Its capital city is Posen (Poznan), situated around 190 miles from Warsaw and about 160 miles from Berlin, and due to its geographical situation, Greater Poland is crossed by routes of European importance, which has a positive effect upon the investment attractiveness of this province.The region is crossed by the A2 motorway connecting Poland with the European road network as well as with the Polish and German capital cities. The region is also crossed by roads running from the Baltic coast towards South Poland, and further on, to the Czech Republic. Posen is also an important railway junction in Poland. Here runs the Berlin – Moscow railway line.
The area of the Greater Poland Province is the second largest one in Poland, preceded only by Mazovia, and exceeds 29,800. km2, viz. 9,5 % of Polish territory, and is comparable to that of Belgium, Armenia or Albania. Farmlands and woodlands covers, respectively, 50% and 25% of Wielkopolska’s territory. Its population is around 3.4 million, which means that almost every 11th Pole comes from Greater Poland. In view of population, the region is comparable to that of Lithuania. Most people live in towns, and the largest agglomeration is Posen.
Greater Poland is divided into five subregions led by the biggest towns in this area, starting with Posen with the population exceeding 540,000.The second largest centre is the Kalisz – Ostrow agglomeration situated in the southern part of the region. Almost 200,000 people live in those cities lying at a distance of around 15 miles from each other. The main centre in the eastern part of the province is Konin with the population numbering around 80,000. Instead, the population of PIla situated in the north is around 75,000. The south-western part of the region is led by Leszno (population about 64,000). Another major city is also Gniezno (Gnesen) – the first capital city of Poland - situated around 30 miles from Posen, with the population numbering around 70,000.The smallest town of the region is Dolsk with 1,500 inhabitants. In total, there are 109 towns in Wielkopolska.
History of Wielkopolska
Poland’’s history began in Greater Poland, where the Polish state came to exist in the mid-10 century. There is a legend recounting how the Polish state was established:
‘There were three brothers - Lech, Czech and Rus – who were to go to see the world in order to find the best place for them. Lech is said to have been the last of them to have found a convenient place for his tribe, and when he had made a decision, suddenly, a white eagle landed in a nest (Polish ‘gniazdo’) arranged on a nearby oak-tree. Lech acknowledged that it must have been an omen and established the city of Gniezno (Gnesen); henceforth, the white eagle became the emblem of the new state’.
According to historians, not to any legend, the first visitors might have come to the Wielkopolska area circa 10,000 years BC., but the oldest structures preserved in that area are kurgans built circa 3,000 years BC.
The history of Kalisz, one of the oldest Polish towns, is also abundant in events. First mentions about this place, as some historians have it, date back to the 2nd century AC .In his work, entitled ‘The Geography’, Claudius Ptolemaeus, a famous Greek scientist, mentions a place called Calisia.
The turning point in the history of this region was in the yar 966, when Prince Mieszko I, who had married a Bohemian princess Dobrava a year before, was baptized. Therafter, the history of the new state gained impetus. The first bishopric was established in Posen only two years after, and in the year 1000 on the Wiekopolska land was held the Congress of Gniezno with participation of Otto III, King of Germany. The aforesaid events placed Poland in the western part of the European continent.25 years later, in the year 1025, in Gnesen, Boleslaus I the Brave was crowned King of Poland.
In the successive years of the Middle Ages, Greater Poland developed and changed hands. In the period of the so-called feudal ( territorial) division of Poland, the princes took over power in the respective parts of Poland. The Wielkopolska land for being the western flank of the kingdom suffered from invasions and wars – one of the most severe scourges in the history of the region is the so-called Swedish Deluge (17th century), when towns and settlements were destroyed. The castle in Posen was burnt down and never restored thereafter. More than 100 years later, in the time of partitions, Wielkopolska was taken over by Prussia. During the 123 years’ period of occupation, the Wielkopolska people tried various ways to regain freedom and to save the Polish identity by defending themselves against germanization. Due to the so-called ‘organic work from scratch’, Greater Poland was able to develop. Only the end of World War One gave a possibility to get rid of German invaders.
