Bielsko-Biała. Top: view of Bielsko-Biała from Szyndzielnia Hill, 2nd row (left to right): Bielsko-Biała City Hall, Pod Orlem Convension Center, Evangelical Saviour Cathedral,
3rd row: Wojska Polsiego Square, Sulkowski Castle, Jedenastego Listopada Street, bottom: Polish Theater in Adama Mickiewicza, Saint Nicolas Cathedral, Martin Luther Cathedral, Zaklady Eatona Wapienica center
The remnants of a fortified settlement in what is now the Stare Bielsko (Old Bielsko) district of the city were discovered between 1933 and 1938 by a Polish archaeological team. The settlement was dated to the 12th - 14th centuries. Its dwellers manufactured iron from ore and specialized in smithery. The current centre of the town was probably developed as early as the first half of the 13th century. At that time a castle (which still survives today) was built on a hill.
The opposite bank of the Biała River, again Polish since 1475, had been sparsely settled since the mid-16th century. A locality was first mentioned in a 1564 deed, it received the name Biała in 1584, and belonged at that time to Kraków Voivodeship. Its population increased during the Counter-Reformation in the Habsburg lands, when many Protestant artisans from Bielsko (which did not belong to Poland) moved across the river. Though already named a town in the 17th century, Biała officially was granted city rights by the Polish king Augustus II the Strong in 1723.
Austrian KK stamp first 1850 issue, cancelled BIALA
In the course of the First Partition of Poland in 1772, Biała was annexed by the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy and incorporated into the crownland of Galicia. The Protestant citizens received the right to establish parishes according to the 1781 Patent of Toleration by Emperor Joseph II. BIALA was head of the district with the same name, one of the 78 Bezirkshauptmannschaften in the Galicia crownland.
With the dissolution of Austria–Hungary in 1918 according to the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, both cities became part of the reconstituted Polish state. The ethnic German citizens formed an aggressively anti-Polish, rabidly racist and anti-Jewish Jungdeutsche Partei sponsored financially by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Third Reich and trained in propaganda, sabotage and espionage activities against the Polish state. Its members smuggled military weapons, and waged a campaign of intimidating other members of the community to leave for Nazi Germany, with tangible incentives. A considerable number of young ethnic Germans joined the rank-and-file of the Party during the mid-1930s as a result of the Nazi indoctrination and aggressive recruitment. During World War II the city was annexed by Nazi Germany. Many of its Jewish population was sent aboard Holocaust trains to nearby Auschwitz extermination camp never to return. After the defeat of Nazism in 1945, the remaining German population fled westward or were expelled by the Soviet-installed communist government.
Two well-known Holocaust survivors from Bielsko-Biała are Roman Frister and Gerda Weissmann Klein. Both have written an autobiography about their experiences during WWII.
The combined city of Bielsko-Biała was created administratively on 1 January 1951 when the two cities of Bielsko, and Biała (known until 1951 as Biała Krakowska), were unified.
Bielsko-Biała is one of the most business friendly medium size cities in Poland. In the 2014 ranking of the 'Most Attractive Cities for Business' published yearly by Forbes the city was ranked 3rd in the category of cities with 150,000–300,000 inhabitants. About 5% of people are unemployed (compared 9,6% for Poland). Bielsko-Biała is famous for its textile, machine-building, and especially automotive industry. Four areas in the city belong to the Katowice Special Economic Zone. The city region is a home for several manufacturers of high-performance gliders and aircraft.
It is planned to extend S1 north along the existing dual carriageway DK1 from Bielsko-Biała to Tychy and Katowice, thus building an expressway connection of the city with the national motorway network of Poland. National Road DK52 connects Bielsko-Biała with Kraków in the east. The most important interchange in the area is the cloverleaf north of Bielsko-Biała where S1, DK1 and DK52 meet.
Bielsko-Biała is a beautiful city surrounded by beautiful landscapes. It is abundant in stunning Art Nouveau architecture and is often referred to as Little Vienna. It is also a vibrant student city with enjoyable nightlife, rich in both historical and natural sights, some of them listed below:
Apart from being an attractive destination itself the city is a convenient base for hiking in Silesian Beskids and Żywiec Beskids as well as for skiing in one of the most popular Polish ski resorts Szczyrk (located 18 km (11 mi) from the city centre) and in a couple of smaller nearby ski resorts.
Street in the city
Bielsko-Biała - the main post office seen from the castle