Photo: Town Hall and Rynek Market square, Opole, Upper Silesia, Poland. May 2014
My first, and brief visit to Opole was in May 2013 when I visited the Polish state archives looking for a bit of my family history. I had know the town by name, but knew little more about the place. On the day I visited the streets were full of young students celebrating something or another, so I didn’t have the chance to take too many photos – I was mostly in the archives looking at old microfilms anyhow – but upon this first impression, I knew Opole was a place that I would like to have a chance to spend a bit more time in.
Fast forward to May of this year when I somewhat unexpectedly found myself in Poland again (for a wedding). I wanted to do a bit more exploring of the Silesian countryside where part of my family comes from, so instead of making the usual day trip from Chorzow (my somewhat industrial home base in Poland), I decided it would be a bit nicer to spend a few nights in Opole, two to be exact.
Typically in my European travels I’m a backpacker through and through. And while the hostel representation in eastern Europe has greatly expanded since my first travels in 2006/2007, there are still some cities that are completely off the charts for travelers. Opole is one of those places. It seems that for backpackers, Poland only consists of Krakow, and perhaps Warsw, Gdansk or Wrocław. But beyond that, much Poland remains an empty zone for hostels, as the backpacker route continues on to Prague – also skipping one of my favorite cities in the Czech Republic, Olomouc.
Luckily, hotels in Poland, if you book through Polish websites, are not too hard on the budget. We found something reasonable and just outside the city center for our two nights in in Opole.
Opole itself is a wonderful town! While the city center is quite small and compact, it is evident that it has received a fair amount of EU funding for some revitalization, no doubt due to the strong German roots of the city and its historical importance as the capital of Upper Silesia.
For me as a photographer I found the streets wonderfully void of people standing in the way of my photos during dusk, while at the same time, the restaurants we chose for dinner filled up with a lively crowd of university students each night, which I’m sure picks up even more on the weekends (I was there mid week). My timing was even good enough to coincide with a visit from the Polish president – who’s entourage passed me by as I was walking down one of the streets.
I’m pretty sure I’ll return again one of these days, as a base for a bit more exploration of the SIlesian countryside. Though I think I will also have to make a visit to Wrocław a priority as well.
Photo: Town Hall tower rises above the city center, Opole, Upper Silesia, Poland. May 2014
Photo: Colorful buildings line Rynek market square, Opole, Upper Silesia, Poland. May 2014
Photo: Town Hall building, Opole, Upper Silesia, Poland. May 2014
Photo: City center at night, Opole, Upper Silesia, Poland. May 2014