Slaskie Voivodeship is one of the 16 voivodeships contributing to the Poland territory. Slaskie is part of the historical region Silesia, which is now divided between the Dolnoslaskie, Opolskie, and Slaskie Voivodeships. Slaskie constitutes part of the Polish state border with Slovakia to the southeast and Czechia to the southwest, as it is located in the southern part of Poland. The Łódzkie Voivodeship borders the province to the north, Świętokrzyskie to the northeast, Małopolskie to the east, and Opolskie to the west. The capital city, Katowice, is located in the central part of the region and represents the biggest conurbation in Poland and one of the most extensive in the European Union. The population in the Katowice conurbation reaches approximately 2.7 million people. Slaskie Voivodeship generally has the highest population density in Poland, presumably caused by industrialization and economic development, which widens the specter of job options for the inhabitants. Major industries include metallurgy, power, heavy machinery, automobile, textile, and chemical production. The region's history is connected to mining, as the soils of Slaskie Voivodeship are reported to be rich in minerals, coals, zinc, and lead. On the other hand, the area's industrialization caused extensive damage to the original fauna and flora. Slaskie Voivodeship is the point of contact between three countries, Slovakia, Czechia, and Poland. Historically, German inhabitants constituted more than half of the total population. For these reasons, the province disposes of a wide range of traditions and cultures as well as historical landmarks.
Slaskie Voivodeship is historically connected to mining and is one of the most industrialized areas in Poland. The capital city, Katowice, represents the biggest conurbation in Poland and one of the largest in Europe. The Industrial Monuments Route is a guided tour through the area that teaches tourists about the foundations of the industrialization of Silesia. One stop on the Industrial Monuments Route is the Guido Coal Mine. The area of Silesia was wealthy in minerals. Thus, mining developed significantly. The Guido Coal Mine has two well-preserved levels at depths of 170 and 320 meters below the ground and teaches about the history and development of mining techniques in the area. Also offered at the mines are sleeping accommodations for those passing through the area. Another stop on the route is the Historic Silver Mine in Tarnowskie Góry. The mine is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The area of Tarnowskie Góry itself is known for the lead that has been mined there. Nowadays, the mine is open to tourists, as the guided tours take place daily. Mine tours showcase the 1.7 kilometers of mine corridors created in the 18th and 19th centuries. Approximately 270 meters need to be crossed on the boats as parts of the corridors are flooded.
For nature and sports enthusiasts, the Beskid mountains in the south of the Slaskie province offer various hiking and cycling options in the summer. The mountains are covered in snow during winter, and numerous ski centers are open for visitors during this time. Some of the significant ski centers are reportedly Szczyrk, Wisła, and Ustroń. The Beskidy Mountains wrap the city of Bielsko-Biała. The area offers over 150 ski lifts and 200 km of ski slopes.
The Trail of the Eagle's Nests is a touristic route leading throughout the Silesia Voivodeship, with stops along the way at medieval castles and ruins leading between Częstochowa and Kraków. Since 1980, the trail area has been protected as Eagle Nests Landscape Park. The trail is 163 kilometers long and can be taken by bicycle as well. According to the Polish official list of the most popular routes in the country, the trail has been ranked first. Outside of The Eagle's Nests Trail, in the southern part of the region is situated Pszczyna Castle, or in English, Pless Castle. The castle was originally built in the 13th century in a Gothic architectural style, later remodeled in Renaissance style, and nowadays bearing mainly Baroque-Classicist architecture marks. In 2009, the castle was voted as one of the seven wonders of Silesian Voivodeship and is often, together with its' castle park, considered one of the most beautiful palaces in Poland.
In Chorzów, one of the adjacent cities and part of the Katowice conurbation, is situated an Upper Silesian Ethnographic Park. The open-air museum consists of authentic Silesian cabins, where the traditional way of living is represented to the visitors. Various exhibitions and events taking place in the museum point out differences and similarities in traditions and ways of living in multiple parts of Silesia.
