A country worth traveling
Just 20 years ago, the ordinary Western Europeans' assessment of Poland as a tourist country was very low. The general impression was that Poland was a country with extensive pollution, with gray and dreary buildings, a politically subdued population (despite the riots every now and then), lack of most consumer goods, and a country in which it was dangerous to move. Unfortunately, none of these postulates were completely without background in reality, but first and foremost, the view of Poland was colored by a comprehensive lack of knowledge of the country's history, geography and political-economic conditions.
Literary and linguistic interests prevailed in the late 1960s’again and again in the late 1970s’signed the trips to Poland – a contact that was continued with annual trips around Poland from the early 1980s’to this day, now with my wife (who was born in Poland), as a travel companion. I have thus had the opportunity to observe the developments that have taken place in the country – both before and after the system change 1989/90.
The pollution (the extent of which was widely exaggerated in the general view) has been significantly reduced due to the installation of filters, the construction of wastewater treatment plants and the closure of polluting industries; it also applies in the most polluted area: the Katowice region. Of course, as in all industrial countries, there is still some pollution, but that is not something the ordinary tourist notes. In significant parts of the great country, neither then nor now has there been any significant pollution.
Gas stations and toilets:
15-20 years ago, the lack of public toilets (and wash basins) on the roads was really a problem (and not just on the roads), both in terms of quantity and quality. The same can be said for the lack of gas stations and service stations. Today, there are almost a plethora of gas stations, at least along the major roads, and all with excellent or acceptable toilet conditions.
Renovation and residential care:
The slightly gray, sad and worn-out impressions that one could previously get through driving through the villages and moving in the larger cities have over the past 15 years been changed to a more bright and positive image: in the villages you see newly built sidewalks, the houses is painted, the small gardens with flowers are well kept, the grass along the roads and around the houses are cut, there are maybe even flowers on the balconies; In the cities you will see renovated houses, polished and painted facades, well-landscaped and beautiful squares and squares. At least that is the general impression; Of course, there are still exceptions. But where improvements have been made, there is a greater optimism and belief in the future, which also causes ordinary people to make extra efforts when it comes to their immediate surroundings; many municipalities have also done much in terms of improving roads, sidewalks, squares, facilities and general building renovations. But unfortunately, public funds are not sufficient in all places.
Today, Poland is, as you know, a country with full democracy and a thriving economy that, among other things. expresses itself through growing – though still insufficient – investments in the tourism sector. The number of motels, hotels, guesthouses, room rentals, rest areas, restaurants, taverns, cafes and the like. has exploded in recent years.
In the past, the supply of goods in the Polish stores could be quite limited, indeed a transition almost a disaster. In fact, if you have money, you can get everything.
As a guest of Polish hotels, motels, restaurants and cafes, most places today receive a service and service that is fully on par with similar services in Western Europe, and then the service is – usually – cheaper.
The general democratization of society, including the sharp cutting of police surveillance functions, together with the increasing prosperity and growing supply of goods, made Poland a better place to live for the ordinary citizen, but unfortunately also made life easier for the criminal elements (which in the past was held down by the ubiquitous police). Of course, there is crime in Poland, as is the case in e.g. Italy, Spain, France, the United States and other countries that we do not hesitate to visit as tourists. In Poland, too, you can travel everywhere without fear, if you behave reasonably well.
While traveling in Poland, as a Danish tourist, you notice certain peculiarities in the Polish landscape: Although there are both large agricultural areas and flat areas as in Denmark, but in general the landscape is more “undomesticated” than in the well-kept Denmark. The extent of uncultivated areas is considerable. Although most of Poland is low or high, there are various elevations and mountain formations in several places. In Poland, the average height above the sea is 173 m.
However, real mountain ranges with mountains of considerable height are found only in southern Poland (the Sudets and the Carpathians). As a Dane, it is easy to feel attracted to these strange and beautiful mountain landscapes. The Karkonosze Mountains in the west and the central Beskidy and Tatry Mountains may sound familiar, but tourists have also opened their eyes to the Bieszczady Mountains (Carpathian Chain) in southeastern Poland, which contains a wealth of unspoiled nature.
Rivers, coasts and lakes:
Poland is intersected by a large number of rivers, many of them extremely long and wide; mention is made here of Wisła flowing through central Poland from south to north, Odra and Warta in the west, Narew in the northeast, Bug in the east and San in the southeast. In several places the water in the rivers is dammed into artificial lakes; the power from this is used in hydroelectric power stations and the containment must also include: prevent or reduce flood disasters. The Polish coastline along the Baltic Sea has many well-visited seaside resorts with good sandy beaches. Inland, not least in the northern half of the country, you can enjoy many lakes with good bathing water and various other facilities; This is the case in Pomerania, but especially to the northeast, where the landscapes Warmia and Mazury are a veritable lake landscape with – in addition to lakes – several rivers and artificial canals that provide opportunities for both individual sailing by kayak, canoe or sailboat as well as passenger sailing in a larger style. .
As you drive through Poland, you pass through more or less forest areas or drive through tree-lined avenues (the oldest in the northern part of the country). The overall impression of forests, parks, road trees, exaggerations (pastures, meadows), mosses, moors, forest information and fields, etc. is an impression of greenness and freshness. And the impression is confirmed by the statistics, which say that approx. 30% of the land is covered by forest, in addition to green areas and parks in and around the cities. Of the many forests are several actual primeval forests with a dense and indigenous population of trees; the best known primeval forest is the Białowieża Forest in eastern Poland, on the border with Belarus.
