Wolin is a town in the northwestern part of Zachodniopomorskie [West Pomerania] Province, in the district of Kamień, it is the seat of the urban-rural commune of Wolin. Świnoujście is approx. 30 km away from the town, Szczecin - approx. 76 km, and Kołobrzeg - approx. 87 km. A national route No. 3 runs through Wolin. From Świnoujście it runs along the ring road of Dargobądz, then over a new bridge in Wolin, and continue to Parłówek and Szczecin. It is a part of the international E65 route leading from the north to the south of Europe - from Malmö in Sweden to Chaniá in Crete. The nearest airport is Szczecin-Goleniów Airport, located 44 km away from the town.
The Szczecin - Świnoujście electrified railway line No. 401 runs through the Wolin Pomorski station. Only regional passenger trains from Szczecin to Świnoujście, including a seasonal express train "Uznam" ['Usedom'], stop there.
Wolin is in the northwestern part of Zachodniopomorskie [West Pomerania] Province, in the southern part of the commune of Kamień. The town is located on the Szczecin Coastland, at the southern tip of the Isle of Wolin, at over the Strait of the Dziwna. The Rów Peninsula and the Isle of Wolińska Kępa are also within the administrative boundaries of the town. According to data as of 1st January 2009, the town's area is 14,47 km².
The coat of arms of Wolin from 1301 depicts a Pomeranian griffin standing under the arch of a gate, two other gates can be seen on its sides. On later seals from the fourteenth century, a griffin holding a thistle flower in the claws is seen, and a star beneath it. On the contemporary coat of arms, a red Pomeranian griffin facing the right side (the heraldic manner) on a white background, holding a golden thistle flower in its claws, and a six-pointed gold star beneath it. The origin of these elements is unknown and may be associated with a local legend.
The name of the town is the same as the name of the Isle of Wolin, on which it is located. The original wording of the name is now difficult to reconstruct. In general, the name derives from the ancient Slavic root of ‘vel’, 'vol' (wet', 'damp', 'watery'), so it could read Wołyń (the same as the Polish-Russian borderland behind the Bug River). It appears in the German sources also under the names of: Jumne, Jumneta, Julin, Wineta, and Jomsborg - in the Scandinavian sagas. All of these names were based upon the original name, undergoing various transformations in spelling. For a short period immediately after World War II the name of Wołyń was used in Polish, yet it had a pre-war tradition. The present name of Wolin was officially established in 1946.
Wolin originated as a settlement by the Dziwna in the early Middle Ages. As it was located favourably and trade was flourishing, the settlement was developing rapidly. The first written mention of Wolin comes from the mid-ninth century. The so-called Bavarian Geographer writes that the tribe of Wolinians had 70 castles. Another mention of c. 870 is found in 'Vita Ansgari' ('The Life of St. Ansgar') written down by the monk Rimbert who describes the town as one of the largest in Europe. Subsequent archaeological research confirmed these words. References to the settlement were also in the descriptions of Abraham ben Jacob, a Jewish merchant and traveller, from 966. The town became the centre of the worship of Svetovid in the Middle Ages. In the vicinity of the town the cemeteries of Młynówka and Wzgórze Wisielców [The Hanged' Hill] were created. Initially, the city-state pursued an independent politics and fought with the troops of Mieszko I. After the victory of Mieszko I, Wolin was incorporated into Poland along with the whole Western Pomerania. Wolin became the first Polish port in the Baltic Sea and one of the most important commercial centres. An approx. 300-metre-long shoreline took the lead in the whole Baltic Sea basin.
