Lublin Voivodeship (Polish: Lubelskie)  is one of the sixteen provinces of Poland. Situated in the east of the country, Lublin Voivodeship largely constitutes the historic eastern border of the Lesser Poland region. In the past, Lublin stood as one of the cultural and engineering epicenters of the Renaissance in Poland, and played a major role as a political center for the joint Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In later centuries, the province played a pivotal role with the development of Jewish culture in Central Europe. A relatively unknown destination for international tourists in past decades, the province is today slowly attracting more visitors due to its medieval and Renaissance-era towns, as well as for its outstanding natural surroundings. The capital city of Lublin, the province's namesake and largest urban center, is currently undergoing major change thanks to ongoing investments in services and transportation, as well as from its fledgling tourism industry, coming after decades of economic obscurity and being ignored by outside visitors. The province is among one of Poland's top agricultural regions, particularly in fruits, herbs and hops.
As of 2013, Lublin Voivodeship had a population of 2,165,651. Most of the province's population is clustered around its center near the capital Lublin. The region's northern, eastern and southern regions are relatively sparsely populated, with several major towns interspersed in these areas.
Evidence of early human settlement is abundant throughout the province, with the future capital Lublin settled as early the 6th century, though it was not until the early Middle Ages in the 10th and 11th centuries did the province begin to politically and economic develop in the early kingdoms of the time. Much of the contemporary province became became part Lesser Poland during the early development of the Polish state when the royal capital moved from Gniezno to Kraków in 1040. For much of the 12th and 13th centuries, the region acted as a highly contested eastern borderland between Polish and Ruthenian kingdoms. The province became one of the first Polish regions to suffer the wrath of the Mongols, who brutally sacked Lublin in early 1241 during their first invasion of Poland. Three years later in 1244, a military incursion by the Lithuanians, Yotvingians and Prussians wrought further devastation. The region would suffer through yet another Mongol invasion in 1259 under the forces of Mongol warlord Boroldai, who, seeing the Polish dukes still deeply fragmented, used the province as a springboard for a second invasion of the Polish lands, sacking Lublin again. The province witnessed a failed third and final Mongol invasion in 1287, though it largely escaped devastation.
The end of the Polish kingdom's political fragmentation with the ascension of Władysław I to throne in 1320 brought greater political stability to the area. Under Władysław, the region was organized as a constituent part of Sandomierz Voivodeship in the 14th century. Over a hundred years later in 1474 under King Casimir IV Jagiellon, the province was divided to create Lublin Voivodeship, making its namesake town Lublin its capital. The province's borders would remain intact for nearly 300 years until the Austrian annexation in 1795. As a borderland between the Polish kingdom and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania by the late Middle Ages, the province rose to political importance as the affairs of the two entities increasingly grew closer. The Union of Lublin, signed by Sigismund II Augustus in 1569 after negotiations between Polish and Lithuanian Sejm representatives, replaced the monarchical personal union between both kingdoms into an actual political union, unifying the two states into a single Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, headed by an elective monarchy. In 1578, Lublin was selected as the seat of the Crown Tribunal, one of the highest courts in the commonwealth and the most important in Lesser Poland.
Thanks largely in part to the open tolerance of King Casimir III the Great in the 14th century, the lands around the contemporary voivodeship increasingly became a favored destination for Jewish settlers escaping persecution in Western Europe. Towns such as Lublin, Chełm, and Kazimierz Dolny had small yet visible Jewish populations by the 16th century. In the decades to come, Lublin's provincial Jewish population greatly expanded outside of towns and into the countryside, becoming an ethnic majority in several municipalities and counties by the beginning of the 20th century. Lublin particularly became a focal point for Jewish religious studies by the 16th century, with its rosh yeshiva (or headmaster) granted the title of university rector by the crown in 1567.
Now within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the province economically and culturally flourished during the Renaissance. During this golden era, a unique architectural style developed within the region with the help of transplanted Italian architects, transcribed as the so-called "Lublin Renaissance." Beautiful castles, palaces and entire towns were built throughout the voivodeship during the 16th and 17th centuries. The most famous example is the fortress town of Zamość, whose layout and architecture incorporated some of the finest Italian and Central European ideals of Renaissance urban planning. The province also became an epicenter of the arts during the Renaissance, with famed Polish poets and composers Sebastian Klonowic and Jan Kochanowski residing in the region during the 16th century.
