Kołobrzeg (pronounce: [kɔ'wɔbʒεg], German Kolberg) is a city in Middle Pomerania in north-western Poland with some 50,000 inhabitants (2000). Kołobrzeg is located on Parsęta river at the south coast of the Baltic Sea (in the middle of the section divided by the Oder and Vistula rivers). Capital of Kolobrzeg County in West Pomeranian Voivodship since 1999, previously in Koszalin Voivodship (1950-1998).
Settlements were found in the 9th century, but earlier traces of settlement in city territory are from 6th century. In early history, Kołobrzeg was major port on the Baltic Sea and produced a lot of salt, which was then one of the most expensive trading goods.
Kołobrzeg, with the rest of Pomerania was included (or re included, as the new archaeological finds seem to indicate) into the Polish realm by Mieszko I of Poland in 972. After the Meeting in Gniezno in 1000 the emperor Otto III granted Poland the rights to form a separate church hierarchy. One of the newly founded dioceses was located in Kołobrzeg, which was under the archdiocese in Gniezno. The first bishop of Kołobrzeg was Reinbern from Hochseegau . The Diocese and direct link with the Polish kingdom ended when Bolesław I Chrobry withdrew his troops from the area around 1013, chased out by pagan Pomeranians, not willing to convert to Christianity.
A century later, Kołobrzeg was again taken over by Poland under Bolesław Krzywousty. A diocese was in existence in 1124 under Prince-Bishop Otto of Bamberg . In late 12 century Pomerania made a homage to Holy Roman Empire and Denmark, from time to time taking part in life of divided Poland, to which it belonged from point of view of church organisation.
From 1637 till 1721 Pomerania and Kolberg were part of the Swedish Kingdom (the king of Sweden being also duke of the empire) and after the Great Northern War included into the Kingdom of Prussia. In 1761 the city was captured by Russians during the Seven Years War, but at the end of the war it was returned to Prussia.
During Napoleon's invasion of Prussia, the city was besieged by French armies from April 26 to July 2, 1807. In a stubborn and ultimately hopeless defence, the city held out until the war was ended by the Treaty of Tilsit, which sealed France's almost total victory over Prussia. In 1871 Kolberg became a part of the then created German Empire.
Shortly before the end of the Second World War, Kolberg was chosen by Joseph Goebbels for the site of the last Nazi propaganda film Kolberg. The film was to inspire the Germans with its depiction of the heroic but hopeless Prussian defence of the city in 1807 during the Napoleonic Wars. Tremendous resources were devoted to filming this epic, even diverting tens of thousands of troops from the front lines to have them serve as extras in battle scenes. The film was released in the final few weeks of Nazi Germany's existence.
In 1944 the city became a stronghold Festung Kolberg , most of civilians were expelled from the city, and between March 4 and March 18, 1945, there were major battles between the Soviet, Polish armies and the German army. Just after the capture the city, Polish army repeated the symbolic engagement of Poland with the sea, that was celebrated for the first time in 1920 by general Józef Haller. The devastated city was eventually returned to Poland by Potsdam Conference.
Kołobrzeg is a popular tourist destination, esp. for the Poles and the Germans. It provides a unique combination of a seaside resort, health resort, old town jam-packed with historic monuments and tourist entertainment options (e.g. numerous "beer gardens").
On July 14, 2004, the longest seaside bike path in Poland has been commissioned. The path extends from Kołobrzeg to Podczele. It provides unique views of woods, beaches, swamps, impenetrable wicket, bird nesting grounds, and more. The path has been financed by the European Union. An international airport is to be built 7 kilometres away from Kołobrzeg. However, due to protests of the local population, the project may never see the day.
- City council site