Gliwice is one of many towns in the largest industrial area in Poland, paradoxically being very different from the stereotype of an Upper Silesian town. It is a city of culture, of science and of enterprise, with aspirations to become a separate administrative center in Silesia. As one of the oldest towns of the Upper Silesian region, it boasts a good Old Town and several interesting sights.
History of Gliwice
The history of Gliwice began in the 13th century when it was officially declared a town, and some time later it became a bishopric too. Originally ruled by Opole Dukes, in 1526 it passed to the rule of Habsburgs and then 200 years later it became a part of Prussia. It is clear that it has been outside Poland for the greater part of its existence.
The 31st of August 1939 saw a piece of infamous provocation when Nazi soldiers dressed as civilians attacked a German radio station to pretend that the Polish side had provoked German aggression. It gave Hitler a reason to declare war on Poland, and it led to the outbreak of World War II.
Gliwice became a part of Polish territory once more in 1945.
Like other towns of the Upper Silesian conurbation, Gliwice is known mainly as an industrial centre. The best-developed industries are coal mining, steel making and the production of machinery and chemicals. The inland port on the Gliwice Canal gives it access to the Baltic Sea via the Odra River. Gliwice is also an important educational centre, home to most of the departments of the Silesian Polytechnic. The population numbers around 200,000 people.
Gliwice Old Town
However, if you think Gliwice is only about factories and mines then you are mistaken. Founded in the 13th century, the Old Town still manages to keep its mediaeval layout and even the city walls dating from the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries have been partly spared. Among the remaining interesting historic sites is the Piast castle from the 15th century and later largely rebuilt, several old churches, the villa of Caro, some pretty tenement houses and the 19th century Town Hall. All are worth seeing, as is the most characteristic feature of Gliwice’s skyline - the local “Eiffel Tour”, a 110-meter high radio mast and thought to be the world’s tallest wooden construction.
As one of the greenest towns in the region, Gliwice offers plenty of recreational opportunities. The Chopin Park is an oasis of peace, where you can just take a walk or visit the Palm House, one of the best local attractions.
Sources claim that the history of the Plawniowice village dates back to as early as 1317, however, the area was mostly a scenic woodland next to a large lake until 1737, when a nobleman called Franz Wolfgang von Stechow bought it. In 1789 it passed through a marriage to the wealthy noble clan of the Ballestrems, who built a fairy tale palace between 1882 and 1884. Designed by Constantine Heidenreich, the palace is a three-wing structure in the architectural style of Dutch neo-mannerism. It is known for its "contrast in colour and texture between the red brick walls and ornamental stone edging". The roofs are adorned by various turrets, towers, dormers and needles of different shapes and sizes. Moreover, the palatial site is also next to a carefully planned landscape park along a water canal.
The palace remained in the hands of the Ballestrems until the end of World War II when it was abandoned as the Red Army quickly approached the village. The palace was then looted and the lavish interiors were devastated. Following the war, the palace was owned by the Polish state and was neglected, which contributed to its deteriorated over time. Since 1993 it has undergone full renovation and is now a local tourist attraction.