Earth : Europe : Central Europe : Poland : Pomerania : Pomeranian Voivodeship
Pomeranian Voivodeship (Polish: Pomorskie)  is one of the sixteen provinces of Poland. Situated in the north of the republic bordering the shore of the Baltic Sea, Pomerania is often considered as one of the playgrounds of the country, complete with relaxed seaside towns, beaches, historic port cities, Teutonic castles, and a rustic countryside. The province is home to the Tricity agglomeration (Polish: Trójmiasto, Kashubian: Trzëgard), a string of closely-connected coastal cites that include the provincial capital Gdańsk, the holiday center Sopot, and the port city Gdynia. Pomerania is also home to the Kashubian minority, a separate Slavic ethnic group native to the region, whose language and culture retains a distinct identity from Polish culture. In the past, the lands around the contemporary province were historically inhabited by Germans, Kashubians and Poles, marking the border zone between former Polish and Prussian kingdoms. Famously, the province bared witness to the opening salvos of World War II in September 1939, when the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein opened fire on Polish defenses on Westerplatte outside of Gdańsk. In the early 1980s, the province's harbors gave birth to Solidarity, a nationwide labor movement that helped eventually topple the communist regime and facilitated the fall of the Iron Curtain. Today, Pomerania is a major economic hub due to its numerous port facilities and its large tourism industry.
Pomeranian Voivodeship should not be confused with the historic region of Pomerania, which includes much of the modern-day coastal north of Poland and eastern Germany. The modern-day province of Pomerania composes of the original region's eastern part.
As of 2014, Pomerania had an estimated population of 2,296,944. A majority of the province's population are centered within the Tricity conurbation, a large urbanized region stretching along Pomerania's east coast on the Gulf of Gdańsk. The northern and northwestern shores of Pomerania are sparsely populated, while the western and southern interior portions of the province have several significant towns, though is generally rural.
The lands of the modern-day province have been inhabited by humans since the end of the last ice age. Among some of Pomerania's early inhabitants were the Lusatian culture, an early socioeconomic patchwork of tribes dating from 1900 to 650 BC. Political and cultural changes in that culture led to the development of the Pomeranian culture around the middle the 7th century BC. A notable characteristic of this period was making burial urns with the features of human faces. Pomeranian culture later developed into the Oksywie culture around the 2nd century BC, which later evolved into the Wielbark culture between the 1st and 4th centuries AD. It was during this period that early Germanic tribes from modern-day Germany, Norway and Sweden settled or moved through Pomerania, including Burgundians, Goths, Gepids, Rugians, and Veneti.
During the Migration Era of the 6th to the 9th centuries, Slavic people from the east settled in Pomerania and effectively replaced the migratory Germanic tribes. Calling the land po more, or "land at the sea" in early Slavic, these groups coalesced into the early Pomeranian tribe. In the early Middle Ages, Vikings from Scandinavia launched raids against the Slavic Pomeranians, leading to open warfare between both groups. Later, centers benefiting from the trade between Slavs and Scandinavians were established along the coast. Pomeranian independence was further encroached by military campaigns led by the Piast dynasty from the south, who sought to expand their borders and influence to the Baltic by the 960s, as well as to Christianize the largely pagan area. By the 980s, under the reign of Piast Duke Mieszko I, Gdańsk was established. Piast rule in the west of Pomerania was brief, ending with a tribal uprising in 1005. However, the Piasts retained control of eastern Pomerania around the Gulf of Gdańsk, becoming known as Pomerelia. Pomerelia remained in the early Piast Polish kingdom until the 1060s, when it departed from the realm after an unsuccessful Piast campaign against Bohemia. Later military campaigns led on by Prince Bolesław III Wrymouth regained royal control over all of Pomerania by 1122. As the nearby Holy Roman Empire bordered Pomeranian lands, Prince Bolesław recognized Emperor Lothair II's authority in 1135, who in response, recognized the Duchy of Pomerania as a Polish fiefdom.
