The Wielkopolska region lies in western Poland, in the lowland basin of three rivers, the Warta, the Noteć and the Prosna. It is held to be the cradle of Poland, for it was there that Polish statehood was forged and the region boasts a number of sites closely connected with the nation’s birth.
It is also linked with the country’s earliest ventures into the art of film. Poznań is home to Poland’s oldest working cinema, the Muza. The first screenings took place there less than a year after the Lumiere brothers had launched their film in Paris. One of the first Polish films, which was recently discovered in the Bois d’Arcy film archive, dates back to 1908 and was filmed in Wielkopolska. That tradition has gone from strength to strength. In Biedrusk, near Poznań, Jerzy Hoffman filmed several scenes for his blockbuster Ogniem i mieczem (With Fire and Sword). Near the town of Kwilcz, the Rozbitek (Castaway) Institute and foundation established by the Academy award-winning composer, Jan A.P. Kaczmarek and modelled on the Sundance Institute is located.
Wielkopolska is dominated by lowlands which are accented by rolling, moraine hills, vast river valleys, post-glacial lakes, meadows, forests and wetlands. The lakes, almost eight hundred of them, lie mainly in the northern part and nearly twenty-six per cent of the region’s total area is forested. The most interesting natural sites include the Morasko Meteorite Nature Reserve, with its ancient meteor craters and Rogalin, Europe’s largest oak tree reserve.
There are one hundred and nine cities in Wielkopolska, the largest of which are Poznań, Konin, Ostrów Wielkopolski, Piła, Gniezno and Kalisz, Poland’s oldest city. Examples of pre-Romanesque and Romanesque architecture from the tenth century CE can be found in Poznań, Gniezno and Kalisz, as well as in archaeological reserves in Giecz and Ostrów Lednicki. Poznań is also home to Ostrów Tumski, an ancient fort on the Warta river which houses the tombs of the first Polish kings, a spectacular church and a Renaissance town hall. Other key sites in Poznań include the Castle quarter and the Art Nouveau townhouses in the Jeżyce district.
The entire region is studded with castles, palaces and manor houses dating from various periods and demonstrating a range of architectural styles. Rydzyna, with it Baroque castle and town layout, is unique to the country and one of only a few such sites in Europe.
Wielkopolska is also home to a number of sanctuaries and monasteries, as well as significant examples of wooden architecture, both sacral and secular, including Poland’s only wooden town hall, which is located in Sulmierzyce. Other attractions in the region include the salt mine in Kłodawa, the old breweries in Poznań and Czarnków, the steam engine factory in Wolsztyn, the weavers’ houses in Chodzież and several narrow gauge railways.