Bochnia

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Bochnia  is a town of 30,000 inhabitants on the river Raba in southern Poland. The town lies approximately in halfway [38 kilometres (24 mi)] between Tarnow (east) and the regional capital Krakow (west). Bochnia is most noted for its salt mine, the oldest functioning in Europe, built c. 1248. Since Poland’s administrative reorganization in 1999, Bochnia has been the administrative capital of Bochnia County in Lesser Poland Voivodeship. Before reorganization it was part of Tarnow Voivodeship. The area of Bochnia (as for 2002) is 29.89 square kilometres (11.54 sq mi). The town is located along national roads 94 and 75. The A4 motorway European route E40 also passes to the north of the town. It also has a rail station. Bochnia is a stop on a strategic West – East line from Krakow to Medyka (former Galician Railway of Archduke Charles Louis)

History : Bochnia is one of the oldest cities of Lesser Poland. The first known source mentioning the city is a letter of 1198, where in Aymar the Monk, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, confirmed a donation by local magnate Mikora Gryfit to the monastery of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre in Miechow. The discovery of a major occurrence of rock salt at the site of the present mine in 1248 led to the granting of city privileges (Magdeburg rights) on 27 February 1253 by Boleslaw V the Chaste. In the original founding document, the German name of the town (Salzberg) is mentioned as well, since many residents of Bochnia were German-speaking settlers from Lower Silesia.

Due to its salt mine and favourable location, Bochnia, which belonged to Krakow Voivodeship, was one of main cities of Lesser Poland. In the 14th century, during the reign of King Kazimierz Wielki, a town hall was built, a defensive wall with four gates, a hospital and shelter for miners, and construction of St. Nicolas Basilica began. In appreciation of Kazimierz Wielki’s influence on the development of Bochnia, his monument was erected on town’s market square in the late 19th century. In the 15th century, a school was opened, and in 1623, Bernardine Abbey was founded in Bochnia. At that time, many pilgrims from Lesser Poland and Silesia visited the town, to see a miraculous painting of St. Mary, kept at a local Dominican church.

In 1561 Bochnia burned down in a fire and its salt deposits were depleted, leading to the town’s decline. In 1655 Bochnia was captured by the Swedes, in 1657 by the Transylvanians, and in 1662, by the Cossacks. In the 1660s, there were only 54 houses still standing. In 1702, the town was destroyed in the Great Northern War. Fires caused further damage in 1709 and 1751. In 1772, Bochnia was annexed by the Austrian Empire, and remained part of Galicia until 1918. The Austrians liquidated both abbeys, and tore down the town hall together with the defensive wall. In 1867, Bochnia County was created and the town began a slow recovery spurred by construction of the Galician Railway of Archduke Charles Louis. In 1886, first public library was opened, in the late 19th century, the waterworks, and in 1913, a movie theater.

In the Second Polish Republic, Bochnia belonged to Krakow Voivodeship and was the capital of a county. The town was a small garrison of the Polish Army, with 3rd Silesian Uhlans Regiment stationed here since 1924. On September 6/7, 1939, Bochnia was defended by several Polish units. One of the first mass executions in occupied Poland took place in the town: the Germans shot 52 Poles as a reprisal for killing two German police officers.

World War II : At the outbreak of World War II, an estimated 3,500 Jews lived in Bochnia, comprising about 20% of the total population. During the German occupation of Poland, Bochnia was the site of a Jewish ghetto to which Jews from surrounding areas were forced to move by the Nazis. The entire Jewish community was murdered in the Holocaust apart from 200 forced laborers employed at a plant headed by Gerhard Kurzbach, a Wehrmacht soldier, who ordered them to work overtime and thereby saved them from deportation.It is estimated that approximately 15,000 Jews were deported from Bochnia, with at least a further 1,800 killed in the town and its surroundings. About 90 Jews from Bochnia survived the war, either in hiding, in camps or in the Soviet Union. Most of them immigrated to the US, Brazil, Belgium, and Israel.

In 1944, the 12th Home Army Infantry Regiment was established in Bochnia. In April 1943, Witold Pilecki hid there after his escape from Auschwitz. In Communist Poland, Bochnia grew larger, with several villages incorporated into the town, mostly in the 1970s. In 1975, Bochnia belonged to Tarnow Voivodeship, and in 1984, a by-pass of the European route E40 was completed, redirecting the traffic from congested center of the town.

Access : Coordinates: 49.966667, 20.433333 / There are very good bus connections between Bochnia and all of its nearest large cities. Bochnia is located on the A4 motorway, providing easy connections by car and bus with Krakow, Katowice, Tarnow, Rzeszow, and Przemysl. Buses from Krakow will usually cost 5-6 PLN.  Trains to and from Krakow leave every hour and cost around 10 PLN (depending on the kind of train).

Attractions : Salt Mine (Kopalnia Soli), ul. Solna 2 . From 12th – 13th century, smaller than Wieliczka’s one, but not less interesting. Sometimes called an underground town because of its size. Chambers measure 4.5 kilometres in length at 16 different levels. One of the chambers was converted into a sanatorium and you can spend a night there inhaling salt. There is also a restaurant supposedly located lowermost in the world. Like the Wieliczka salt mine, it’s inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Ticket to the mine is around 30zl, for a night stay 60zl (night stay include additional attractions like a ride an underground train or 140 metre chute).
1 Bochnia Settlement – Archaeological Park (Osada VI Oraczy), Campi 15 . Reconstruction of a wooden village from 13th century 10zl, children 8zl. / St. Nicholas Basilica / Old town /
Museum (Muzeum im. Stanislawa Fischera), Rynek 20. 4zl, children 2zl  Sundays free.
Wooden belfry. Part of 1500 km long Wooden Architecture Route in Malopolska. Rebuilt in 1991 after fire, closely resembling the original from the first part of 16th century.
Butterfly Museum Arthropoda (Muzeum Motyli Arthropoda), ul. Tadeusza Czackiego 9. Mo-Fr: 10.00 – 16.00; Sa-Su: 10.00-14.00. The largest permanent butterfly exhibition in Poland, over 4,500 specimens in four different sections. 9zl, children 7zl.
Kiejdo Apiary (Pasieka U Kiejdow), ul. Chodenicka 78. A place to try different kinds of honey, learn about its production and bees, see traditional beekeeping equipment.

Activities : Swimming pool (Kryta Plywalnia), ul. Sw. Leonarda 34 / Regis Cinema (Kino Regis), ul. Regis 1.

Go next : Bochnia lies half way between Krakow and Tarnow / Wieliczka Salt Mine and Castle – parts of the same UNESCO World Heritage Site

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