Poland – about the country
It is believed that Poland appears on the map of Europe in 960. It is located in the north of Eastern Europe and is situated on a cultural crossroads between the East and the West. Poland’s strategic location has left deep traces in the culture, traditions and cuisine of this country. Poland is bordered on the east by Belarus and Ukraine, on the west by Germany, on the south by the Central European countries Slovakia and the Czech Republic, and on the north by the Baltic Sea region, Kaliningrad and Lithuania.
The country is an external border of the European Union. It occupies an area of 312,685 sq.km., and lies between 49 and 54 degrees north latitude and between 14 and 24 degrees east longitude.
For the most part, Poland is a flat country, covered with vast arable lands. To the south, however, along the borders with the Czech Republic and Slovakia, you will find two of the most impressive mountain chains in Europe, the Sudety and Tatra Mountains.
The highest point in Poland is Mount Rysy. It is located within the Tatra Mountains, which are part of the Western Carpathians.
Rysy Peak rises to a height of 2499 meters, not far from the Slovakia border. If you are a keen rock climber or just want to visit this place, is good to know that the highest-lying areas offer negative temperatures for more than 6 months a year.
The coastline of Poland is slightly indented and offers extensive sandy beaches. The largest relief form along the coast is Hel Peninsula, which is more than 34 km cut into the Baltic Sea. Approximately 30% of the territory is covered by dense forests.
More than half of them are occupied by conifer species. Poland’s forests are extremely rich in animal life and here you will find practically almost all the large species of mammals, typical of Europe, as well as many others that are endemic to Poland.
The country is very rich in water. Through the territory of Poland run many large and deep water rivers such as Odra and Vistula. Land of thousands lakes, the northern parts of the country, especially Mazuria and Pomerania, are extremely popular tourist destination.
Here you can enjoy birds watching, fishing or just camping on the shore of a lake. If you are looking for cold glacial lakes and fast-flowing rivers, you can find them in abundance in the Tatra Mountains.
Poland has a temperate continental climate with mild summers and long, cold winters. The average day-time temperatures during the year vary between 2°C and 21°C in Gdansk on the Baltic coast, and between 1°C and 24°C in Krakow, Southern Poland.
The Baltic Sea maintains the average winter temperatures higher, but also keeps summers significantly cooler. The climate of Poland, however, is very different from year to year.
The flat topography of the country allows moving of warm air masses from the south during the summer months and cold air masses from the north during the winter months.
Although the average winter temperatures are moderately low, extreme cold weather is also possible. Under appropriate conditions the frost may lasts for weeks.
The lowest temperature ever recorded in Poland is (-41) °C. It was recorded on January 11, 1940 in the city of Siedlce, about 80 km east of the capital Warsaw. Unbearable heat waves are also possible, though not every year.
Although summers in Poland are traditionally fresh, sometimes temperatures of over 30°C can last for days. In the city of Pruszkow, located in the vicinity of Warsaw, was recorded the highest temperature in Poland.
On July 29, 1921 the thermometers in the city climbed to 40.2°C in the shade! The amount of precipitation in Poland is moderate throughout the year, ranging between 30 and 80 mm per month.
Traditionally, winters are a little drier in comparison with summers. The largest increase of rainfall usually occures in July and August. Snowfall is possible in a very long period between November and March.
Usually the depth of snow varies greatly from year to year. In dry and mild winters the snow barely whitens the ground, but during cold and snowy winters is possible snowcover with a depth of over 1 m.
What not to miss while in Poland?
Coast. Although it sounds surprising, while in the country do not miss to visit its fabulous beaches. Poland boasts the lightest and finest sand in the entire northern half of Europe.
Of course, sometimes the weather is cool and not quite suitable for swimming, but most summer days are really nice.
The temperature of sea water in July and August usually reach to about 20-22 degrees and is warmest during the first half of August.
Masurian lakes. One of the greatest beauties of Poland are the notorious Masurian lakes. More than 2000, they are located not far from Lithuania, in the northeast of the country.
The lakes are very beautiful, surrounded by dense deciduous and coniferous forests. This part of Poland boasts an amazing biodiversity.
The lakes are home to a large number of waterfowl. In remote areas you can see bears, wolves, foxes, lynx, deer, wild pigs, rabbits, beavers, badgers, and large raptors.
The Białowieża Forest. Located on the border between Poland and Belarus, Białowieża or Belovezhskaya forest is under the auspices of UNESCO. The forest is home to unique animals such as a small population of European bison – a species that today is extremely rare in Europe.
