Kołobrzeg is a health resort city and port on the Baltic Sea, located at the mouth of the Parsęta River. The population of the city amounts to 47 thousand people. The city can be reached by national road no 11 from the east, by regional road no 163 from the south, and by regional road no 102 from the west. Kołobrzeg is the last stop of numerous trains going towards the seaside; also the Koszalin-Goleniów and Szczecinek-Kołobrzeg railways lead there. The seasonally opened Kołobrzeg-Bagicz airport is designed for aircrafts transporting up to 20 people.
Kołobrzeg is the largest and most frequently visited seaside centre between Świnoujście and the Tri-City. The attractiveness of the city results from its two areas: a seaside part – with a port, beach, and a promenade, and the city centre – with the most important historic buildings (a 15th-century Gothic basilica and a 19th-century neo-Gothic city hall), restaurants, and shops. Both these zones are connected with each other by parks. As befits a health resort, greenery plays an important role in the formation of the city’s image. Natural resources and location made Kołobrzeg, after more than 200 hundred years of functioning as a health resort, the largest health resort city in Poland.
The average annual temperature amounts to 80C – in July and August it is about 190C, and in January 10C. In an average year, there are 169 days with insulation over 4 hours a day, in spite of an annual cloudy state of the sky (about 60%), caused mainly by low-level clouds. It happens from time to time that the weather changes a few times a day. Western and north-western winds brings masses of cool, humid, free air from the sea – air free from pollutions connected with civilization, and – which is important to people with allergies – without pollen. Kołobrzeg is famous of its sandy beach and – due to sea currents from the depths of the Baltic sea – of not too warm but clear water.
Kołobrzeg has been working for its reputation for hundreds of years, also when there was no tourism or health resorts. Slavs settled at the mouth of the Parsęta River already in the 8th century, and quickly started to take advantage of benefits of forests, river, and the sea, as well as accidentally discovered salt water springs. Getting richer, Kołobrzeg became more and more important place on the map of the Duchy of Pomerania and Poland, but at the same time a goal worth conquering and subjugating by its neighbours. Bolesław the Brave and Bolesław the Wrymouth sent their troops towards the city and directed Christianization missions there. In 1000, Bishop Reinbern organized the first bishopric in Pomerania with a seat in Kołobrzeg.
Among many breakthroughs important to the city, the decisive was the granting of a city charter in the mid-13th century. Since that moment, it was not the same Kołobrzeg – not only in terms of a form of government, but also in terms of geography. A new town located about 4 kilometres closer to the sea began to develop. The former settlement started to deteriorate, and nowadays is only a small village near Kołobrzeg with a little known name Budzistowo. The last remnant of its former glory is the St John church built prior to 1222.
The city charter obtained by Kołobrzeg in 1255 paved the way for the stronger and stronger influx of Germanic settlers, and since the 13th century, along with the whole Pomerania, the Slavonic character of the city started to be a thing of the past. Under the Treaty of Westphalia after the Thirty Years’ War (1648), Kołobrzeg together with the port, invaluable for trade, was taken over by Brandenburg. Then, the city became a part of Prussia, later on – of Germany, and, since the end of the Second World War, Kołobrzeg has been a Polish city.
Together with the Duchy of Pomerania, the city repeatedly suffered from the effects of war. Due to this, the city created its own legend of being a fortress, but at the same time this was the cause of innumerable sufferings of people and of destruction of the town. The last such an episode were ten-day fights for the city in March 1945, after which little more than 10% houses survived, and the population of the city diminished from 36,000 to 2,500 people. Earlier, the city was afflicted by other damaging events, such as a bloody Swedish occupation during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), the Russian siege and entering of the Russian troops to the city during the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763), a (successful) defence of the city during Napoleonic war (July 1807). This is the reason why so little historic buildings have been preserved in Kołobrzeg.
