Though Opole is primarily known as the home of the National Festival of Polish Songs, held here since 1963, the city offers plenty to do and see all year round. Every year, Opole hosts new and regular events, fairs, shows and competitions. Most places of interest are easily accessible from the historic center of the city, making it possible to view them all even if you have only a few hours to spend in Opole.
Some of the points of interest are the historic churches and monasteries (fragments from 1280), the tombs of Piast princes and a huge tower that is the only remnant of the castle dismantled by the Germans in 1930. Encircled by fine tenement houses, the magnificent market square locates the town hall, which suggests the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.
A city with islands
While almost the entire city is on the mainland, on either side of the river Oder, it also includes two islands, Bolko and Pasieka. Lying in the middle of the river Oder, the former is definitely worth a trip as it offers some wonderful walking areas, with playgrounds hidden in the park, a lovely pond and a zoo.
The city has many hotels and restaurants that offer the specialties of Silesian cuisine that Opole is well-known for. The warm months sees the sidewalks blooming with umbrellas as many popular cafe's open for the season.
History of Opole
Leaving legend aside, the name Opole originates from the old Polish word “opole”, meaning an ancestral territorial community. Another explanation of the origin of the city’s name is that it comes from the simple word “pole” (field in English): as the legend goes, there once lived a tribal lord who had lost his way while hunting in the thick woods, and when he eventually came across a settlement, he cried “O! Pole!”. Following that, he decided to start a city there.
With a known history dating back to the 9th century, Opole is one of the oldest towns in Poland. A “Bavarian geographer” was the first to describe the town of the Opolanie (one of the Slavonic tribes), situated on the river Oder. However, the origins of Opole as a town connect with the signing of a document giving it the rights of a town in 1217 by Kazimierz I, grandson of the Polish king, Boleslaw Krzywousty. In this way Opole came to be the capital of the Opole-Raciborz Principality. In 1283, Kazimierz I ordered a family residence to be built, known as the Piast Castle, on Pasieka Island. The city’s position on the intersection of several main trade routes helped generate steady profits from transit trade.
Following the death of the last ruler of the Piast dynasty, Opole was incorporated into Brandenburg and later Prussia. Under Prussian control, a strong inflow of settlers from Germany accelerated the process of intense Germanization.
In 1751 Opole was home to 1,186 people. After establishing the seat of the regency here in 1816, the town began to develop rapidly. The first railway connection linking Opole with Brzeg and Wroclaw was completed in 1843. Beginning with the creation of the first cement factory in 1859, the cement industry continues to contribute to the development and prosperity of Opole.
After the Silesia division in 1922, Opole together with a large part of Upper Silesia remained on the German side. On March 24, 1945 the Polish administration took control over the city, which at that time only had 200 permanent inhabitants. More than 900 houses, most of the industrial plants and all the bridges were destroyed during the course of the war. However, with the coming of peace, people immediately embarked on rebuilding their town. Opole was established as a district capital in 1950 and develops very actively ever since.
Cathedral Of The Holy Cross Opole
The Cathedral of The Holy Cross in Opole is a Gothic church with beautiful star vaulting from the mid 16th century. According to the bequest, the first church was built during the time of Boleslaw the Brave. In 1024 the church received the relic of the Holy Cross from Saint Emeryk, the Hungarian prince. In 1232 the church raised to the rank of collegiate church, in 1945 - suffragan cathedral, from 1972 a cathedral. The last rebuilding in the years 1897-1902 resulted in the building of two Neo-Gothic towers, 73 meters in height.
Inside among other items of interest are the font with the coat of arms of Opole from the 15th century, the famous miraculous image of the Mother of God of Opole - patron of the diocese and Opole, and the chapel with mausoleum and grave cover of Jan II Dobry, last prince of the family of Opole Piasts.
The Piast Tower Opole
The only remnant of the Piast Castle in Opole, which was demolished by the Germans in the years 1928-1930. This cylindrical building in the Gothic style, in the original interior of the walls of the castle, was built about 1,300 of stone (faced with brick) and on foundations of field stones of up to 6 meters deep. The tower is 35 meters in height and the lower part of its wall is 3 meters thick.
Initially, one entered the tower from the upper storey of the castle by ladder and climbed higher by wooden stairs. The present lower entrance dates from the previous century. The crown of the tower alone has been changed several times, though it was always conical. Only in 1934 it was given its spire of today.
Museum of the Polish Song Opole
The Polish Song Museum in Opole is a unique place presenting Polish song's history. It was recognized as the “Top Tourist Product of 2016” by Polish Tourist Organization. Visitors can learn about Polish culture through the history of Polish songs. It's the only institution in Poland whose main purpose is to create an information center devoted entirely to the Polish song and to protecting its heritage, with particular emphasis placed not only on performers but also on authors themselves.
Visitors are equipped in audio-guide and comfortable headphones. During the tour they can admire video clips, musical publications, photos, audio, costumes worn by stars, kids' room, musical exhibits, multimedia library and more. There are also organised temporary and outdoor exhibitions.