Warsaw. Be sure to visit the old part of the capital Warsaw. Established in the 13th century, the old town was partially destroyed in World War II. However, many buildings have been preserved in their original form and now they attract crowds of visitors.
The Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland. This place is worth to be visited not only because it is a World Heritage Site, but also because it will offer you an entirely new and unexpected idea about what it should look like a church.
Auschwitz. If you have strong nerves and want to familiarize yourself with the most sinister and dark pages of European history, then you can visit the small town of Oswiecim, situated in southern Poland.
Here are the death camps Auschwitz 1 and Auschwitz 2 (known as Birkenau). Over a million people, most of them Jews, were killed here.
Silesian Culture and Recreation Park. Situated on a large area of land in Katowice, Silesia Park is considered one of the largest in Europe. It is famous for its unlimited opportunities for recreation and entertainment. Immersed in lush vegetation, the park offers a real contact with nature in an urban environment.
Tatra National Park. Located in the southern regions of Poland, the Tatra National Park is famous for its spectacular mountain scenery. Raw and inaccessible mountain peaks, fresh pine forests and crystal clear glacial lakes form together an amazing landscape and turn this place just into the perfect paradise for lovers of wildlife and ecotourism.
Old Krakow. The old town of Krakow is something you should not miss while traveling in Poland. Cobbled streets, numerous cafes, old buildings, museums and cathedrals make Krakow a paradise for travelers.
Everything radiates history and culture. Walking around, you will find numerous craft shops, offering surprisingly interesting items to buy and take home for yourself or to give as a souvenir to your friends.
Malbork Castle. Situated on the River Nogat, Malbork is the largest brick structure in Europe. The castle is very beautiful and is a true architectural masterpiece. Its bright red color contrasts to the surrounding emerald green landscape. The castle is under the auspices of UNESCO since 1997.
Taxis. It is advisable to be careful when using taxis. Remember that some of them are much more expensive than others. Do not forget to ask the taxi driver about how much does it cost to reach from one location to another?“.
Pickpockets. Beware of pickpockets, especially if you are planning to visit crowded places and squares, where they most often take advantage of the bustle and the crowd to get closer to you.
Poor suburbs. Although Poland is not a dangerous country, there are also some places to be avoided. Stay away from places, neighborhoods and areas that seem obviously poor, abandoned or unsupported.
Food. When you get hungry, you have to select carefully the place to eat. This applies not only to Poland, but any place you visit. From a hygienic point of view, risks in Eastern Europe are almost always higher in comparison with Western Europe.
Ticks. Watch out for ticks, especially if you enjoy spending time in nature. As they love moist and mild weather, the risks are greatest in spring and summer, when Poland provide ideal weather conditions for these dangerous creatures.
When to visit Poland?
As a typical country in Northern Europe, Poland offers the best conditions for tourism during the summer months.If you are traveling in June, July or August, you will encounter perfect weather conditions with daily temperatures between 21 and 24°C. You should also know that summer offers numerous music festivals and a bunch of concerts under the open sky.
How to get there? Poland has very well-run transport system. The country boasts 14 international airports, some of which are brand new, while others are still unfinished.
Warsaw, the largest and busiest center of air transport, maintains regular and seasonal flights to almost all major European cities, as well as numerous major international destinations.
The road and highway system of the country is well-developed. The transport connection is most developed in direction Germany and the Czech Republic.
The city of Dresden (Germany) is connected with the cities of Katowice and Krakow via European route E40, which crosses from west to east the entire continent.
The density of railway network in the country is very good and provides transport connections with almost all the neighboring countries. High-speed rail road, however, still does not exist. For this reason railways still cannot compete with road and especially with air transport.
Politics, population and economy. With a population of around 38.2 million people, Poland is one of the large and densely populated European countries.
The population is relatively evenly distributed across the country. A total of 14 Polish cities have a population of over 250,000 inhabitants.
The largest cities are Warsaw (urban agglomeration of over 3 million), Krakow (760 000 inhabitants, urban agglomeration 1.5 million), Lodz (740,000 people, urban agglomeration of about 1.43 million people), Wroclaw (634 000 inhabitants ), Poznan (over 565,000) and the agglomeration of Gdansk – Gdynia (710,000 inhabitants).
Between 1945 and 1989 Poland falls under the influence of the USSR. Although it never became one of the republics in the Union, the country was forced to comply with the rules of the communist bloc, maintaining close ties with the USSR.
Poland has always been considered one of the largest domestic opponents of the communist regime. The reason probably lies in the highly developed sense of individualism of the population.