Throughout the 12th century, Christianization spread among the Slavic Pomeranians. As the region's people shifted from pagan beliefs to Catholic liturgy, Pomerania's borders shifted considerably due to royal marriages and outright invasions from the west and north, becoming a vassal state of Saxony in 1164, followed by a Danish invasion and annexation in the 1180s. At the same time, German settlers increasingly arrived in the region, establishing communities based on German town laws. To the east of Pomerania, Polish efforts to subdue the Baltic Prussians had come to avail. With Duke Konrad of Masovia calling on the Pope for military aide, the Masovian nobility received the Teutonic Knights in 1230, a Christian military order with ties to Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. Arriving in Poland, the Teutonic Knights used a Golden Bull issued by the emperor to subdue the Prussians, while at the same time, turned against their Polish hosts, seizing territory from Masovia. Creating the State of the Teutonic Order, an independent monastic realm, the Teutonic Knights engaged in brutal warfare against the Prussian tribes, killing and exiling huge swaths of the population. In order to make up for the population loses, the Teutonic Knights appealed for German colonists in the Holy Roman Empire to repopulate the territory. Over the coming the decades, the Teutonic State grew stronger and larger. In 1308, in the midst of a political dispute between Poland and Brandenburg over Pomerelia, the Knights seized and annexed Gdańsk, destroying much of the city and its Polish and Kashubian inhabitants. Brandenburg forces retreated from Pomerania to the east, selling land to the order for peace which created a vital supply land bridge between the Teutonic State and the Holy Roman Empire, effectively land locking the Polish kingdom. Establishing their political center in Malbork, the Knights ruled their state with military and religious fervor. Using the massacres and outright annexations of Pomerania as evidence, kings Władysław I and Casimir III the Great took the Teutonic Knights to papal court in both 1320 and 1333, decrying that the Knights' possession of their former territories as illegal. In both cases, Pope John XXII sided with the Polish monarchs, prompting the Teutonic Knights to simply ignore Rome. In response, the Polish launched a military offensive against the order in the 1330s, recapturing much of western Pomerania, though the Knights retained control of Gdańsk.
Gdańsk (now called Danzig as its German population grew) initially stagnated under Teutonic occupation. However, as trade began to increasingly blossom along the coastal cities of the Baltic Sea, the city's strategic and trading location could not be ignored. As such, the Knights recognized the city's economic importance, letting it join the burgeoning Hanseatic League in 1358, bringing with its membership a degree of prosperity to the Teutonic State. However, Teutonic tensions with the nearby Polish kingdom always remained on the surface. War between the two entities erupted again between 1409 to 1411. The Polish, now allied with the Lithuanians, decisively defeated the Teutonic Knights at the Battle of Grunwald in 1411, marking the slow decline of the order. Further wars between 1431 to 1435, along with the Thirteen Years' War between 1454 to 1466, eroded Teutonic territory. Both Danzig and the Teutonic stronghold of Malbork fell to Polish troops in 1457. The Peace of Thorn in 1466 ensured the end of the order's claims to eastern Pomerania, forcing large tracts of the neutered Teutonic State to become outright fiefdoms of the Polish kingdom. Eastern Pomeranian lands formerly occupied by the order became Royal Prussia, a semi-autonomous province of the kingdom, while western Pomerania continued to develop independently as a separate duchy within the Holy Roman Empire, siding with Poland against the Teutonic Knights, while separately engaging in disputes and political intrigues with the German duchies and kingdoms to the west. Royal Prussia lost its autonomous status when the Union of Lublin in 1569 united the Polish and Lithuanian kingdoms into a single Commonwealth, whereby the province became incorporated into the crown.
During the 16th century, major socio-cultural changes swept through the region. Arriving from northern German duchies, the Protestant Reformation quickly gained acceptance throughout the Pomerania's realms, including the Duchy of Pomerania, Polish Royal Prussia, and the separate Duchy of Prussia to the east (where the last remnants of the Teutonic Knights had become secularized vassals to the Polish king). Initially, zealot Polish Catholics tried in vain to remove Protestant religious and political leaders, though by the 1530s, Protestantism had largely become ingrained into the region's populace. In science, mathematician and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus often worked in Danzig and Malbork, advancing his theories of the universe and mathematics. In 1577, a six-month rebellion in Danzig against the rule of King Stephen Báthory ended when neither side gained an advantage over the other.
