Why to visit Poland by Geoffrey Shaw
ARE YOU THINKING OF A HOLIDAY IN POLAND?
We live in an uncertain world and, in planning where to take a holiday, the question of security may be in the forefront of your mind. Poland is one of the safest and most stable countries in the world. It is a parliamentary democracy without racial or religious tensions so, from the moment you arrive, you can relax and begin to enjoy yourself. The next question is “Will I enjoy my visit?” You bet you will. The scenery is marvelous from the rolling planes in the east to the hundreds of kilometers of sandy beaches along the Baltic, to the beautiful mountains in the south and the Mazurian lakes in the north. The cities, many of which were destroyed in the war, have been lovingly restored and improved. You will know about Kraków and Warsaw, of course, but Wrocław, Łódź and Białystok are well worth visiting and Poznań where, I live, is a fine centre of learning with over 120,000 university students, and a world famous trade centre. Is Poland expensive? As wages are roughly two-thirds of those in Britain or Germany, the answer is “No”. Another key factor to consider when planning a visit is “Weather”. The Polish climate throughout the year is delightful with clear, dry winters, pleasantly warm summers and less rain than farmers would like.
For entertainment, the summer sees festivals and concerts in the holiday resorts along the Baltic shore and classical and popular concerts are held throughout the country, especially in the winter months. For sport, as a result of holding the 2012 European football cup in Poland, the stadia are first class and there are fine water- sport facilities in many cities. The ski resorts along the Czech border in the south have excellent facilities.
There is plenty to see and much to visit. Besides its many castles, charming old market-squares, cathedrals, museums and concert halls, there are vast nature parks with wild bison and boar. Poland, sadly, has many reminders of its tragic past, including museums recording the bravery of the Polish underground and the brutality of the Nazis in Auschwitz and other camps. What these places demonstrate is the courage and resilience of a people determined never to be beaten. Of course not everything in Poland is lovely and not every Pole is an angel. In the twenty years I have lived and worked here I’ve met four people I couldn’t stand – and one of these has now been found out!
What is the food and drink like? Poles eat well and often. They are keener on horse- radish and garlic then I am, but their meat, especially pork and poultry, is rightly famous. The fruit and vegetables, especially the apples that supply most of Europe and the vegetables, especially corn, are first class and as for Polish beer!
Travel within the country used to be difficult but, since Poland joined the European Union, the road system is really good and the smooth inter-city trains travel at speeds which make the time from departure to arrival comparable to that of a plane, without the ghastly hassle of an air port.
Poles have their hobbies: ski-jumping, at which they are very good, kissing and denigrating their country. Kissing is practiced on a prodigious scale by both sexes, the pattern being three times on the cheek, left, right, left. However, gentlemen are advised to confine their kissing of hands to those of the ladies as otherwise they are liable to receive some rather odd looks.
Poles are for some reason, reluctant to praise their own country. As you leave, what I am sure will be an extremely enjoyable visit, try this experiment. Say to any Pole you meet “I’ve had a wonderful holiday in your country” and I bet the reply you receive will, with a sad look, be “Thank you for saying so, but still….”
Are these comments biased? Definitely. Why? Because I love Poland and the Poles – not least because I married one.
Mazurian lakes (photo by Foto Polska Bank Wizerunków Polski)