Poland

Can you imagine…

Monument to child soldiers.jpg

…what it would be like, if one day, out of the blue, your entire country would disappear of the face of the earth? Of course I don’t mean evaporate, but the whole place, lock stock and barrel, being taken over by your neighbours? The end of the Royal Family, no more national government, and your country carved up into bits, with some of it going to your eastern neighbours, some to the western ones and other parts going to those living south of you? It may be hard to imagine, but it is exactly what happened to Poland in its long and colourful history. Fortunately for everybody, Poland managed to get itself back on the map and is now one of Europe’s most amazing countries and a fantastic place to go. After all, how many European countries can claim to have existed for more than 1000 years.

Invasions

Poland (502).jpgDuring this time, Poland has been invaded from all corners of Europe, north, south, east and west, and sometimes from several directions at the same time. No wonder then that Poland’s rich history is full of heroes and heroic stories. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We’ll get to that in just a minute…..

Map of Poland

The local neighbourhood

First of all, let’s put today’s Poland on the map.  There can’t be many countries in mainland Europe that share land borders with 7 countries as well as the Baltic Sea.  Click on the map to enlarge it and take a closer look.  Going around clockwise, we first come to Kaliningrad in the north, which is part of Russia.  Next comes Lithuania, then a bit further east and south a bit will get you to Belarus, and a bit further south lies the Ukraine.   In the south of Poland you’ll find the mighty Tatras Mountains, which form the border with Slovakia.  A bit further west lie the Karkonosze Mountains, which border the Czech Republic, and just above that is the border with Germany.  So Poland is well and truly surrounded.

Poland’s capital these days is Warsaw, but it was not always so.  For centuries the beautiful city of Krakow was its capital and home to Polish Kings and Queens.  Warsaw got the job in 1596, but even today there are many people who think of Krakow as Poland’s cultural capital.

Lovely Poland

Poland is a beautiful country with lots of different landscapes.  In the north you’ll find the lake district and in the south the Tatra Mountains have hundreds of hiking trails and ski lifts to get you up to even the highest mountain top.  The north coast has lots of sandy beaches.

Poland (93).jpgThe north of Poland used to be home to the Teutonic Knights who built their mighty headquarters in the town of Marlbork. The castle was built in 1309 and still stands proud and strong after all these years and despite many wars and changes of ‘ownership’.

Over the centuries Poland has produced some of the world’s most famous people.  The very long list includes names such as Copernicus, Marie Curie, Chopin and more recently Pope John Paul II.  And if you think you’ve not heard of some of these, then you will by the end of this book.  But let’s start with the beginning… 🙂

This text is taken from the introduction to ‘My Travel Kit for Poland’.  If you would like more information please contact me.