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Poland Travel & Holiday Tips
 
 
 

General

Poland is now one of the major destinations for travellers. Its beauty can be admired in both its old cities and in the wild scenery of 22 national parks, about 1200 nature reserves, more than 100 landscape parks and 400 protected areas. The country’s regions are largely divided into horizontal bands: the Baltic Coast and the hilly post-glacial lake district. Central Poland is split into northern lowlands and southern uplands, including the Kraków-Wielun Upland with its limestone areas, caves and medieval castles. The Carpathian Mountains, including the Tatras, lie in the extreme south; their mountain scenery, folklore and sports facilities are important parts of their charm.

Poland is a nation with a proud cultural heritage, and theatre, music and opera companies abound. The former textile city of Lodz is proud of its film school, alma mater to directors Roman Polanski and Krzysztof Kieslowski. There is also a strong tradition of graphic design and glassware.

Warsaw

Spanning both banks of the River Wisla (Vistula), Poland’s capital and largest city was almost completely destroyed during World War II. Following massive and painstaking reconstruction, Warsaw’s Old Town (Stare Miasto) on the west bank was authentically reconstructed from original plans and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Polish capital plays an important role in the country’s cultural life and there are over 20 museums. One of the best is the Warsaw Historical Museum, which traces Warsaw’s history and shows films shot by the Nazis showing their systematic destruction of the city. The National Museum has a superb collection of art and archaeology. Zamek Królewski, the reconstructed Royal Castle, is now an important museum of fine and applied arts. The Wilanów Palace has a spectacular collection of old paintings and furniture; its Orangerie holds the new Museum of Posters. The enormous Palace of Culture and Science was an unwelcome gift from Josef Stalin; however, it offers wonderful views over the whole city. The Lazienki Palace is set in a lovely park with an open-air Greek theatre and a monument to the famous Polish composer Frederic Chopin. The National and the Polish are the most renowned of the city’s many theatres. Zelazowa Wola, 53 km (32 miles) west of Warsaw, is an attractive park in which stands the manor house where Chopin was born. Nature enthusiasts can visit the nearby Kampinos National Park, where it is possible to see wild boar and elk.

The East

Lublin

Lublin is a charming medieval university city 164 km (102 miles) southeast of Warsaw. Still further east on the banks of the River Labunka is Zamosc, founded at the end of the 16th century and once an important centre on the trade route linking Northern and Western Europe to the Black Sea. Its Old Town has recently been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its focal point is the Market Square; the old and new Lublin Gates indicate the city’s former role as an important regional fortress. Lublin is given a southern flavour through the many buildings designed by Bernardo Morando of Padua, and by the many Armenians and Greeks who settled here. The Bialowieza National Park, an area of primal forest straddling the border with Belarus, is the last major refuge of the European bison as well as being home to many other rare forest-dwelling species.

The South

Kraków

Poland’s second city also stands on the banks of the River Wisla (Vistula), but far to the south in the wooded foothills of the Tatra Mountains. It still retains its charming medieval air, having largely escaped destruction during World War II; it is one of UNESCO’s 12 most significant historical sites. In the middle of the central Market Square – the largest in Europe – is the Cloth Hall, which was reconstructed in the 19th century from 14th-century merchants’ stalls; this houses the art and sculpture galleries of the National Museum. Opposite is St Mary’s Church with its world-famous wooden altar carved by Wit Stwosz. The Jagiellonian University, founded in 1364, is one of the oldest in Europe. After many years of neglect, Kraków’s former Jewish quarter, Kazimierz, is reviving; the Old Synagogue (1557) is the oldest surviving in the country. Also in Kazimierz is the country’s largest Ethnographic Museum. Kraków was Poland’s capital until 1596. Overlooking the city is Wawel Castle, with its marvellous 16th-century tapestries and, beside it, the Gothic Cathedral, where many Polish kings are buried. The Czartoryski Palace houses the city’s best collection of ancient art, European paintings and crafts.


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