Poland, many years ago – unlike Denmark – has taken steps to protect the country's most valuable natural areas. The result is 23 national parks in mountain areas, forests, highlands, lowlands, coastal stretches, lakes, rivers and other wetlands. A number of nature reserves are subject to special protection. In addition, several landscape parks throughout the country. A testimony to the vast wetlands is the thousands of storks, both white and black, that you see everywhere.
The importance of religion (especially the Catholic faith) to Poles in the past and present is reflected in the large number of churches and monasteries. The most faithful Poles still make pilgrimages / trips to the sacred sites, of which the fortified monastery on the Jasna Góra mound in Częstochowa is the most important pilgrimage destination and a place of enormous national and religious importance to all in Poland. The second most important pilgrimage site in Poland is Kalwaria Zebrzydowska southwest of Kraków.
A significant number are seen in the country's eastern regions “cerkwie”, which is the denomination of church buildings, belonging to the Orthodox congregations.
Castles and castles are in large numbers scattered throughout the Polish countryside. In the northeastern corner – eastern Pomerania as well as Warmia and Mazury – most of the castles are founded in the Middle Ages of the Crusader Order and bear witness to the expansionist efforts of this extremely militant knight's order and its conflict with the Polish state; An excellent example of this is the castle in Malbork. Other castles and castles here and in the rest of the country bear witness to the wealth and power of the nobility and the church in ancient times. An example of a beautiful Baroque building is the castle in Rydzyna near Leszno, which has belonged to genera such as Leszczyński and Sułkowski. Many fortresses, however, have been destroyed during attacks and various acts of war over time, much of them during the Swedish wars of the 1600s; many of them are therefore found today only as decorative ruins, for example Ogrodzieniec, located between Częstochowa and Kraków.
To gain insight into the country's prehistory, you can visit the Archaeological Museum in Biskupin. At this site, the archaeologists have uncovered and recreated a tree-built settlement that it looked like 2700 years ago.
Medieval and modern times:
After all, Poland has had a very tumultuous and bloody history. Mention is already made of the Crusaders 'expansion in the Middle Ages and the Swedes' attacks in the 17th century. Poland has had conflicts with the German states, Russia and others. Following a union with Lithuania, the country was a great power with a vast tract of land that encompassed much of present-day Belarus and Ukraine and stretched from the Baltic to the Black Sea. However, since the end of the 18th century, the country was divided between the surrounding states, Prussia, Russia and Austria-Hungary and ceased to exist as an independent state until 1918 – with several rebellions and partial periods of independence along the way. Throughout the country's long history, Poland's borders have shifted to the east and then to the west. Two cities of great significance for Polish history and culture are located outside the country today: Wilno (now Vilnius in Lithuania) and Lwów (now L’viv in Ukraine).
The two world wars and the interwar period:
The end of the First World War meant the rebirth of Poland as a state and at the beginning of the interwar period, the new assertive state led by Marshal Piłsudski emerged a more favorable border border for Poland. The Second World War, first with the German occupation from the west and then the Soviet occupation of the eastern areas, was a disaster for the Polish nation and population. Both Jewish and Polish citizens were killed in excruciating proportions and the material destruction was enormous. After a revolt against the Germans in Warsaw, this metropolis was destroyed. A particularly eerie memory of the occupation is preserved in the museum in the former concentration camp in the town of Oświęcim (Auschwitz) west of Kraków.
After 2 worldwar:
After the war, Poland received compensation in the form of land to the west in return for the areas to the east retained by the Soviet Union. In this way, the originally Slavic / Polish western territories regained their Polish identity after many centuries of Germanization. Two examples of large cities in the west are Wrocław, for a long time German under the name Breslau, and Poznań (formerly Posen), who have now regained their Polishness. If you visit the big city of Gdańsk (formerly Danzig) on the north coast, you can experience the place (Westerplatte) where World War II began. The socialist period that followed the war had many negative sides and has been the cause of many scares of it “gray and sad Poland”. But it should not be forgotten that a huge effort was also made during this period, among other things. to gain the industrial footing and to rebuild the country after the wars. When today as tourists we can enjoy the beautiful old city centers in e.g. Warsaw, Gdańsk and Wrocław, one must think that it was a tremendous task to recreate these centers from the ruins that remained after the war. The architecturally beautiful and humanly warm environment that prevails today in the Old Town of Warsaw is a result of many people's hard work for many years, and it was created in socialist Poland. But socialism, however, had to decline as a form of state; strikes and the establishment of the trade union Solidarity in 1980 led to the democratic system change in 1989/90. Also in 1980, the city of Gdańsk was at the center of events.
A trip in Poland can lead the traveler far and wide, not only in space but in time. The story is present in many places: here an impassable crusader castle, a castle ruin on a limestone cliff, raised above the landscape, a sky-striking monastery church, a powerful noble palace, a peaty environment with recreated homes of the past centuries or memorial plaques for Poles, fallen. But as a tourist you can also enjoy the pristine nature, the immediacy that still remains in many places. Poland is a large country with many facets and many levels of experience. There is something for everyone in Poland.
Christian N. Spangshus
Translated into English by Google Translate. Spangshus.dk accept no liability for any errors or omissions in translation.