|Country Information & Lifestyle|
Lands of White Eagle
The Republic of Poland is located in Central Europe and is bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine to the east; Russia and the Baltic Sea to the north.
The landscape is very diversified with the Carpathian and Sudety Mountains in the south, Lowlands and uplands occupy the central part of the country, the northern part of Poland, comprising Pomeranian and Masurian Lakelands, is gently undulating, relatively well forested and covered by hundreds of lakes and still further to the north are the sandy beaches of the Baltic Sea coast.
The Polish people are a warm, friendly national, fiercely proud of their culture and heritage and ready to embrace foreigners with open arms.
The region of Mazowswe is a sandy land difficult to farm and is the business and financial area where the capital Warsaw is situated. Poland teamed up with its eastern neighbour Lithuania in the 16th century and needed a political meeting point closer to the Lithuania capital in Vilnius. It found it in Warsaw and from that time on this region became the centre of the country.
Warsaw is situated on the longest Polish river, the Vistula and is is the geographical centre of Europe, a city risen from the ashes and is now an intriguing mix of old and new. Outside of the nation's capital Lodz city is a market town of Pultusk where trading has gone on for centuries and still continues and folk culture is strong here especially at festivals like Corpus Christi.
Lowicz where the Archbishops of Gniezno traditionally resided or explore the 12th century collegiate church built in Romanesque style in Tum and on a sadder note you can pay respects at the concentration camp Treblinka.
Mazury & Warmia is a region for nature lovers with a cornucopia of diversions, a myriad of lakes and incredible forests. In Warmia are a number castles and Gothic brick churches testifying to the centuries old Prussian presence. The fortified castle of the Bishop of Warmia still stands in Lidzbark Warminski and is amazing.
The spiritual home of the bishops was in Frombork, where that famous Polish son, Mikolaj Kopernik also lived out the last decades of his life. If you like water, come to the Mazury. When the final glacier departed Poland, it left behind a legacy of a thousand lakes, most of which are interconnected with rivers that make for excellent water-sports.
Other less pleasant reminders of the past also exist, one being the eastern-front headquarters of Hitler in Gierloz. This 'Wolf's Lair' was the site of the failed 1944 assassination attempt, and its remains provide a chilling glimpse of the might of Nazi Germany.
Malopolska, (Little Poland), is truly the cultural and spiritual heart of Poland. Multi-besieged but never taken Jasna Gora Monastery in Czestochowa was home to the immortal Queen of Poland, the `Black Madonna. The spiritual 'King' of Poland, Pope John Paul II, grew up in Wadowice, a land dotted with wooden churches built by the Lemk, an ethnic minority in the Beskidy mountains
These peaks are joined by the limestone-ranged Pieniny and the alpine-like Tatra, which are best enjoyed from Zakopane. The Tatra draw most tourists, but the Pieniny offers wild rafting down the Dunajec Gorge, not for the feint-hearted!
Malopolska includes not only the renowned beauty of Krakow, but also that of Kazimierz Dolny and Sandomierz. Kazimierz Dolny is a little town with big history on the banks of Vistula river and is a considerable tourist attraction as one of the most beautifully situated little towns in Poland.
If castle ruins excite your imagination, then seek out the Janowiec, Lancut, or the Krzyztopor where you will still feel you are back 100 years in time or maybe even more. Krzyztopor, in Ujazad, well exemplifies the tremendous wealth of the semi-independent Polish magnates. Another square and castle worth seeing are in nearby Lublin which offers an imposing castle complemented by a dilapidated but distinctive Old Town.
Wielkopolska,(Greater Poland), is where you will find typical castles such as Kornik dating from Medieval times and updated in the 19th century by Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Rogalin in the Baroque mixed with Neoclassicism style, and Goluchow for a French touch.
There are a few narrow gauge railway lines still in operation between Stare Bojanowa and Wielichowas and Gasawa to Znin. In Wolsztyn you can even catch a glimpse of a steam train or two.
Poznan organises so many trade fairs that the head spins and further to the south Kotowice sits in the centre of the industrial belt of Poland, whilst nearby Wroclaw is a pleasing mix of business and pleasure. The splendour of the Tatry is best enjoyed from the bustling resort of Zakopane near the border and Torun boasts one of the few truly authentic Old Towns in Poland.