After World War One, Wielkopolska people did not want to wait for any decisions of politicians or congresses and decided to act on their own behalf. On 27 December 1919, upon arrival of Ignacy Jan Paderewski, a world-famous pianist and a politician, the Wielkopolska (Greater Polska) Uprising broke out. In consequence of the Uprising and in line with the Treaty of Versailles terms, Greater Poland returned to the newly formed Second Republic of Poland.But the time of liberty was not too long. In 1939, after the outbreak of World War II, the Greater Poland’s area was annexed by the Third Reich and renamed to the so-called Wartheland, and local population was displaced. The Soviet troops liberated Posen after a monthly campaign in February 1945.
In the communist reality, the situation in the Greater Poland Region was like at any place all over Poland. In the Stalinian period, in June 1956, Posen was the scene of the first workers’ protest against the totalitarian authorities in a country behind ‘the iron curtain’. Troops invaded the town streets killing a few dozen people, and hurting several hundred.
In the reborn Poland, in the 20th and 21st centuries, Greater Poland has been thriving. Its rich history was reminded in 1997 during the celebration to mark the millennium of St. Adalbert’s death in Gnesen, with participation of the pope John Paul II and of the presidents of Poland, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Germany, Slovakia, Ukraine and Hungary. A few years later, during the millennial celebrations of the Congress of Gnesen organized by Boleslaus the Brave, Greater Poland was visited by the presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Germany, Slovakia and Hungary.
Tourism in Greater Poland
Heritage tourism has been popularized in Greater Poland due to its origin. The pearl of this tourism is the Piast (Dynasty) Route running through some places and lands related to the origins of the Polish state, as well as in part also through a part of the province of Cuyawian – Pomeranian Province. The central point of the Route is Gnesen (Gniezno) with the Museum of the Polish State origins, cathedral, St. Adalbert’s relics and precious Gnesen Door dating back to the 12th century and presenting some scenes from St. Adalbert’s life. The Route crosses also Posen and the Island of Ostrow Tumski situated at its heart.
The area of Ostrow Tumski is the oldest, and historically speaking – the most precious part of Posen situated in an island between the Warthe and the Cybina Rivers.In that place was erected the first Polish Christian cathedral with the see established in the year 966. It used to be the residence of the first Polish rulers. The cathedral underground became the Piast necropolis, and there rest three kings and five princes from this dynasty, incl. Mieszko I with his son – Boleslaus I the Brave.The history of the island and the origins of the Polish state are shown in the Porta Posnania (Posen Gate) interactive museum, inaugurated in 2014.A visitor will be shown round by an interactive audioguide.
A part of Ostrow Tumski is occupied by the Genius loci Archeological Reserve, in which you may admire more than 1000-year-old original relicts of the city walls. The Reserve is the biggest Polish archeological excavation open to visitors, with exposed layers which were being formed throughout a few hundred years’ time. Holograms and 3D films will help you understand the history at Genius loci.The oldest fortifications in Posen used to protect the first Polish rulers once residing in the city. Nearby the reserve there is the Archdiocese Museum whose most valuable exhibit is St. Peter’s sword, viz. the oldest relic ever brought to Poland circa 968 by Jordan, the first bishop.
A pearl of Posen is its renaissance town hall in the Old Market Square. Every day, at 12:00 pm, the mechanized ‘Posen goats’ butt heads on its tower. The goats are a part of the clockwork, and were honored this way because, as the legend says, on the day of the clock unveiling they allegedly climbed up the tower and started to butt heads to the amusement of the guests and crowds gathered around.
Prospective visitors to Posen should have a walk on the Royal-Imperial Route which is the main tourist route running the capital city of Wielkopolska. Militaria enthusiasts will be glad to see well–preserved remnants of a 19th fortress, once encompassing the city.
While in Posen, it would be a good idea to pay a visit to the National Museum. Its collections include, among other items "The Beach in Pourville" by Claude Monet. The National Museum in Posen is one of the oldest and largest museums in Poland. There are around 300,00 items collected in its nine branches.
