Wielkopolskie is a voivodeship (province) in the West of Poland, whose name is derived from the historic and geographic region of Greater Poland. The regional capital is Poznań. The region has been under the German rule for the entirety of the 19th century and maintains many reminiscences. The population is pretty evenly spread, and the region is quite industrialized in terms of the light industry types like machine-building or foodstuffs, but there is no heavy industry and there is a fair amount of intact nature.
- Poznań — capital of the Greater Poland Voivodship, with a history going back to the end of 9th century, full of monuments from all epoques, including the oldest polish church (and the oldest cathedral) from 960s, beautiful gothic and baroque Old Town and buildings from the turn 19/20th century erected by Prussians.
- Kalisz — second-largest city, popularly regarded as the oldest continuous Polish settlement
- Ostrów Wielkopolski
- Gniezno — historic capital of Poland in 10th–11th century with the oldest archcathedral (from the year 1000), famous for its chapels and bronze Gniezno Door from 12th century, a modern and interactive Museum of the Beginnings of Poland, picturesquely situated between lakes
- Leszno — baroque town
Other of interest
- Gołuchów — with a beautiful renaissance castle and the aurochs stockyard
- Kłodawa — with the biggest operating salt mine in Poland
- Licheń — with the largest church in Poland, the Sanctuary of Our Lady
- Ostrów Lednicki — remnants of the Duke’s palace (palatium) and a fortress from the early history of Poland together with 2 preserved baptism bowls from 960s
- Owińska — a small village close to Poznań
- Swarzędz — with the only bee-keeping museum in Poland
- Wolsztyn — world-famous for its working steam trains depot, the only one in Europe still in operation; also offers wonderful lakes, an open-air museum and the Robert Koch Museum
- Wielkopolski National Park — national park protecting the wildlife of the Greater Poland Lakes
The boundaries of Greater Poland have varied throughout history. The region roughly coincides with the present-day Wielkopolskie voivodeship, although some parts of historic Greater Poland are within the Kujawsko-Pomorskie, Lubuskie and Zachodniopomorskie voivodeships.
Originally, during the first decades of the Polish state the region was called "Poland" ("Polska" in Polish; the name comes from the word "pole" - a field, which means, that the tribe (Polans - in Polish "Polanie") forming the Polish state was an agricultural one. The name was changed to "Wielkopolska" ("Greater Poland") later on, during the reign of Przemysł II at the end of XIIIth century. Nevertheless the region was the cradle of Poland - here the first cities were founded. The first capitals, Gniezno, Poznań, Ostrów Lednicki, are in Greater Poland as well.
Cities like Biskupin and Kalisz in this region date back to the 7th century BC and 1st century after Christ, respectively. Greater Poland was the also the core of the early medieval Kingdom of Poland and is often regarded as the cradle of Poland, as the Polish Piast Dynasty emerged in the 9th century in this region, conquering the other Polish provinces in the 10th century. The first Polish capitals and church centers where in Giecz, Gniezno and Poznań. However, Poland's capital moved to Kraków in Lesser Poland in 1040.
When in 1138 Poland was divided in duchies united by the rule of the senior, Greater Poland became an independent duchy, and few decades later there were two small states with capitals in Poznań and Kalisz - for most of the time Gniezno - the third biggest city in the region at that time belonged to the Kalisz duchy. Greater Poland was also a core of the restoring of the kingdom in 1295 and for short time became again the capital of Poland, as the king Przemysł II origined from the Greater Poland branch of the Piast dynasty. In the beginning of the 14th century Greater Poland became a province (or voivodeship) of the Kingdom of Poland.
In the period between XVth and XVIIth centuries, when many war affected central and eastern Poland, the Greater Poland was an oasis of peace, that helped to grow and expand the cities and all the region. During the Second Partition of Poland in 1793 much of its territory was annexed by Prussia, but regained independence as part of the Duchy of Warsaw between 1807-1815. After the Congress of Vienna it was again annexed by Prussia. the region was a part of Prussian state or German Empire till 1919, when a successful Greater Poland Uprising (27.12.1918 - June 1919) let join the reborn Poland.
Following World War I it became part of the Second Polish Republic, but was annexed by Nazi-Germany as "Warthegau" after the Nazi-Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939. It is again part of Poland since 1945. The Polish October, a anti Soviet uprising, took place in Poznań in 1956, prompting the beginning of the Hungarian Uprising that followed this event.
Now the region is known for its high agricultural culture, for being (especially Poznan the business and fair heart of Poland and for many historical sights from both first co-capitals and other places. In the 21st century, Wielkopolskie is one of the strongest regions in Poland in terms of local economy.
