Travelling in Poland

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
― Mark Twain

Part 1- THREE PARTS OF POLAND

Although Mark Twain came across a few Poles in his life (particularly during his stay in Austria) he never made it to the territory that traditionally belonged to Poland. When he came to Austria Poland was already wiped from the map of Europe after being paralyzed by the democratic bacteria called liberum veto. The influence of the Polish neighbors started with bribing Sejm members  and finished with the partition of Poland.

Time to stop dwelling on the 19th century Poland. Let’s get in the time capsule and move on to the 21st century. We can still see that the regional differences in architecture across Poland correspond with the architecture of the countries which occupied its territories in the past. Some people’s observations go even further emphasizing the differences in lifestyles or  mentality of the inhabitants of the east, the west and the south of Poland.

The southern part of Poland was occupied by Austria. Although it was a very poor region of Austria, Polish people tend to say that it was the ‘softest’ occupation as it did not involve repressions on speaking Polish at schools or on freedom. The Austrian occupation contributed to the spread of protestant religion in the south.

Cieszyn- a town in the south of Poland called the Little Vienna

Cieszyn- a town in the south of Poland called the Little Vienna

The southern region of Podhale

The southern region of Podhale

Kraków- the largest city in the south.

Kraków- the largest city in the south.

A view on Skoczów- one of the small southern towns.

A view on Skoczów- one of the small southern towns.

The western part of the country was occupied by Prussia (nowadays: Germany). It included some of the largest and most important cities of the west and north such as Poznań, Toruń, Gdańsk and Warsaw. Hard work and the idea of positivism spread out in those areas. Repressions against speaking Polish resulted with some rebellions.

Gdańsk is the port city in the north.

Gdańsk is the port city in the north.

Toruń is famous for Copernicus and gingerbread called Pierniki

Toruń is famous for Copernicus and gingerbread called Pierniki.

Poznań is famous for its events on the picturesque market square.

Poznań is famous for its events on the picturesque market square.

Russia took the largest parts of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. However, the majority of those areas do not belong to Poland nowadays. The parts that remained within the Polish border are densely forested  rural areas  close to Belarus.

More on: http://poland.pl/poland/0,0.html

Part 2-  INCOMPLETE DESTRUCTION

One day I met an Englishman and his wife. He quickly recognized my Eastern European accent and asked me where I was from. After my response he proudly said ‘My wife is Czech! I went to the Czech Republic so many times! But somehow I never had a chance to go to Poland. I should have. It is so close!’ I was getting happy about his fondness for Eastern Europe when his Czech wife cut it short: ‘ There is no point to go there because everything was destroyed during wars’.

Surprisingly, Poland still hides many historical  pearls. Since they never get listed on Yahoo’s rankings, most of the world does not know about them.  Some examples include Malbork- the largest castle in the world, one of the most notable cycloramic paintings in the world “Bitwa Pod Racławicami” or the organs in Oliwa- the only instrument of its kind, as well as the largest Gothic altarpiece in the world- The Altarpiece of Veit Stoss in St. Mary’s Basilica in Kraków.

'Koneser'- an old factory of vodka in Warsaw

‘Koneser’- an old factory of vodka in Warsaw

Inside the impressive Niedzica Castle

Inside the impressive Niedzica Castle

Those are only some examples of the sites and objects of historical value. As they are scattered around the country a sort of a touristic treasure hunt would be recommended for those who would like to discover as many of them as possible.  The links listed below may help:

http://podrozepopieknejpolsce.blox.pl/html

http://poznajpolske.onet.pl/

http://pokraju.blogspot.com/

http://gosilesia.pl/pl

http://www.pomorskie.eu/pl

http://seaofadventure.eu/?page_id=485

http://www.wieliczka-saltmine.com/

http://regiony.poland.gov.pl/dolnoslaskie/Attractions,of,Lower,Silesia,136.html

Part 3- IMPERISHABLE NATURE

The four seasons realize themselves in Poland. Mountains, forests and water bodies look completely different in each season.

Autumn in the city

Autumn in the city

Polish spring time

Polish spring time

Summertime happiness

Summertime happiness

Here comes the long winter

Here comes the long winter

When you are planning your journey to Poland you must be aware that the seasons will determine how you will remember it. Each season affects plants, the soil and the people differently.

Winter makes the rivers and lakes freeze. It deprives the trees and bushes of leaves and makes them look like large black spiders. Sometimes it covers everything with snow making the country romantic and sleepy, but also logistically difficult. Tatry Mountains are the place to go in winter- for their beauty and tourist-friendly attractions which include winter sports.

Early autumn and late spring are perfect for city adventures. When the nature is busy with changing colors and shapes, fresh ideas are created and festivals celebrated. Those two seasons create conditions for the perfect combination of indoor and outdoor entertainment. Kraków, Warsaw and Wrocław are particularly keen on festivals, but smaller cities such as Łódź or Bielsko-Biała are ambitious too. It is worth organizing a trip to Poland around an event as it enables the tourist to observe the country’s culture and take part in it.

