastian Kneipp. It is located in the old stables, in the park and palace complex of St. Hyacinth’s sanctuary. Tourists and pilgrims are attracted to the renovated palace by the permanently-strong cults of the locally-born St. Hyacinth, the founder of the Dominican Monasteries in Poland, the Blessed Ceslaus and the Blessed Bronisława.
Anyone desiring peace and quiet must visit Moszna, where a sentimental park hosts a Disney-like palace, which currently serves as a sanatorium. This charming location will soon become the home of the Regional Centre of Recreational and Cultural Tourism, which will be perfectly complemented by the nearby race-horse breeding centre, the most famous in Poland.
Due to its completely-preserved mediaeval ring of walls with 19 towers, Paczków is referred to as the Silesian Carcassonne. Nysa is the “Silesian Rome”. For centuries, it was second to only Wrocław as the wealthiest Silesian city, the capital of the Nysa Principality. There is the treasury located in the walls of the unfinished bell tower next to the Basilica of St. James and St. Agnes, which is home to the unique, recently-discovered products of local goldsmiths. In 2007, Nysa hosted the beatification of the founder of the Congregation of St. Elizabeth, Maria Luiza Merkert. The fortifications surrounding the city are among Nysa’s biggest attractions. The annual “Nysa Fortress Days” remind the locals of the historic siege of 1807. I recommend seeing Nysa and its surroundings on foot, along the recently-marked trail of St. James. This is a segment of the contemporarily-recreated ancient Camino de Santiago.
A special location on the map of the Opole Silesia is St. Anne’s Hill. The extinct volcano is home to the most significant Upper Silesian sanctuary, Calvary and monumental stone amphitheatre. The treasure of the temple, which is cared for by the Franciscans, is the priceless lime statue of St. Anne from the 15th Century, containing the relics of the saint.
The Mediaeval Opole heritage also includes the Trail of the Mediaeval Brzeg Polychromes: as many as 18 churches host the unique gothic paintings created by the unknown Master of the Brzeg Adoration of the Magi and his imitators. The route leads from Brzeg – from the Church of St. Nicholas – through Małujowice, Łukowice Brzeskie, Przylesie, Krzyżowice, Pogorzela, Strzelniki, and Kruszyna.
The trail of the sacral wooden buildings leads through 12 of the 70 wooden temples of the Opole region. It ends with St. Anne’s pilgrimage church, the most interesting, architecturally, in Europe, located near Olesno, built on the plan of a rose. St. Anne’s church is a grade A monument, and its model, with the model of the Eiffel Tower, was presented at the world exhibition of architectural arts in New York.
The land of Kluczbork and Olesko is “the land of milk and honey”. The region of the birthplace of the most famous beekeeper in the world, the priest Jan Dzierżon, is home to the most agricultural tourism farms in the Opole region.
In Krasiejów, in the layers of loam extracted for the needs of the cement industry, the researchers of the Polish Academy of Sciences discovered a graveyard of reptiles and amphibians from the age of dinosaurs, including a complete skeleton of the oldest ancient dinosaur in the world, which has been named Silesaurus Opolensis. It lived approximately 230 million years ago. This is where the Jurapark was built, which has become one of the most important pillars of regional tourism, as well as an international research centre. The Krasiejów Jurapark is the target of family and school trips. The oceanarium, the cinema of emotions (5D Cinema), the multimedia trip in a time capsule through the history of our planet will also attract students and scientists, much like the pavilion - the world’s only museum directly above an active paleontological station.
The Mała Panew River runs near the Jurapark, which, due to its exceptionally colourful meanders, is referred to as the “Opole Amazon”. The region of the Mała Panew Valley has 370 km of designated and marked cycling routes, and marinas, which host kayaking trips.
The three barrier lakes of the Opole region - Turawskie, Nyskie and Otmuchowskie – are the most popular places for recreation and relaxation in the region. Covered with forests and favouring sailors with good winds, Turawa is considered as one of the best places in Poland to fish for pikeperch.
The southern part of the Voivodeship is home to the Opawskie Mountains, with the tallest peak in the region, Kopa Biskupia (890 m above sea level), which provides a panoramic view of the Polish and Czech sides. As far as landscapes and nature are concerned, this is the most valuable part of the voivodeship. It offers numerous hiking and cycling routes, a good hotel and agricultural tourism base, trout-fishing locations, modern seminar and conference centres, and recreational and rehabilitation facilities. The partnership cooperation with the surrounding communes of the Czech border and the lack of barriers dividing the Polish and Czech villages have recently caused the regions of Głuchołazy, Jarnołtówek and Pokrzywna to become very attractive to fans of mountain hikes, cross-country skiing, and since the borders have been opened, “local” dumplings and good beer après runs on the slope in Zlate Hory.
Opolskie, with over one million inhabitants, our little homeland, located on the historic Polish, German and Czech border, is an intimate, traditional, but also avant-garde and interesting part of Europe. Get to know it!