All Over the Place: Piasts & Palmiarnia
Issue 7: Gliwice
I’ve written about some of the places I’ve visited in Europe, but I haven’t spent much time talking about where I currently live and work: Gliwice. It’s a city of 177,000 at the western edge of Poland’s largest metropolitan area. While the largest city in the area (Katowice) has fewer than 300,000 residents, the metropolitan area is home to several million residents.
Unlike some other nearby towns that were established during the Industrial Revolution, Gliwice has existed since the 13th century, retaining its rynek (town square), a church from the 15th century and a small fort (Zamek Piastowski) from the 16th century.
Gliwice was ruled by the Polish Piast Dynasty, followed by periods of rule by Czechs, Austrians, Prussians, Germans, and then Poles again after World War II. The 18th and 19th centuries saw huge industrial development, when much of its historic architecture was built. Most of the architecture survived World War II, after which Communist authorities began building tower blocks on the outskirts of town that range from “decent-looking” to a few that are simply “yuk.”
I do my best to travel every day I have off, but on days when I stay in town I often go to the Palmiarnia (Palm House), a greenhouse complex with a small collection of reptiles, insects and fish, including a lovely quartet of stingrays.
If I visit the Palm House on a weekday, I often pair it with a visit to nearby Czar Gar, a hole-in-the-wall restaurant complete with kitschy tablecloths and tasty Polish entrees that don’t break the bank.