Slaskie Voivodeship is located in the central part of Europe, on the borders of Slovakia and Czechia. Geographically, the province belongs to the Silesian Upland, the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland, the Oświęcim Basin, and the Beskidy Mountains. In general, the relief structure of the region is varied. Uplands, depressions, and basins can be found in the northern parts of the region. The Beskid Mountain Range protrudes to the Silesian Voivodeship from the south, in particular Beskid Żywiecki, Beskid Niski, and Beskid Makowski mountains. The highest point of the region is the peak of the Five Mounds Mountain at an altitude of 1534 m above sea level.
One-third of the Slaskie territory is forested, with one-half being used for agricultural purposes. The main crops cultivated in the area are cereals, potatoes, and vegetables. Due to historically given expansive industrialization, the natural conditions were changed by human activities. Woods were cut to meet the needs of hard coal mines and zinc, lead, and iron smelters. Deciduous forests have been cut out, resulting in an increase in coniferous forests. Presumably, one of the most important natural reserves in the Silesia area is the Wielikąt Reserve, where endangered bird species are bred, such as the white-tailed eagle, spotted eagle, redshank, kingfisher, traveler, and buzzard. Another considerable reservation area in the province caring for the protection of endangered species is Żubrowisko Nature Reserve, with the primary objective of protecting and breeding bison. The Żubrowisko Nature Reserve is also the only fauna reserve in the Silesian Voivodeship.
Slaskie Voivodeship is located in the continental clime area, for which alteration of four seasons is a characteristic. The climate is mild in the north but colder in the mountainous areas to the south. The warmest month is reported to be July, with an average daily temperature of 25°C. January is generally the coldest month, with an average temperature of 2°C. The driest month is, on average, February, with an average of 32 mm of rainfall. The most precipitation falls during July, with an average of 101 mm. The area gets the most sunshine in July, with an average of 203 hours of sunshine.
Slaskie Voivodeship, or Silesia, was initially inhabited by Slavic tribes. By the end of the 10th century, the area was incorporated into the Polish state and divided into smaller duchies. Later, in the 14th century, Germans moved to the duchy of Opole-Racibórz, which helped with the development and economic prosperity in the area. Lead, silver, and iron mining was the primary source of economic growth for the Slaskie territory. By the end of the 14th century, Czech Luxembourgs seized Silesia and ruled over it until the 16th century, when the Czech Kingdom and Silesia became part of the Habsburg Monarchy. During the Thirty Years' War, the Habsburgs lost the Silesia territory to Prussia. However, in 1772, 1793, and 1795, the Partitions of Poland took place, during which Polish territory was divided between Russia, Prussia, and the Habsburg monarchy until, eventually, Poland as an autonomic country ceased to exist. As a result of the Partitions of Poland, Silesian territory was divided between Prussia and Habsburg monarchy.
The 19th century brought Silesia further industrialization because of the rich coal reserves on the territory. Steelmaking factories were established, and new roads and railway lines were built. However, political distribution was troublesome, as Silesia was divided between three states- Germany, the Kingdom of Poland, and Austria. For these reasons, at the beginning of the 20th century, only 57% of the Silesian community was of Polish nationality. Poles were primarily miners, workers, and peasants. The German population was generally more educated and prevailed in towns and cities. After World War I, several uprisings of the Polish population took place, with the objective of Silesia becoming part of Poland. The uprising caused a Great Depression, as the local industry suffered. In 1939, Silesia became part of the German Reich, and numerous Polish Silesians had to join the army. Nazi labor and concentration camps, as well as prisons, were established across the region. Local companies and industries were forced to support the German military. After the war, Silesia was reincorporated into the Polish state, and the rest of the German population was displaced from the area.
Nowadays, the capital city of Silesia, Katowice, is one of the largest conurbations in the European Union. The large settlement complex developed due to the establishment of mining and heavy industry in the area. Before the Second World War, over 70% of Katowice's population was German. However, today, over 90% of the population is of Polish nationality. In general, the Silesian Voivodeship is known to be a place where various cultures meet and traditions intertwine. Over time, different nations ruled and inhabited the area and left their marks. The prevailing religion is Roman Catholicism, yet, in the area, representatives of various churches can be found.
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