part five - Bobrek, Karb, Szombierki

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Bobrek, Piecucha Street

Bobrek, Zwirowa Street

Karb, Celna Street

Karb, Celna Street

GKS Czarni Bytom

Karb - Narrow Gauge Railways

Karb - Narrow Gauge Railways

Szombierki, near powerplant

Szombierki, former coal mine

author: Piotr Studzinski
first published: 2nd September 2009
last modified (updated): 28th November 2009
photographs taken between 10th May 2009 and 21st January 2010
translation: Radoslaw Obuchowski, Piotr Studzinski

It's too bad that it looks like that because you can find really interesting buildings here, like the one at 10 Piecucha Street which would surely make a good impression in downtown. Very interesing place of Bobrek is Drzymaly Square limited with building located on Pasteura, Konstytucji, Piecucha and Stalowa Streets. In it Eastern part stands small wooden evangelic choruch which is a phenomenon in city scale and creates very specific vibe of the place. Unfortunatelly, there is no surprise that the church is in poor condition – some of the windows are broken secured with cartoons, part of the roof on the North side is covered with blue plastic foil and on elevation wooden boards are covered with – sometimes obscenic – writtings. Maybe this place is far from Nikiszowiec in case of architectural value but renovated could be important tourist destination. Now, dirty brick is in stark contrast to bright colours of kids playgrous elements built in the centre of the square. On the other side of Drzymaly Square, on nearby little square remains of former fountain can be seen. Back in the day it had to be fantastic part of Bobrek, today you cannot help but cry at the sight.

Unlike Lagiewniki, Rozbark and Szombierki, there are no blocks of flats from big concrete panels. Thanks to that fact, the district, bordering with the city of Zabrze, remained its unique former working-class vibe. Bobrek occupies a pretty large area and unlike Kolonia Zgorzelec there is a lot of space to walk around. It leaves an impression that time stopped or even is going backwards there. Not that long ago I read an article entitled 'Ugliness of Bytom is about to atrract tourists', which, among other interesting things, revealed: 'They made a statement about building a hostel in the working-class district of Bobrek. Tourists would rest after  a whole day of sightseeing the city and in the evenings they could become familiar with the local customs.'[18] With all respect for the author but it is at a flippant approach. What kind of 'local customs' do you want to see? Are you really ready to see this? Just stop by the bridge leading to Karb and look down, to the right side, there you can see the everyday routine of part of Bobrek and nearby community.

Ending widely described topic of Bobrek, I cannot help but quote opinion of esteemed documentalist Lidia Duda, who spent a lot of time in search for the truth about the place: 'Today Bobrek is a ruin. All people around live in poverty, steal coal or sell scrap-iron. If you will not earn some money, you can die starving there. If I were living there, I would probably become alkoholic. It is hopeless there, there is no option of getting up from rock bottom.'[18] Looking at it now, who would tell that in 1980s it was one of the richest parts of Bytom.

'Continuos pressure of mine damages (includes 1/3 of city area) on inhabited terrains.' [3]

I have mentioned Karb, a district of Bytom which you cannot put into the group of the prettiest places of the city. On the side of the Bobrek Mine, there are not many old brick houses left, but those that are still standing are in a critical condition and their fate is rather uncertain. Two of them, intended for deconstruction stand at 2 and 2A Czadzkiego Street. Located right beside railways houses - in which windows there are no more glass – and ruined toolshed-like buildings are in no way secured from visitis of curious people. Everybody can enter the place which most probably is not such enough important to take some actions. Theoretically and on the paper, in those two familoks there are no residents  but in two houses located near crossroads of Miechowicka and Wroclawska Streets still leave some people. A sad article about one of them – yellow, two-storey building -  was published some time ago.[7] Standing across the street, secured with scaffolding (another element of modern Bytom architecture) house is in critical condition: fissures can be seen on its fasade and on backyard side.

