Top ten reasons to visit Poland

February 27, 2013 in Attractions, Basic Information, Food, General, Healthcare, History, International, Language, Leisure, Lifestyle, People, Polish Business, Polish Matters, Shopping, Transport, Travelling Poland

Made in Poland 300x205 Top ten reasons to visit Poland

Picture © Microstock Man – Fotolia.com

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a while and putting things together in my head. Finally, I hope to have come up with a decent “top ten list” for the reasons as to why one would like to visit Poland, regardless off where you’re actually coming from. I hope you will enjoy my top ten list.

My Top Ten Reasons to Visit Poland list is aimed both at typical, one time tourists, students considering temporary relocation for studying, business people and free lancers looking for a non-common place to stay and make their life. I hope all of you will find something of interest in the following points:

1. Reasonable prices (if you have a western income)

Poland is pretty cheap, as I tried to point out in my first “price list series” post about groceries. It is certainly cheaper than most western countries I’ve known, although there are exceptions to this rule (I’ll go onto those later). In general, you will get cheap food, cheap drinks including alcohol, cheap cigarettes if you’re still into the habit and so on. Of course, this implies that you earn your money abroad and bring it down here. For many Poles it’s not cheap at all, but I assume that this is being read by foreigners.

This means that your living costs will be quite reasonable (although if you choose to stay in mainstream hotels, the hotel cost will probably similar to the typical cost in any other country). Even if you only eat out and move around with a cab, you will still not spend too much during your stay.

The one difference is shopping for stuff other than groceries (clothes, appliances, etc.). You will find all the world brands in Poland’s shopping centers, especially in big cities, but the prices will probably be no different than the ones you know from home. Furthermore, if you’re a visitor from the United States you may be surprised to find that many brands will be actually more expensive than in America. So, as much as everything is readily available, you may not be impressed by the prices.

2. Diverse natural environment

Poland has a very convenient geographical location in that it borders the Baltic Sea in the north and the Carpathian Mountains in the South. Between those two, you will find the Mazurian Lakes (which is a “set” of over 2.700 lakes which formed as a result of glaciers moving back when the ice age ended about 13.000 years ago) and even a small desert (which doesn’t really look like one any more, but one can still consider it a desert – it’s called Pustynia Błędowska).

So, if you’re more into pure enjoyment and less into museums, you can still spend some great time on one of Poland’s many sandy beaches or hiking / skiing in the mountains with great ski resorts. Also, I highly recommend the lakes, especially if you’re into yachting or canoeing.

3. Ex Eastern Block Country without the typical Eastern Block risks

Whether it’s  fair or not, many people still fear to visit ex eastern block or ex-communist countries for a variety of reasons. There are fears of being robbed, unlawfully arrested or running into all sorts of troubles in states which to many appear as unorganized, highly corrupted and generally unfriendly.

I’m not certain that any of those stereotypes apply to any of the eastern countries at all, but they certainly do not apply to Poland. After joining NATO and then the European Union in 2004, Poland has become and is increasing its image as a fully European and “western” country with all the conveniences that this may bring with it. Be it shopping centers, an acceptable level of crime (not higher than in any other country), decent police force or reasonable health care (with the private health care being actually very good and drawing many tourists to explore medical tourism in Poland).

Having said that, even though the western life style is ever present in Poland, you will still have the opportunity to explore the remains of an eastern block country with proper peace of mind. You will still find all monuments, buildings, a lot of communist architecture and museums.

4. Impressive history that is still alive today

I dare to say that everyone can associate Poland with some historical events. For those of you more into medieval history, there are a lot of castles and fortresses to be explored together with the wonderful history of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth – one of the largest countries of the 16th and 17th century. Then there are the three partitions of Poland which end pretty much with World War One.

This brings us, of course, to the infamous Second World War in which Poland was the first attacked (albeit not completely defeated) nation. As there were many Jews living in Poland prior to WW II, their tragic history in German Concentration Camps and Death Camps is one with the history of other Polish nationals who lost their lives to the brutalities of this particularly nasty war. The history of these events is still very alive with many people remembering those times being still alive. Most of the younger generation Poles, like myself, have family members who have died during the fights or suffered in the camps. All those places are still present and can be visited. Not for the faint hearted, though.

And then, there’s new history of Communism and the fall thereof. The Solidarity uprising, the Noble Prize Winner and President of Poland, Lech Walesa and all that’s associated with the fall of the iron curtain. So if you’re a history fan you really shouldn’t miss Poland for the world.

5. New business

Poland has started out as a free market in 1989. Since then, there was a rapid explosion of private business ventures both local and foreign. Up to this date, there is a large inflow of foreign capital while at the same time Polish “old money” (which is by no means old yet) is getting increasingly stronger.

