Do you remember the fact that we got off from the Balkan Express at the stop 'Poniatowski' Shaft, which was formerly called Nikisch Schacht - and now it is known as 'Wieczorek' mine (formerly 'Gisch').
In front of us the brick building with slightly dirty walls appears. Compact construction, leading to the inside of the gate, reminiscent of a medieval castle. Please, step inside. We walk down the street limited on both sides of the 3-storey buildings forming a compact series of closed ring shaped.
Let me tell you something before you ask question. There are nine of such rings in here. Each of these O-shaped building is connected to the neighboring one the by covered bridge draped over the street. Let's go through ajnfart (=the yard). Formerly there were utility rooms: pigsties, cells and even oven for baking bread. Nowadays, we have a different view, such as plenty of greenery, fruit trees, lawns, shrubs soften the austere red brick. We're back on the street.
A little familiar with the raw beauty of the buildings, we begin to look at them more carefuly. That is something amazing. Each of the many portals have different endings. None of them is of the same bay or the foundations of the window. On the walls one can see various ornaments made out of bricks and cleverly arranged. This is not a stamp, it is something more, the result that we can notice new layers of beauty and we realize that we are in a cult unique place.
Speaking about the exceptions that prove the rule, there is only one recurring theme. It is the image of hammer and iron crossed with each other, which is the traditional emblem of mining. There are impressive arcade arches on the market or Liberation Square.
Gothic elegance ornates batten ceilings and covered walkways. We check the inside of another quadrangle of buildings. It was not an exception. It also looks green and cozy. Benches invite you to rest and enjoy the tranquility.
A moment of reflection will raise a question: Who did design it in this way? Who are the artists that at the beginning of the twentieth century wanted to make the buildings to look like a normal mining housing estate and decorated so beautifully. We have already known these gentlemen, they are Emil and George Zillmann. This time their task was much more difficult. In the area that is 4 times smaller than Giszowiec, they accommodated 4 times more people than in the neighboring estate. As you can see they accomplished this task masterfully. In addition to residential buildings, there were public buildings as well (school, home for miners- 560 beds for single men, the hospital).
Of course they found some place for the church, whose frontage is along the main square. The entire housing estate complex integrated perfectly into the architecture. The foundation stone was set in 1914. The construction was devastated by the outbreak of the First World War. Finally, the temple of St. Anna was consecrated in 1927.
Imagine that someone came up with the idea to … plaster the church 25-30 years ago?! You would like to say something offensive. I will limit myself to one, possibly a decent opinion. Nobody in their right minds would come up with such an idea. I do not know whether it will pass through censorship, but I will try.
In respectful silence and solemnity, we enter the church. The church is built in neo-baroque style on a cruciform plan. Above the intersection of the nave and transept is basilica dome, painted with figures of saints and blesseds. From the ceiling hangs a large chandelier. The aisles are altars of Our Lady and Saint Barbara - the saint patron of miners. Notable here are: font type flare, pulpit, Way of the Cross painted according to the the formula of Fugl. Stained-glass windows are made by George Schneider (Regensburg). The adornment of the parish are 75-voiced organs built in 1927 by the brothers Rieger from Krnov in the Czech Republic.
On one side of the church, there is a wall with plaques on which are the names of the miners who died in the dark depths of the coal pits. On the memorial appear both date from the early twentieth century but also quite contemporary ones. Earth reluctantly gives people its black treasure. Sometimes one has to pay the highest price. The price of life!
Before a having some rest after our 2-hour walk, we should go to a museum in the building on the side of the main square (Liberation Square). We can admire here the pictures of members of the Janów group. We will see the old kitchen accessory, for example a mangle. After leaving the museum we pass the memorial plaque, indicating that the housing estate is included in the list of monuments of history, to finally sit in one of the two cafes.
The first one is called Cafe Byfyj. You do not know what byfyj is? It is just a kitchen dresser, and so is the décor inside. Anyway, life of every Silesian family was just focused in the kitchen.
You do not want to sit in the kitchen? Here you are. We're going to Zillman Tea & Coffee. Is it OK? No?
Well, the last suggestion: Restaurant STIG (Stowarzyszenie Techników I Inżynierów Górnictwa = Association of Technicians and Engineers Mining). Please do not complain about the prices. They serve here regional dishes. Everything is delicious, so it is worth it! Bon Appetit!
We leave this unique housing estate and its inhabitants impressed. In fact, they endure the continuous visits of tourists stoically. And if by any chance you stay in our hostel at the beginning of winter, you should definitelly come to 'Nikisz' on 4 December to hear and see the mining Wind Orchestra in dress uniforms, which begins its march celebration of the most important mining day celebration called Barbórka (St Barbara’s Day).
Maciej Mastalski, the tourism enthusiast and lecturer at University of the Third Age in Tychy.
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Hostel Mariacka 13,
street Mariacka 13/4a, 40-001 Katowice, Silesia, Poland
Accommodation, rooms, apartment rent in Katowice center.