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Poland: Getting off the beaten track
June 24, 2020 | Guest post by: Phil Forbes
A country that’s not had a recession in over 30 years. One of the lowest gender pay gaps in Europe. And pristine castles, unspoilt forests, and the Carpathian mountains to boot. That’s Poland.
At first glance, it’s easy to see why Poland is such an overlooked tourist destination. Seemingly unable to market itself to the world, many western countries still see Poland as some kind of post-Soviet backwash; lost to the annals of time.
But as an Australian that packed up and moved here over 4 years ago, my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner. I fell in love with Poland so much, that I started my own blog with the aim of taking Polish history and culture to the world.
Steeped in history, charming culture and mind-blowing customs, I’m about to tell you where to go to experience Poland like no one you know has ever before.
So grab some pierogi, settle in with your favourite Polish Vodka and figure out which of these cities you plan to experience next.
As the Polish language is known for being tricky, you’ll also see a phonetic way to pronounce all these place names!
Warsaw, Krakow & Troj Miasto
These three cities are without a doubt the most common tourist destinations in Polska. They’re worth touching on, but I won’t go into much detail - as this article is all about getting off the beaten track!
Warsaw, the country’s capital has thousands of stories to tell and a young, modern culture that’d rival most European capitals. The Warsaw Uprising Museum, The Communist Museum, and the growing foodie/coffee culture are some things that must be experienced!
Krakow, the cultural capital of the country, is home to the amazing Wawel Castle and sublime Old Town. Krakow is also quite close to the most common attraction in Poland, Auschwitz Concentration Camp.
Troj Miasto, (troy meow-sto) or the ‘Three Cities’ up north on the Baltic coast are also another huge tourist attraction. The cities of Gdansk, Gdynia, and Sopot (guh-dansk, guh-dinia, soh-pot) offer an eclectic mix of Polish life with sea-faring culture - not something you’d expect from Poland!
Biskupin (bis-koo-pin) is a tiny town in central Poland. The town itself isn’t the attraction but rather the fortified Bronze-Age settlement and open-air archaeological museum around it. This site is a stunning step back into 8th-century Lusatian culture. At Biskupin, you can see artifacts that date back as far as 748BC.
Kołobrzeg (Koe-wob-rzeg) is a beach town located on the north-western coastline of the country. This city has some of the best beaches on the Baltic and a lifestyle to match.
Home to many health resorts, day spas, and ‘beer gardens’, it’s a great place to soak in the sun, relax and unwind. Other unique attractions include the Polish Weapon Museum and Boleslaw, the 806-year-old oak tree.
The Bieszczady National Park (bess-cha-dee) is located in the south-easternmost tip of Poland, near the border with Ukraine and Slovakia. For both Poles and tourists alike, the Tatra is the most common mountain chain in Poland, but it’s Bieszczady that’s abundant in wildlife and simply so picturesque.
Several endangered species call Bieszczady home, like the European Lynx, otters, and even black bears. Animals thrive here because it’s one of the least densely populated parts of Europe, at less than 1 person per square kilometer. Day hikes are the best way to experience this rarely explored part of Poland.
Częstochowa (cheo-sta-ho-wa) is one of the most important cities for religion in Poland.
Home to the Black Madonna painting and a shrine to the Virgin Mary, over 5 million Catholics from all over the world migrate here every year to show their respects.
An absolute must if you love history and architecture. Some outstanding churches include Cathedral Basilica of the Holy Family, St James’s Church and St Sigismund’s Church.
Torun (tor-on) is located in the center of Poland, halfway between Trojmiasto and Warsaw. This quaint little city is absolutely stunning with a light drizzling of snow as you wander around its ancient streets and admire its stunning Neo-Gothic architecture.
Torun is the home of Nicholas Copernicus (the scientist who discovered that the Earth revolves around the sun) as well as, of all things, a gingerbread museum where you can make your own gingerbread.
Just north of Torun is another large tourist attraction in Poland, Malbork Castle.
Another must-see if you’re a fan of medieval castles, and Game-Of-Thrones-esque battles.
Poland is home to some of the only old-growth forests in Europe. It’s in the Białowieza (bee-yow-wo-vesh-a) where the only remaining European Bison (Żubr) can be found in the wild.
Białowieza forest is located in the northeast of the country, close to the border of Belorus. The largest city in the area, Białystok (bee-yow-wee-stock), is the gateway to the Mazury Lake district of Poland and is also home to the Wolf’s Lair, Hitler’s bunker on the Eastern Front.
Wrocław (vrots-lav) is located in the south-west of Poland and is quickly becoming a new Polish hot-stop for foreign travelers.
Wrocław used to be an inland port, delivering goods by river from the south of Poland all the way to the ports near the German/Polish border. It became a rich trade hub in medieval times and as a result, has a picturesque old town that’s spread out over river inlets and islands.
Botanical gardens are also abundant and be sure to keep an eye out for Wroclaw’s gnomes - a cute form of anti-Soviet protest.
Poland - the haven you didn’t know existed
Poland offers both the inner-city hustle and bustle of Western European cities, as well as untouched forest and almost-Mediterranean-like seafronts.
Cheaper than nearly every other western European city, you’ll find that most Poles speak incredibly good English thanks to their high level of education.
Poland is waiting for the western world to truly discover her, absorb her and get to know her. That’s why it should be your next destination!
Check out this excellent Poland Travel Blog for more destinations, tips, ideas and information about travelling in Poland.
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