Visit Poland? Why? This is a question I get a lot when people hear me talking about this great Slavic country. When they want to travel to Europe, they are talking about the big capitals, like Paris or London. If they want to get off the beaten path, they might choose Prague or Budapest. And I insist —I insist that much, that it seems that I work for the Poland’s embassy— that they look to the East, to a country with beaches, lakes, mountains, forests and cities with more than a thousand years of history.
Here, 5 reasons to visit Poland.
But first, do you want to hear some music?
Poland is budget friendly
Visit Poland is dirt cheap. When I visited Cracovia, I stayed in a hostel that cost me $7 USD a night. It was clean, beautiful, comfortable, well located, it included breakfast and they even did my laundry, for free. The food is cheap and the public transport too. Even though they are part from the European Union since 2004, they have their own currency, the zloty. Actually, this country is so cheap —and pretty— that the only reason why I don’t move there is because of the language. It’s very taught. I learnt to say “thank you” in polish and I used it several times, until a pole told me that actually I was saying “penis”.
Apart from breathtaking natural landscapes, Poland owns a list of sites of outstanding cultural importance to the common heritage of humanity, declared by UNESCO. For example, the historic centre of Warsaw was totally devastated during the II World War and later was reconstructed with loving care for historical detail. Another place protected by UNESCO is the historic centre of Krakow. From there is quite easy to visit the salt mines of Wieliczka and the concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, which I think it’s a must to see, not as a tourist spot but to understand one of the darkest hours of the twentieth century.
Poland’s history is as old as tragic. Its strategic territory was coveted by the surrounding empires and it was shared in different occasions by Germany, Russia, Austria, Sweden and Turkey, among others, to the point of total dismemberment of the country, in the eighteenth century. For all of you that enjoy learning about history, Poland is a country not to be missed.
The polish cuisine is a mixture of slavic, german, hungarian, austrian origins, among others. After the partitions of the eighteenth century, polish cuisine was influenced by the culinary traditions of the surrounding empires. It is high in fat and includes a lot of meat and spices. Meals are somewhat heavy and very strong, ideal for cold european winters. Also, eating in Poland is cheap, very cheap.
Poland was among the countries that suffered the most during the II World War, having their cities destroyed and their people enslaved (slavic) or killed (jews) during the conflict. But the poles maintain an admirable dignity and they have never victimized. On the opposite, they are the friendliest people I met on my trip to Europe in 2012. If they don’t speak english, they will do everything possible for you to understand them and they will try to help you. In general, all poles I have met are brilliant conversationalists and are highly educated.
Among the most notorious poles in history, there are Ryszard Kapuściński, Frederic Chopin, Nicolaus Copernicus (in polish Mikołaj Kopernik), Marie Curie, Joseph Conrad, Roman Polanski (son of polish immigrants), etc.
Bonus track: one of the things I liked the most about Poland, are the musical Banks, fifteen seats placed all over Warsaw, where you can read about Chopin’s life. I discovered them by accident. On my first day on the city, I sat down on one bank and out of curiosity i pressed a button. And surprise! Music started to play. I almost started crying because I am a big fan of Chopin’s music. It also includes a QR code, if you scan it you will receive some multimedia resources about his life and career.
Beer = Piwo
Hello = Dzień dobry
Bye = Do widzenia / Do zobaczenia
How much? = Ile to kosztuje?
I don’t understand = Nie rozumiem
Menu = Jadłospis
No = Nie
Please = Proszę
Thank you = Dziękuję
Yes = Tak