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Polska , is one of the larger countries in Central Europe. Poland became a unified kingdom in the first half of the 10th century, and officially adopted Catholicism in The fragmentation and loss of central authority could not have come at a worse time, with the Mongol Empire invading and wreaking havoc on the realm repeatedly in , , and lastly between Following its reunification, Poland experienced its golden age from the 14th till the 16th century, under the reigns of King Casimir III the Great and the monarchs of the Jagiellonian dynasty, whose rule extended from the Baltic to the Black and Adriatic seas.

After uniting with Lithuania in , the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth became the largest country in Europe. During this era, the commonwealth attracted significant immigration from Germans, Jews, Armenians, and Dutch, due in part to the freedom of confession guaranteed by the state, and the commonwealth's atmosphere of tolerance a rather exceptional feat at the time of the Holy Inquisition.

Under the rule of the Vasa dynasty, the capital moved to Warsaw in Economically devastated by these events, the commonwealth's power dramatically declined in the 18th century.

Weak in foreign affairs and internally divided by its nobility szlachta , Russia, Prussia, and Austria seized on Poland-Lithuania's weakness and coordinated three partitions in , , and Responding to these partitions and a drastic need for political reform, Poland became the first country in Europe and the second in the world after the United States to pass a written constitution in , a highly progressive and strong document for its time. Despite the constitution, the commonwealth ceased to exist after , with its lands annexed by the three competing imperial powers.

The following period of foreign domination was met with fierce resistance. During the Napoleonic Wars, a French-backed semi-autonomous Duchy of Warsaw arose, before being erased from the map in Further uprisings ensued, including the 29 November uprising of in Russian Poland , the Revolution in Austrian and Prussian Poland , and the January Uprising between also in Russian Poland.

Throughout the occupation, Poles retained their sense of national identity and defied the three occupying powers with armed struggle or passive resistance. Poland returned to the European map at the end of World War I, with a declaration of independence from the defeated German and Austro-Hungarian empires on 11 November From their ashes, the infant Second Polish Republic quickly became embroiled in violent territorial disputes with other new post-war states, including Czechoslovakia to the south, and revolutionary Soviet Russia to the east, which it fought a bloody war against between to retain independence.

All of these factors placed Poland in a precarious position of having potential enemies facing her from all sides. This was followed by an eastern invasion by the Soviet Union on 17 September.

Only a few days prior to the invasion, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany had signed the secret Molotov—Ribbentrop Pact of non-aggression, which called for the re-division of central and eastern Europe between the two powers. The blitzkrieg from all sides forced the collapse of the Second Republic, although Poland never conditionally surrendered, with its government-in-exile continuing the war effort from abroad.

All six of the German Nazi extermination camps were located in Poland; of these Auschwitz is the most well known site. Much of the Jewish resistance to the Nazis also occurred in Poland, the most famous example being the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in In addition to Jews, Poles were vigorously persecuted by the Nazis, with 2 to 3 million murdered during the occupation.

Countless Polish civilians were ruthlessly rounded up, tortured, placed in concentration camps, and executed. Poland was treated much more severely than other countries occupied by Nazi Germany. Any Poles discovered hiding Jews risked being executed with their entire families and yet many helped anyway, as documented in lists such as The Righteous Among the Nations.

Throughout the occupation, resistance to the Nazis remained strong, with the Home Army Armia Krajowa conducting guerrilla warfare against the Germans, as well as staging a mass uprising in Warsaw in About 22, Polish military and political leaders, business owners, and intelligentsia were murdered, officially approved by the Soviet Politburo, including Stalin and Beria.

Most major cities were destroyed, and with them the history of centuries was gone. To this day, this event is viewed by many Poles as an act of betrayal by the Allies, as many Polish soldiers, seamen, and airmen had fought alongside the British and Americans in the European theatre. Much of Poland's east would be annexed by the Soviet Union, while its western border would be pushed to the Oder-Neisse Line at the expense of the defeated Germany.

The native Polish population from the former eastern provinces were relocated to the west, while ethnic Germans in the new western provinces were expelled.

This resulted in the forced uprooting of over 10 million people, and until recently, had overshadowed attempts at Polish-German reconciliation. Between , Stalinist leaders conducted periodic purges of the governing Communist Party.

After Stalin's death in , Poland became comparatively tolerant and progressive in comparison to other Eastern Bloc states. Strong economic growth in the post-war period alternated with serious recessions in , , and , resulting in labour turmoil over dramatic inflation, as well as massive goods shortages.

A brief reprieve in this period occurred in This had a profound impact on Poland's largely Catholic population, and to this day John Paul II is widely revered throughout the country. The communists responded by organizing a military junta, led by General Wojciech Jaruzelski as prime minister, who imposed martial law in December Lasting until July , this crackdown period witnessed tens of thousands of people being detained. Martial law reached into all facets of life: Solidarity members were particularly targeted with imprisonment or unemployment, a serious charge in the socialist world.

Atop draconian military measures to stop political dissent, the Polish economy entered free fall. Despite the government crackdown, dissent against the regime only grew more emboldened. This internecine political conflict and its ensuing economic disaster greatly weakened the prestige and rule of the Communist Party.

