A union town, one might say, of this large eastern Poland city that began as a trade route
stop-over in the 6th century and grew into the industrial, yet scholarly metropolis that it is
today. 3 centuries after its humble beginnings 14 centuries ago, Lublin marked the
conversion of the Polish lands into the christianized Polish state in the 10th century by being
the first to erect (so they say) a commemorative temple to St. Nicholas. Another 4 centuries
passed before the fortified castle transformed itself into a town, but its real claim to fame
came in 1569 when the Lublin Union ratified the already 200 year old bond between
Poland and its neighbor Lithuania: that moment formalized the largest empire in mainland
Europe. Lublin profited from its pivotal position, and continued to prosper -- excepting
raids by the Cossacks from the east and Swedes from the north -- until the Partitions
scattered the empire and carved up the Polish state.
Poland landed back on the legal map of Europe at the end of WWI, and Lublin celebrated
by founding the Catholic University, still going strong to this day. Lublin also fostered other
religions, notably Judaism, which showed itself in the pre-WWII 40,000 strong Jewish
population. Remnants of that population can be seen along the signs and walls of the Old
Town, and more stirring reminders found in the Majdanek concentration camp 3 km out.
Additional infamous events occurred in the war period, critical to Poland's post-war future:
in 1944, a group called the Lublin Committee gathered sufficient strength there to fan
the flames of communism, and grew into the post-war party that took up the reins of power
for the next 4 decades. But what goes around sometimes comes around: Lublin's second
claim to union fame occurred in May 1980 with an organized workers strike. Said strike
beat the Gdansk shipyard shenanigans by 4 months, leaving Lubliners free to boast of their
town as once again the birthplace of a union.