Green hills, a present history and medieval towns with a trendy undertone will meet you on your way through Poland. Kraków attracts with an architecture that alternates between Gothic, Baroque and Art Nouveau – as well as a highly vibrant cultural life. Outside the cities, the hiking trails are waiting to lead you through dense forests, down into huge salt caves and along wide rivers.
See trips to Poland
Population: 38.5 million
Poland with its 10,000 lakes qualifies for second place after Finland in terms of sea density?
Polish Marie Sklodowska Curie was the first person to receive the Nobel Prize? In 1903 Curie received the Nobel Prize in Physics and in 1911 in Chemistry.
Nature and geography in Poland
According to top-medical-schools, the landscape of Poland shifts between low shores of the Baltic Sea in the north to soft hills and shiny lakes in the central parts to the high peaks of the Sudeten and Carpathian Mountains in the south. 70 percent of the country’s mountains exceed 2,000 meters and offer both skiing, mountain hiking and canoeing on the many mountain lakes. Long, wide rivers such as the Oder and Warta and Wisla rivers connect many of the country’s lakes and have been used as transport routes ever since the Vikings sailed with their longboats. Wildlife is one of Europe’s most diverse and many species that are rare in other parts of Central and Southern Europe still live in Poland. Among other things, the brown bear that lives in the mountains in southern Poland and the gray wolf that lives in the large forests in the west, where you can also encounter wild boar.
History of Poland
Poland got its first ruler as a united country around the year 960. Medieval Poland was characterized by strife on both the religious and administrative levels. In the 16th and 17th centuries, they were at war with Russia, a country Poland never got along well with, and with Sweden, with which the Poles wanted to ally themselves in the fight against the Russians. In the following centuries, Poland was divided into several areas that alternated between being independent and in the hands of Russian, Prussian or Austrian powers. It was not until after the end of the First World War that Poland re-emerged as a united nation. The new state, on the other hand, was not allowed to live in peace for very long, but now settlements between the country’s population groups such as Poles, Jews and Germans took over. At the political level, coups, constitutional changes and a dictatorship-like government flourished.
In 1939, Poland received the dubious honor of receiving Hitler’s first attack, which marked the beginning of World War II. Poland became the center of power struggle between the warring parties and Nazi racial politics. Jews and other Polish minorities gathered in ghettos, exterminated or forcibly relocated to labor camps. By the end of the war, virtually all minorities had been exterminated, the population had dropped by six million and Poland, along with many other Eastern European countries, became part of the Eastern Bloc. Now followed 45 years of censorship, secret policing and the disintegration of the church. In 1989, the country became the first Eastern bloc to go from communism to a market economy. Poland’s Communist Party disbanded itself and Soviet troops were forced to leave the country. Instead, the police began to orient themselves more and more towards the rest of Europe;
Attractions in Poland
On your trip through Poland, you must not miss Kraków. The old capital is steeped in history and its old town has a unique atmosphere with elegant streets, soaring church towers and beautiful old buildings. Wawel Castle, from which Poland was ruled for centuries, has an impressive collection of Renaissance architecture and royal baubles. Do not miss the 40,000 m2 Rynek Glowny Square, Europe’s largest of its kind, surrounded by street houses and a vibrant street life. In Kraków you can also visit Oskar Schindler’s factory where the famous Nazi and industrialist made enamel goods and later saved almost 1,200 Jews from extermination. Today, the factory is a museum. Just outside Kraków is the Wieliczka Saltmine with its 300 kilometers of underground tunnels.
The capital Warsaw is also well worth a visit. Here, a plethora of different neighborhoods, rebuilt after the devastating progress of World War II, are waiting to charm you. At the city’s museums you can learn more about the Poles’ failed struggle against the Nazis, the history of the Polish Jews and the advertising style during the communist era. In the Tatras Mountains you can take the train up to the top and enjoy the view of the neighboring peaks, look into the old mountaineering cabins and test the hiking trails that meander between meadows and ash trees. Another place you should visit during your trip is found behind the famous gate with the inscription “Arbeit macht frei” in Auschwitz-Birkenau. The symbol of probably the most macabre chapter in European history, lies half a day’s drive from Kraków.