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Dolnośląskie Voivodeship, or the Lower Silesian Voivodeship, is one of the 16 voivodeships contributing to the Poland territory. The capital city of Lower Silesian Voivodeship is Wroclaw, situated in the eastern part of the voivodeship, on the shores of the biggest river flowing through the territory, Oder. The Lower Silesian area is located on the south-western edge of Poland territory, covering the historical region of Silesia. Lubusz Voivodeship borders the area of Lower Silesian Voivodeship to the north-west, Opole Voivodeship to the south-east, and Greater Poland Voivodeship to the north-east. The voivodeship contributes to the state border of Poland with the Czech Republic to the south and Germany to the west. The territory of the Lower Silesian Voivodeship itself geographically belongs mainly to the Central European Lowland, with Czech Massif protruding to its territory from the south. Some of the predominant mountains are Sudetes and Karkonosze, or the Giant Mountains. For its extensive mineral richness, the Lower Silesia area was a point of many conflicts throughout history. The territory alternatively belonged to Poland, Bohemia, Habsburg Monarchy, Prussia, and Germany. Nowadays, the Silesians comprise the largest group of ethnic minorities in Poland. Currently, the area of Lower Silesia (19,946.74 kilometers squared) is inhabited by approximately 2,899,986 people, which adds up to a population density of circa 150 people per kilometer squared.
The capital city of Lower Silesian Voivodeship, Wroclaw, is one of the main attractions in the area. The land of the town was already settled in the 6th century. Nowadays the city is visited mainly for its historical background, which is evident in several sites that can be found in the city. The Wrocław Old Town is listed in the Registry of Objects of Cultural Heritage. Some of the prominent historical sites are, for example, Wrocław Opera House, Monopol Hotel, Centennial Hall inscribed in the Unesco Heritage List, University Library and Museum, Ossolineum, the National Museum, and the castle-like District Court. Wroclaw Zoo, established in 1865, is the oldest zoological garden in Poland and the third-largest zoo in the world regarding the number of animal species. The zoo consists of an Africarium, a space devoted solely to displaying African fauna, as well as an oceanarium.
The Karkonosze or Giant Mountains, the highest range of the Sudetes with Sniezka rising 1,603 m above sea level, are one of the prominent natural attractions of the Lower Silesian area. Recognizable elements of the Karkonosze Mountains are rock formations rising above the level of forests up to twenty-five meters. Aside from the hiking opportunities offered at the Karkonosze Mountains, the area also allows for skiing and other winter sports. A popular skiing and cross-country skiing destination is the Jizera mountains, part of the Sudetes Massif, on the Polands' border with Germany. One of the unique historical landmarks in the Karkonosze Mountains is the Wang Temple. The Evangelical parish church is located in the village of Karpacz. The uniqueness of the temple is hidden in its origin. The church was built in Norway, in the town of Vang, located on Lake Vangsmjøsa, in the 12th century and only moved to its current area in 1842. The Wang Temple is considered to be the oldest wooden church in Poland.
Church of Peace in Świdnica is a prominent historical and cultural attraction. The church was founded in 1618-1648 and, since 2001, has been inscribed on the UNESCO Heritage List as it is the largest wooden Baroque church in the world. The church is now open for tourists and visitors, featuring a dining establishment called Baroccafe that serves regional specialties. Czocha Castle is another considerable historical landmark of the Lower Silesian Voivodeship. The medieval castle is also nicknamed "Polish Hogwarts" as it is filled with not only significant historical and cultural heritage but also legends about secret passages and mysteries. The castle features night tours, a hotel, a restaurant, and a spa. Various kinds of events are held on the castle grounds as well.
Almost the entire territory of the Lower Silesian Voivodeship is located in the Odra river basin, which belongs to the Baltic Sea catchment area. The other two basins significantly contributing to the Lower Silesian territory are the Elbe Basin and Danube Basin. For these reasons, most of the region is low-lying, with an average height of 248.4 m above sea level. The lowest point in the area is the bottom of the Odra Valley in Dobrzejowice near Głogów, with an average height of 69 m above sea level. However, approaching Lower Silesia's southern and south-western borders, the topography changes. Southern parts of the region include the Sudetes Foreland and part of the Sudetes Mountains, protruding into the territory from Czechia and Germany. Another mountain range shared with the Czech Republic is the Giant Mountains or Karkonosze, which are part of the Sudetes Mountains range. The highest peak of the bordering mountain range is Śnieżka, at an altitude of 1,603 m above sea level.
Concerning the voivodeship's waters, the most significant river flowing through the territory is the Oder. The river starts in the Czech Republic and flows to Poland through Lower Silesian territory to the north. The river constitutes 187 km of Poland's state border with Germany and is Poland's second-longest river. Other significant water areas are, for example, Kunickie Lake, the largest lake in the area, and the largest artificial water reservoir, Lake Mietkowskie.
The Lower Silesian Voivodeship is one of the wealthiest areas in Poland in terms of mineral resources. The Silesian mining tradition can be traced back to the 12th century. The mineral richness comes from the varied geological structure of the Sudetes mountains. Energy resources, such as natural gas, hard coal, and lignite deposits are in the territory, in addition to mined precious metals such as copper, gold, and arsenic as well.
The climate of Lower Silesian Voivodeship can be characterized as moderately continental. Summers are warm, whereas winters usually approach freezing temperatures. The warmest month is July, with an average daily temperature of 20.1°C. January is the coldest month, with an average temperature of -0.4°C. The driest month is February, with an average of 40.0 mm of rainfall. The most precipitation falls during July, with an average of 98.0 mm. An annual average temperature is 10.0°C.
Lower Silesian Voivodeship is part of the historical region of Silesia, stretching over to German and Czech territories. After the Great Migration period, the Lower Silesian area was settled by Silesian and Slavic tribes in the first century. Until the 13th century, it was known as the Silesia Polish province. At first, as part of the Great Moravia under Svatopluk, later under the rule of Polish dynasties. However, in the 13th century, Silesia came under the control of the Kingdom of Bohemia (today's Czech Republic), which in 1526 became part of the Habsburg Monarchy. Silesia territory was a considerably wealthy region of the Habsburg Monarchy. For this reason, from 1740 to 1748, Prussia invaded Habsburg Monarchy in order to seize the Silesia area. Most of the Silesian territory, except Krnov (Jägerndorf), Opava (Troppau), and Cieszyn (Teschen), constituting south-southeastern parts, stayed part of the Prussia until the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. Silesia was then divided between Czechia, Poland, and Germany. At that time, most of the southern Silesia was inhabited by Germans, whereas mainly the Polish population inhabited the northern parts. The Upper Silesian region, which belonged to Poland, held three-quarters of Silesia's coal production and nearly two-thirds of its steelworks.
In 1939 a German Nazi army attained Silesian region, together with the rest of Poland's territory. Extensive deportation of Silesian Polish inhabitants took place at that time. The Germans then resettled the area. However, in 1945, the Soviet Red Army overtook the territory, which was then assigned back to Poland. After that, the German population of Silesia was forcibly expelled from the region. Over three million Germans were evicted to the west. Poles resettled the Silesian area and started to rebuild its ruined economy and industry.
In post-communist Poland, in 1989, German minority rights started to be acknowledged again. Since then, numerous motions for acknowledging Silesian ethnicity have been held. Associations such as the Silesian Autonomy Movement or the Union of People of Silesian Nationality were established. In 2002, the Polish government allowed Polish citizens to indicate their ethnicity as Silesian. Nowadays, Silesians make up the country's largest ethnic minority.
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