Opole is a city located in southern Poland on the Oder River (Odra). With a population of approximately 127,792 (January 2017), it is the capital of the Opole Voivodeship and, also the seat of Opole County.
With it long history dating back to the 9th century, Opole is considered to be one of the oldest towns in Poland. The origins of the first settlement are connected with the town being granted Magdeburg Rights in 1217 by Casimir I of Opole, the great-grandson of Polish Duke Boleslaw III Wrymouth. During the Medieval Period and the Renaissance the city was known as a centre of commerce due to its position on the intersection of several main trade routes, which helped to generate steady profits from transit trade. The rapid development of the town was also caused by the establishment of a seat of regency in Opole in 1816. The first railway connection between Opole, Brzeg and Wroclaw was opened in 1843 and the first manufacturing plants were constructed in 1859, which greatly contributed to the city’s regional significance.
During its existence Opole belonged to Poland, Bohemia, Prussia and Germany. Prior to World War II it was located in eastern Germany and was one of the largest centres of Polish minority in the entire country. In 1945 the region fell into the Soviet Occupation Zone of Germany. They subsequently assigned it to Poland. It fell under no legal agreement. Many German Upper Silesians and Poles of German ancestry still live in the Opole region; in the city itself, however, ethnic Germans today make up less than 3% of the population following the 1945-6 expulsions. It was also the capital of the former German region of Upper Silesia.
Today there are four higher education establishments in the city: The Opole University, Opole University of Technology, a Medical College and the private Higher College of Management and Administration. The National Festival of Polish Song has been held here annually since 1963 and each year new regular events, fairs, shows and competitions take place. Opole is sometimes referred to as “Polish Venice”, because of its picturesque Old Town and several canals and bridges connecting parts of the city
History : Opole’s history begins in the 8th century. At this time, according to the archeological excavations, the first Slavic settlement was founded on the Ostrowek – the northern part of the Pasieka Island in the middle of the Oder river. In the early 10th century it developed into one of the main grods of the Slavic Opolanie. At the end of the century Silesia became part of Poland and was ruled by the Piast dynasty; the land of the pagan Opolanie was conquered by Duke Mieszko I in 992. From the 11th-12th centuries it was also a castellany. After the death of Duke Wladyslaw II the Exile, Silesia was divided in 1163 between two Piast lines- the Wroclawska line in Lower Silesia and the Opolsko-Raciborska of Upper Silesia. Opole would become a duchy in 1172 and would share much in common with the Duchy of Raciborz, with which it was often combined. In 1281 Upper Silesia was divided further between the heirs of the dukes. The Duchy of Opole was temporarily reestablished in 1290. In the early 13th century, Duke Casimir I of Opole decided to move the settlement from the Pasieka Island into the right shore of the Oder river (since the 17th century it is the old stream bed of Oder known as Mlynowka). All of the inhabitants had to be moved in order to make place for the castle that was eventually built in the place of the old city. Former inhabitants of Ostrowek together with German merchants that immigrated here from the West, received first town rights probably as early as around 1217, although this date is disputed. Opole received German town law in 1254, which was expanded with Neumarkt law in 1327. Opole developed during the rule of duke Bolko I of Opole. In this time the castle was finally completed and new buildings, including the city walls and the Holy Cross Church, were constructed. Along with most of Silesia, in 1327 the Duchy of Opole came under the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Bohemia, itself part of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1521 the Duchy of Raciborz (Ratibor) was inherited by the Duchy of Opole, by then also known by its German equivalent – Oppeln. The second castle of Opole was probably founded in the 14th century by duke Vladislaus II, though some sources claim that it was originally a wooden stronghold of Opole’s castellan dating into 12th century.
In the Habsburg Monarchy With the death of King Ludvik II of Bohemia at the Battle of Mohacs, Silesia was inherited by Ferdinand I, placing Opole under the sovereignty of the Habsburg Monarchy of Austria. The Habsburgs took control of the region in 1532 after the last Piast duke of Opole – Jan II the Good died. In those days the city was still mainly Polish-speaking (around 63%), with other nationalities represented mainly by Germans, Czechs and Jews. The last two dukes of Opole, Nicholas II and Janusz II the Good, did not master the German language.
Cathedral of Opole , Beginning in 1532 the Habsburgs pawned the duchy to different rulers including several monarchs of Poland (see Dukes of Opole). With the abdication of King John II Casimir of Poland as the last Duke of Opole in 1668, the region passed to the direct control of the Habsburgs. At the beginning of the 18th century the German population of Opole was estimated at around 20%.
In Prussian Silesia , King Frederick II of Prussia conquered most of Silesia from Austria in 1740 during the Silesian Wars; Prussian control was confirmed in the Peace of Breslau in 1742. During the Prussian rule the ethnic structure of the city began to change. In the early 20th century the number of Polish and bilingual citizens of Opole, according to the official German statistics, varied from only 25% to 31%. From 1816–1945 Opole was the capital of Regierungsbezirk Oppeln within Prussia. The city became part of the German Empire during the unification of Germany in 1871.
