Postcard from Katowice

16 May 2017

Poland has warm summers but bitterly cold winters. In the south during winter, temperatures regularly go zub-sero, which is good if you are planning to go ski-ing in the 200+ resorts in the Tatras mountains.

What to see

Katowice (known as Staliogrod during the 1950’s) is relatively new to the tourist game. As a city that grew from the Polish Industrial Revolution, you will not find an “old town” as such, but you will find some buildings of note. The city’s Cathedral is the largest in Poland and having only been consecrated in 1955, is also one of the youngest. The Historical Museum houses recreations of city homes from 20, 50 and 100 years ago. To ensure visitors enjoy the experience, admission is limited to 15 people every half hour.

The city is full of architectural oddities. This is because much of the city had to be rebuilt after World War 2. The vast concrete “flying Saucer” is an 11,000 capacity stadium used for concerts and sports events. Playing on the nickname, whenever the lights go on, the theme from “close encounters of the third kind” can be heard through the sound system. The city is proud of its industrial heritage and as well as an industrial monuments route, visitors interested in architecture are visiting areas like Nikiszowiec, which was a coal mining town. The original workers houses and flats are being preserved by local museums.

Tyskie Beer is a popular Polish export. The brewery is in the neighbouring town of Tychy. The informative 3 hour tour of the facility takes visitors through the history of the brewery and the modern production process. It ends with the obligatory samples in the on-site bar.

Just outside the city, Silesia Park is a huge urban green-space with an open air museum, narrow gauge railway, planetarium, zoo and a rope park.

Katowice is close to one of World War Two’s most infamous remembrance sites, Auschwitz-Birkenau. The sheer scale of the site is breath-taking and the stories of what occurred behind its electric fences are very moving. This is a very busy place and, from experience, it is highly recommended to visit early in the morning before the coach tours start arriving.

What to eat

Polish menu’s are very meaty and very hearty. You will often see traditional dishes like lamb knuckle stewed in Polish vegetables, homemade Russian dumplings stuffed with potatoes and cottage cheese, jellied pig’s feet, veal tongue and sour rye soup. Many dishes are served with dumplings, which are a traditional dish in the country. The city has a diverse range of restaurants, including those influenced by the Hungarian, Armenian and Greek cultures.

How to get there

Wizz Air fly from Belfast International Airport twice a week on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

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