A veggie parade in Kraków

A veggie parade in Kraków

Folk festival in Kraków

Folk festival in Kraków

Multicultural festival in Warsaw

Multicultural festival in Warsaw

The author with hip-hop and dubstep starts: Foreign Beggars and Noisia in Kraków

The author with hip-hop and dubstep starts: Foreign Beggars and Noisia in Kraków

More on:

http://www.2camels.com/festivals/poland.php

Summer is a perfect time to explore Polish water bodies.  Mazury Lakes and the Baltic Sea are the hot spots for sailors, wind surfers and beach lovers. The links below will serve as a great summer guide:

http://www.poland.travel/en-gb/regions/pomerania-baltic-sea-coast-and-kashubia

http://www.mazurylakes.com/

Part 4- PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Transportation.

Let’s analyze the methods of transportation across Poland.

A car is the best option if one wants to see different sites scattered in one region or across different regions. However, it is vital to remember that driving on Polish roads may be a) a nuisance and b) dangerous. Car crash rates are very high in Poland and there is an ongoing discussion about its major causes. The government maintains that this is because the fines are too low, specialists say that it is due to poor driver training and drivers complain about the quality of roads. Although the proper road signs are omnipresent the roads’ surfaces, size and paint are poorly managed. Sometimes directions may be confusing.

Trains are helpful in travelling between major cities. Trains are operated by different companies and offer different standards and prices. Tickets can be booked online on the website administered by National Railway (http://www.rozklad-pkp.pl/bin/query.exe/pn?). The important fact is that many medium-sized cities and towns’ train stations are closed or limited to one or two trains per day.

The only way to get to the majority of towns using public transportation is to take a bus. Most of the buses are operated by small local companies which do not have proper coaches. Instead, they offer transportation services using mini-buses that are cheap, but often uncomfortable  and overcrowded.

A tourist who does not mind spending more money than average may fly between larger cities.  Polish airline LOT operates most of the domestic flights.

Accommodation

Although Poland is less expensive for a tourist than western Europe , hotel prices do not differ from other countries. International hotels exist in all the prettiest cities in Poland. Hostels are definitely a budget option. Their staff makes sure that it makes up for the lower standards by creating many opportunities to socialize with others.

A very typical form of B&B in Poland is pensjonat which is a guest house. Although breakfast is rarely provided they offer an access to the kitchen. It is a popular type of accommodation in the mountains and in remote areas.

Prices

The prices below come from the website http://www.tefl.com. As a current resident of Poland for the year of 2013 I confirm that they are pretty accurate.

International City Cost Guide
Bialystok, Gdansk, Krakow, Lodz, Rybnik, Warsaw, Poland