A whole estate of familoks is located between Miechowicka and Celna Streets and its condition is far from good. At the converge of Mlodziezowa and Celna Streets stands edifice of partly abandoned school, partly used by some companies. Its major part, which is clearly visible outside is seriously hurt with windows covered with cartoons or bricked-up. On the other side, in Techniczna Street there is a large building of former BZUT (Bytom Factory of Mechanical Devices), fully ruined. From there, you can go under a bridge, heading a path leading from Karb to 'Kleinfeld'. It is highly devastated terrain - on the legh of 200 meteres there are ruined industrial buildings. There are parts of the bricked walls with such a big holes that you can look inside to see... Or maybe it is better not to look inside? Coming out of the path, getting closer to the walls, one can be surprised when oduored gas will come right into your face from sewer well, causing throwing up action. I would rather not investigate its chemical ingredients.

Nearby, heading to Dabrowa Miejska, the biggest fishing attraction is located: 'Bytom Venice' or 'Bytom Atlantis' - you can choose the name. The 'wonder of nature' was created by flooding the area of concrete elements factory with sediment reservoir waters coming through railway embankment. The outcome is a water basin with concrete elements sticking out of it. Its shore is covered with rubble of different shape and size, glass, wooden boards, glass wool and other waists. As it is with pigeons living within the tenement ruins, here fauna also has a good life. What you can find here, just to name a few: swans, ducks, frogs. The canal channeling the water away has been widened recently, and its level almost reached the bottom, revealing some of 'treasures' that had remained unseen until that moment.

GKS Czarni Bytom stadium was once located near Wroclawska Street. Today there are only sad remains of it. What a shame, for sure it would be useful for local people for recreational purposes. Especially sad neighbourhood is located on Skladowa Street, not that far away from the stadium, and this is a narrow-gauge railways shed with the station Bytom-Karb. Most of the buildings are ruined, part is bricked-up, part is falling down. On the place, one’s attention is riveted by the abandoned yellow water tower which has been occupied as an observation, or residential, point by – non other than – Bytom pigeons. Part of the shed has survived and a good observer will see a few locomotives and cars. Closest to metal fence stands a nice, old steam-engine locomotive, out of order as I suppose. Outside the shed area, on a few rows of rails, passenger, cargo and coal cars are standing unused. The latter already overgrown with grass.

Remains of heavy industry brilliance

A little bit further, outside Karb, in Dabrowa Miejska, around Celna Street, on terrain of an old gravel pit or sand pit there is a company dealing in building materials and next to its area, partly overgrown, concrete industrial ruins are located. I have to admit, nature is wonderful - it will get over to every man-made creation. The complex consists of a couple of large buildings and a high chimney. Chimney is nothing new to Upper-Silesian landscape, but existence of this particular one should be ended rather quickly, before loose metal elements dangling on high level fall on somebody's head. It is not the land where the crow flies backwards, there are plenty of people coming across the section, so it is a real threat to them. About 200 meteres away there is North Bytom railway station, which neighbourhood is rather ugly: closed Polish National Railways (PKP) building, closed railway bridge with dismantled rails and concrete secure walls on the sides of the road to Stolarzowice do not match woods area.

The topic of revitalisation of former Szombierki coal mine area, located in a district of the same name, has been under discussion for some time now. According to the available information, there are apartements, a hotel and a golf course to be build. The project states that the unique on European or even world scale, hammer-like shaped mining shaft 'Krystyna', build in 1920s in modern style, will be renewed and used again for other than mining purposes. The idea should be applauded, I only hope that its realisation will be fast and without any problems. Equally important industrial monument is heat and power plant Szombierki, built in 1920, which unique brick block dominates the borough. Today, due to marginal energetic importance its rooms are rented to investors. Let us hope that number of investors will be enough for keeping the object living and will not share the fate of its predecessors. During the week, after earlier appointment the plant can be visited by tourists, which is fantastic opportunity for them. Typical Upper-Silesian vibe can be seen in the area limited by Orzegowska, Piatka, Frycza-Modrzewskiego oraz Zabrzańska Streets. Everything that has survived up till now also requires fast restoration.

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