Climate in the Greater Poland is much milder than average in Poland and much milder than expected by most of the visitors, who join Poland with Siberian frosts. In fact : severe frosts (minus 10-15C) last in the region no more than 10-12 days yearly, there hasn't been for a few years a seriously lasting snow cover - it's mostly snow inconvenient from slegde, not to mention skiing. Spring is usually short, quickly turning into pretty warm summer. In June, July and August expect quite high temperatures (reaching even 30-32C) and periods of drought. Autumn can be both rainy and foggy (so suitable for guests from the UK) and sunny and mild (16-18C).
As Polish has been homogenized after the many large-scale population movements after the Second World War and development of mass-media, there is not much left of regional variations of the language. That said, some vocabulary remains specific to Wielkopolskie, mostly nouns and verbs derived from German. The knowledge of those is, however, not required to get by.
As concerns foreign languages, the German legacy and the closeness of the Western neighbour leads to a higher prevalence of German-speakers than in Eastern regions of Poland. English is spoken by most of the younger-generation, and by those in service jobs, although not necessairly in state-owned enterprises like the railways or post offices.
Poznań has a major international airport with scheduled connections to many European cities. As the A2 motorway and the railway line from Berlin to Warsaw runs right through Wielkopolskie, one can also arrive at the airports of either national capital and continue to the region by ground transport.
Polish National Rail Carrier PKP (in the cooperation with Deutsche Bahn) offers daily connections to Berlin, Munich, Zurich, Amsterdam and Innsbruck. Besides : one can use many long-distance connections to the region from Warsaw, Wrocław, Cracow, Gdańsk, Toruń, Szczecin and almost all other bigger polish cities. Most of these connections are served by PKP Intercity. The main railway hub in the region is Poznań, but express trains, TLK-trains and intercity trains stop usually as well in Leszno, Gniezno, Piła, Kalisz and Konin. The fast (pospieszny in polish) trains stop as well in smaller towns.
Trains are the basic mean of transport in the region. The main i and the most important junction is of course Poznan, but regional centres : Leszno, Ostrów Wielkopolski and Piła offer as well many good connections. The most important line in the region is the one from Warsaw via Konin, Września, Poznań toward the western border and further to Berlin. Other lines playing great role in the transport system are :
- Szczecin - Poznań - Leszno - Wrocław
- from the seaside (Kołobrzeg, Koszalin, Słupsk via Piła - Poznań - Jarocin - Ostrów Wielkopolski and further to southern Poland to Katowice or to Łódź via Kalisz
- from Three-City (Gdańsk, Sopot, Gdynia) and from Olsztyn via Inowrocław - Gniezno to Poznań
- from Bydgoszcz via Piła to Krzyż and further via Gorzów Wielkopolski to Berlin
- from Ostrów Wielkopolski along the southernmost parts of the region to Leszno and further to Głogów
The network of main lines is supplemented by local ones with several connections daily :
- Piła - Wałcz (6)
- Piła - Złotów - Chojnice (5 to 6)
- Poznań - Wągrowiec - Gołańcz (7 to 9)
- Poznań - Grodzisk Wielkopolski - Wolsztyn (8 to 10)
- Gniezno - Września - Jarocin - Krotoszyn (and further Wrocław) (3 to 5)
- Jarocin - Leszno (4)
- Ostrów Wielkopolski - Krotoszyn - Leszno (5 to 8)
- Leszno - Wolsztyn (5 to 7)
- so-called coal-magistral in the easternmost parts of Greater Poland, but - as it joins not-touristic places - is play very little role for travelers.
Several trains on the routes from Wolsztyn to Poznan (departures from Wolsztyn appr. 5:30 and appr. 11:30, and from Poznan appr. 9:30 and 15:30) and from Wolsztyn to Leszno (departure from Wolsztyn appr. 6:00, back from Leszno appr. 15:30) are served - as the only ones in Poland - by steam locomotives. (Departures are given "appr." because of frequent timetable changes, which are the result of many track-works, especially in the Poznań junction).
