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Szczecin - the historical capital of Western Pomerania

Szczecin is a city in the north-western part of Poland. It is the historical capital of Western Pomerania, and lies among the overflowing arms of the Odra River and at the southern end of the Bay of Szczecin. The city is located 12 km from the Polish-German border, 150 km from Berlin and 65 km from the Baltic Sea. Currently Szczecin has a population of almost 400 000 inhabitants.

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It is a city with a thousand-year history shaped by its geographical location.The city has experienced very turbulent moments in its history which influenced its architecture. Through ages Szczecin developed from a little village to the prominent port city. In the 13th century the city was granted its municipal character. Its most illustrious and excellent period was the time of the 500-year reign of the dukes of the Griffin dynasty, when the city belonged to the Hanseatic League. The city as we know today was really born in XIX century, along with developing the shipping trade. Military functions of Szczecin fortress, enlarged by Prussian authorities, made the urban development impossible, however, in 1873 fortresses and city walls were demolished and a very dynamic city development started.The new spatial layout very carefully outlined the city structure. Szczecin spatial development was a classical example of geometric town planning with star-shaped squares with neoclassical and secessionist buildings and functional public utility buildings. Another important stage in city development was at the turn of XIX and XX centuries when suburban councils and small town were included into the city. The basic city structure was created in a ‘modelling’ way. Wide streets assured safe traffic. The city centre became the centre of city life, the cluster of trade, services and cultural objects together with housing areas with beautifully designed villas, rich flora and recreational areas (Pogodno, Głębokie Lake and its environs, Gumieńce). Industry and trade were located in the northern part. The II World War destroyed 60-70% of the city and the harbor, but Szczecin was reconstructed after the war and now is one of the most beautiful cities of Poland.

Szczecin charms its unique design – green areas, secessionist beauty which merges with modernity

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The hundreds years of the Szczecin history left the numerous traces of the past. The most splendid of them are the Castle of Pomeranian Dukes and the block of buildings situated on the slope along the Odra River, called Wały Chrobrego (Chrobry Embankment). The other valuable objects are also the gothic City Hall from the 14th century and several churches. Along with a number of historical places, there are some theatres, a philharmonic hall, museums, galleries, libraries and other cultural places in the city.

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Post-war years meant reconstruction of war destructions and building of the city for a new society. The population inflow and their increasing housing needs resulted in areas on the right bank of the Odra river. Different urban assumptions and different buildings mainly made of slab changed the image of the city. Current conditionings allow for another dynamic city development. Szczecin charms its uniqueness. Beautiful old buildings and star-shaped street arrangement make the city similar to Paris. The floating, green island on the Odra is today a great challenge for the best designers. Szczecin cherishes a rather well-known West Pomeranian capital’s centuries-old reputation for maritime trade, commerce and industry. Forced to function under the constantly changing economic situation and global conditions, the city started to seek its new identity. It seems it finally got on the track when launched a branding campaign - Szczecin 2050: A Floating Garden. The new vision of Szczecin is a revolution in the city development. Szczecin turns to water, ecology and plans to combine benefits of a metropolis and a comfortable place to live. The new logo of Szczecin, the city’s name written in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) accompanies this new development vision. Floating Garden is a message Szczecin sends to the world. It tells about the openness of the city, its cross-border facilities and vision. It emphasizes city’s multi-cultural and multi-language diversity. The innovative long-term management strategy, complemented by the new city image identification system introduced in Szczecin will translate the city’s efforts into the city’s viable and vibrant brand as “a new Baltic Neopolis”, built up by numerous variables working together. It is thought to be the city’s road map from today into the future. Szczecin is also said to be a students' city. There are several schools of higher education, e.g. Maritime University, West Pomeranian University of Technology, Szczecin University, Pomeranian Medical University. Szczecin’s location offers great prospects for development. The city is an important European transport hub, linking land with sea and offering access to the east and west and north and south. The shortest inland water lane from Berlin to the Baltic Sea leads through Szczecin, as do roads and sea routes connect the countries of southern Europe with Scandinavia. Meanwhile, the Berlin-Szczecin highway bridges east with west. Szczecin is also an important railway junction. Szczecin-Goleniów Airport, located less than an hour from the city centre, has recently been enlarged to accommodate a growing number of travelers on daily foreign and domestic flights. A very favorable geographic location and a full array of transport options enables companies that locate in Szczecin to service the whole of Europe from a central logistics point.

Some information that might be interesting

  • Szczecin is the 3rd vastest city in Poland - its area is 301 square kilometers (0.1% of the whole Poland area).
  • Medieval Szczecin was widely known as the castle that cannot fall. There used to be a saying in Denmark: "You aren't safe unless you're protected by the walls of Szczecin".
  • Szczecin is often called "a green city" due to the large number of parks and other green areas.
  • Szczecin is the only one large city in Poland where you can find so huge amount of magnolia trees growing on the streets and in the parks.

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  • Vast post-glacial lake Dąbie is the 4th largest lake in Poland and the only one available for sea vessels.
  • Szczecin was the place of birth of the tsarina Katherine II.
  • Karl Loewe, the great German composer used to live in Szczecin. His heart is buried in the Szczecin Cathedral.
  • The most famous Szczecin's legend is a tale of Sidonia von Borke, who was accused of sorcery and sentenced to death. Sidonia made an international "career" - you can find a painting of her even in the Tate Britain in London.
  • Central Cemetery (Cmentarz Centralny) is one of the biggest burial-grounds in the whole Europe.
  • The Pioneer (Pionier) Cinema was established in 1909; it is the oldest still working cinema in the world.
  • The final stages of The Tall Ships Races were held in Szczecin in 2007 and 2013. The events, especially the last one, were so successful that it will be repeated in 2017.

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  • There is a vast tunnel system under the streets of Szczecin. They were built by the Germans and there is even a highway and unfinished railway station in these tunnels. Some say it is possible that the famous "Amber Chamber" from Petersburg, Russia, lies somewhere, buried in those tunnels.
  • It was Szczecin, where the first agreement between striking workers from "Solidarity" and the authorities was signed in 1980.

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See also:

WW2 Schelter
Kino Pionier