22 Sep, 2009
Katowice vs Birmingham
Posted by: Michał In: travel
It’s a strange thing. My first ever visit to the UK years ago brought me to Birmingham, as my family lived in Worcestershire and I had to change there. My first impression? “God, this place is as ugly as Katowice!” Katowice is a big city in the south of Poland and it’s the capital of the most industrialised part of Poland, the Upper Silesia. It also happens to be close to my birth place.
Katowice as a city is old, but not ancient. Its Art Deco quarter is quite atmospheric, although you need to know it’s there as mostly you’re likely to see a mixture of pre-WWII buildings and ugly 1960s architecture. The city seemed a bit purposeless and at times grim. Quite like Birmingham. Although both have made some improvements in recent years.
A few weeks ago I bumped into Pete, also known as The Londoneer at a bloggers’ meet-up in London. He told me he was going to Katowice soon, so I got very excited and wanted to bore him to death with tips. But then I thought – let him discover the city in his own way. And he has.
He has just posted his impressions from Katowice. And guess what? There’s a little reference to Birmingham. Glad I’m not the only one:
I have to start by saying that this is not a pretty place by any means – it has none of the grandeur of Krakow, Wroclaw or Gdansk, although it is more attractive than its northern neighbour, Lodz, which really isn’t saying much! It also has a really ugly 1960s railway station which is an even more depressing sight than Birmingham New Street (if you’ve been there you know what I mean!)
Ouch. The station IS really ugly, and they’ve been wanting to rebuild it for ages now. Some people say it should be razed to the ground and rebuilt, some claim – and if you’re an architect you may understand their sentiment – that it is a fine example of Brutalist Architecture and as such should be preserved. Perhaps, but do all Brutalist buildings smell of wee?
Anyway, not all about Katowice is so bad:
So why have I returned to London with a smile on my face if that’s all there is? Well, it does have a remarkable concert hall, the Spodek, designed to look like a huge flying saucer, and a towering 100 feet high monument to the involvement of the Polish Army in battles throughout the last 200 years that resembles three gently folded angel wings. Although they’re spread out across the city centre, it also boasts some really lovely restaurants where we enjoyed some perfectly executed Polish dishes which, given that this is by no means a tourist destination, were ridiculously cheap.
Awww, how nice. Pete didn’t have a chance to explore the rest of Upper Silesia, but trust me, there’s so much more to see there – from the 19th century architecture of Bytom to post-industrial landscapes of every major city in the area. One day I’ll write more about Bytom. You can read more about Pete’s trip here.
For now I feel like a perfectly executed Polish dish.
Image © The Londoneer – used with author’s permission