A visit to Stettin is a unique opportunity to see the effects of the Second World War first hand.
Traditionally, Stettin belonged to Pomerania, but the entire city became part of Poland in 1945 and the German population expelled. Today, Stettin is called by its Polish name: Szczecin
Today, the city is in an interesting position to celebrate its German, Danish, and Slavic past, while looking ahead to the future of European integration.
Szczecin is located on the Oder River, south of the Szczecin Lagoon and the Bay of Pomerania. The city is situated along the southwestern shore of Dąbie Lake, on both sides of the Oder and on several large islands between the western and eastern branches of the river. Szczecin borders with the town of Police.
The place now known as Szczecin was first mentioned in written history in 1st century when Roman historian Tacitus located East Germanic tribe of Rugians somewhere in the area; the Rugians left in 5th Century during the Great Migration. Sometime in the 8th century Western Slavic tribe of Pomeranians built their stronghold here. In 10th century the town was mentioned as "one of major in Pomerania" in Abraham ben Jacob's chronicle. In 1080, Stettin was incorporated into Poland, but within eight years, the Dukedom of Pomerania controlled the town, and five years later changed hands to Denmark. In 12th century, Szczecin began to prosper from trade and became one of the major Baltic Sea harbors. Its name was first recorded in 1133 as "Stetin". In 1181, Pomeranian dukes joined Holy Roman Empire. In 1243, Szczecin got city rights subsequently became member of the Hanseatic League in 1278. Until early 17th century, the city was the capital of Duchy of Pomeranian, then in 1630 when Pomeranian dukes died out the area became part of Sweden, then Kingdom of Prussia, then, due to Napoleon's conquests, briefly part of the Empire of France.
After the defeat of Napoleon, Stettin became again a vital part of Prussia, with the port directly serving Berlin.
During World War II, the Allied bombers wreaked havoc, destroying in the city center, Old Town and industrial areas. After the Soviet forces invaded Nazi Germany in 1945, according to Potsdam Conference agreements Poland annexed all lands up to the Oder River, expelling the native German population and ultimately extending the border to include Stettin.
Szczecin is famous - many roundabouts and wide avenues. Georges-Eugene Haussmann, who also did the urban planning for Paris, rebuilt Stettin in 1880 using designs. His design style is still used today as Stettin rebuilds.
The maritime industry is still strong with a busy port and repair shipyard, as well as being a center of service industries in Poland. Situated near the border between Germany and Poland, Szczecin is sometimes considered one of most liberal Polish cities. Szczecin is famous for its ties to the solidarity labor movement, which ended communism in Poland.
Our day in Poland includes:
- Old Town - there are some nice houses rebuilt to original plans. Many shops, restaurants and cafes
- .Kamienica Loitzów (Loitzs Tenement) - interesting tenement just next to Old Town.
- The Hakenterasse or Wały Chrobrego - promenade with great views on Oder river and port.
- Muzeum Morskie (Sea Museum) , situated just in the center of Waly which houses some artifacts from history of the city and also has big collections of African and maritime artifacts.
- Katedra św. Jakuba (St. Jacob's Cathedral) - huge Gothic cathedral.
- Park Kasprowicza and Park Żeromskiego: the city parks,
- Cmentarz Centralny - third biggest cemetery in Europe.
- S-1 blast & fallout shelter - biggest in Poland (entry 15 zł). Two tours to choose: WWII or Cold War.
- Pionier Cinema - oldest movie theater in the world still in operation (est. 1909)
- Railway suspension bridge on Regalica - the only one of a kind in operation in Poland.
- Pałac pod Globusem (Palace under the Globe / Palace of Grumbkov) the birthplace of Russian czarina Catherine II.
- Parisienne District, with its wide historiccal and art nouveau boulevards built in the Prussian style.