Throughout a millennium, until the 19th century, the city got rich through selling salt, which was obtained by “evaporating” – boiling salt water. It was not water from the sea, but from brine flowing out intrinsically from underground springs. Because of its high price called “white gold”, the salt from Kołobrzeg was exported to the most remote corners of Europe. In the second half of the 19th century, the salt works of Kołobrzeg went bankrupt due to the competition of cheaper salt from England and the German town of Lunenburg. Brine is still used in sanatoriums for salt water gymnastics and for production of a regional product called “Ogórek Kołobrzeski” [Cucumber from Kołobrzeg]. Apart from brine, also a therapeutic peat is extracted there.
The history of the city is told by graphic symbols of the Kołobrzeg’s coat of arms. It is an escutcheon divided vertically into two parts. The upper left field shows tools for salt evaporating: hooks and a large rectangular pan for boiling brine. Under them, there is a contour of defensive walls, which is to symbolize the importance of Kołobrzeg as a castellan harbour city and a fortress. At the bottom, there are two white swans swimming on the waves – a symbol of merchants and sailors of Kołobrzeg.
The right part of the coat of arms presents the symbols of bishop’s authority – a mitre and pastoral staffs. Kołobrzeg was a seat of a bishopric already in 1000. In 1973, its importance was appreciated again, and since then, it has been the second capital of the diocese of Koszalin and Kołobrzeg, established in that year.
Exploring the charms of Kołobrzeg is made easier by the fact that the city is divided into eastern and western part – the point of reference is the Parsęta River, which flows in the area of the city from the south and ends its course in the harbour. Tourist infrastructure and hotel and health resort base are developed better on the eastern side of the river. It is where the city centre is situated. The quarters on the other side of the river have not less beautiful beach and a park, but, apart from them, there is less attractions there. Tourists can use private rooms and boarding houses there; this is also a place where service companies, wholesale stores, and fishing industry are located.
Kołobrzeg does not hibernate during winter. Holidaymakers are replaced by health resort patients; the economy of the city receives a new boost of energy. Treatment facilities are in full swing, children go back to the “Słoneczko” sanatorium after a summer holiday break. In autumns, only some of fried food stands and cafes are closed, a part of accommodation places is closed – especially private rooms, but the majority of holiday resorts, hotels, and sanatoriums is open throughout the entire year.
Categories of visitors change to the rhythm of seasons. In summer, most of them are happy holidaymakers and families with children. The special time is the last weekend of July. Since 2004, the “Sunrise Festival” takes place then. It is an annual club music festival, well-known throughout Europe among enthusiasts of such a music genre. The festival attracts even 30 thousand young people. The rest of the year is dominated by health resort visitors. There are periods, especially in May, June, and September, when German visitors come in great numbers – they can be met during strolls, in shops, cafes, restaurants, chemist’s shops, and – for example – in dentist’s offices and beauty parlours. There are various reasons for visiting Kołobrzeg, not only just sightseeing and climate.
The number of permanent residents as well as of investors in the real estate sector is constantly increasing. A relatively new phenomenon is purchasing flats in Kołobrzeg by people who want to create there a place where they can take a rest during several weeks in the year, most frequently during the summer, and in the remaining months, they offer their rooms for rent.
It is not a coincidence that access roads to Kołobrzeg are jammed in less sunny days. Then, it is best visible that the city rises above the mediocrity as a regional centre of entertainment, sport, and trade. While the expectations of holidaymakers craving for suntan can be met by the sun in every place on the Baltic seaside – a patch of a beach is enough then – they go to Kołobrzeg from smaller tourist centres, driving dozens of kilometres, when the weather makes it impossible to lie on the beach. In Kołobrzeg, one can spend time in an interesting way regardless of the weather. This is worth remembering when planning to visit Kołobrzeg in the summertime: when the sun shines, it is very easy to reach the city and move around it; when there is no sun – the city gets crowded, because holidaymakers get in their cars and there are… everywhere.