Rzeszów - the capital of Podkarpacie

Rzeszow has been a city welcoming to visitors for almost 700 years. Its oldest written records date back to 1354, when the medieval city Resovia was granted civic rights. Since then, it has been a meeting point of many European nations from the Byzantine East and Mediterranean West and people from the South and North of Europe. Rzeszow is an excellent example of how a modern, young and dynamically growing agglomeration of 163,000 inhabitants is positioned within its historical heritage. The town is the base for the local government and administrative authorities and has a University and a University of Technology.

Rzeszow is also an important industrial centre with brand name retailers, commercial facilities, shopping and service centres. Rzeszow is the capital of the Podkarpackie Region. It is situated in the South-East of Poland, at the frontier of Poland with the Ukraine and Slovakia and can be considered as the eastern outpost of the European Union. The eastern border of the region is the Polish-Ukrainian borderland and the southern frontier is marked by the Polish-Slovak border. These lands were the crossroads of the main trade routes from East to West and from North to South. Today, important transportation links pass through the city, the international E-40 highway from Dresden, via Krakow and on to Kiev in the Ukraine and the highway E-371 from Gdansk through Warsaw to Slovakia, Hungary and further on to the more southern parts of Europe. In Jasionka, just a few kilometres from the centre of the city, is its airport which services domestic and international flights from New York, London and Dublin. Rzeszow has a very friendly and inviting atmosphere. The inhabitants of the city, the whole region in fact are suburb chefs of local and international cuisine and masters of organising gastronomic festivities. They know how to welcome and look after their guests with the consequence that visitors to the region frequently want to return.

Famous Resovians and Rzeszow’s Families

In the 14th century Rzeszow belonged to the knight and diplomat Jan Pakoslawic, who took the name Rzeszowski. The town was subsequently ruled by Mikolaj Spytek Ligeza, the founder and builder of the castle, churches and the trades and crafts guilds. The famous markets through the ages, where goods manufactured by craftsmen and goldsmiths could be bought, have drawn merchants from almost the whole of Europe and Western Asia. The subsequent owners of the town, the Lubomirski magnate family, were patrons of culture, the arts and science. Under their reign Rzeszow developed rapidly and its role and position in the region significantly increased. After the Partitions of Poland the town went into decline. It soon, however, found its new role as a centre of the patriotic and liberation movements. It was in these territories that the first, and still in existence, Polish People's Party was formed in 1895. Rzeszow is the hometown of many famous Polish artists, scientists, politicians and businessmen. The former Piarist School founded in the 17th century, currently the Stanislaw Konarski High School, is still one of the best high schools in Poland. Among its graduates are Ignacy Lukasiewicz (1822-1882) the inventor of the oil lamp and builder of the first oil well and oil refinery, and General Wladyslaw Sikorski (1881-1943), a politician and statesman. Rzeszow is also well known through the work and performances of many of its contemporary artists like Adam Harasiewicz, pianist and interpreter of Chopin, Jozef Szajna, director, stage designer and painter, and also considered one of the most interesting artists in Polish theatre of the 20th century, Jerzy Grotowski (1933- 1999), the founder of the Laboratorium Theatre Company, instigator of a new philosophy of theatre and creator of an unique method of training actors and Tadeusz Nalepa (1933-2007), the famous Polish rock and blues legend.

From Gothic to Secession – The Underground Labyrinths of Rzeszow

Rzeszow was built along the route which Attila the Hun took on his way to conquer Asia in the 5th century and, according to legend, was buried near Przemysl after his death. More modern history of the town has been inscribed on its medieval walls. In the course of its long history the city saw the movement of merchants from every part of the world, Russian boyars, different Polish kings, Austrian emperors, wild invading hordes and armies of occupation. Rzeszow was destroyed by fire several times but after each disaster the city was rebuilt and its economic position grew and was strengthened. Rzeszow's monuments are a testimonial to its history. The historical part of the town occupies the area around the Medieval Market Square. The most eye-catching structures are the Town Hall (rebuild in the 19th century) and an old well. The most important historic buildings include the Gothic Parish church with a tower from the 16th century, the Bernadine church and monastery, the ancient Piarist Convent, the castle, the Renaissance summer palace of the Lubomirski family (Rzeszow belonged to this family till the middle of the 19th century) and two synagogues. The secession influence can be seen in the tenement houses and villas of the city's residents. On one is written the slogan "You can see the hour, but you cannot tell the hour". Under the pavements of the Rzeszow Market Square and the tenement houses there is a labyrinth of underground tunnels, cellars and passages. During the times when trade flourished they were used to store goods from all over the world and in the times of war and invasion they served as a shelter for the local inhabitants, the Resovians. The "subterranean stores" were cellars just below ground level, where the shopkeepers (mainly Jewish) sold groceries, were still operating in the 20th century. Today, this mysterious labyrinth is partly open to visitors and can be toured with a guide. The underground tourist trail is about 340 meters long and it made up of 50 cellars. Its lowest point is10 meters below ground level.