After World War I , After the defeat of Imperial Germany in World War I, a plebiscite was held on 20 March 1921 in Oppeln to determine if the city would be in the Weimar Republic or become part of the Second Polish Republic. 20,816 (94.7%) votes were cast for Germany, 1,098 (5.0%) for Poland, and 70 (0.3%) votes were declared invalid. Voter participation was 95.9%. Results of the plebiscite in the Oppeln-Land county were different, with 30% of population voting for Poland. Oppeln was the administrative seat of the Province of Upper Silesia from 1919–1939. With the defeat of Poland in the Invasion of Poland at the beginning of World War II in 1939, formerly Polish Eastern Upper Silesia was re-added to the Province of Upper Silesia and Oppeln lost its status as provincial capital to Katowice (renamed Kattowitz).
OPPELN after the plebiscite, under international ruling in August 1921
On 15 February 1941 and 26 February 1941, two deportation transports with 2,003 Jewish men, women and children on board left Vienna Aspang Station for the ghetto which had been set up in Oppeln. By March 1941, 8,000 Jews were deported to Oppeln. From May 1941, 800 men capable of work were deployed as forced labourers in Deblin. The “Liquidation” of the Oppeln ghetto began in the spring 1942. A transport to Belzec extermination camp left on 31 March 1942 and deportations to Sobibor followed in May and October 1942. Of the 2,003 Viennese Jews, only twenty-eight are known to have survived.
Main sights : Piast tower, built under Bolko I of Opole, circa 1300
Opole hosts the annual National Festival of Polish Song. The city is also known for its 10th-century Church of St. Adalbert and the 14th-century Church of the Holy Cross. There is a zoo, the Ogrod Zoologiczny w Opolu.
Structures and buildings The 17th-century Castle in Moszna
Piast tower on the island (only part that remained of Piast castle)
a 14th-century Franciscan church, a Piast mausoleum , a 19th-century Town Hall
the Church of our Lady of Sorrows and St. Adalbert (Kosciol Matki Boskiej Bolesnej i sw. Wojciecha) the 14th-century Holy Cross Cathedral (Bazylika katedralna Podwyzszenia Krzyza Swietego) The art nouveau Penny Bridge (Most Groszowy), currently named Green Bridge (Zielony Mostek) Opole Main Station, an eclectic building from early 20th century. Museums
Diocesan Museum (Muzeum Diecezjalne) Opole Regional Museum (Muzeum Slaska Opolskiego) Opole Village Museum (Muzeum Wsi Opolskiej) Cemeteries , The Jewish Cemetery in Opole was established in 1822, and it is a peculiar pantheon of the Jews of Opole.
Acces : By plane : International airports are located in the nearby cities of Katowice and Wroclaw.
By bus : Opole has seen many of the inhabitants of the city and the region emigrate temporarily or permanently to Western Europe seeking better-paid jobs, especially concerning low-skilled, manual labour. One of the largest coach operators in Poland, Sindbad, is based in Opole and thus the city features in many of their timetables
PolskiBus runs a connection via Opole from Berlin and its Schoenefeld Airport through Wroclaw further to Katowice, Krakow and Zakopane. The journey from the farthest ends of the route to Opole takes 5 hours.
By train : The city’s main train station is 1 Opole Glowne, situated on a railway mainline to Wroclaw.
Wroclaw – 45 minutes , Czestochowa – 50 minutes , Katowice – 1h15mins , Walbrzych -1h40mins , Krakow – 2h25mins , Jelenia Gora – 2h40mins , Warsaw – 3 hours , Rzeszow 5h40mins , Szczecin – 6 hours , See the PKP Intercity interactive timetable for details on trains and times.
By car : You can easily get there by car from Katowice and Wroclaw by the A4 Motorway.
Main attractions : Piast Tower , Holy Trinity Church. A 14th century Franciscan church including a Piast mausoleum , Church on the Hill , Train station. Eclectic train station building , Most Groszowy. The pedestrian bridge with wrought iron railings was constructed at the turn of the 20th century ,Castle Pond with fountains ,Ceres Fountain, Plac Daszynskiego ,Venice of Opole. A wall of historic buildings directly over the Mlynowka river , Saint Sebastian Church , Opole Regional Museum , Opole Open-Air Museum of Rural Architecture (Muzeum Wsi Opolskiej), ul. Wroclawska 174. 10 / 5 zl, Mondays free , Modern Art Gallery , Song Museum (Muzeum Polskiej Piosenki) (at the Amphiteatre / National Centre of Polish Song)
Activities : Tour at the Piast Tower , Tour the Outdoor Museum , Visit Opole Zoo , Put a love lock on the city’s most famous bridge , visit the impressive Cathedral of the Holy Cross , Cruise the River Oder ,