For a taste of the seaside visit the region of Pomerania which has 500 kms of sandy coastline bordering the Baltic Sea and unique sand dunes in the south. In the Slovincian National Park you can kayak down the hundreds of lakes linked by rivers, and the Mazurian lakes, glacier leftovers, to the east offer excellent sailing and fishing.
Pomerania remains a historically unique region where the Teutonic Knights ruled until 1466 and built a few incredibly fortified castles.
Malbork is a town in the Zulawy region and was built around the fortress of Malbork, founded in 1274 on the right bank of the river Nogat by the Teutonic Knights and named for their patron saint, the Virgin Mary. This fortified castle became the seat of the Teutonic Order and Europe's largest Gothic fortress.
The river and flat terrain allowed easy access for barges a hundred kilometres from the sea. The castle and its museum are listed as UNESCO's World Heritage Sites. It is sometimes referred to as 'the largest heap of bricks north of the Alps'.
Under continuous construction for nearly 230 years, Malbork is actually three castles nested in one another. The High, Middle and Low Castles are separated by additional dry moats and towers. It housed some 3,000 "brothers in arms". The Low Castle walls enclose 52 acres, four times the area of Windsor Castle.
Gdansk became the capital of the eastern component some 400 odd years later and still stands squarely at the centre of history with much from the past and present to offer. Nearby Kolobrzeg and Koszalin are two examples of health resorts along the Pomerania coast.
Podlaskie in the eastern part is stunning in its natural beauty and sees fewer tourists and is less well known. A region full of lakes, exceptional primeval forests and wetlands, the Puszcza Bicilowieska and Biebrza marshes survived the onslaught of time, civilisation, and war to become the last remaining European site of such extensive, strictly protected natural beauty.
Bison and tarpan roam these lands re-introduced and now breeding in the wild, and the Arabian stud farm in Janow Podlaski is evidence of the Poles enormous love of horses.
Also in this region, you can canoe on the smaller, deeper, cleaner lakes of the Suwalszczyzna which includes the deepest lake in Poland, the Hancza and another water-based adventure can be had along the Augustow canal.
Podlaskie still shows signs of its past culture, ethnic and religious diversity where you can enjoy Lithuanian company and culture in Punsk or catch a glimpse of Moslem Tartars in Kruszyniany, revive yourself spiritually in a Camaldolese monastery in Wigry or explore the Baroque synagogue dating back to the 1600's in Tykocin.
Silesia - named for two isolated peaks used as a worshiping ground by the Celts - has exchanged hands over the centuries: initially part of the first Polish nation, it then slowly merged with Bohemia to its south, then became part of Austria and eventually part of Prussia to its west (as Schlesien). Given its many masters over the years, the inhabitants are commonly bilingual and tend to think of themselves as Silesians first.
Karkonosze was and is becoming again a popular holiday spot, and the former home of the Nobel laureate Gerhart Hauptmann is in Silesia. After passing back into Polish hands at the end of WWII to compensate for losses to the east, Silesia now offers a typical Polish mix of the industrial Katowice contrasted with the cosmopolitan Wroclaw.
Like other regions in Poland, it has castles in Ksiaz and Brzeg, monstries in Krzeszow, Trzebnica, Lubiaz and Henrykow, and health resorts in Polanice Zdroj, Duszniki Zdroj and Kudowa Zdroj. For pure recreation, the 300 km long Sudety Mountains offer a popular alternative to the Tatry to the east where you can hike, ski, bike, or simply relax in the health spas.
No visit to Poland would be complete without sampling the hearty fare served everywhere. The staple diet in the country was mainly cabbage and potatoes and it is still very evident in today's food.
Try the cold, creamy beet and vegetable called chlodnik, bigos - cabbage, sausage and meat stew, pierogi-dumplings stuffed with meat, cabbage and mushrooms and the piece de resistance in all Polish cooking, cheese & potato ruski eaten hot or cold, fried with or without sour cream.
With a country as large as Poland it will be individual choice as to where to purchase, either for permanent living or a holiday home. With many castles, palaces and historic properties on offer may you would like a complete change of lifestyle and open a super luxury hotel, Poland has it all.