The Silesia region is located in southern Poland, along the Vistula, Odra and Warta rivers. The region borders on the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Its picturesque landscapes make it an interesting destination for filmmakers. The region is also home to numerous industrial sites such as steelworks, coal mines, mining villages and workers’ residential quarters and estates, as well as a number of castles and post-industrial sites.
Silesia is Poland’s most industrialised region and one of the foremost industrial areas in Europe. Yet it remains highly diverse in terms of landscape, with no want of mountains, uplands and lowlands. This diversity supports the enrichment of the local flora and fauna, even in densely populated areas. The region is home to sixty nature reserves, which were established to protect various forests, waterways and wetlands. Key natural attractions of the region include the forest-covered slopes of the Beskid Mountains and the picturesque landscapes of the Krakow-Częstochowa Upland, also known as the Polish Jura, which is renowned for its rock formations, deep valleys and caves.
Silesia is a region of seventy-one cities, the largest of which are Katowice, Częstochowa, Gliwice, Sosnowiec, Bielsko-Biała, Dąbrowa Górnicza, Zabrze, and Bytom. Katowice is located at the heart of Poland’s largest agglomeration. Its landscape is predominantly post-industrial, with working and disused industrial plants, as well as old mining villages and the residential districts which sprang up around the mines and factories. The largest of these are the districts of Nikiszowiec in Katowice, Kaufhaus in Ruda Śląska and Biskupice in Zabrze. The region is also home to a number of castles and palaces which were used over the centuries mainly for defensive purposes or as formal residencies. One of the best-preserved is the castle complex in Pszczyna, built in the Neo-Renaissance style. The palace museum holds around eighty per cent of the original fin-de-siécle interior furnishings.
The castles which make up the Trail of the Eagles’ Nests may be smaller, but they are equally as fascinating. The trail consists of twenty-five castles located along a line stretching for one hundred and sixty-three kilometres. Many of them are in ruins. The most picturesque are the remains of the castle at Ogrodzieniec, near Zawiercie, and the castles in Olsztyn, Bobolice and Mirów. Pustynia Błędowska (Błędów Desert), the largest area of inland drift sand in Poland, lies in the borderlands of the Silesian Upland. Used for military purposes during part of the twentieth century, the desert is now a protected area. It provided a filming location for Jerzy Kawalerowicz’s Faraon (Pharoah).
Tarnowskie Góry is home to two silver and lead mines, where the main attractions include a six-hundred-metre-long boat ride through the mine tunnels. Zabrze is the site of a number of coal mining relics, including the Guido underground ethnographic museum, the Królowa (Queen) Luiza open-air ethnographic museum and the Coal Mining Museum.
The region is also home to one of Poland’s oldest narrow gauge railways. The track, which is twenty-three kilometres long, has been has been in use for more than one hundred and fifty years now.