Guest Contributor Frank Lee
Ever since the aircraft has been invented, traveling has become a much easier and accessible option for a great majority of the world. This ease has opened up a world of possibilities for the hobbyists and people who like discovering the world at their own pace, however; there are places which have been popular destinations for globe trotters even before the invention of the airplane, but it has certainly made these destinations more accessible.
One of these popular places has been Poland. Poland is located in the eastern part of Europe, right next to the Baltic Sea. Poland has a rich and highly diverse history, the Kingdom of Poland was officially founded in the year 1025 but the independent histories of its territories go back much further. Even though the country has been through some very tumultuous times, especially as it was the first victim of the Second World War where over 6 million Polish people lost their lives, much of the country’s cultural heritage has remained intact and 14 sites from Poland have been declared as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
Krakow is one of the most popular cities in Europe, in fact, it is often the only city many visitors see in Poland and there are many reasons for that. The Central Old town consists of a number of buildings which have been in their present shape for many centuries which is partly the reason why UNESCO has declared the entire Old Town as a World Heritage site. Also, for those who’re not much interest in history, Krakow has the most number of bars per capita as compared to any other city in the world.
We all know how famous Poles are for their affinity of the Vodka. This fame is justified because they’ve perfected the art of making Vodka. Żubrówka Bison Vodka is perhaps the most famous Polish Vodka and it is magnificent. You can’t get this in many other countries, including the United States, as it has trace amounts of a compound which is toxic in nature. The real deal, however, has no comparison and if you ever happen to be in Poland than you must definitely try this.
Wieliczka Salt Mines
Although the mine itself is no longer in operation as all the salt appears to have been extracted, it was in operation since the 13th century and has only recently been closed in 2007. The old salt mine has now become an extremely popular tourist destination with over a million people coming to visit it every year. There is a lift which takes you from the ground to the deeper levels where you can see the many buildings which have been carved out of rock salt including many statues and a complete cathedral. The buildings are also important from a historical point of view as workers had worked in this place for many centuries without access to modern lighting equipment.
Poland was the first victim of Hitler’s aggression and the recent history is mired in pain. Nowhere is the pain more visible than Auschwitz which was used as a concentration camp by Nazi forces. Many people died of disease and starvation in this camp while many were killed in gas chambers using poisonous gasses, a large majority of which were Jews. The visit is a very humbling experience and makes you thankful for having a painless life while also familiarizing you with the stories of thousands, including kids, who died such painful deaths because they belonged to a certain community or had spoken against the tyranny of a madman.
Słowiński National Park
This is a surpriseing part of a visit to Poland. Słowiński National Park gives the feel of the Sahara desert in the middle of an otherwise very fertile and cold place. The photographs you take here will be enough to confuse your friends and family as no one really associates sand with Poland. Not only is the Słowiński National Park famous for its sand dunes but there are small forests too which makes it a perfect place to cheer up the outdoorsy person within you. Though the park has sand, it is still cold in winter so it is always a good idea to keep a warm jacket handy, here are some coupons to help you get high-quality jackets from The North Face.
Sometimes Poland seems to have come straight from a fairy tale or a Disney movie because of the sheer number of many beautiful castles spread over different parts of the country. For those who don’t want to venture out much from the central areas, there is Wawel castle in Krakow, but a lot of these beautiful castles are outside the major city centers. Another popular and highly spectacular castle is Malbork but this is a little away from the major cities and you would need to dedicate an entire day to this for the best experience.
One thing which visitors to Poland absolutely have to try is one of the world’s most intricately designed cheeses. These cheese bars can either look like a statue of a medieval soldier in his full gear or it can be something which resembles the shape of a neck massager. The detail and the hard work which goes into the carving will tell you to not eat these but once you take a bit from these, you’ll discover that these taste absolutely heavenly.
Old Lady’s Home
This is a tradition from a time when tourism was becoming popular but the country lacked the facilities to accommodate the growing number of tourists. Many people started the practice of renting a spare room in their homes and it is a practice which has become a tradition of sorts. If you really want to get an authentic feel of the traditional Polish society then skip the hotel and stay in an old lady’s home. This will be one of your best memories from the trip even though there will be some language barriers.
Tallest Jesus Ever
The next time somebody tells you about the statue of Jesus in Rio, invite them on a trip to Poland with you because that is where the world’s tallest statue of Jesus is. The height of the statue is nearly 33 meters or 108 ft. It is located in the town of Świebodzin which is located in the western part of Poland. Since this is out of the major cities, there are no high-rise buildings to steal its thunder so it stands alone in all its glory waiting for you to visit it.
Upside Down House
Poland has a fascination with strange things as does their architects which have been designing crooked buildings for quite some time. One thing which has made Poland very popular on the internet is the image of an upside down house. The upside down house is located in northern Poland in Szymbark where you can see it in all its glory and decide for yourself if you’d like to live in one someday.