After nearly a hundred years after the conquest by Mieszko I, the town became independent again and reached the peak of its development in the tenth century. The number of residents was estimated at about 9,000 people (Gniezno and Poznań did not exceed 4,000 people at that time). People settled on the southern and northern outskirts, and suburban settlements were built in the surrounding area. The residents became involved not only in trade, but also in piracy after 1000. The Danish king Magnus the Good attacked Wolin in 1043 in retaliation for the destruction of the Danish coastal regions. The town was looted and destroyed. The Danish army of King Eric I approached the town in 1098, captured the settlement behind the walls, and, according to the legend, took so much wealth with them that they did not try to conquer the town any longer. After being rebuilt, Wolin pursued an independent politics until 1121 when it lost its independence and the Wolinians were under the rule of Warcisław, Duke of Pomerania, who was under the feudal influence of Boleslaus III the Wry-mouthed. The people embraced Christianity around that time. Pope Innocent II approved the first bishopric in Pomerania - the bishopric of Wolin with St. Adalbert's Cathedral in Wolin and appointed the metropolis of Gniezno as a sovereign over it. The first bishop of a Pole, Wojciech, who was the chaplain of Boleslaus III the Wry-mouthed. The town was a bishopric until 1176.
Long-distance trade, which is the source of wealth for the residents, lost its importance in the second half of the twelfth century. In addition, the town was destroyed several times by Danish pirates. Most of these attacks were between 1170 and 1184. The invasions were the main cause of the eclipse of Wolin, but the proximity of Kamień Pomorski, which tried to subdue Wolin, was also problematic, and of Szczecin, which had better conditions for development. Wolin was no longer able to return to its former glory. What largely contributed to its downfall was the destruction of the castle, but also silting up of the Dziwna, which sealed the decline of trade. The transfer of the bishopric to Kamień was a complement to the eclipse of the town.
The town belonged to the Duchy of West Pomerania, which was ruled by the Griffins, from the beginning of the eleventh century to the mid-seventeenth century. The family was subordinated to the sovereignty of the Margraves of Brandenburg in 1227. There was only a Slavic settlement on the site of the proud castle, which eventually was rebuilt and surrounded by new fortifications, until the mid-twelfth century. It was only in 1278 when Prince Barnim I raised it to the rank of city on the basis of Lübeck Law. The city became a member of the Hanseatic League in 1365, and a defensive wall was built around it. The urban population was soon led outside the city walls and populated suburban settlements. Johannes Bugenhagen, a later close associate of Martin Luther, was born in the city in 1485. After the introduction of the Reformation in 1534, former church and monastic property was incorporated into prince's goods, and taken over by the state domains after the expiry of the dynasty. Princess Sophia resided there in the mid-sixteenth century, and Duchess Anna of Brunswick - in the early sixteenth century.
The city was originally occupied by the troops of Emperor Ferdinand II during the Thirty Years' War. Gustav II Adolf joined the war at the beginning of 1630. He captured the island of Usedom and Wolin and then entire Pomerania in the summer of the same year. The city was destroyed and burnt during the war. The island of Wolin was subject to the power of the Pomeranian dukes of the Slavic roots from the eleventh century to 1630. After the extinction of the Griffin dynasty and the end of the war, under the provisions of the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, West Pomerania was divided between Sweden and Brandenburg, and the areas situated at the mouth of the Oder came under Swedish rule. Swedes ruled island and the Pomeranian region until 1720 when, as a result of the Stockholm Treaty ending a part of the struggle of the Great Northern War, Swedes sold the island for 10 million thalers in gold to the Kingdom of Prussia and the German Reich. Wolin then remained in the hand of Germany until 1945, so for 225 years. In the mid-eighteenth century Wolin was on the short list of cities considered to set up production plants in them. Then the Jewish community in Berlin suggested opening 42 spinning mills in the city and moving Jews there. One of the advantages was supposed to be a great opportunity to build new homes. About 25 Jewish families from, among others, Węgorzyn, Resko, Gryfice, Mirosławiec, Wałcz, Kwidzyń and Berlin came to the city between 1813 and 1850. Almost everyone made a living out of trade. 90 people of Jewish origin lived in Wolin in 1849, twenty years later in 1871 - already 113 people, and in 1884 - as many as 141 people, and it was probably the largest number of Jews in the city. In subsequent years this number was declining (in 1889 - 96 people, in 1913 - 69). After 1871, when the German Empire was established, the then chancellor Otto von Bismarck began Kulturkampf in Pomerania, so also in Wolin. The city area was 11.45 km² in 1885 and it had 5097 inhabitants. The residents of Wolin were involved in trading in grain and cattle, and catching fish. They sold them, among others, to Szczecin, Wrocław, Poznań or to Leipzig. The city was connected by a railway with Szczecin and Świnoujście, which unfortunately did not affect the popularity of the city.
