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- This page is about the city Sopot in Poland. For other cities with the same name see Sopot (disambiguation)
Sopot (pronounce: Sopot.ogg, Kashubian: Sopót, German Zoppot) is a town on the South coast of the Baltic Sea in a metropolitan agglomeration called the Tricity (Gdańsk, Gdynia and Sopot) with approximately 40,000 inhabitants.
Sopot is quite a big health and tourism resort, well known for the longest wooden pier in Europe (called Molo, total length 515.5 m), from where there is a view on the Gulf of Gdańsk. The city is also famous for its Sopot International Song Festival, 2nd biggest such event in Europe after the Eurovision Song Contest.
Sopot was founded as an old Slavonic (Pomeranian) stronghold in the 7th century. Initially it was a trading outpost and conducted extensive trade relations with both areas up the Vistula and cities across the Baltic. With time the significance of the stronghold diminished and by 10th century it was reduced to but a fishing village and then abandoned. However, a century later the area became settled again and two villages were founded within the confines of today's' city: Stawowie and Gręzowo. They were first mentioned in 1186 as being granted to the Cistercian abbey in Oliwa. Another of the villages that constitute today's Sopot, Świemirowo, was first mentioned in 1212 in a document by Mściwój I, duke of Gdańsk who granted it to the Norbertan monastery in nearby Żukowo.
The Sopot village, which later became the name sake for the whole city was first mentioned in 1283, when it was located as a fishing village and granted to the Cistercians. By 1316 the abbey bought all villages in the area and became the owners of all the area of the city. After the Toruń Peace Treaty of 1466 the area was incorporated into Poland.
The spa for Gdańsk citizens has been active since the 16th century. Until the end of that century most of noble and magnate families from Gdańsk built their manors and palaces in Sopot. During the negotiations of the Oliwa Peace Treaty Polish king Jan Kazimierz lived in one of them, while Swedish negotiator Magnus de la Gardie resided in a manor which is called the Swedish Manor ever since.
During the War of Polish Succession in 1733 the Russian troops besieged the nearby city of Gdańsk and a year later looted and burnt the village of Sopot to the ground. After the war ended Sopot was deserted and the manors were abandoned until mid 18th century.
In 1757 and 1758 most of the destroyed manors were bought by a Pomeranian magnate family of Przebendowski. General Józef Przebendowski bought 9 palaces with surrounding gardens and in 1786 his widow, Bernardyna Przebendowska nee Kleist bought the remaining two. In 1772, after the First Partition of Poland Sopot was annexed by Kingdom of Prussia. Following the new laws imposed by king Friedrich II the church property was confiscated by the state. The village was reconstructed and in 1806 the area was sold to a merchant from Gdańsk named Carl Christoph Wegner.
In 1819 Wenger opened the first public bath in Sopot and tried to promote the newly-established spa among the inhabitants of Danzig, but the undertaking faced a financial failure. However, in 1823 doctor Jean Georg Haffner, former medic of the French army, financed a new bath complex that gained significant popularity. In the following years Haffner erected more facilities. By 1824 a sanatorium was opened to the public, as well as 63 metres long pier, cloakrooms and a park. Haffner died in 1830, but his enterprise was continued by his stepson, Ernst Adolf Böttcher. The latter continued to develop the area and in 1842 new theatre and sanatorium were opened. By then the number of tourists coming to Sopot every year rose to almost 1200.
In 1870 Sopot is linked to the world by the new Danzig - Kołobrzeg rail road that was later extended to Berlin. Good rail connections added to the popularity of the area and by 1900 the number of tourists reached almost 12,500 a year.
In 1873 the village of Sopot became an administrative centre of the Gemeinde. Soon other villages were incorporated into the commune and in 1874 the number of inhabitants of the village rose to over 2,800.
At the beginning of 20th century it was the favourite spa of Kaiser Wilhelm. In the beginning of the century the city became a holiday resort for the inhabitants of nearby Danzig, as well as aristocracy from Berlin, Warsaw and Koenigsberg. Soon after the World War I a casino was founded in the Grand Hotel as the primary source of money for the treasury of the free city.
In 1877 the self-government of the Gemeinde bought the village from the descendants of dr. Haffner and started its further development. A second sanatorium was constructed in 1881 and the pier was extended to 85 metres. In 1885 the gas works were built. Two years later tennis courts were built and the following year a horse-racing track was opened to the public. There were also several facilities built for the permanent inhabitants of Sopot, not only for the tourists. Among those were two new churches: Protestant (September 17, 1901) and Catholic (December 21, 1901).
On October 8, 1901, kaiser Wilhelm II granted Sopot with city rights . Thanks to that act the city started to grow even faster than before. In 1904 a new balneological sanatorium was opened. In 1907 new baths south of the old ones were built in Viking style. In 1909 a new theatre was opened in the woods within the city limits, in the place where today the Sopot Festival is held every year. By 1912 third complex of baths, sanatoria, hotels and restaurants was opened, attracting even more tourists. Shortly before the World War I the city had 17,400 permanent inhabitants and over 20,000 tourists every year.