Economic prosperity, however, was not to last. A Cossack rebellion led by Bohdan Khmelnytsky at the end of the 1640s brought military conflict back to the province. The devastating Russo-Polish War between 1654 to 1657, simultaneously combined with a Swedish invasion as part of the Second Northern War, roundly devastated the province. In an event known by contemporary historians as the Deluge, many of the region's larger towns were plundered and looted by Swedish, Russian and Saxon troops, beginning a sharp economic decline for Lublin and stimulating the fall of the commonwealth as a great European power. With its power severely curtailed, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was completely annexed by Austria, Prussia and Russia in three separate partitions between 1772 and 1795. Lublin Voivodeship was largely swallowed by Austria, whose authorities renamed the province as the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria, a crownland of the Habsburg monarchy. During the French occupation under Napoleon I, Lublin's lands were briefly under the domain of the Duchy of Warsaw, a Polish client state of the French Empire between 1807 to 1815. Following Napoleon's fall in the aftermath of his failed Russian invasion and final defeat at Waterloo, much of the current voivodeship was transferred to Congress Poland in 1815 following the Congress of Vienna. Congress Poland was theoretically an independent Polish kingdom, though in reality the state was little more than a puppet of the Russian Empire. A deeply restive region, Polish rebels launched two major armed insurgencies in 1830 and 1863 against Russian authorities, leading the czar to officially disband any autonomy Congress Poland had in 1867 and directly incorporate Lublin's lands into the Russian Empire as part of Privislinsky krai.
In 1915, as part of the Eastern Front of the First World War, Lublin's lands were invaded and occupied by German and Austro-Hungarian forces. The Central Powers' occupation lasted only three years, when, near the war's end, nationalist groups increasingly coalesced to demand an independent Polish state from the weakening occupation. The first independent Polish government, led by Prime Minister Ignacy Daszyński, was proclaimed in Lublin in November 1918 before handing power to military leader Józef Piłsudski. Between 1919 to 1939, Lublin Voivodeship was again constituted as a province, now under the Second Polish Republic. During the interwar period, the government made a bid to increase industrialization in the province, making it a part of the Central Industrial District (Polish: Centralny Okręg Przemysłowy). As part of the vast project, military and civilian industries were subsidized and encouraged to develop in the district. Within Lublin, Plage i Laśkiewicz, Poland's first aerospace manufacturer, set up shop in 1920.
In the aftermath of the German invasion in 1939, Lublin Voivodeship was dissolved, becoming part of the Nazi-occupied Generalgouvernement. The region quickly became a center of the Holocaust, as the Germans began a systematic planned campaign, codenamed Operation Reinhard, to exterminate the province's large Jewish population, as well as to Germanize the region by encouraging settlers to move in order to displace native Polish Slavs. Some of the most infamous Nazi death camps, including Bełżec, Majdanek and Sobibór, were constructed in Lublin. Much of the province would be liberated by the Soviet Red Army by August 1944. The Soviets proceeded to organize a communist provisional government, the Committee of National Liberation, which was proclaimed in Chełm in July.
Following the war's aftermath, Lublin's lands became the eastern border of the new People's Republic of Poland and the Soviet Union. Heavy industrial investment poured into the region by way of communist economic central planning, followed by a population boom. Maria Curie-Skłodowska University was formed shortly after the province's liberation in 1944, along with FSC, a major automotive plant, was constructed in 1950. In July 1980, Lublin witnessed a wave of mass strikes by industrial workers protesting the communist regime. While the Lublin protests subsided within several weeks, additional strikes in Gdańsk that year would lead to the creation of the Solidarity movement, which peacefully brought the communist state to its conclusion in 1989.
Following the return of democracy, Lublin Voivodeship was created in 1999 as part of a regional government reorganization act, incorporating much of Lublin's former historical borders.
Lublin Voivodeship is 25,155 km 2 (9,712 sq mi), making it the third largest province in the republic. Much of the province's north is characterized as being largely flat, while Lublin's south is hilly, studded with valleys. Lublin's eastern center area is a heavily forested and swampy region.
As elsewhere throughout Poland, all native residents of Lublin speak Polish, a Slavic language spoken by over 40 million people. In many parts of Lublin, tourists may hear the Lesser Polish dialect spoken by the locals. Some features of this dialect include pronouncing the vowels ą and ę more nasally, as well as placing the "że" suffix to words in imperative or impatient moods. Prior to World War II, a significant Jewish population resided in the province that spoke Yiddish, though today the language has largely vanished in Lublin due to the Holocaust, with attempts by Poland's small yet fledgling Jewish community to keep it alive. In Lublin's east, there are small pockets where Ukrainian, a related Slavic language, can be overheard. Cities and towns such as Lublin and Zamość will commonly offer English and Ukrainian language services, with German and Russian services found less frequently. Many younger Polish born during the twilight of the communist regime have learned English (and less frequently German) at some point during their education. Older Poles will often have some knowledge of Russian or German, and perhaps also Ukrainian and Belarusian in eastern border regions. International tourism has yet to completely hit Lublin, so pantomiming may be necessary in more rural areas to be understood. A little knowledge of a few words or key Polish phrases will be universally appreciated by the locals.
One of the best ways of getting into the province by air is Lublin Airport (LUZ), located just east of the capital Lublin. The airport is serviced by Eurolot, Lufthansa, and Carpatair, as well as by low cost airlines Wizzair and Ryanair. Lublin Airport is relatively easy to get in and out of by train thanks to a direct line running to Lublin's main railway station, and is just 14 km (8 mi) east of the city center in the suburb of Świdnik.
Another option for air travelers arriving into Lublin Voivodeship is Rzeszów–Jasionka Airport (RZE) situated outside the city of Rzeszów, 160 km (100 mi) south of the capital, or nearly a two and a half hour drive on highway DK19. The airport is serviced by Ryanair, along with major carriers LOT and Lufthansa.