Various kinds of military installations were deployed on the island of Wolin during World War II, and in the city itself there was the 6th Air Force School of Communications and storage of weapons and ammunition, the use of which was beyond the scope of the garrison of Wolin. The area from the eastern part of the island of Usedom, through Wolin, to Szczecin was a very important area in terms of the military at the end of World War II. It is where the Szczecin defensive line against sea assaults ran. An important route of escape of German troops and civilians led through Wolin during the time. Three artillery batteries were then deployed in the city. A battery of mortars was also put at the northern end of the railway station. Fights for Wolin had already begun during the Pomeranian operation of the 1st Byelorussian Front. The local fortifications proved to be very difficult to overcome, and thus the city became a stronghold difficult to capture. The city was taken only after a few months, at the beginning of May 1945. 70 percent of the city was destroyed during the fighting. Unfortunately, the Old Town was completely destroyed. Wolin was incorporated into Poland, and its current population was expelled to Germany. Wolin has never returned to its glory after the war.
As early as in May 1945 the Russian troops built a pontoon bridge near Wolin. A pharmacy outlet was opened in the autumn of the same year. Polish Post open its branch in its current building on 5th December. The elementary school in Wolin began educating on 1st April 1946. Also in April, when there had not been a railway bridge over the Dziwna yet, Polish State Railways launched a one-car diesel train running between Wolin and Świnoujście. The municipal public library was opened on 18th February 1948. The health centre was opened in June 1949, and the agricultural school in Wolin started working in October. The Rainbow Cinema started to operate in the spring of 1950.
Polish archaeologists, under the direction of Władysław Filipowiak, began research in 1952. Then they found the remains of stave boat wrecks from the early Middle Ages. In addition, tens of artefacts associated with boatbuilding were found. Those included, among others, paddles, bailers, parts of ropes and nets. However, the most spectacular find remains a wooden compass that sailors used to find the way at open waters. It is the only preserved specimen of its kind in the whole of Northern Europe.
The swing bridge in Wolin was opened in 1958. The thousandth anniversary of the incorporation unto Poland was celebrated in Wolin on 23rd September 1967. At the same time, there was a scientific session in Wolin and Świnoujście devoted to the 1000-year history of Wolin. A new railway station began its work a little over 10 years later, in August 1969.
However, urban management still experienced regress. The unprofitable Work Cooperative of Folk Crafts and Art ‘Cepelianka’, the Wolin Dairy Cooperative employing nearly 100 people, Cooperative of the Disabled "Pokój ['Peace']", butcher's shop and a grain elevator were closed in the city. So were several smaller plants in Wolin. The processing plant "Centrala Rybna ['Fish Marketing Board']" (now non-existent) became privatised. The Food-processing Plant of the Communal Cooperative "Samopomoc Chłopska ['Peasant Self-Help']" significantly reduced its activities.
Currently, the city has a bakery, a small mill and a sawmill in Zakład Gospodarki Komunalnej i Mieszkaniowej [the Public Utilities and Housing Department] in Wolin. A joinery was also opened. These plants produce goods for local needs, and each of them do not employ more than a dozen people. There are two large stores in the city: a Netto and a Biedronka.
Also, a riverport and seaport are in Wolin. Primarily, the transhipment of grain and, periodically, construction elements and others is carried out in the Port of Wolin. It also serves as a fishing port. The seaway connecting the Kamień Lagoon with the Szczecin Lagoon passes through the Strain of the Dziwna. The maximum length of ships calling at the port is 90m, and the maximum width is 10 metres. Marine traffic through the Strait of the Dziwna is related to the four bridges that connect its shores.