Following the signing of the Versailles Treaty Sopot became a part of the Free City of Gdańsk. Thanks to the proximity of the Polish border the economy of the town soon recovered after the war. The newly-built casino became one of the main sources of income of the tiny state. In 1927 the city authorities built the Kasino-Hotel, one of the most notable landmarks of Sopot today. After the World War II it was renamed to Grand Hotel and continues to be one of the most luxurious hotels in Pomerania.
Since 1922 in the Forest Opera a Richard Wagner Festival was held. The festival reached high quality and Sopot was sometimes referred to as the "Bayreuth of the North". In 1928 the pier was extended to its present length: 512 metres. Since then it is the longest wooden pier in Europe and one of the longest in the world. In the early thirties the city reached the peak of its popularity among the foreign tourists - more than 30,000 of them arrived to Sopot every year (this number does not include tourists from Danzig itself, who were also spending their vacations there en masse). However, in the 1930's the tension on the Polish border and rising popularity of the nazist movements started to discourage the foreigners. In 1938 the local Germans burnt the synagogue in Sopot.
On September 1, 1939, the World War II started. The following day the Free City of Danzig was annexed by Germany and most of local Poles, Kashubians and Jews were arrested and expelled. During the war the city lost its significance as a centre of tourism. In 1942 the last Wagner Festival was held.
On March 23, 1945, the town was captured by the Red Army. During the fights and shortly afterwards approximately 10% of the buildings were destroyed. The Red Army soldiers burnt most of the houses close to the pier, as well as looted and burnt the oldest sanatoria complex. In alignment with decisions of the Potsdam Conference, Sopot became part of Poland. The authorities of Gdansk Voivodship were located in Sopot until the end of 1946. Most of German inhabitants of Sopot who remained in the city after the evacuation carried over by German authorities were expelled and soon Polish settlers from areas annexed by the Soviet Union started to arrive.
After the war Sopot started to recover very rapidly. A tramway line to Gdańsk was opened, as well as Higher School of Music, Higher School of Maritime Trade, a library, and an art gallery. Since 1948 (during the cadence of the City President Jan Kapusta ), Arts Festival is held in Sopot. In 1952 the tramways were replaced by fast suburban railway line to Gdańsk and Gdynia. Although in 1954 the Higher School of Plastic Arts was moved to Gdańsk, Sopot remained an important centre of culture. In 1956 the first Jazz festival was held there (until that year Jazz was banned by the communist authorities). In 1961 the first International Song Contest was held in Forest Opera . Two years later the main street of Sopot (Bohaterów Monte Cassino) was turned into a promenade.
In 1972 new complex of baths, sanatoria and hotels was opened and in 1975 another one joined in. In 1977 Sopot had approximately 54,500 inhabitants, more than ever in its history. In 1979 it was officially accepted as a monument of architecture and the historical city centre became protected by the state. The Martial Law in Poland and the following period of economical decline ended with the advent of democracy in 1989. In 1995 the southern bath and sanatoria complex was extended significantly and two years later the Saint Adalbert spring was opened. Thanks to that in 1999 Sopot regained the official spa town status. In 2001 Sopot celebrated the 100th anniversary of city rights .
The following is a list of notable personalities born or living in the city.
- Kiejstut Bereźnicki , painter
- Janusz Christa , comic book author
- Maciej Dejczer , film director
- Jerzy Doerffer , ship constructor and engineer
- Klaus Kinski, actor
- Leszek Możdżer , Jazz musician and composer
- Joseph McNaull , basketball player
- Grzegorz Skawiński , musician
Among the guests of the spa were many prominent and notable people. Among those staying in the Grand Hotel were:
- Charles de Gaulle, general and president of France
- Adolf Hitler, chancellor of Germany
- Ignacy Mościcki, president of Poland
- STU Ergo Hestia SA , Sopot
- Wyższa Szkoła Finansów i Administracji
- Wyższa Szkoła Finansów i Rachunkowości
- Wyższa Szkoła Wychowania Fizycznego i Turystyki
- See also: Sports in Tricity
There are many popular professional sports team in Sopot and Tricity area. The most popular sport in Sopot today is probably basketball thanks to the award winning Prokom Trefl Sopot, Polish Champion in men basketball in 2004. Amateur sports are played by thousands of Sopot citizens and also in schools of all levels (elementary, secondary, university).
- Prokom Trefl Sopot - men basketball team, Polish Champion 2004= 1st place in Era Basket Liga, will play in basketball Euroleague
- Idea Prokom Open - ATP and WTA tennis tournament held in August. Rafael Nadal and Flavia Pennetta won in 2004.
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