The 17th century proved to be extraordinarily tumultuous for Pomerania. During the Thirty Years' War, the western Duchy of Pomerania became the scene of significant fighting, as Imperial forces loyal to the Holy Roman Emperor under Catholic General Albrecht von Wallenstein invaded in 1627, bringing severe devastation upon the largely Protestant duchy. To the east that same year, a separate surprise invasion by Sweden caught the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth off guard. Led by King Gustavus II Adolphus, the Swedes sharply advanced into Royal Prussia, aided on by their Protestant allies in the Duchy of Prussia. Despite initial Swedish victories, the Swedes failed to take Danzig. In 1630, Swedish attention turned westward to the Catholic-occupied Duchy of Pomerania, making that region a springboard for further Swedish incursions into continental Europe. Before the embers of the Thirty Years' War could fully cool, the Swedes under King Charles X Gustav launched yet another invasion of Poland. Known as the Deluge, the Swedes captured virtually all of Pomerania, though as in the previous Thirty Years' War, failed again to take Danzig. Lasting from 1655 to 1660, Polish and allied Lithuanian, Brandenburg and Austrian troops slowly regained many of the Commonwealth's occupied territories back, including a grueling siege of Malbork. The Deluge ended with the Treaty of Oliva in May 1660, leaving the severely weakened Commonwealth with a pyrrhic victory and Pomerania devastated for decades to come.
In the aftermath of both the Thirty Years' War and the Swedish Deluge, effective Polish influence over the largely German-speaking realms of Brandenburg and the Duchy of Prussia had been lost. Previously in 1618, Brandenburg and Prussia had entered into a personal union with the death of the childless Prussian Duke Albert Frederick, helping the House of Hohenzollern inherit both realms. Thanks to politically-minded marriages and diplomacy, Brandenburg-Prussia increasingly gained power at the expense of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The 1653 Treaty of Stettin further increased Brandenburg-Prussia as it annexed territory formerly of the Duchy of Pomerania. With full Prussian independence from the Commonwealth recognized in November 1657, followed by the proclamation of the Kingdom of Prussia in January 1701, the declining Commonwealth's remaining lands in eastern Pomerania were now sandwiched between two halves of the increasingly growing Prussian state. in 1772, after decades of political, economic and military growth, Prussian King Frederick II, upon agreement with Empress Maria Theresa of Austria and Czarina Catherine II of Russia, invaded much of the remaining Polish Pomeranian lands, beginning the first of three partitions over the next twenty years that brought an end to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. For the next two centuries, the region would be divided into two separate Prussian provinces; the Province of Pomerania to the west, and the Province of West Prussia (later merged as the Province of Prussia) to the east.
Under Prussian (and later German) administration, the two provinces industrialized, with Danzig evolving into a modern port city. While attempts were made to reconcile the provinces' Polish population with German-speaking rule in the late Prussian period, the imperial German government after 1871 attempted a massive Germanization effort for the region's Slavs. This included encouraging German settlement in predominantly Polish and Kashubian areas with tax incentives, investment in German-speaking firms, and encouraging the use of German as the predominant first language.
The German Empire's defeat in the First World War, followed in quick succession with the independence of the Second Polish Republic in November 1918, profoundly changed Pomerania's political boundaries. While the Treaty of Versailles left the Province of Pomerania to remain within the newly-established Weimar German government, the treaty awarded the new Polish state with ethnic Polish majority lands formerly connected to eastern Pomerania and Royal Prussia from the medieval era, creating the narrow Polish Corridor connecting Poland to the Baltic Sea. Danzig and its surrounding communities, with its large German majority population, were politically separated from both Germany and Poland into a free city supervised by the League of Nations. The lands around German-administered East Prussia were effectively split off from the rest of Germany, creating a German enclave entirely surrounded by newly-independent Poland and Lithuania. With its German majority, Danzig hugely resented its political separation from Germany, prompting a high degree of hostility towards ethnic Slavs in the city. Due to the hostile responses of German harbor workers and unsympathetic customs officials to Polish trade, the new Polish government decided to heavily invest in building a rival seaport north of Danzig in Gdynia. Anti-Slavic and anti-Versailles attitudes in Danzig and nearby East Prussia played easily into the rhetoric of the burgeoning Nazi Party, who gained strong voting majorities in Danzig, East Prussia and western Pomerania as it rose to power during the early 1930s. The Polish Corridor separating the two halves of the Third Reich became a major source of contention between both states.
