POLAND

Poland

Poland is situated right in the centre of Europe, it represents in many ways a bridge between Eastern and Western Europe and this is reflected culturally in its charming mix of modern city skylines and traditional village based culture. Despite the fact that large areas of Poland were destroyed during World War II, the country has been rebuilt and restored into the strong and rapidly westernising country we see today. You will find Poland a nation very much in touch with its culture - from its traditional art and literature to its classical music.

  • Currency: Zloty (Zl) = 100 grozy
  • Time Zone: GMT + 1
  • Language: Polish
  • Telephone Services: Country code +48, International Access code 00
  • Emergency Numbers: 997 Police, 998 Fire, 999 Ambulance

Climate

Poland has quite a variable climate. The weather can change rapidly from one extreme to another. In general, the summers are pleasant but there can be heavy rains in some areas; the winters are cold and the higher lying areas are normally covered with a blanket of snow.

Things to see and do

Like much of Poland, Warsaw, the capital, sustained heavy damage during World War Two. The old town has been thoroughly restored to resemble Warsaw during the 17th and 18th centuries. The centre point of the city is the town square (an excellent example of restoration work), along with the Historical Museum of Warsaw which chronicles the reconstruction of the city. The rest of the city is quite modern in appearance although there are some concrete-block style buildings around.

When the king of Poland travelled from Warsaw to Gdańsk, he would take a specific route which is now known as the Royal Way. There are many beautiful sites along the Royal Way including churches, palaces and the acclaimed National Museum. While in Warsaw you can also find the ZAMEK KRÓLEWSKI W WARSAWIE, which is the Warsaw Royal Castle. This impressive structure dates back from the 14th century and was restored after suffering extensive damage during the war.

Everybody will no doubt be familiar with the infamous and terrible name Auschwitz. This former Nazi concentration camp is situated near Krakow and is now the site of a museum detailing the atrocities committed at Auschwitz. The camp was liberated by the Soviets in 1945, and the main entrance, railway, and gas chambers all remain in the same condition as the Russians found them in. There are several museums located on the site today and despite being a harrowing experience, Auschwitz is an essential stop on many visitors trips to Poland.

Krakow was formerly the royal capital of Poland and it is one of the few cities to survive the last war relatively unscathed. The old town, bordered by picturesque parkland, is full of historic architecture. The main market square dates from the mid-1200s and still hosts a market in the lower part of the impressive cloth hall. The oldest building in the square is also Krakow's first church, and its copper dome clearly distinguishes it from surrounding buildings. Krakow's old town is also home to the Czartoryski Museum which has impressive exhibits of European and Asian art.

Located near Krakow, the salt mine at Wieliczka is a World Heritage Site that is very popular with tourists. The mine, made of Miocene salt, has been dug by miners since Medieval times into beautiful detailed rooms and statues. The most extravagant being the great cathedral carved deep in the salt.

Travel

Trains are probably the best option for travelling within Poland; Polish State Railways operates the Intercity train network. The network is radial from Warsaw and connects to all the major cities. There are rail passes available that allow unlimited travel around Poland for a set number of days, depending on the type of rail pass you purchase. There are also discounts available for those under 26 years of age.

There are also many bus routes available, most are run by local private companies. The advantage of this is that companies are fiercely competitive over price so you will find bus travel quite cheap, if a little slow.

Accommodation

There are plenty of hotels in Poland, of particular interest are the International Student Hotels which are slightly more expensive than youth hostels but provide much better service and facilities. Generally, there is at least one of these in every major city. There are also about 450 Youth Hostels in Poland. You can contact the Polish Youth Hostel Association for further details, see the Addresses section for contact information.

Health

There are no particular health risks when travelling to Poland, those who are likely to spend significant amounts of time in heavily forested areas should consult their GP's about tick borne encephalitis inoculations. The standard of healthcare is reasonable in Poland, although you will need comprehensive travel insurance if you want to avoid having to pay for medical care. The water is considered safe to drink and normal precautions should be taken when purchasing food.

Useful Links

Polish State Railways operates the Intercity rail network.

The Polish National Tourist Office provides tourist information and advice for visitors to Poland.