There is one primary school, one middle school and two secondary schools in Wolin. The students of the schools in Wolin cooperate with their German peers from Torgelow, Germany. A common platform of interests was found in the tradition of the Vikings. The Ukranenland Association operates in Torgelow, and Ukranen is the German name for the tribe of Ukrians (Polish Wkrzanie) inhabiting those lands. The German students participated, among other things, in launching a historic ship 'Starigard' in Wolin, and the Polish youth participating in the camp in Torgelow tried their hand at handicrafts by the patterns of the Vikings. Secondary Economic School in Wolin has had friendly relations with the German middle school in Eggesin since 1993. The young regularly (every 2-3 months) visit one another and are received in their parents' houses. They go on trips, go to discos and compete in sports.
Children and adolescents also actively take part in special interest class in the primary and secondary schools as well as outside them. The arts club is in the middle school. There is also a historical and a political club. The Sports Club 'Sprinter' operates also in the middle school in Wolin. A drama club is highly popular in the primary school. Every year at around Christmastime students stage a Nativity play, and every autumn an open-air painting workshops 'The Autumn in Wolin' is always organised in autumn. Preschoolers also prepare an annual celebration of Grandparents Day.
The urban arrangement of Wolin is created by 42 streets and the 'Robotnicze' housing estate. Examples of well-preserved buildings can be found not only in the city centre in the Old Town, but also in the former fishing suburban area at Konopnickiej, Niedamira, Mostowa and Rybacka Streets. A different type of buildings, dating from the late the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, is located in the vicinity of the railway station and at Świerczewskiego Street.
Undoubtedly, tourists are lured to the city by the Old Town area, including houses and buildings from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. However, the historic houses on the western side of the market square (Wojska Polskiego Street) are in place of much older buildings. This can be noticed in narrow gabled tenements with pediments. However, in the southern part of the Old Town there are the remains of the fortified settlement from 10th - 12th century, converted into a fortified bastion (a pagan temple dedicated to Triglav was probably there). Near the market square there is a city hall in a neo-Gothic style from the years 1880-1881 in place of a ducal castle and later Cistercian nunnery. It is situated at Zamkowa Street north of the market square. Today, it houses the Municipal Office. While strolling through the city of Wolin, You should also see the fragments of defensive walls from the 14th-15th centuries (50 metres was preserved). They are behind the city hall, in the northeastern part of the city. They are 3 m high and have a heterogeneous structure. They are made of stone. On the western edge of Wolin (Jaracza Street) there is, in turn, a Dutch windmill (1850) behind the cemetery. It has 3 floors and was built on a circular plan.
Lovers of historic news and medieval secrets of the city should go to archaeological sites around the city. The first one is on the Młynówka Hill (west of the settlement). There was once a skeletal and crematory cemetery from 9th-12th centuries. Another such a place is the Gołogórze known as The Hanged Hill position (by the Szczecin Lagoon, in the extreme southern part of the city). The so-called settlement and crematory burial mound form 9th-10th centuries was once there. The last archaeological site was Srebrne Wzgórze [Silver Hill] (on the hill above the Dziwna, half a kilometre north of the city). There are traces of a settlement (probably of sentry castle) from 9th-12th centuries, the inhabitants of which controlled traffic on the Dziwna. Embankments up to 3 m high, and a moat were preserved. Art lovers, especially of sacred one, should see the collegiate Church of St. Nicholas the Bishop in Wolin built in the late thirteenth century. This is a hall three-nave brick Gothic building with a nave and two side aisles in the form of a pseudo-basilica. Johann Bugenhagen, a native citizen of Wolin and student of Martin Luther, was appointed as the first Protestant pastor in 1535.