On 1 September 1939, the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein opened fire on Polish coastal defense batteries at Westerplatte outside of Danzig, beginning the opening exchange of salvos of the Second World War. German forces quickly overwhelmed Polish defenses in eastern Pomerania, leading to its annexation into the Third Reich. During the German occupation, Nazi policy dictated total brutality to Slavic Kashubians and Poles, as well as to the region's Jewish minority. Between 85,000 to 110,000 political opponents and ethnic "undesirables" perished at Stutthof concentration camp located just east of Danzig. In Piasnica Wielka in the north of Pomerania, the Nazi occupation orchestrated the mass execution and burial of between 10,000 to 15,000 Polish and Kashubian intellectuals, along with Jews, Czechs, and mental health patients.
As the war drew to a close in the winter of 1945 with the rapid Soviet advance from the east, German military personnel and civilian refugees alike fled the region in a massive seaborne evacuation to western German ports. Labeled as Operation Hannibal, nearly 1.3 million fled East Prussia and Pomerania. Many vessels during the evacuation became prey to lurking Soviet submarines. One vessel torpedoed off of Pomerania during the evacuation, the Wilhelm Gustloff, resulted in the deaths of nearly 10,000 German soldiers and civilians, becoming the largest single loss of life for an individual ship in maritime history. By April 1945, much of Pomerania was occupied by the Soviet Red Army, leaving Danzig in ruins. With the end of the war, the remaining German population in the region was expelled, leaving the entirety of the former Free City of Danzig (now reverted to its original Polish name Gdańsk) and all of historic western Pomerania to Swinoujscie annexed by Poland. The remaining portions of East Prussia were divided by Poland and the Soviet Union, who outright annexed much of the former German province as Kaliningrad Oblast.
As communism settled into Poland in the post-war era, Gdańsk was rebuilt and resettled with ethnic Poles, becoming a large shipbuilding port for various navies and merchant marine fleets of the Eastern Bloc, while the rest of the region slowly developed into a tourist destination for vacationing Poles and other citizens of likeminded communist states. Discontent with Poland's rapidly stagnating economy and immovable regime manifested itself in the Gdańsk shipyards when, in 1980, workers at the Lenin Shipyard staged a strike protesting the firing of Anna Walentynowicz due to her involvement in an illegal trade union. Becoming known as Solidarity (Polish: Solidarność), the movement quickly swelled into a non-violent, anti-communist social movement. Led by Lech Wałęsa and inspired by Catholic social teachings, Solidarity spread across Pomerania and throughout the country. Fearing the outright collapse of governmental authority and Soviet military intervention, army general and Prime Minister Wojciech Jaruzelski declared martial law throughout Poland in December 1981, in a move to crush the movement and all dissent. Despite mass arrests, torture and intimidation, Solidarity only grew more emboldened. Facing a crumbling economy, spiraling debt, decreasing Soviet support and international isolation, the communist government and Solidarity entered into the Round Table Talks in 1989. The negotiations led to that year's partially-free elections, as well as an easing of the command economy, media controls, and of the authoritarian state. By the end of 1989, the communist regime in Poland had collapsed, ushering in a new era.
Modern-day Pomeranian Voivodeship was created by provincial government reforms instituted by the Polish government in 1999. Today, the once-tumultuous province has become an idyllic region for visitors, as well as an increasingly important gateway to international trade and tourism.
Pomerania is 18,310.34 km 2 (7,069.7 sq mi) large. Much of the north and east of the province is largely flat, while the center is uneven, with forested hills and valleys. The center and south also contain a numerous amount of lakes. In the past, the eastern lands of the contemporary province were known as Pomerelia, while its western lands were known as Farther Pomerania.