Facing international isolation, the government legalized Solidarity, entered into negotiations with dissidents, and soon held partially-free elections in , in which the communists were finally removed from power. The election was the start of a domino effect of peaceful, anti-communist revolutions across the Eastern Bloc throughout that year.

Nowadays, Poland is a democratic parliamentary republic with a stable, robust economy, a member of NATO since , and the European Union since Poland has also successfully joined the Schengen Agreement for an open border to Germany, Lithuania, Czech Republic and Slovakia, and is on track to adopt the Euro currency on a future yet currently unspecified date.

Poland's dream of rejoining Europe as an independent nation at peace and in mutual respect of its neighbours has finally been achieved. As a deeply religious country, many important days on the Catholic calendar are public holidays, with the church becoming the main center of life in various cities, towns, and villages.

The countryside throughout Poland is lovely and relatively unspoiled. Poland has a variety of regions with beautiful landscapes, complete with primeval forests, mountain ranges, hidden valleys, grasslands, lakes and small-scale organic and traditional farms. Travellers can choose a number of activities such as bird watching, cycling or horseback riding.

A journey through the Polish countryside gives you a perfect opportunity to enjoy and absorb local knowledge about its landscape and people. Poland offers variety of landscapes, as well as cultural and historic territories. Natural regions of Poland one can divide in five major belts: The word is roughly equivalent to the word "province" in English.

Some English dictionaries use the word voivodeship to describe the provinces, although the use of the word is rare, and is not likely to be universally understood at first by Poles.

Like other larger countries, many regions have distinct identities and traditions. Provinces have often names of historic regions, but their territories do not match. Thus, this map and regionalisation is only an approximation. There are no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented this treaty - the European Union except Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom , Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Likewise, a visa granted for any Schengen member is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty.

Please see the article Travel in the Schengen Zone for more information about how the scheme works and what entry requirements are. In addition to the Schengen visa exemption, citizens of Israel , South Korea , Canada , Japan , and the United States are permitted to stay in Poland for 90 days without a visa regardless of the amount of time spent in other Schengen states.

Time spent in Poland, however, will be counted against the time permitted by other Schengen states. Regular visas are issued for travellers going to Poland for tourism and business purposes. Regular visas allow for one or multiple entries into Polish territory and stay in Poland for maximum up to 90 days and are issued for the definite period of stay.

When applying for a visa, please indicate the number of days you plan to spend in Poland and a date of intended arrival. Holders of regular visas are not authorized to work.

Ukrainian citizens do not require a separate visa for transit through Poland if they hold a Schengen or UK visa. Most of Europe's major airlines fly to and from Poland.

In terms of long haul flights, Emirates and Qatar Airways flights operate to and from Dubai and Doha respectively, as well as non-direct flights from other cities throughout the Star Alliance program. International airlines fly mainly into Warsaw WAW , the country's largest gateway.

Other major airports offering passenger service include: The national long distance rail operator is PKP Intercity. There are direct connections to Warsaw from the following locations:.

You can enter Poland by one of the many roads linking Poland with the neighbouring countries. Since Poland's entry to the Schengen Zone, checkpoints on border crossings with other EU countries have been removed.

However, queues on the borders with Poland's non-EU neighbours, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, are still large and in areas congested with truck traffic.

It can take up to several hours to pass. If you're traveling with a US driver's license, be sure to take an international license with you. Poland is one of the few countries in Europe requiring US citizens to travel with an international license in order to rent a car. Also note that most car rentals are manual. If you want an automatic it must be booked in advance and expect higher costs.

There are many international bus lines that connect to major Polish cities from most major European locations. There are multiple ports along the Polish coast, at least at every river mouth. Gdansk, has two yacht docks one next to the old time market which is usually quickly overloaded and one in the national sailing centre 17 km. The newest yacht dock is located on Europe's longest wooden peer in Sopot. Although there are many sailors in Poland, there is still room for improvement which is being overseen by the regional governments of the voivodeships.

Polish road infrastructure is extensive and currently undergoing a massive construction boom with a number of motorways and expressways in various stages of development found throughout the country, yet many local routes may be slow or poorly maintained.

However, public transport is quite plentiful and inexpensive, with buses and trams in cities, and charter buses and trains for long distance travel. There is also a well-established domestic flight network. Polish national carrier LOT has daily domestic connections between Poland's biggest cities with its hub in Warsaw. Additionally, low-cost Irish airline Ryanair also provides several domestic routes. The schedule of every train and online ticket purchasing can be found on the PKP-Rozklad planner.

Note, if you search in the Polish language, provincially-operated carriers will display online tickets, although many will require some form of registration first.

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If your ticket is not valid, he will sell you one. Show your identification card to the ticket office that states your age. Weekend and holiday visitors can can get the Tourist Ticket on PolRegio, which are valid from Friday Poland has a very well developed network of private charter bus companies, which tend to be cheaper, faster, and more comfortable than rail travel.

For trips under km, charter buses are far more popular than trains. However, they are more difficult to use for foreigners, because of the language barrier. In order to research buses, finding companies with the letters PKS is a good start. There is an on-line timetable available in English, which includes bus and train options, found at: Online timetables are useful for planning, yet be aware that there are often multiple carriers at each bus station, and departure times for major cities and popular destinations are typically no longer than thirty minutes in-between.

Each city and town has a central bus station formerly known also as PKS , where the various bus routes pick up passengers; you can find their schedules displayed there in either paper or electronic formats. Bus routes can also be recognized by signs on the front of the bus that typically state the terminating stop. This is easier if picking up a bus from a roadside stop, rather than a central depot. Tickets are usually purchased directly from the driver, but sometimes it's also possible to buy them at the station and also online.

If purchasing from the driver, simply board the bus and tell or show the driver your destination. The driver will then inform you of the price. Drivers rarely speak English, so often they will print a receipt showing the amount.

Buses are also a viable choice for long-distance and international travel; however, be aware that long-distance schedules are usually more limited than for trains. There are several well-known nationwide bus companies that offer service to most of Poland's major cities and voivodeships, which include:. In the past, driving in Poland was often described as stressful, frustrating and often time-consuming, due to the poor quality of roads, a lack of motorway-level routes, and the aggressive driving style of the locals.

Thankfully, much has changed since the early s, and today, a majority of all the republic's major cities are connected by motorways and expressways thanks to an ongoing construction boom fueled by Poland's strong economy and generous EU development funds. As of , there are nearly 3, km 2, mi of completed motorways and expressways throughout the country. However, much still needs to be done, as will be evidenced by many construction detours or finding yourself traveling on roads far above capacity for the volume of traffic they are carrying for.

Roads in Poland can be divided into several categories. Red and white-numbered roads are known as national roads droga krajowa , which handle the bulk of the republic's traffic. A subcategory of national roads are motorway-class A roads , which are signed with an A followed by a number.

Confusingly, many S-class roads often look and feel like motorways, although there are several S-class roads that are limited to one lane in each direction. They are typically lower in importance than national roads, and will be signed on a yellow background with black letters, involving three digits. Voivodeship roads are often smaller than their national road counterparts.

If you are not travelling on A or S-class roads, generally assume two hours for each km of travel. If you're driving through larger cities, you can safely double that. When travelling between smaller cities or towns usually on voivodeship roads , you will routinely encounter slow moving vehicles, such as farm vehicles and tractors, and sometimes bicycles.

Drunks, on foot or on bicycles, are a common sight. This includes having them weave through fast moving traffic at night, although this activity is considered highly illegal. Be aware that the A1, A2 and A4 motorways are tolled in certain locations.

Toll rates vary from station to station, and are rather high, on par with a day vignette in other European countries. Tolls can be paid with cash or card at a tollbooth. At the current time, other motorways, expressways, national and voivodeship roads are not tolled. Polish road death statistics are statistically higher than the European average, although rates have significantly fallen since the s.

While driving etiquette on major routes is similar to other European states, visitors may confront a "dynamic driving style" in certain rural areas. In practice this means that some drivers can drive aggressively and recklessly, push in, "meander" through surrounding cars, routinely disrespect speed limits frequently by a large margin and overtake at less-than-safe distances.

Overtaking is a critical and potentially dangerous manoeuvre that is commonly done in a hazardous way in rural Poland. In heavier traffic it's common to overtake "on 3rd" meaning that at some point during the manoeuvre there will be three cars the overtaken, the overtaking, and the vehicle approaching from the opposite direction next to each other side to side or close to that.

An unwritten code is followed to make this possible and "safe". The driver that is driving behind a slower vehicle and preparing to overtake expects that the slower vehicle will move to the right as far as feels comfortable also using the half-lane if it is separated with a dashed line and completely sure to be free of bicycles or pedestrians. The vehicle approaching from the opposite direction is advised or sometimes forced to also slightly move to the side. Such style of overtaking is illegal and unsafe.

The above information is intended to explain the reality on the ground and help understand the traffic. If you hit someone or something on the shoulder, you get penalised and the driver who caused you to do it has long since driven off. Particularly reckless drivers will attempt to overtake "on four", when overtaking in both directions is taking place in roughly the same space, but this is rare.

Tailgating can rarely happen. Aggressive driving up from behind you and flashing of headlights means "get out of my way". Non-aggressive driving up from behind means "would you please make some space": If you're driving on a two-lane road, which will be most of the time, and you are under slight obligation to do so, the law states you should keep to the right most lane whenever possible. Rather don't expect that the driver may throw something out of his window or suddenly step on his brakes once he has passed you, but better let the faster people drive.

If you leave a safety gap in front of your car, it will be filled by another driver as they are trying to push through traffic, which can be really irritating. Another issue is lane merging -- while the zipper method is gaining popularity, it's happening rather slowly. In many cases drivers change lane very soon, others try to pass the jam on either side and aggresively push in at the front, which leads to rare cases of "self-appointed sheriffs" blocking one of the lanes "so everybody has to wait equally".

Luckily, the Police recognizes this as a traffic hazard and can give them a fine. Poles work long, so peak time in major cities frequently last till 7 or 8pm. Roadworks are common as many new road developments are under way and roads require frequent maintenance due to damage inflicted by winter conditions and with older roads built with sub par quality.

Parking in cities and towns is often allowed on sidewalks, unless there is a no parking sign. There is usually no provision for parking on the tar-sealed part of the street, so do not leave your car parked at the curb, unless it is clearly a parking bay. Parking meters in cities and even smaller towns are widely used.

Roads marked droga szybkiego ruchu rapid transit road are frequently anything but that. The rule of roads going through towns and not around them still applies and speed limits change rapidly from the allowable 90 kmh to 70, down to 40 and then up again to 70 within only a few hundreds of metres.

Police can also randomly check your speed with handheld radars, or do a breathalyser test if they suspect it's needed. They are not required by law to have a particular reason to stop you for a quick control -- and if nothing is suspicious, they will just take your license and registration for a few minutes to run some checks. In the past years using CB radio to warn other drivers of such checks was popular and still is among the older generation. Now people use mobile apps to warn about jams, stopped cars, accidents, speed checks and others.

Most popular are Yanosik free, full English version, has own navigation, but works better in "background mode" paired with Google Maps , or NaviExpert paid with free trial, some people recommend the propertiary navigation. Some drivers flash their headlights to warn those approaching from the opposite direction of a police control nearby you are likely to encounter this custom in many other countries.

It may also be a friendly reminder to turn on your headlights, which are required at all times while driving. A "thank you" between drivers can be expressed by waving your hand or, when the distance is too great, by turning on blinkers or hazard lights for one or two blinks. Hazard lights can be used to indicate failures but also as a way of showing that the vehicle is rapidly slowing down, or already stopped in a traffic jam on a highway. A recent plague of flashing LED advertising hoardings has been spreading along Polish roads.

As well as adding to the already high level of visual pollution these have a more immediate effect of distracting drivers during the day and blinding them at night, as advertisers leave output levels set at "high". Poland has no legislation to prevent this from happening, and the hoardings are placed at or only slightly above the line of sight. This, added to the condition of the roads and the behaviour of the locals, makes driving on rainy nights additionally difficult.

At the gas stations PB means unleaded gasoline and ON means diesel. Petrol and diesel are roughly the same price. LPG is widely available, both at 'branded' gas stations and independent distributors and is about half the price of petrol. Credit or debit cards can be used to pay almost at all stations, but less so at independent distributors. Most gas stations have free toilets for clients.

In Autumn or in Spring it is common for small traders to set up their stands with fruit or wild mushrooms along the roads. They don't always stay in places where it's safe for cars to stop and you should be careful of drivers stopping abruptly and be watchful if you want to stop yourself. Wild mushrooms are a speciality if you know how to cook them. There is a slight possibility that the people who picked the mushrooms are not very good at telling the good ones from the poisonous, so eat at your own responsibility.

Never feed wild mushrooms to small children as they are particularly vulnerable. Rely on the judgement of your Polish friends if you consider them reasonable people. In Summer strawberries or blueberries are usually sold at these stands.

Use only those that are associated in a "corporation" look for phone number and a logo on the side and on the top. There are no British style minicabs in Poland. Unaffiliated drivers are likely to cheat and charge you much more.

Like everywhere, be especially wary of these taxis near international airports and train stations. They are called the "taxi mafia", and it is generally best to ignore them. Because of travellers advice like this and word of mouth , taxis with fake phone numbers can be seen on the streets, although this has dramatically decreased since the s thanks to police and government intervention. Fake phone numbers are easily detected by locals and cater for the unsuspecting traveller.

The best advice is to ask your Polish friends or your hotel concierge for the number of the taxi company they use and call them minutes in advance there's no additional cost. That's why locals will only hail taxis on the street in case of an emergency. You can also find phone numbers for taxis in any city on the Internet, on municipal and newspaper websites.

Some taxi companies, particularly in larger towns provide for a cab to be ordered online or with a text message. There are also stands, where you can call for their particular taxi for free, often found at train stations. US-based international taxi company Uber also operates throughout Poland, though currently is concentrated in the larger cities.

If you negotiate the fare with the driver you risk ending up paying more than you should. Better make sure that the driver turns the meter on and sets it to the appropriate fare taryfa:.

Prices can vary slightly between the taxi companies and between different cities, and there is a small fixed starting fee added on top of the mileage fare.

When crossing city limits for example, when travelling to an airport located outside the city , the driver should change the tariff at the city limit. Every taxi driver is obliged to issue a receipt when asked at the end of the ride. You can inquire driver about a receipt rachunek before you get into cab, and resign if his reaction seems suspicious or if he refuses. Cycling is a good method to get a good impression of the scenery in Poland.

While the quality of most national roads are fairly good, some roads particularly provincial voivodeship roads are mixed, either in excellent or in poor condition, and bicycle lanes are not normally painted. However, these same voivodeship roads in the rural areas of the country are fantastic for cycling. Be aware of drivers, as some are careless, yet the situation is gradually improving as cycling becomes more popular, drivers become more aware, and more marked bicycle lanes are in the process of being marked and divided.

However, it is recommendable to avoid national roads leading to and from big cities or any significant settlements in the rush hours of 7 to 8am and 3 to 6pm. Specially mapped bike routes are increasingly appearing across the country and there are specialised guide books available so ask a bicycle club for help and you should be just fine.

Away from roads which join major cities and large towns you should be able to find some great riding, fantastic scenery and staying at agroturystyka a room with board at a farmer's house, for example can be a great and unique experience. Bicycling in Poland's larger cities is a growing trend.

Hitchhiking in Poland is on average safe and reliable. It's slower than its Western Germany and Eastern Lithuania neighbors, yet waiting times will be quite acceptable. Use a cardboard sign and write the desired destination city name on it, and stay on the edge of the road where there should be a dashed line painted there, not a solid one.

Under no circumstances try to hitchhike on the sides of A or S-class high-speed motorways or expressways, unless it is at petrol stations, rest stops or on-ramps. As in any country, you should be careful, there are several reports of hitchhiking trips gone awry, so take basic precautions and you should be as right as rain. In many cities, you have an excellent network of public transportation. Warsaw has a metro, too. In Warsaw, Silesia and the Tricity region you will find an extensive suburban railway network.

In larger cities, there are tickets for a single ride losing its validity as you alight as well as for special period e. They have to be validated upon boarding unless otherwise indicated. Tickets are offered with standard fare normalny or reduced fare ulgowy , usually half-fare for children years , seniors, students only Polish , war invalids etc.

Sometimes, vendors at the kiosk are run out of the normalny -tickets and give you instead two ulgowy -tickets. In this case you just have to validate both tickets one after another. The official language of Poland is Polish , a Slavic language spoken by 55 million around the world. Foreign visitors should be aware that virtually all official information will usually be in Polish only.

Street signs, directions, information signs, etc. When it comes to information signs in museums, churches, etc. Most of the young people and teenagers know English well enough. Since English is taught from a very young age some start as early as 4 years old , only Poles who grow up in isolated towns or communities will not be given English lessons.

Older Poles, particularly in rural regions, will speak little or no English at all. However, it is highly possible that they will speak either French , German or Russian , taught in schools as the main foreign languages until the s.

It is wise to refrain from speaking Russian on account of the countries' historically turbulent relations. In spite of this, German is still taught in many schools throughout the country, and is especially popular in the western districts.

Ukrainian also has many similarities to Polish, as does Czech and Slovak. A few phrases go a long way in Poland. Contrary to some other tourist destinations, where natives scoff at how bad a foreigner's use of the native language is, Polish people generally love the few foreigners who learn Polish or at least try to, even if it is only a few phrases. Younger Poles will also jump at the chance to practice their English.

Be advised that if you are heard speaking English in a public setting outside of the main cities and tourist areas people may listen in to practice their understanding of English. Do your homework and try to learn how to pronounce the names of places. Polish has a very regular pronunciation, so this should be no problem. Although there are a few sounds unknown to most English speakers, mastering every phoneme is not required to achieve intelligibility; catching the spirit is more important.

Outside of the touristic areas of the major cities, you'll find that there are few, if any, foreigners. Most of the immigrants in Poland mainly Ukrainians and Vietnamese, as well as smaller numbers of Italians, Portuguese, Spanish and Greeks in recent years stay in the major cities to live and work. Poland's small group of contemporary ethnic minorities, which includes Germans, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Lithuanians, Silesians, Lemkos, and Kashubians, all speak Polish and few regional dialects remain except in the south and in small patches along the Baltic coast.

Ever since Poland joined the European Union , international travellers have rapidly rediscovered the country's rich cultural heritage, stunning historic sites and just gorgeous array of landscapes. Whether you're looking for architecture, urban vibes or a taste of the past: Poland's bustling cities and towns offer something for everyone.

If you'd rather get away from the crowds and enjoy nature, the country's vast natural areas provide anything from dense forests, high peaks and lush hills to beaches and lake reserves. Most of the major cities boast lovely old centres and a range of splendid buildings, some of them World Heritage sites. Many old quarters were heavily damaged or even destroyed in WWII bombings, but were meticulously rebuilt after the war, using the original bricks and ornaments where possible.

Although remains of the Soviet Union and even scars of the Second World War are visible in most of them, the Polish cities offer great historic sight seeing while at the same time they have become modern, lively places.

The capital, Warsaw , has one of the best old centres and its many sights include the ancient city walls, palaces, churches and squares. You can follow the Royal Route to see some of the best landmarks outside the old centre.

Just 50 km from there is the humbling Auschwitz concentration camp which, due to the horrible events it represents, leaves an impression like no other World Heritage Site does. With the oldest cathedral in the country and also the second biggest necropolis in the country for kings and rulers, a beautiful Renaissance town hall with two battling billy goats seen only around noon , and an impressive 20th century imperial palace built for the German kaiser just to mention a few attractions makes a great impression on most visitors.

Here too, a walk along the Royal Road gives a great overview of notable sights. The urban layout of Szczecin , the second biggest city of whole Pomerania, is a unique composition of buildings, parks and riverside areas on the Oder river. The city's picturesque location on the Oder and countless bridges make this huge city a lovely place. The city of Lublin additionally boasts an impressive historic old town, castle, and serene surrounding countryside.

With 23 national parks and a number of landscape parks spread all over the country, natural attractions are never too far away. It's the only place where European bison still live in the wild. The mountainous Bieszczady National Park has great hiking opportunities and lots of wildlife. Bory Tucholskie National Park has the largest woodland in the country and has many lakes too, making it great for birdwatching.

The two national parks on Poland's coast are also quite popular: The Polish countryside is lovely and at times even gorgeous, with countless historic villages, castles, churches and other monuments. Agrotourism is therefore increasingly popular. If you have a taste for cultural heritage, the south western parts of the country offer some of the best sights, but there's great stuff in other areas too.

The impressive Gothic Wawel Castle in Krakow may be one of the finest examples when it comes to Poland's castles, but most of the others are located in smaller countryside towns.

The large, red brick Malbork castle in northern Poland is perhaps the most stunning one in the country, built in and today the world's biggest brick Gothic castle. After surviving battles and attacks for centuries, it was destroyed by lightning in and has been a popular tourist attraction since the 18th century. Hit the trail with professional guide and reach some peaks of the Beskid Mountains. A knowledgeable guide will choose hiking destinations based on your fitness level and interests.

Studying in Poland can be an incredible experience for foreigners. Foreign students can finance a B. Dating to , Jagiellonian is the oldest university in the country, and among one of the oldest in the world. Private universities are a recent invention, but have been successful enough where several private schools are competing with the major public universities in terms of quality. Private schools may actually be cheaper for foreign students, who are not entitled to a free education at one of Poland's public universities.

At the moment Poland is one of the best places around the world to find a job as an English teacher. The demand for TEFL teachers is enormous and teaching language is a brilliant way to fund your travel and earn as you go. The going rate is about 30PLN for conversation or lessons. Doing these private lessons is a great way to make some money and meet some English-speaking educated, interesting Poles at the same time.

In general students, private and in classes, are very friendly toward their teachers, inviting them for dinner or drinks, and sometimes acting quite emotional during their last lesson. Post your services on telephone poles and bus stops with an email or phone number, or use Gumtree, Poland's version of Craigslist. Gumtree Polska is useful for finding students, and everything else, including accommodations, used cars, pets, Polish tutors, etc. Ekorki is good to make a profile if looking for longterm teaching positions.

More formal than Gumtree, it is used by serious employers. Another popular work website is Praca. Private currency exchange offices kantor are very common, and offer euro, pound, or US dollar exchanges at rates that are usually comparable to commercial banks. Be aware that exchanges in tourist hot-spots, such as train stations or popular tourist destinations, tend to overcharge.

Avoid "Interchange" Kantor locations, easily recognised by their orange colour; the rates they offer are very bad. Polish has two types of plural numbers, which you are likely to encounter when dealing with currency.

Here are the noun forms to expect:. There is also an extensive network of cash machines or ATMs bankomat. The exchange rate will depend on your particular card issuer, but usually ends up being pretty favourable, and comparable to reasonably good exchange offices. Many banks will charge fees for using the card abroad, though, so check your fine print beforehand. A word of warning: You will be offered the "service" of having your card billed in your home currency almost everywhere.

Credit cards can be used to pay almost everywhere in the big cities. AmEx and Diners' Club can be used in a few places notably the big, business-class hotels but are not popular and you should not rely on them for any payments.

Cheques were never particularly popular in Poland and they are not used nowadays. Local banks do not issue cheque books to customers and stores do not accept them. Hypermarkets are dominated by Western and some domestic chains: Some are open 24 hours a day and they are usually located in shopping malls or suburbs. However, Poles shop very often at local, small stores for bread, meat, fresh dairy, vegetables and fruits, where freshness and quality is essential. Many towns, and larger suburbs, hold traditional weekly markets, similar to farmers' markets popular in the West.

Fresh produce, baker's goods, dairy, meat and meat products are sold, along with everything from flowers and garden plants to Chinese-made clothing and bric-a-brac. In season wild mushrooms and forest fruit can also be bought.

Prices are usually set, although you can try a little good-natured bargaining if you buy more than a few items. Tipping For the most part, Polish restaurants and bars do not include gratuity in the total of the check, so your server will be pleased if you leave them a tip along with the payment.

With all that said, many Poles may not leave a tip, unless service was exceptional. Poles don't usually tip bar staff. Poles take their meals following the standard continental schedule: It is not difficult to avoid meat, with many restaurants offering at least one vegetarian dish. Most major cities have some exclusively vegetarian restaurants, especially near the city centre. Vegan options remain extremely limited, however.

Traditional Polish cuisine tends to be hearty, rich in meats, sauces, and vegetables; sides of pickled vegetables are a favorite accompaniment.

Modern Polish cuisine, however, tends towards greater variety, and focuses on healthy choices. In general, the quality of "store-bought" food is very high, especially in dairy products, baked goods, vegetables and meat products.

A dinner commonly includes the first course of soup, followed by the main course. Among soups, barszcz czerwony red beet soup, a. It's commonly poured over dumplings barszcz z uszkami or barszcz z pierogami , or served with a fried pate roll barszcz z pasztecikiem. Pierogi is arguably the country's most famous international culinary export. Often served alongside another dish for example, with barszcz , rather than as the main course, pierogies can be stuffed with a mix of cottage cheese and onion, with meat, or even with wild forest fruits as a desert.

Bigos is another unique, if less well-known, Polish dish: Bigos tends to be very thick and hearty. Some Austro-Hungarian imports have also become popular over the years, and adopted by the Polish cuisine.

When it comes to food-on-the-go, foreign imports tend to dominate such as kebab or pizza stands, and fast-food franchises. An interesting Polish twist is a zapiekanka , an open-faced long baguette, often covered with mushrooms and cheese or other toppings of choice , toasted until the cheese melts. Zapiekanka can be sold at numerous roadside stands, bars, and at takeout shops in many city centres, where it is a popular evening snack when one goes out on the town.

Poland is also known for two unique cheeses, both made by hand in the Podhale mountain region in the south. Oscypek is the more famous: Oscypek goes very well with alcoholic beverages such as beer.

The less common is bryndza , a soft cheese, also made with sheep milk and therefore salty , with a consistency similar to spreadable cheeses. It's usually served on bread, or baked potatoes. If you want to eat cheaply, you should visit a milk bar bar mleczny. A milk bar is very basic sort of fast food eatery serving cheap Polish fare. Nowadays it has become harder to find them. Invented by the communist authorities in the mids as a means to offer cheap meals to people working in firms that had no canteen, the milk bar's iconic name originates from the fact that until the late s, meals served were mostly dairy-made or vegetarian especially during martial law in the early s, when meat was rationed.

Milk bars are usually subsidized by the state. Eating at a milk bar can be a unique experience. It is not uncommon that you will encounter people from various social classes—students, businessmen, university professors, elderly people, even homeless—all eating side-by-side in a s-like environment.

However, a cautionary warning needs to be issued—complete nut jobs dine at milk bars too, so even if you're going to for the food, you'll end up with dinner and a show. Curious as to what the show will entail?

Well, each show varies, but most of them will leave you scratching head and require the suspension of reality. All around Poland, but especially in the Lesser Poland and Silesia regions, you can find many traditional restaurants. Usually they are made of wood and have plenty of colorful ornaments hanging on the walls. Inside, you can feel as if you were in a 19th century family house. Many of their menus include traditional dishes and beverages, with food served on decorated tableware.

Poland is on the border of the European vodka and beer belts. Poles enjoy alcoholic drinks but they drink less than the European average. You can buy beer, vodka, hard liquor and wine in virtually all stores.

Although Poland is known as the birthplace of vodka, local beer seems to have much more appeal to many Poles. Another traditional alcoholic beverage is mead. Polish liqueurs and nalewka alcoholic tincture are also a must. Officially, in order to buy alcohol one should be over 18 years old and be able to prove it with a valid ID, however in practice most small stores found throughout Poland will not ID you if you look like you could possibly be Poland's beer brewing tradition began in the Middle Ages and today it is one of the top beer countries in Europe, although it is still largely overshadowed by Czech, German or Belgian brews.

Despite its brands not being well-known internationally, Poland traditionally sports some of the best pilsner-type lagers worldwide.

The most common big brands include:. Micro-breweries and gastro-pubs are on the rise, in particular in the larger cities, and many delicatessen or supermarkets carry smaller brands, including hand-crafted beers of many types.

Poles are notably proud of their vodka, which rank among the world's best. Some famous vodka brands are:. Deluxe more expensive brands include Chopin and Belvedere. Expect to pay about PLN a bottle prices. Most Poles consider these brands to be "export brands", and usually don't drink them. After the government's passage of a wine distribution act in , Polish wines are also available in retail stores.

As for imported wine, apart from the usual old and new world standards, there is usually a choice of decent table wines from central and eastern Europe, such as Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Moldova, the Balkans, and Georgia. It winter, many Poles drink grzaniec mulled wine , made of red wine heated with spices such as cloves, nutmeg, and ginger. A similar drink can be made with beer, although wine is the more popular method.

Mead is brewed from honey and has excellent unusual taste similar to wine. Sometimes it can be very sweet. Mead is produced by several companies including Apis in Lublin Today Poles have a strange relationship with mead. All of them have heard of it, almost none have ever tried it.

Poles are very keen on beer and vodka, and you'll find that cocktails are often expensive but can be found in most bars in most major cities. Throw stereotypes out the door.

When ordering a coffee, you'll find that it is treated with respect reminiscent of Vienna , rather than, say, New York. Which is to say: Mass-produced to-go coffee remains unpopular, although chains such as Starbucks and Costa have been making inroads in the cities.

Ordering a tea, on the other hand, will usually get you a cup or kettle of hot water, and a tea bag on the side, so that the customer can put together a tea that's as strong or as weak as they like. This is not uncommon in continental Europe, but may require some adjustment for visitors.