As far as more modern attractions of the city are concerned, you can see there the New Zoo situated nearby the Malta Lake, an artificial body of water. More than 40% of animal species kept in the zoo are exposed to extinction either on a global or local scale.
In the Zoo you can admire tigers, giraffes, rhinos, monkeys and elephants. You may reach the Zoo in the Park Railway Maltanka, running along the lake. At the Malta Lake situated is as well one of the largest town recreational areas with an artificial ski slope and the Termy Maltanskie (Malta Thermal Baths) group of swimming pools
Posen also boasts Stary Browar (Old Brewery) Centre of Trade, Art and Business established in the city centre by having converted the remnants of the former Hugger Brewery.The centre combines a commercial facility and an art gallery - there are held exhibitions and cultural events; among other items, there is also permanently exhibited a sculpture by Igor Mitoraj.
When coming to Posen on 11 November, you should participate in the celebrations of the namesday of St Martin, patron of one of the main streets. Every day the street is converted to a pedestrian precinct crossed by a colorful parade led by a mounted St. Martin. A delicacy accompanying this event is a traditional St. Martin’s croissant – in that period people consume around 250 tons of this article.
In the region you can visit historic palaces, manor houses and churches. Gothic pearls are the cathedrals in Posen and Gnesen, and the best example of renaissance buildings is the town hall in Posen.In turn, baroque architecture is best represented by the Posen parish church as well as by historic landmarks in Leszno, Gostyn, Ląd and Rydzyn. Worth seeing are also wooden churches and the wooden hall at Sulmierzyce, the only wooden town hall in Poland.
Greater Poland is also attractive in view of landscapes and nature. The region boasts more than 1,800 miles of tourist routes running through woodlands and most attractive tourist destinations. Tourist routes skirt also along the nearby rivers and lakes.
The nature of the region is best exposed in the National Park of Greater Poland which is an example of post-glacial landscape. Its area can be admired from Osowa Gora (Hill) –the highest point in the neighborhood. Nearby the national park is situated the Rogalin Landscape Park, established in order to protect one of the largest cluster of pedunculate oaks in Europe. In turn, those who wish to have a good rest among lakes and woods should go to the Notec Forest, situated in the north-western part of Wielkopolska.A part of Drawski National Park is also situated within Wielkopolska.
One of recent attractions for hikers in Wielkopolska is the Great Wielkopolska Loop (Wielka Pętla Wielkopolski), an inland waterway crossing the largest rivers in the region. The loop is based upon the parallel direction of flow of the Warthe and Notec rivers and the meridian course of the Warthe-Goplo canal.The loop is almost 420 miles long and enters the area of the Lubus ( Lubuskie) and Cuyavian-Pomerian provinces.Due to a connection with the Oder River, the canal is connected with the waterways of German Brandenburg and further on, of West Europe.
Not only tourist guides may be helpful in sightseeing the province. The region has also prepared some conveniences. The first of them is the portal www.gpswielkopolska.pl. Visitors to Wielkopolska may download some programs to their mobile phones to be led to the most attractive tourist destinations in the region. The base of the mobile guide contains descriptions and photographs of more 200 buildings, amenities as well as hiking places. The application is also provided with a ‘Blisko mnie” function (Close to me), and while travelling across Greater Poland, it can be used to check which tourist attractions are being passed by. Separate applications have been prepared, among others, for the Piast Route, the Great Wielkopolska Loop and places related to the Wielkopolska Uprising (1918).
Administrative structure of Greater Poland
The region is divided into 35 counties (powiaty) and more than 220 communes (gminy).The Greater Poland (Wielkopolska) Province was established in the year 1999 as a result of the national administrative reform. The local governing body is the Sejmik Województwa Wielkopolskiego (Assembly of the Greater Poland Province) which nominates the provincial board headed by the Marshal who manages the Marshal Office. Instead, the local authority in the name of the Polish government is the Governor of Wielkopolska.