As in all other provinces of Poland, all native residents of Pomerania will speak Polish, a Slavic language spoken by over 40 million people, and will be readily heard and seen everywhere. The province is also home to the Kashubian people, descendants of ancient Slavic tribes that began to inhabit Pomerania around the 6th century. Their language, Kashubian, has often been debated by Polish linguists as an offshoot dialect of the Polish language, although foreign linguists often contend that Kashubian is a distinct language in its own right, and is the closest living Lechitic relative to Polish today. Written Kashubian can be identified by its use of vowel letters that do not exist in Polish, such as ã, ë, é, ò, ô and ù, as well as possessing several Low German loanwords that are not found in other Slavic languages. Kashubian is spoken by nearly 110,000 people in the province (according to a 2011 census), and has been granted second language status in many communities, yet all Kashubians are also bilingual in Polish. Visitors to Pomerania should not be surprised to see bilingual signage in many of these communities away from the Tricity, especially in the province's center. In the past, the German language had a strong presence in Pomerania, particularly in and around Gdańsk, although since the mass deportation of Germans at the end of World War II, the language today is reserved nearly exclusively for German-speaking tourists.
Cities and towns in the Tricity area such as Gdańsk, Sopot and Gdynia, as well as outside the region in Malbork, will commonly offer English, German, and Russian language services. Foreign language use and services will decline once one ventures away from the Tricity. Many younger Poles born between the 1980s and 1990s have learned some English (and less frequently German) at some point during their education, and many will be able to communicate with non-Polish visitors on the street or in restaurants, as tourism is increasingly growing in the province. Older individuals will often have some knowledge of Russian or German, and are generally more difficult to communicate with. A little knowledge of a few words or key Polish phrases will be universally appreciated by Pomeranians.
The best option for flying into the province is through Gdańsk Lech Wałęsa Airport (GDN), located 14 km (8.8 mi) west of the city center. Some of the major airlines flying into the airport include Lufthansa, SAS Scandinavian Airlines, AirBaltic, Air Berlin, Norwegian Air Shuttle, Swiss, TAP Portugal, and Poland's national carrier LOT along with its daughter company Eurolot. Additional low cost airlines operating from Gdańsk include Ryanair and Wizz Air.
A second and more distant option is to fly in and out of Bydgoszcz Ignacy Jan Paderewski Airport (BZG) in Bydgoszcz. The airport is 170 km (105 mi) south of Gdańsk. From Bydgoszcz, passengers can use the flying services of national carrier LOT, Eurolot, or low cost airline Ryanair.
Both Gdańsk and Gdynia have extensive ferry facilities, facilitating travel across the Baltic Sea between Pomerania and other parts of Europe's north. Polish ferry operator Polferries sails passengers between Gdańsk and Nynäshamn, Sweden with an average sailing time of 19 hours. Swedish competitor company Stena Line operates passenger and vehicle service between Gdynia and Karlskrona, taking passengers an average 11 hours to sail across the Baltic for each direction. Finnish company Finnlines operates a route between Gdynia and Helsinki.
Pomeranian Voivodeship is connected to the rest of the republic by the A1 motorway, Poland's main north-south route. Running just south of Gdańsk, the motorway provides access to the smaller communities in the province's south, as well as linking together the Tricity to Toruń and Łódź, as well as Warsaw via the A2 motorway to the east. The Tricity area itself is connected together by the S6 expressway. In the future, the S6 is expected to link the rural west of Pomerania to the Tricity, and will eventually connect with Szczecin; the expressway has already been completed in several stages, including around Słupsk. Furthermore, the S7 expressway connects the Tricity to the southeast of the province towards Elbląg, although as of date, the expressway is only partially completed in several fragments, yet is expected to be completed in the coming decade. In the future, the S7 will provide the province an alternative route to Warsaw and further south to Kraków. Pomerania is additionally connected together by smaller national roads (marked by red and white signage) and lower-level voivodeship roads (marked by yellow and black signs).