A cultural institution in the city, which organises most events, is the Community Centre of the commune of Wolin. Playing instruments (piano, guitar, organ) is taught there, so are all sorts of visual arts: stained glass, painting and photography. There are numerous displays and art exhibitions in the basement of the Centre. The café in the Municipal Community Centre also serves as a concert venue for small music groups. The groups of 'Wolinianki' and 'Wiolinki' rehearse there. A municipal library has its seat on the ground floor of the city hall. It has a collection of more than 25,000 books. The community centre organises also annual periodic events in Wolin such as Days of the Sea or the Festival of Slavs and Vikings (co-organised by, among others, the Centre of Slavs and Vikings in Wolin). The latter event is one of the largest international events of an early medieval nature in the world. More than 2000 participants from 27 countries come to the event every year. Experimental Archaeology Workshops are held in the Centre of Slavs and Vikings in Wolin for several days of the festival. The international group of craftsmen come then to Wolin. In 2015 the main theme of the workshops was blacksmithing. The visitors could not only observe the work of experienced blacksmiths, but also learn the basics of their technique. Additionally, smelting of iron in bloomeries was shown. The blacksmiths made iron replicas of everyday objects from the early Middle Ages, but also taught that difficult art to volunteers. You could learn in practice such jobs as woodcarving, beekeeping, tanning, production of bows and musical instruments, dyeing and stamping materials and many others. All was done by historical methods. Many interested people became familiar with the secrets of medieval medicine. Throughout the festival You could listen to historical music, a variety of games were played, historical events were staged, regattas and cruises on the replicas of historical boats took place, great battles with several hundred warriors were fought. A historical playground was organised for the youngest. Those interested in a more scientific part of the Viking period in Wolin could listen to lectures on the history and its reconstruction.
You can explore the history of the ancient inhabitants of Wolin also in the Andrzej Kaube Regional Museum in Wolin. You can there numerous exhibits referring to the tribe of Wolinians, the defence system of the city, crafts, and beliefs of its medieval inhabitants. A small cinema was opened in the museum in 2009, and various exhibitions are displayed. Also, the Centre for International Cooperation - the historic Manor House in Wolin (23a Zamkowa Street) invites all interested people to historical lectures and cultural events. The collegiate St. Nicholas Church is playing more and more important role. Both Polish and foreign choirs can be seen and heard there from time to time.
Also, hiking lovers in Wolin (both in the town and on the island) will find many attractions there. You can travel along the Marine Trail (the red one), the Trail by the Baltic Sea and the Szczecin Lagoon (the blue one), the Forest Trail through the Warnowo-Kołczewo Lake District (the green one). In addition, the Henryk Tomczak Cross-country Race of Wolin and the 'Nordic Walking' March of Wolin are organised every year. Bike lovers can use the international R-66 trail around the Szczecin Lagoon and the international R-10 trail around the Baltic Sea. Wolin National Park also invites You to walk on its territory. As for natural and historic attractions, there is Turkusowe [Turquoise] Lake, the Settlement of Lubin, the V3 Bunker, the Lighthouse 'Kikut', the Piastowskie Boulders and the Oak 'Wolinianin'.
Tourists come to Wolin also to admire sailors during the Tourist Regatta from Trzebież, through Świnoujście, Dziwnów, Kamień Pomorski, Wolin, Nowe Warpno, Stepnica to Trzebież again. In general, one of the stops for approx. 200 sailors and their yachts is organised by Wolin. During the stop You can admire the units taking part in the regatta, or take a souvenir photo with the most spectacular yachts.
There is the Dance Sport Club "Jantar [The Amber']" in the city. There is also the Student Sports Club "Albatros ['The Albatross']" with sailing and wrestling section. F.C. Vineta Wolin, which currently plays in the fourth division, has its headquarters in the city.
There is a stadium with seats next to the middle school, and an Orlik pitch right next to the multi-functional fields, opened at the end of September 2009. You can play volleyball, tennis, football and basketball there. There are three sports arenas in Wolin: at the middle school, at the primary school and at the secondary school complex. Additional activities such as dancing, wrestling and aerobics take place at each of them.
Among the citizens of Wolin was Johann Bugenhagen -a Premonstratensian priest, a doctor of theology, a leading representative of the early Protestant movement, a co-founder and organiser of the Evangelical-Lutheran churches in northern Germany, Denmark and Pomerania. His efforts resulted in increasing the level of education in the city, and the Latin School of Trzebiatów and its humanistic curriculum became famous throughout Western Pomerania as well as outside the country. Harald Bluetooth - King of Denmark between 958 and 987 and of Norway between 974 and 985, the son of Gorm the Old and Tyra, the father of Sven Forkbeard, died in Wolin.