PLN USD GBP EUR
Accommodation
Furnished 2 bedroom house in good area – monthly rent PLN2,523.08 $759.05 £498.77 €582.34
Unfurnished 2 bedroom house in good area – monthly rent PLN2,076.92 $624.83 £410.57 €479.37
Furnished 2 bedroom apartment in good area – monthly rent PLN1,817.65 $546.83 £359.32 €419.52
Unfurnished 2 bedroom apartment in good area – monthly rent PLN1,335.71 $401.84 £264.05 €308.29
Room in shared apartment in good area – monthly rent PLN 711.76 $214.13 £140.70 €164.28
2/3 star hotel – 1 night stay PLN 179.41 $53.97 £35.47 €41.41
Food and Drink
Milk 1ltr./2.11pints PLN 2.45 $0.74 £0.48 €0.57
Butter 500gr./1.10lbs. PLN 7.69 $2.31 £1.52 €1.77
Plain yoghurt 180gr./6.35oz. PLN 1.83 $0.55 £0.36 €0.42
Cheese 500gr./1.10lbs. PLN 12.64 $3.80 £2.50 €2.92
Eggs 12 (large) PLN 6.76 $2.03 £1.34 €1.56
Bread (white loaf) 1 kg./2.20lbs. PLN 4.35 $1.31 £0.86 €1.00
Bread Whole (wheat loaf)1 kg./2.20lbs. PLN 5.54 $1.67 £1.10 €1.28
Rice (long grain) 1kg./2.20lbs. PLN 5.73 $1.72 £1.13 €1.32
Spaghetti 1kg./2.20lbs. PLN 5.74 $1.73 £1.13 €1.32
Sugar (white) 1kg./2.20lbs. PLN 4.20 $1.26 £0.83 €0.97
Flour (white) 1kg./2.20lbs. PLN 3.07 $0.92 £0.61 €0.71
Cornflakes (packet) 375gr./13.23oz. PLN 6.38 $1.92 £1.26 €1.47
Coffee (instant) 125gr./4.41oz. PLN 11.73 $3.53 £2.32 €2.71
Coffee (ground) 500gr./17.63oz./ PLN 19.75 $5.94 £3.90 €4.56
Tea bags (pack 25) PLN 5.03 $1.51 £0.99 €1.16
Coca Cola 1lt./2.11pints PLN 4.43 $1.33 £0.88 €1.02
Mineral water (still) 1lt./2.11pints PLN 1.90 $0.57 £0.38 €0.44
Mineral water (sparkling) 1lt/2.11pints PLN 2.02 $0.61 £0.40 €0.47
Orange juice 1lt./2.11pints PLN 3.89 $1.17 £0.77 €0.90
Margarine 500gr./1.10lbs. PLN 4.76 $1.43 £0.94 €1.10
Olive oil 1lt./2.11pints PLN 20.08 $6.04 £3.97 €4.63
Corn oil 1lt./2.11pints PLN 8.73 $2.63 £1.73 €2.01
Potatoes 1kg./2.20lbs. PLN 4.16 $1.25 £0.82 €0.96
Onions 1kg./2.20lbs. PLN 3.16 $0.95 £0.62 €0.73
Tomatoes 1kg./2.20lbs. PLN 6.74 $2.03 £1.33 €1.56
Lettuce 1kg./2.20lbs. PLN 5.60 $1.68 £1.11 €1.29
Sprouts 1kg./2.20lbs. PLN 6.91 $2.08 £1.37 €1.59
Spinach 1kg./2.20lbs. PLN 7.27 $2.19 £1.44 €1.68
Oranges 1kg./2.20lbs. PLN 6.21 $1.87 £1.23 €1.43
Apples 1kg./2.20lbs. PLN 4.45 $1.34 £0.88 €1.03
Bananas 1kg./2.20lbs. PLN 5.85 $1.76 £1.16 €1.35
Pears 1kg./2.20lbs. PLN 6.54 $1.97 £1.29 €1.51
Grapes 1kg./2.20lbs. PLN 9.80 $2.95 £1.94 €2.26
Peas (can) 250gr./8.82oz. PLN 3.33 $1.00 £0.66 €0.77
Beans (can) 250gr./8.82oz. PLN 3.71 $1.12 £0.73 €0.86
Whole peeled tomatoes (can) 250gr./8.82oz. PLN 4.26 $1.28 £0.84 €0.98
Peaches (can) 500gr./17.63oz. PLN 6.11 $1.84 £1.21 €1.41
Pineapple (can) 500gr./17.63oz. PLN 5.64 $1.70 £1.11 €1.30
Fresh beef filet 1kg./2.20lbs. PLN 25.89 $7.79 £5.12 €5.98
Fresh roast beef 1kg./2.20lbs. PLN 26.71 $8.04 £5.28 €6.16
Fresh minced beef 1kg./2.20lbs. PLN 20.87 $6.28 £4.13 €4.82
Fresh veal 1kg./2.20lbs. PLN 34.64 $10.42 £6.85 €8.00
Fresh lamb on bone 1kg./2.20lbs. PLN 34.05 $10.24 £6.73 €7.86
Lamb chops 1kg./2.20lbs. PLN 42.70 $12.85 £8.44 €9.86
Pork chops 1kg./2.20lbs. PLN 19.00 $5.72 £3.76 €4.39
Pork loin 1kg./2.20lbs. PLN 22.17 $6.67 £4.38 €5.12
Bacon 1kg./2.20lbs. PLN 19.33 $5.82 £3.82 €4.46
Cooked ham 1kg./2.20lbs. PLN 23.00 $6.92 £4.55 €5.31
Sausages 1kg./2.20lbs. PLN 18.36 $5.52 £3.63 €4.24
Chicken (fresh whole) 1kg./2.20lbs. PLN 14.13 $4.25 £2.79 €3.26
Fresh salmon 1kg./2.20lbs. PLN 38.31 $11.53 £7.57 €8.84
Fresh cod or similar white fish 1kg./2.20lbs. PLN 22.83 $6.87 £4.51 €5.27