It's essential to mention as well about narrow-gauged railways - some of them are used only for weekend and tourist traffic, but in the region we have the first independent from the national carrier (PKP) and private line : 23-km section from Stare Bojanowo (on the Poznań-Wrocław line) via Smigiel to Wielichowo. Every day more than 10 trains run on the route. Timetable : (the carrier's - SKPL's - trains run as well on the other lines in the region : see below). As well narrow-gauged trains run on the following routes:
- Środa Wielkopolska - Zaniemyśl
- Pleszew - Pleszew Miasto (SKPL)
- Opatówek - Turek (SKPL)
- Gniezno - Witkowo
- Bialosliwie region (nearby Piła)
- a small part of the Krośniewice Commuter Line crosses Greater Poland region (SKPL)
The pearls of the region are the first co-capitals (plural!!) of Poland from Xth-XIth cent with many monument referring to the beginnings of the Polish State :
- Two most important centres of the first Poland : Gniezno and Poznań
- other, which used to be very important in early middle ages, nowadays - small villages : Giecz (40 kms eastwards from Poznań) and Ostrów Lednicki – on the way from Poznań to Gniezno.
Smaller towns with interesting monuments, events and traditions :
- Kórnik (18 kms south-east from Poznań) wit a neogothic castle with wonderful interiors and furniture and a dendrological park and - last bu not least - with an extremely precious Library with manuscripts dating back to XIIIth century
- Rogalin (16 kms to the south from the city) with a baroque-klasicistic palace and its famous painting collection of Raczyński family, horse cabs and very famous oaks (in total : more than 500), including three well-knows trees : Lech, Czech i Rus.
- Puszczykowo (15 kms to the south very easily accessible by train) - a very interesting travel museum of a polish traveler Arkady Fedler, the seat of the management of Greater-Poland National Park with a nature museum.
- Swarzędz (just out of the city limits to the east, toward Warsaw) - a small city famous for the unique in Poland (and one of few in Europe) bee-keeping open-air museums.
- Nowy Tomyśl with the biggest basket of the world and the Basketry Museum
- Szamotuły - a town 35kms NW of Poznan with an incredible Icon Museum, Halszka Tower and collegiate church
In Greater Poland it's worth sometimes to drive out of main roads to see e.g. :
- palaces in Dobrzyca, Śmiełów, Gołuchów or Antonin
- Szreniawa (15 kms to the south-west) - famous for the Agriculture Museum and the Bierbaums-family viewing tower
- Kazimierz Biskupi near by Konin with an old romanesque church
- Kłodawa with the biggest working salt mine in Poland
- Tarnowo Pałuckie with the oldest wooden church in the country
- Wełna with a unique water mills museum situated on a popular canoe trail along Wełna river
Another thing interesting for history-lovers can be the Greater Poland part of the Cistercian Route. In the region the main places on the route are: Wągrowiec, Lekno (where the first Cistercian monastery on polish territories was erected), Owinska - all three north-east of Poznań and Przemet, Obra and Wielen in the south-west part of the region, nearby Wolsztyn. Another monastery was placed in Lad - 70 kms east of Poznań, just next to motorway A2.
Greater Poland has a lot to offer for all train-lovers. First : the regions owes the steam-engine depot in Wolsztyn, which is the only one operating in Poland. More : daily there are several regular courses (so not tourist trains) from Wolsztyn to Poznań aln Leszno.
Besides the region offers the biggest number of operating narrow gauge railways :
- Stare Bojanowo - Smigiel - Wielichowo (SKPL)
- Środa Wielkopolska - Zaniemyśl
- Pleszew - Pleszew Miasto (SKPL)
- Opatowek - Turek (SKPL)
- Gniezno - Witkowo
- and nearby Bialosliwie (Piła region) mailto:email@example.com
The railways marked above are owned by SKPL company, which is the first private rail operator in Poland. More informations (Polish only) can be found :. Both SKPL and other operators can organize (on request) special trains for groups.
Another thing to do is active tourism, which is very easy to do in the region. Greater Poland is known very well for its network of cycle trails :
- The One-Hundred-Lakes Trails leading from Poznań north west to the Miedzychod-Sierakow Lake District
- The Piast Trails from Poznań through Ostrów Lednicki, Gniezno to Mogilno and to Kruszwica in the neighbouring Kujawy region.
- The trans-wielkopolska trail from the northernmost parts of the region north of Piła to Poznań
- The trans-wielkopolska trail from Poznań, through Jarocin, Gołuchów, Kalisz to picturesque Ostrzeszów Hills in the south of Greater Poland
- The Nobility trail – linking many preserved palaces of nobility families in the central and southern parts of the region, starting in Mosina (18km south of Poznań) leading south through Leszno to Rawicz
- The Amber trail – linking touristic places in the east of Greater Poland from Kalisz to Konin
- The Warta trail – from Poznań more or less exactly along Warta river to the south and east, ending in Koło
Greater Poland Voivodeship borders seven other Polish provinces: