An Overview of Poland

Poland is one of Europe’s gems and its ancient cities and wild areas are crying out for being explored. Although Poland has suffered greatly at the hands of its greedy neighbors, it has managed to maintain its own identity and charm.

The capital, Warsaw, has emerg1024px-Pałac_na_wyspieed from its total destruction in WWII to embrace capitalism. The city contains many designer shops and trendsetting bars, and the old district has been perfectly restored. However, there are many unsightly reminders of Stalinism, including a giant grey skyscraper which was built as a gift from Stalin and which towers menacingly over the city.

Warsaw’s main north/south boulevard is the Royal Way, running from the Royal Castle to Lazienki Palace, the royal summer residence. This stretch hosts several churches, palaces, galleries and museums.

The delightful city of Krakow came through WWII unscathed, thus retaining a wealth of old architects from different periods. The tallest structures on Krakow’s skyline are the spires of old churches. The modern world has made little impact on the city’s narrow streets; however, Krakow has a young and vibrant population and a varied nightlife.

Auschwitz, about 60 kilometers from Krakow is a poignant symbol of man’s inhumanity. Although the retreating Nazis in 1945 tried to destroy the camp, enough of it remains to show the magnitude of the slaughter committed here. Some four million people were killed in Auschwitz and the linked complex at the nearby Birkenau.

Both monuments are open to the public and remain basically the same as when they were abandoned by the Nazis. The dormitories, gas chambers, crematoria, barracks and barbed wire make Auschwitz a harrowing and a moving place to visit.

The Tatras are the highest of all the Carpathians and the country’s only Alpine range. The region consists of towering peaks and steep rocky cliffs plunging hundreds of meters into glacial lakes. Bears and wolves still inhabit the area which is one of Europe’s last true wilderness frontiers.