Shrimps 1kg./2.20lbs. PLN 40.75 $12.26 £8.06 €9.41
Table salt 500gr./1.10lbs. PLN 2.56 $0.77 £0.51 €0.59
Black pepper 50gr./1.76oz. PLN 2.78 $0.84 £0.55 €0.64
Frozen pizza 320gr./11.29oz. PLN 7.52 $2.26 £1.49 €1.74
Marmalade/jam 370gr./13.05oz. PLN 4.72 $1.42 £0.93 €1.09
Ice cream 1lt./2.11pints PLN 11.31 $3.40 £2.24 €2.61
Fresh or frozen apple pie 500gr./1.10lbs. PLN 14.91 $4.49 £2.95 €3.44
Ketchup 340gr./12oz. PLN 4.45 $1.34 £0.88 €1.03
Milk chocolate (bar) 100gr./3.52oz. PLN 2.67 $0.80 £0.53 €0.62
Biscuits (plain) 200gr./7.05oz. PLN 3.04 $0.91 £0.60 €0.70
Beer (local, can) 0.33lt./11.15oz. PLN 2.71 $0.82 £0.54 €0.63
Beer (imported, can)0.33lt./11.15oz. PLN 4.27 $1.28 £0.84 €0.99
Table wine 0.75lt./1.58pints PLN 18.29 $5.50 £3.62 €4.22
Fine wine 0.75lt./1.58pints PLN 37.00 $11.13 £7.31 €8.54
Scotch whisky 0.75lt./1.58pints PLN 63.33 $19.05 £12.52 €14.62
Gin 0.75lt./1.58pints PLN 51.77 $15.57 £10.23 €11.95
Cognac 0.75lt./1.58pints PLN 80.00 $24.07 £15.81 €18.46
Cigarettes (20 pack, imported) PLN 11.54 $3.47 £2.28 €2.66
Pipe tobacco 50gr./1.76oz. PLN 16.90 $5.08 £3.34 €3.90
Household
Laundry detergent 2.5kg./5.51lbs. PLN 18.76 $5.64 £3.71 €4.33
Dishwashing liquid 500ml./1.58pints PLN 5.44 $1.64 £1.08 €1.26
Furniture polish 330gr./11.64oz. PLN 9.54 $2.87 £1.89 €2.20
Insect killer spray 330gr./11.64oz. PLN 9.27 $2.79 £1.83 €2.14
Shower gel 250ml./8.45oz. PLN 8.71 $2.62 £1.72 €2.01
Soap (bar)150gr./5.29oz. PLN 2.42 $0.73 £0.48 €0.56
Toothpaste 120gr./4.24oz. PLN 8.00 $2.41 £1.58 €1.85
Shampoo 200 ml./6.76oz. PLN 9.56 $2.88 £1.89 €2.21
Deodorant 50ml./1.69oz. PLN 10.24 $3.08 £2.02 €2.36
Razors/blades (5 pack) PLN 15.11 $4.55 £2.99 €3.49
Aspirin (100 tablets) PLN 22.30 $6.71 £4.41 €5.15
Antibiotics (12) PLN 33.29 $10.02 £6.58 €7.68
Face cream PLN 20.63 $6.21 £4.08 €4.76
Men’s shampoo & haircut PLN 34.33 $10.33 £6.79 €7.92
Women’s shampoo & haircut PLN 58.53 $17.61 £11.57 €13.51
Utilities
Telephone line (monthly rental) PLN 45.33 $13.64 £8.96 €10.46
Purchase of low cost Mobile/cell phone PLN 133.44 $40.14 £26.38 €30.80
3 minute telephone call – home phone PLN 1.52 $0.46 £0.30 €0.35
3 minute telephone call – mobile/cell phone PLN 2.30 $0.69 £0.45 €0.53
Monthly energy costs apartment (100sq.m./1076sq.ft.) PLN 270.67 $81.43 £53.51 €62.47
Eating Out, Entertainment & Health
Three-course dinner in restaurant PLN 70.88 $21.32 £14.01 €16.36
Fast-food meal PLN 15.39 $4.63 £3.04 €3.55
Cup of coffee in bar/cafe PLN 7.53 $2.27 £1.49 €1.74
Beer in bar PLN 7.65 $2.30 £1.51 €1.77
Taxi rate per km./0.62 miles PLN 2.79 $0.84 £0.55 €0.64
City centre bus fare (3km./1.86miles) PLN 3.04 $0.91 £0.60 €0.70
Car hire (up to 1800cc) daily PLN 143.50 $43.17 £28.37 €33.12
Fitness club annual fee PLN1,297.50 $390.34 £256.49 €299.47
Web cafe (30 mins.) PLN 4.29 $1.29 £0.85 €0.99
Private doctor GP (30 mins) PLN 101.76 $30.61 £20.12 €23.49
Clothing
Women’s shoes PLN 204.17 $61.42 £40.36 €47.12
Men’s shoes PLN 205.00 $61.67 £40.53 €47.32
Pair of jeans PLN 171.39 $51.56 £33.88 €39.56
Men’s suit PLN 640.00 $192.54 £126.52 €147.72
Women’s suit PLN 586.92 $176.57 £116.02 €135.46
Men’s shirt PLN 101.88 $30.65 £20.14 €23.51
Women’s dress PLN 219.71 $66.10 £43.43 €50.71

And the most important thing to remember: knowing more about Poland means liking more about Poland!

Kind regards,

Voice from Poland

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