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Opole (Polish: [ɔˈpɔlɛ] (listen); German: Oppeln [ˈʔɔpl̩n]; Silesian: Ôpole; see below) is a city located in southern Poland on the Oder River and the historical capital of Upper Silesia. With a population of approximately 128,035 (December 2019), it is the capital of Opole Voivodeship (province) and the seat of Opole County. With its long history dating back to the 8th century, Opole is one of the oldest cities in Poland. It is also the smallest city in Poland to be the largest city in its province.
The origins of the first settlement are connected with the town being granted Magdeburg Rights in 1217 by Casimir I of Opole, the great-grandson of Polish Duke Bolesław III Wrymouth. During the Medieval Period and the Renaissance the city was known as a centre of commerce due to its position on the intersection of several main trade routes, which helped to generate steady profits from transit trade. The rapid development of the town was also caused by the establishment of a seat of regency in Opole in 1816. The first railway connection between Oppeln, Brieg and Breslau was opened in 1843 and the first manufacturing plants were constructed in 1859, which greatly contributed to the city's regional significance.The city's extensive heritage entails almost all cultures of Central Europe including years of Polish, Bohemian, Prussian and German rule. Opole formally became part of Poland again in 1945 under the Potsdam Agreement. Many German Upper Silesians and Poles of German ancestry still reside in the Opole region; in the city itself, however, ethnic Germans today make up less than 3% of the population following the 1945–6 expulsions.
Today there are four higher education establishments in the city: The Opole University, Opole University of Technology, a Medical College and the private Higher College of Management and Administration. The National Festival of Polish Song has been held here annually since 1963 and each year new regular events, fairs, shows and competitions take place.Opole is sometimes referred to as "Polish Venice", because of its picturesque Old Town and several canals and bridges connecting parts of the city.