Katowice Poland – A Shining City with a Dirty History

In Sketchbook, Travel by Chris FoleyLeave a Comment

Episode 5 : Europe 2016 - Katowice Cleans Up its Act
This is the fifth post in a series chronicling my photography project through Spain, France, Poland, & Czech Republic. Click on this TAG to view all of the articles in this series. If you want to skip all the text, you can scroll all the way down to a gallery of my favorite images from Katowice 2016.

Katowice, Poland.

Nobody I talk to has ever heard of it, though it’s a is a center of science, culture, industry, business, trade, and transportation in Upper Silesia and southern Poland. The whole metropolitan area is the 16th most economically powerful city by GDP in the European Union with an output amounting to $114.5 billion. (Thank you, Wikipedia.)

Kazdyn and I were there to attend (and get roped into photographing) the wedding of my mother-in-law. Our entire trip was actually wrapped around this one event, whose irony was increased tenfold when Pausha found herself unable to accompany us. Fear not; Mother was married, pictures were taken, and vodka was consumed in copious amounts. By others. I had sparkling water.

I like Katowice a lot. It’s one of those cities that can manage to look really gorgeous or really trashy depending on how the light falls on it. I’ve always enjoyed myself there, except for that time in 2001 when I had some trouble breathing the toxic air.

This is Pausha’s home town; where she was born and raised, so she has some pretty strong feelings of her own about the city in general. When I first visited Katowice in 2001 the coal mines had only just closed down leaving the air sooty and gritty. I was advised at that time not to wear a white shirt out of doors because I’d return wearing a gray shirt. No exaggeration. The coal dust was still in the air and the town smelled like an ashtray. That’s all changed and they’ve made a huge effort to clean things up.

I cannot breathe here! (That's okay, none of us can.)

In fact, Katowice has undergone a large civic remodel just in the past year, which has effected the entire downtown city center. It’s actually kind of nice there now. Pausha was a bit surprised when I shared my photos with her.

Coal Mining has been a really big deal there since the mid 1860s when the region was annexed by Prussia. Here’s an interesting excerpt from Wikipedia:

Severe ecological damage to the environment occurred during the post–Second World War communist governance in the People's Republic of Poland, but recent changes in regulations, procedures and policies of Polish government since the fall of Communism have reversed much of the harm. Economic reforms since 1989 have shifted the economy away from heavy industry towards small businesses.

Some of the highlights of our time in Katowice are:

Polish food is among my favorite cuisine I’ve experienced.

Street Art.
There’s some very cool and innovative stuff happening here.

Spodek Arena Complex.
This thing is just crazy cool. Aside from the main dome, the complex includes a gym, an ice rink, a hotel and three large car parks. It was the largest indoor venue of its kind in Poland until it was surpassed by Kraków Arena in 2014. Spodek translates to “saucer” as in U.F.O. It’s sort of a joke. It’s also built on a mining waste dump. That’s not a joke.

Right next door to Spodek is the Katowice Culture Zone (Katowice Strefa Kultury). Formally a major coal mine (in operation from 1823 - 1999) around which the city had been built, it has been transformed into a museum and cultural center, providing a wonderful city park environment for residents while celebrating the regional heritage. It’s pretty cool.

Street Photography.
There’s a lot to shoot here in Katowice with many residents traveling on foot and the frequent appearance of the Silesian Interurbans - one of the largest tram systems in the world, in existence since 1894.

We plan to visit again in 2017 for a few days on our way back to Prague.


A Katowice Image Gallery.

Click on any image to open the gallery up into a Lightbox.


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