Zielona Gora literally means “Green Mountain” in Polish, and the name reflects its character, being built on a series of forested hills. It is tidy, full of green areas and there are as many as 81 natural monuments to be found. The Grape Gathering Festival has taken place every September since 1852, renewing the city’s traditions as a flourishing wine growing and wine producing centre. Nowadays it is also a hub of industry, education and culture.
The most attractive time of the year to visit Zielona Gora is September, when the annual grape harvest is held, part of the Days of Zielona Gora. Street fairs, trade shows and wine tastings are accompanied by a series of cultural events. The best of Polish jazz musicians flock here at this time and perform in the “Harlem” pub. Each year, new attractions are added to enhance the entertainment and educational value of the festival.
However, there are growing numbers of people coming to this capital of the Lubuskie region simply to appreciate its historic buildings, picturesque countryside and nearby lakes. Most buildings in the centre of Zielona Gora were erected in the early 20th century and they add an eclectic feel to the area. The Lubusz Country Museum is an essential visit for every visitor to Zielona Gora, with its interesting section dedicated to wine production.
Zielona Gora offers various cultural and recreation opportunities. Music lovers will find pleasure in the concerts by the Tadeusz Baird Philharmonia of Zielona Gora, which has close links with similar orchestras in Europe.
Zielona Gora is conveniently located in the centre of Europe, not far from the Polish-German border and practically on the crosswords of several international road and rail routes connecting Scandinavia with Eastern Europe and Warsaw with Berlin. The city is 130 km from Poznan and 413 km from Warsaw, and has more than 118 000 inhabitants and covers a total urban and suburban area of 6,000 hectares.
Zielona Gora has an oceanic climate rather than a continental one. Being located on several hills means that the average temperatures are slightly lower than in the surrounding river valleys, and it receives the highest rainfall of the Lubuskie voivodship. As a consequence the city’s climate has been classified as a separate climatic zone.
The origins of Zielona Gora are to a large extent connected with the Duchy of Glogow, held by the Silesian Piast dynasty. Already by the 13th century a Slavonic settlement had grown up in a small valley here in far north-western Silesia, and its earliest mention dates from 1222.
From the very beginning, Zielona Gora grew based on the manufacture of woollen cloth and the growing of grapes. Vineyards are first referred to in 1314, while the first mention of cloth fulling can be found in documents dating from the 15th century. The first vineyards were established to the north of the city, while Carl Samuel Hausler made the first champagne from grapes picked on the “Jelenia Gora” hill in 1826.
Around the year 1323 Zielona Gora received city rights, and saw a large influx of settlers from Germany. At the end of the 14th century the population of Zielona Gora had grown to 1000. Defensive walls were constructed in the 1430s during the Hussite wars, only to be demolished 300 years later as the city outgrew them. Today, just a small section of these walls remain.
In the 16th century the Duchy of Glogow fell under the rule of Czech kings. Frederic II of Prussia invaded and captured Silesia in 1740 and from then on Zielona Gora was a part of Prussia.
At a time when wine industry was beginning to lose its significance in the 19th century, local people began to recognise that the impromptu entertainments at the end of grape picking period that had been performed for centuries could be organized into a festival and hence easily become a magnet for tourists.
Remnants of the former vineyards in the Wine Park surrounding the Pal House are all that survive from the time when grape growing was a central part of Zielona Gora’s economy. The wines were produced for export to a number of cities, mainly in northern countries where the local cuisine favoured these types of wines.
Zielona Gora belonged to Germany until the end of World War II, after Prussia had become part of the German state in the 19th century. The Red Army seized the city on 14 February 1945, during the final months of the war. A couple of months later Zielona Gora was officially taken over by a Polish mayor.