The Treasures of the Podkarpackie Region

One of the most attractive tourist destinations here is an area located in the south-east of the region, encompassing the land from Rzeszow to the border with Slovakia and the Ukraine, the northern range of the Carpathian Mountains. As this it has been at the crossroads of different cultures and religions for many centuries, this region has been inhabited by Poles, Wolos, Lemkos, Boykos, Germans, Austrians, Hungarians and the Jews who have all added to the unique character and beauty of the local villages and small towns. Among these with a medieval "birth certificate" and a rich history are Pilzno, Sanok, Jaroslaw and Przemysl where history has left numerous valuable traces. Because of its natural qualities, unique fauna and flora, large areas of the Podkarpackie region have been turned into national parks and nature reserves.

One of the most interesting districts can be found near Lezajsk where a species of azalea (Azalea pontica) grows. Rzeszow is an important convergence point from where there are many links to the beautiful castles in Lancut, Krasiczyn and Baranow Sandomierski as well as the trail of historical works of sacral and wooden architecture in Haczow and Blizne, which are all on the UNESCO world cultural heritage list, and the Podgorze, Bieszczady and Lower Beskid National Parks.

The Carpathian Foothills

In the heart of the Polish Carpathians, 100km from Rzeszow, are the Bieszczady lands. This is a favoured destination for adventure seekers, dreamers, poets, artists, lovers of wildlife and those who hanker for the more active forms of spending their leisure time. The Bieszczady are a preferred destination because of the wonderful natural charm of the region, its serenity, peace and its pristine, unpolluted air. In the forests, pastures and even on the tourist trails there are much evidence of the wild animals of the region, bison (bison bonasus), wolves, lynxes and bears. This is a part of Poland where wild life, birdlife and the natural unspoiled fauna can be observed in its unblemished surroundings. In summers the artificial Lake Solina, which is sometimes called the Sea of Bieszczady, is visited by many sailors. The hotels, inns and agro-tourist farms offer varied accommodation as well as many interesting services and ideas to make a holiday here more enjoyable. In the summer visitors can take walks, excursions and cycling tours or go horse-back riding, sailing and windsurfing. In winter, skiing is very popular and the local cuisine is delicious the whole year round.

Tasty and Healthy – the Local Cuisine

The local restaurants and inns serve traditional dishes prepared according to old recipes using organically grown local produce. The specialties of the Podkarpackie region include white and smoked cheeses made from goat and sheep's milk, sausages and smoked bacon, proziaks (pancakes made from flour and sour cream, then baked in old-fashioned wood fired ovens), whey soup, cabbage dumplings and bread baked, as it has been for more than three hundred years, in cabbage or horse-radish leaves. The healthy and tasty honey which is offered here comes from the purest pastures and forests and is called "gold from the Podkarpackie region" by the locals.

Gifts and Souvenirs – Artistic Handicrafts

In Rzeszow as well as the whole Podkarpackie region, silver jewellery can be purchased which has been designed and manufactured by local artisans and galleries offer contemporary paintings and sculptures for sale. The most sought after gifts from the region are original glass pieces from the glass works in Krosno. These include vases, jugs and glassware made by hand according to designs of 19th century masters. Folk artists work with wicker, wood, clay, wool and thread. Sometime, real marvels can be found in the small-town markets like original baskets, sculptures, clay figures and mugs, woollen carpets, ingenious embroidery and lace work, toys and even everyday items.

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