A possible third and fourth option would be arriving into one of Warsaw's two airports. Warsaw Chopin Airport (WAW), also known as Okęcie, is the country's largest and busiest airport, potentially making it the main gateway for visitors entering both Poland and Lublin Voivodeship. Located 180 km (111 mi) away from the capital Lublin, or nearly a two and a half hour drive, Warsaw Chopin serves as a hub for Polish national carrier LOT and its daughter company Eurolot, with additional connections provided by Aegean, Air Berlin, Aer Lingus, Adria, Aeroflot, Belavia, Air Baltic, Air France, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, Air One, Brussels Airlines, British Airways, Germanwings, Czech Airlines, El Al, Emirates, Finnair, KLM, Lufthansa, Norwegian, Qatar Airways, SAS, Sprint Air, Swiss, TAP Portugal, Turkish Airlines, Wizz Air, WOW Air, and UIA.
Warsaw's second air gateway, Warsaw–Modlin Mazovia Airport (WMI), known locally as Modlin, is located in Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki, some 40 km (25 mi) northwest of Warsaw and 205 km (127 mi) northwest of Lublin, nearly a three hour drive. At the present time, the airport is operated exclusively by low-cost carrier Ryanair.
Since the province's economy has greatly improved in recent years, Lublin's road infrastructure is currently receiving an enormous investment boost from both the Polish government and the European Union. The massive S12/S17 expressway, which will form a ring road around the capital Lublin, is expected to be completed in 2014. The partially completed S17 expressway will extend to Warsaw in the coming years, and will act as a northwest-to-southeast corridor. The S19 expressway, with some small portions already completed, is still mostly in its planning stage and is slated to become the province's north-to-south route. The S12 expressway, already partially completed, is expected to extend to Radom to the west in the future. The A2 motorway, planned to run through Lublin's north to the Belarusian border, is currently in its planning stage, though drivers should not expect construction for many years. At the present time, the bulk of Lublin's road traffic is handled by national roads (marked with red and white-numbered signs) and lower-grade voivodeship roads (marked with yellow and black signs).
As in other regions across Poland, Lublin Voivodeship contains a highly complex bus network, with a variety of companies offering routes to and from many of the province's communities, as well as to other locations across the country and throughout Europe. PolskiBus, one of Poland's best-esteemed bus carriers, offers connections between Lublin and Warsaw. Bus carrier Eurolines also operates lines from Lublin, Chełm and Zamość to cities throughout much of western Europe. Latvian bus carrier Ecolines services Lublin to a limited number of other cities, mainly in Ukraine. A number of smaller domestic companies offer additional connections to other communities, which can be researched by e-podroznik.pl. Be aware that the comfort, speed and price of bus transportation can vary from company to company.
Travelers arriving by train to Lublin Voivodeship will likely stop at Stacja Lublin (sometimes referred as Lublin Główny), the hub of the provincial rail network in the capital city. National rail operator PKP provides service from Lublin city to a majority of Poland's other major municipalities. National regional operator Przewozy Regionalne provides services between Lublin's other regions and smaller communities. There are also limited services provided by Koleje Mazowieckie, the provincial rail operator of Masovia, in the region's north.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Some regional cuisine from the province includes Lublin-style pierogies, which are dough pockets served with cottage cheese, buckwheat, mint, and sour cream. Additionally there is the Lublin variety of of forszmak, a traditional meat soup served with tomatoes and cucumbers. Aside from these regional varieties, visitors to Lublin will find standard Polish staples readily available, including pierogi, bigos, golonka, gołąbki, kiełbasa, gulasz, and a variety of fish plates. Within urban centers like Lublin or Zamość, more international cuisines can be readily found, including Japanese, Indian, American, Czech, Slovak, Spanish, and Italian.
The province is home to the Lublin Brewery (Polish: Browar Lubelskie), the producer of Perła beer, one of eastern Poland's most famous brews. The town of Krasnystaw, located 55 km southwest of Lublin, hosts the annual Beer and Hop Festival (Polish: Chmielaki Krasnostawskie) in August. Part beer festival, part folk faire, part outdoor concert, the Beer and Hop Festival is one of the province's best-known annual gatherings, and is an excellent venue to taste regional Polish beers.
Throughout Lublin, especially in rural areas, many families continue to distill home-made śliwowica, a strong plum brandy. It is often drunk as an aperitif both before or after a meal, and is also used often during family or community celebrations. Vodka (Polish: wodka), a standard Polish drinking staple, is also widely found and drunk throughout the province
Visitors in Lublin and Zamość should be aware of pickpockets, though this advice is standard in most large European cities. Like elsewhere throughout Poland, violent crime is extremely rare in Lublin, yet individuals should nonetheless take precautions of their surroundings. Visitors hiking along the cliff areas near the Vistula River should exercise caution, especially after recent rainstorms.
In case of an emergency, individuals can dial the all-purpose emergency number 112 on their phone. For a better specification of what kind of emergency service you are requesting, people can dial 999 for an ambulance, 998 for a fire emergency, and 997 for the police.