Welcome to Poland. Poland is the home of: Nicolaus COPERNICUS, Fryderyk CHOPIN, Lech WALESA and Pope John Paul II. My country, located in the plains between Germany and Russia (today Belarus, Ukraine and Lithuania as well), bordered in the south by Slovakia and the Czech Republic has suffered severely from the ravages of war. But each time it has been rebuilt by its inhabitants. Poland has really opened up after the fall of the Berlin wall and is becoming a very attractive destination for travelers. It has many historic towns and cities that testify of the long history of the Polish state, great natural beauty and a unique coast. The two primary destinations are the present capital Warsaw, which like a phoenix rose from the ashes of total destruction in World War II, and the ancient capital Krakow, untouched by war, which is an exquisite treasure of Gothic and Renaissance architecture.
Poland is too large to be properly appreciated in one visit. There is too much to see. Discover central Poland, with its many wild national parks easily reached from Warsaw, or the north and the Baltic coast with the ancient port of Gdansk. In the western part you will find Wielkopolska, the cradle of the nation, and in the south Malopolska and the Tatry mountains easily reached from Krakow. In the southwest Silesia with its many old castles and mounains is worth a visit.
Poznan is located in NW Poland and is the capital of the Wielkapolska region of the country. It’s population is currently climbing toward 800,000…close to 200,000 of which are students. Some pictures can be seen on the following website, maintained by southern baptist missionaries working in NW Poland: www.northwestpoland.org
The first impact with Warsaw may be disappointing for the tourists. Especially so for those who arrive from Okecie airport: in fact the city appears as long rows of anonymous residence buildings rather grey and gloomy. You need to keep in mind that Warsaw, which was one of the most lively and cosmopolite cities in Europe before the 2nd World War, was destroyed in 1945 and 90% of it was completely dilapidated. You can then feel a deep respect and a great admiration for its surviving citizens who have been able to make Warsaw arise again from its ruins like Phoenicia arose from its own ashes.
Warsaw is the national centre of culture and learning. It hosts the Polish Academy of Science, 13 higher education institutions, about 27 museums and 20 theatres, the national philharmonic, and opera and operetta companies. Warsaw plays host to several important cultural events, including the International Chopin Piano Competition every five years, the annual Warsaw Autumn Modern Music Festival in September, the International Book Fair in May, the International Jazz Jamboree Festival in October and the Warsaw Poetry Autumn. Warsaw is also Poland’s largest industrial centre, though factories and industrial enterprises are certainly not what tourists like best.
Krakow is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. It was originally the home of the Polish royalty, before the capital was moved to Warsaw. Visiting Krakow is a refreshing break from much of European travel, where similar cities blend together, and the dominance of English might make you wonder if you ever left North America. The cobblestoned streets, majestic churches, and old world charm make Krakow an unforgetable destination.
Krakow is located in the south of Poland, about halfway from Warsaw and Prague and is a good place to break up your trip if you are traveling from one to the other.
Gdanks is an amazingly beautiful city in spite of (or thanks to?) it’s turbulent history. There are not many places in the world where the history of our time seems more immediate. After all it was here in September 1939 that the hell of the Second World War started, the war that was to realise Hitler’s mad plans to make Europe and half the world into the dominion of his ‘thousand-year’ Third Reich.
It was also here that the Solidarity movement was born, the movement that would bring about the victory of democracy in this part of Europe, which had been subjected, as a result of the Yalta Agreement, to the domination of another sick totalitarian ideology
The city center was completely destroyed during WW-II. In the Dlugi Targ (Long Market) with the beautiful coloured houses, only two were still standing after the big bombardments!
After the war, these houses were all rebuilt stone for stone.
Wroclaw is the economical, cultural and intellectual capital of Lower Silesia, located in southwestern Poland, 160 km from Germany and 120 km from the Czech Republic. The city with its charming historical center, parks, good restaurants, hotels and friendly people (700.000 inhabitants) is a pleasant place to visit and to do business.
Situated at the foot of the Sudety Moutains, upon the Odra River and cut through by its numerous tributaries and canals, it is an exceptional city of 12 islands and 112 bridges. Wroclaw’s complex and dramatic history is embedded in the city walls. We are reminded of the early medieval times in Ostrów Tumski, where one of the most beautiful sacral architecture buildings in Europe has been preserved. Wroclaw Town hall is considered one of the most splendid Gothic buildings in central Europe. In Wroclaw one can also see the biggest baroque interior in Poland, which has remained untill today – the Leopoldine Hall, located in the 17th century University building. The old and modern architecture of the city is surrounded by the abundance of greenery.
In the city centre, there spreads out the Szczytnicki Park dating from the 18th century. It cointains over 370 species of trees and shrubs and a Japanese garden. If you want to have a walk, the great places are the Botanical Garden with their beautiful flowers and Alpine gardens, green house and the biggest cactus house in Poland, and the Zoological Garden, founded in 1865 and accommodating about 5.500 animals representing 650 species.
Visitors coming to Wroclaw remember the city mainly as a cultural centre. Its theatres, including the Opera, Musical Theatre and Philharmonic Hall; various clubs, museums and galleries provide a continuous series of artistic events. Internationally acknowledged musical festivals have become the city’s cultural landmark. The biggest of them is International Festival WRATISLAVIA CANTANS – Music and Fine Arts. Other festivals which take place in Wroclaw include Jazz on the Odra, Old Master’s Music Days, One-Actor Theatr Performances and Festival of Actor Songs. One of the cultural attractions which is a must when visiting Wroclaw, is certainly the Panorama of Raclawice, a gigantic rotunda accommodating a 120 metres wide and 15 metres high panoramic painting which represents the battle of Raclawice fought on 7 April 1794.
Wroclaw is the fourth biggest city in Poland, with the population of 700000 inhabitants. It belongs to the biggest university centres in the country. The city’s intellectual life is focused around 13 academic schools including Wroclaw University and technical University. Wroclaw is also a very important transportation centre. It is a crossing point of three international routes, has two big railway stations, two river ports and international airport, which ensures the connection with the whole world.
Photo by Wikimedia Commons.