There are several reasons why business owners choose Poland as their place of business, such as special economic zones and other government subsidized programs, especially now that the EU money is flowing in at a steady pace.

As much as there’s already a big competition in almost every market and Poland is starting to get strong with respect to new technologies (especially online business) there’s still plenty of room for improvement. So, if you’re a business man or woman planning a holiday trip – come to Poland, spend some great time and, at the same time, explore some fantastic business opportunities.

6. Great food

Poland is really becoming famous for its food. Maybe not in the nouvell cousine style like France or Italy, but in the “typical” food sector for regular, hungry people. Once you arrive in Poland, be sure to check out some main, typical Polish dishes like the Pierogi (dumplings) or Bigos (sauerkraut the Polish way).

But that’s not all there is. Regardless of what city you end up in, check out the many fine restaurants offering food from all over the place, but generally with a Polish touch to it. You will love Polish pork and beef, with chicken and some of the finest veggies not being far behind. Also, when grocery shopping, keep in mind that Poland has very many ecological farms which provide great tasting and healthy eco-food right on your table.

And then, there are the drinks. I highly recommend some of the Polish beer brands which I described here and of course some of the harder liquors, like vodka. Drinking too much probably won’t do you any good, but it’s certainly worth a try.

7. Convenient location

Poland is conveniently located in the center of Europe, which makes it fairly easy to get to. Now, after the Euro 2012 soccer championships, almost every region of Poland has its own international airports with connecting flights made by both low cost airlines and mainstream airlines. The main cities you would probably choose to fly in are Warsaw, Krakow, Gdansk, Wroclaw, Poznan and Lublin. There are also domestic connections offered by some Polish airlines.

Also, if you’re coming from the EU remember that Poland is also part of the Schengen zone which means that there are no physical boundaries at the borders. This means that you can easily travel by car from, for example, Germany without any hassle at the border crossing because there is no border crossing. The roads in Poland are not all that great, but you can still drive fairly safely. I have written a set of posts on driving in Poland here, be sure to check them out.

8. Lots of fun

The main reason one travels is to have fun, right? Right. I’m pretty confident that Poland will not be a disappointment in that respect. There are many fun things to do, and here are just a few:

  • Plenty of night clubs with the best, international music (you can generally pick your favorite genre)
  • Great restaurants and bars with different kinds of food and drinks
  • Large shopping centers in the big cities with all the world renowned brands available
  • A huge amount of museums
  • Theatres (but generally in Polish …), many large movie theatres (the movies are in the original language with Polish subtitles, so OK for foreigners), many concerts of Polish and international bands
  • Great sea resorts in northern Poland, especially recommended during summer time. There are sandy beaches throughout almost the entire coast with great hotels and spas.
  • Many ski resorts in the south, again with great hotels and spas, which are nowadays becoming increasingly popular.
  • Great architecture, probably quite different from what you might be generally used to.
 9. Friendly people and many English-speaking

That’s always important, isn’t it? I would consider Polish people generally quite friendly towards foreigners and willing to help if you get lost or something similar happens. Also, many people do speak English (although try to aim for the younger ones, as the older ones will probably be more fluent in Russian).

All in all, don’t be afraid to ask if you need something or require any assistance. I can hardly imagine that you wouldn’t find someone willing to help out in one way or another. There’s no need to worry as you certainly will not experience hostility of any sort.

10. Proper weather for every season

A lot can be said about Polish weather and most will probably associate it with being cold. I have written a bit about the temperatures in this post, but in general it is not bad at all. What you will get in Poland is the weather which people would generally expect during a given time of year.

Summer can be generally quite hot, with temperatures rising even to 30 – 35 degrees C. However, if you have bad luck you may also find yourselves in rain and temperatures in the 18 deg C range. It varies, but generally I consider summers to be hot and sunny. One thing that’s common in summer time (and even more common in spring) are thunderstorms. They last only a few minutes, and you can watch beautiful lightning strikes across the sky.

Winters are cold and snowy. The temperatures will be generally around -5 to -15 deg. C but they can also get as low as -25 (although this generally lasts only a few days and happens rarely). In most winters, there is quite a lot of snow which can make the skiing experience fun, but is not too great for city life. Even so, we’ve learned to live with it over the years and Polish life doesn’t stop even with heavy snowfall like it is know to do in other places.

Springs and Autumns are somewhere in-between, with moderate temperature and a fifty-fifty mix between sunshine and rain. Watch out for November though – it can be cold and very rainy. Probably not the best month for visiting Poland.

So this would generally end my top ten reasons to visit Poland blog post. I hope I gave you something to think about. If you have anything to add to the list or perhaps disagree with anything I wrote – drop me a line or leave a comment. I’ll be sure to include your thoughts somehow.