Due to Pomerania's position along the Baltic coast, numerous bus lines connect the province to the rest of Poland and to Europe. Mainstream bus carrier Eurolines maintains stops in Bytów, Chojnice, Gdańsk, Gdynia, Koscierzyna, Malbork, Słupsk and Tczew, offering various connections to cities in Central and Western Europe. Latvian bus company Ecolines calls on Gdańsk, Gdynia, Malbork, Słupsk, Tczew, connecting the province to cities largely in Eastern Europe. One of the country's largest and more comfortable domestic carriers, PolskiBus, offers domestic connections to Gdańsk. Within the province itself, many smaller communities, towns and cities are linked together through well-established bus networks. Many of these schedules can be researched by e-podroznik.pl. Travelers should be aware that prices, comfort, and speed can often vary from company to company.
Travelers using trains to get around Pomerania will likely use Gdańsk Główny or Gdynia Główna, two of the province's major hubs for the northern Polish rail network, with connections to a majority of the nation's major cities, as well as having a number of international connections. Both hubs are served by national rail operator PKP and regional operator Przewozy Regionalne. Additionally, local train operator Szybka Kolej Miejska, or SKM, links together the Tricity, as well as several provincial communities to the north and south. As of 2014, the province is presently constructing its own entirely new rail network called the Pomorska Kolej Metropolitalna, or PKM, that will link together Wałęsa Airport, the Tricity, and several of its surrounding communities. The new line is not scheduled to be completed until 2015.
Boat company Żegluga Gdańska operates passenger ferry routes (or "water buses" as they are termed) from each of the three major municipalities of the Tricity to Hel, bypassing road and rail traffic for the Hel Peninsula by directly sailing through the Gulf of Gdańsk. Most journeys take between 90 minutes to two hours from each direction.
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Pomeranian cuisine is known for being rich and heavy, mixing maritime and aquatic specialties found along its coast and its various lakes, with the hearty food from its rustic interior, influenced by centuries of Germanic and Slavic culture. A popular food originating from Kashubia is grucholec, a potato-based quiche that includes strips of thin bacon, onions, and pickles cooked together. Golce, or Pomeranian potato dumplings, are typically served with bits of bacon, onions, and sometimes sauerkraut. Another popular Kashubian food is plińce, which are soft potato pancakes served with sugar or cream on top. Another regional speciality, czarnina, is cooked with either goose or duck meat along with dried apples, pears, cherries, and potatoes. Kiełbasa kaszubska jałówiecka, or Kashubian sausages, are made from veal, pork and beef, are traditionally cold smoked using alder wood and juniper, and can be stored for months at a time. Influenced by centuries of Germans who formerly lived in the region, klitundplumen is a plum soup, harvested from the fertile delta lands in Pomerania's southeast. Zapiekanka grzybowa a mushroom-based casserole originating from the Kociewie region, is also found in many provincial restaurants.
Apart from Pomeranian cuisine, standard Polish cuisine can also be found throughout the province, including pierogi, bigos, golonka, gołąbki, kiełbasa, and gulasz. In Pomerania's urban areas, particularly the Tricity, including Indian, German, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, Russian, and Italian food.
While southern Polish beers have long since dominated the country's beer market, Pomerania does posses its own brewing tradition, helped in part by centuries of German influence. Amber is perhaps the province's best-known beer brands, and has won numerous beer awards in the last two decades. In Gdańsk, there are a number of brewpubs specializing in their own brews, including Brovarnia Gdańsk and Browar Trójmiejski Lubrow.
A particular drinking speciality for Gdańsk is goldwasser. Made since the 1500s, goldwasser is a root and herbal liqueur, typically 35 to 40 percent strong. The drink is famous for its small flecks of gold floating within its liquid.
Visitors in the crowded marketplaces and streets of Gdańsk, Sopot and Hel should remain aware of pickpockets, although this advice is standard for any European city or town popular with tourists. Violent crime in Pomerania is extremely rare and uncommon, yet individuals should nonetheless take precautions of their surroundings. Visitors deciding to swim in coastal areas should be aware of tides.
In case of an emergency, people may dial the all-purpose emergency number 112 on their phone. For a better specification of the kind of emergency service being requested, people can dial 999 for an ambulance, 998 for a fire emergency, and 997 for the police.
Additionally, Pomerania shares a small international border with the Russian Federation on the Vistula Split peninsula. However, due to the remoteness of the location, the border is not accessible for tourists to cross.