Tea houses with large selection of good quality teas and a relaxing atmosphere are gaining popularity. For the most part, a good coffee can be had for PLN a cup, while a cup of tea can be purchased for around PLN unless you happen to order a small kettle, in which case you'll probably pay something between PLN.

Drinking water with a meal is not a Polish tradition; having a tea or coffee afterwards is much more common. If you want water with a meal, you might need to ask for it - and you will usually get a choice of carbonated gazowana or still niegazowana bottled water, rather than a glass of tap water. As a result water is never free, and is pretty expensive too compared to the average price of a meal about 4zl for one glass. Beware that even "still" bottled water, while not visibly bubbly, will still contain some carbon dioxide.

Carbonated mineral waters are popular, and several kinds are available. You can also travel to the spas such as Szczawnica or Krynica , which are still operational. Across the country there are broad choices of bottled water with very high content of minerals, called woda mineralna.

For travellers preferring to drink water from the tap, tap water is safe and drinkable across the country. Lodging prices are no longer the bargain they used to be several years ago; now they're comparable to standard European prices. For the bargain hunter, standard tactics apply: Best deals are usually offered off-season.

Hostels affiliated with the national hostelling association are often horrid options for backpackers because of imposed curfews. Additionally, Hostelling International HI affiliated hostels are frequently used by large school groups, which means young children may very well be screaming their heads off and running around the halls. Some private hostels are clean and welcoming, but others can be worse than HI hostels.

Would like to say a massive thank you on behalf of myself, family and six special friends who had the BEST week every with Sunshine World, special thanks to Sean, Sarah, Matty and Graham. All of us bar one were beginners and after fantastic tutoring and patience finished the week buzzing on a RED run, something we never dreamed we would be able to do. We cannot thank Sunshine World enough for the personal touch from the minute we booked the holiday. We cannot wait to return next year and are all now converted from sun to snow.

Sunshine World can cater your trip to suit your needs night. The packages included seven nights accommodation with breakfast at a Catered Chalet in Zakopane, Poland. Call our Knightsbridge office for a friendly chat about how we can help you to put together the best holiday of your life! Book now for best price! If you are looking for the best, most fun and most exciting ski holiday or snowboard holiday then you have arrived at the friendliest and most professional snowboard and ski holiday company in Europe.

We do the hard work so you don't have to! Sunshine World also specialise in top quality non skiing Stag parties in Poland, Hen parties in Poland, Activity holidays and sight seeing holidays across Poland in both summer and winter.

Please visit our Summer site by clicking here for more details. Search Sunshine World Poland. Hi Greg Just wanted to flick you a quick email to say thank you to you and your team for making our trip so awesome. You made my job of organising 10 people very easy and stress free and everything that was arranged was great. The chalet was perfect for us, and your team of instructors were wonderful at catering for all our abilities.

Sorry I didn't get a chance to say hello to you. I think every time you were around I was in the very back of the van. Might see you all next year!

I had a really great time snowboarding. The crew are great, very easy to get along with and great instructors. I had Iian with me on the hill and he taught me so much in such a short amount of time.

Thanks again for everything. I'll definitely be recommend you guys. I hope you and the guys made it home safely. We all did, pretty shattered, but everyone said they had a really great trip! So the passport saga got worse as tony pointed out john only had 1 month on his passport and for NZ where he was flying at midday Tuesday needed 6months.

He spent the entire night awake trying to sort it and somehow managed to get a renewal 8amam at the passport office - rocking up the Heathrow 30 mins before his flight and had to go hand luggage only! But at least he forgot his passport in the first place so he realised the date before he got all the way to the NZ border and had to fly back again! We had a really fantastic time, and very impressed with everything you did for us, including being great company and very patient!

You really did go above expectations! The only small improvement, if it's helpful to know, would have been slightly more structured lesson times - as some people has a fair few hours and others just 30 mins at the end of the day. Always tough in a mixed ability group I know! All in all a brilliant, well organised trip and much more personal than that you would get with the likes of a large corporate holiday company but much easier than organising it all myself! And all of the little touches like the cake that your and Ellie arranged, and shuttles to the slopes on day one to save time, really did make it I must see if we can get a similar cake in Warsaw if you know the name - it was amazing!

Happy to leave a formal review if that's helpful, and if you have Twitter or FB I'll post something there too. Hopefully we will have another opportunity to ski wth you guys in future! Back to work for me today sadly!

We thoroughly enjoyed it and will be coming back. Hi Greg, Great holiday, extremely well organised, kids skiing came on great, your instructors are very good, apartment superb, everything ran like clockwork so thanks alot.

Breaking news and analysis from Politics, world news, photos, video, tech reviews, health, science and entertainment news. Press Release. India liberalizes visa requirement for Poland & Lithuania. The Embassy of India has liberalised the requirements of biometric data capture for Polish & Lithuanian group tourists and postal applicants. Medical Poland is application support service to medical universities abroad in the heart of Europe: Poland. We represent Polish public medical universities offering the opportunity to study Medicine (4 & 6-year MD), Dentistry, Physiotherapy, Pharmacy, Nursing and Veterinary through English e.g. in Bydgoszcz, Poznan, Wroclaw, Kielce .