We tried to find a warmshower address for our stay in Łódź, but apparently the holiday season has really started now: of the 3 people we approached, 2 announced that they were travelling themselves and the third had no opportunity to accommodate us. However, Andrzej did offer to give us a bicycle tour of Łódź. Something we really appreciated after the experience in Krakau. Andrzej is an IT guy with an interest in the historical developments in Łódź which is pronounced Woedz due to the dash through the L.
Andrzej explained that Łódź received city rights as early as 1200, but after 600 years had only 400 inhabitants left.
After the Napoleon era, Łódź became an “independent” part of the Russian empire. This independence applied especially in economic sense – the Polish king was the Russian tsar -. To realise economic growth, it was then decided to build a new city less than a kilometre from the existing city (hence the orthogonal street plan with 4 streets from the new market literally named after the 4 cardinal directions).
As Łódź was within the Russian Empire, there were no taxes for exports in that direction.
Moreover, in 1823, conditions were favourable for industrialisation: the city was surrounded by 19 small rivers and many forests for timber, and because of old relations with Saxons, knowledge of textile craft was available.
In the 19th century, 2 factories with gigantic complexes emerged in the middle of the city. For a long time, the textile industry was the largest employer in the region. But after WWI, Poland becomes truly independent and the Russian market is gone. More than 70% of the population becomes unemployed while the remaining 30% have small jobs. After WWII, all industry falls into communist hands and the incentive to innovate disappears. Moreover, the tradition of everyone having a job with no commitment to work then emerges which plays a part in last weekend’s current political struggles/demonstrations. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, industry collapses across Poland and Łódź also faces high unemployment and poverty again. People (especially in rural areas) who, used to state-owned enterprises, have not been able to make the transition to the capitalist system are, understandably, looking for the cause of their situation outside themselves. PiS, the current ruling party, responds to this by giving these people recognition for their position. The opposition’s liberal narrative – if wages are low enough, work will come naturally – does not appeal to this group, threatening to give PiS the majority in the coming elections and and use that position to stifle the still young democracy and rule of law.
In Łódź, the economic tide turned 15-20 years after the fall of the wall and resources are becoming available to revitalise the city. The city government luckily recognises the potential of the huge 19th-century factory buildings and seeks investors to redevelop them.
Now Manufaktura, on the city’s north side, is a thriving commercial centre with a wide range of shops and catering facilities around a large connected square where many cultural activities take place.
The even much larger complex on the city’s South side has been completely transformed into appartments. Together with the large number of richly decorated buildings along Piotrkowska that have been/are being restored, they give the city a huge new lease of life. 🤞 That the cleaned brick facades are not so badly damaged that they will be destroyed by moisture and frost.
a piece of Piotrowska
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