Invaded, divided and conquered far too many times throughout history, the country of Poland has come through it all with much in the way of history and culture to celebrate. From castles and palaces, to countryside cabins and modern cityscapes, the adventurous can experience a unique European escape that will reflect the traveler’s pace just as much as the chosen region. Poland is a place that has inspired many a great thinker and will surely inspire you. You may not come create a symphony to rival Chopin or make astronomical discoveries just as Copernicus once did here but you can take heed in your smart choice of places to go and live history, if not in the museums then in the streets, mountainsides and forests. Don’t forget to fortify yourself with the unique and hearty cuisine Polish chefs have to offer.
This city offers a mixture of German and Poland history. Its atmosphere of Gothic makes it the greatest attraction. There are gothic cathedrals, the gothic old city town hall, the Teutonic Castle, and city defense walls. Because it did not suffer any damage from the Second World War its urban substance and fabric are authentic.
A great place to travel to -or live in- is Poland’s second city. Over the years it has grown to be a popular destination. It is the heart of Polish culture and is filled with many historical attractions including the salt mine, the basilica, cathedral, and castle. You also can attend any of the festivals, do some hiking, or just enjoy the beautiful scenery. Many people visit to try to connect with the worlds that vanished during the era of the Second World War. There is a noticeable difference if you visit the museum in the summer when it is packed and seems unreal versus the cold snowy winters that really make you think.
With a history dating back a thousand years this location has served as a cultural capital. With great commercial and communication routes and extensive port, trade, fishery and crafts continue to develop the city despite being taken over by knights in 1308. In 1939 it was this location where the Second World War started.
This large and ethnically diverse city is the only location where you can find a Stare Miasto (old town) with a Synagogue, Lutheran church, Roman Catholic Church and an Eastern Orthodox Church standing near each other. It is notorious for its richness and history as well as its market square that features a modern fountain and is lined with elegant colorful townhouses.
Before the Second World War it was a thriving center of Polish Jewish culture. However, it became part of a large network of concentration camps by the end of the war. The exact death toll will never be known, but it is estimated to be between 1.5 and 2 million dead, with as many 900,000 Jews in that number. The Auschwitz Jewish Center is a museum that holds the history of the Jews in the area from before the terrors of the Nazis to present day. Walking through the camp site can evoke many emotions as you learn about the history of what happened on those same grounds many years ago.
Poland’s national dish is a pierogi. A pierogi is a dumpling stuffed with many fillings, with the most popular being mashed potatoes, farmer’s cheese, sauerkraut, cabbage, mushrooms, spinach, ground beef, and healthy grains. In history the pierogi was prepared for holidays and each holiday had its own designated pierogi flavor. Another popular food is gingerbread, which dates back to the 13th century. Today’s delicious cookies are still based on original recipes and methods, and are very popular, especially the holiday season.
Jasna Gora Monastery:
This national shrine of Poland is the center of Polish Catholicism, and is home to the miraculous icon, The Black Madonna. The monastery dominates a Czestochowa hilltop that is always bustling with pilgrims and worshippers waiting to see this depiction of Mary holding the infant Jesus.
Poland is known for its inspiring fighting spirit. Throughout the entire Cold War the Poles never surrendered. Their government went into exile in the UK for 50 years and they were almost completely wiped off the face of any map. Despite all of this, they stayed persistent and determined to never give up, never accept no, and to never go away.
In Poland, one’s “Name Day” – imieniny – is considered a far more important occasion than one’s birthday. The calendar of saints is a Christian method of associating each day with the name of a saint. The day your name is celebrated is your name day. There is no mention of age or numbers on a name day, however there are still gifts.
In Poland, pizza bases are not topped with Napolitana or a tomato-based sauce. These are generally served separately and resemble what some would consider to be ketchup.
If interested in hiking, Zakopane makes a nice base. In addition to hiking, it has much to offer including a main shopping street and you might even catch an international ski jumping competition.