Despite a rather rough and tumble history from being an Empire to being nothing, to reappearing, to being invaded yet again, flattened, humiliated and left for dead, the country keeps standing up. Poland is the ‘Rocky’ of nations, in the end it always wins out.
All this rough and tumble history has left its mark on the cities, on the people, on the food. The towns and cities are an amalgamation of all the different cultures and countries that have passed through, stayed a while and left again. The people are resilient and optimistic. The food is part German, part Russian, and wholly Polish.
Poland is largely a flat country, with vast forests, a myriad of lakes, endless cultivated farm lands, and picturesque villages. To the south lay mountains, in the north the Baltic coast, the west was German for ages and that country’s culture has left its mark there, the east is sparsely populated.
But wherever you go you will find beauty. Krakow miraculously managed to survive the Second World War unscathed and its historic centre is a European gem. Nearby, Auschwitz reminds us of the worst humanity is capable of. Warsaw was flattened during the war, but in true Polish spirit it has arisen from its ashes like a phoenix. Up north lies Gdansk, an Old Hanseatic port, birthplace of the Solidarity Movement which defied communism and helped bring it down. Not far you can go sailing in the Masurian Lake district of rolling hills, forests and farms. And for some really (really) old forest and a glimpse of the European Bison head to Białowieza National Park. Hiking and skiing is possible in the Tatras Mountains down south, and for an impressive fortress Malbork Castle should fit the bill.
If all this hasn’t enticed you, nothing will. Except maybe that it is very cheap! So for goodness sake go!!
Highlights from Poland
- Kraków is a no brainer. If you go anywhere in Poland Krakow should be it. Its full of beautiful buildings, castles, churches, squares, and a great nightlife
- Everybody should go to Auschwitz-Birkenau at least ones in their life, it will change your perspective for ever, and appreciate your freedom all the more
- Nearby, the Tatras Mountains, are good for hiking, skiing, or any other outdoor activities
- Wrocław was once German and called Breslau, and was devastated during the war but meticulously rebuilt. Its historic centre is very German indeed. A hint: look for the little dwarf statues scattered around town, nobody knows exactly how many there are!
- Go where the bison’s roam in Białowieza National Park in the far east of Poland
- Warsaw (aka Warszawa) was flattened, and I mean flattened by the Germans during the war, but it has been beautifully rebuilt
- On the Baltic coast lies stately Gdansk, one of Europe’s most pretty ports
- For a bit of rest and relaxation try sailing around in the Masurian Lake District
- Not far you can wander around huge Malbork Castle, former headquarters of the Teutonic Knights
- Interested in sea and dunes, than the Slowinski Sand Dunes are for you
Hints and Tips for Poland
- Don’t worry about visa’s, it is part of the EU, if you need one, a Schengen Visa will do the trick.
- English and German are widely spoken, Russian as well. But knowing some Polish is always a good way to break the ice.
- Public transport is efficient and plenty, roads are good.
- Winters can be cold and harsh, so dress for it if you go during that season.
- Poland is cheap, your money goes a long way.
- Vodka is a favourite in the country and there are countless varieties, you should try at least one.
- There is no such thing as a small portion in Poland. Meal are invariably big and hearty (and delicious!)