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Poland Travel Guide

With just over half it's border length in the Baltic Sea, Poland also shares borders with 7 other countries - Germany, Czechoslovakia, Slovak, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and Russia. The country has the second largest number of lakes in Europe (over 9000) most of which lie in the north around Masuria where the land is gently undulating and widely forested. Poland's wide, flat Central belt is comprised of predominantly agricultural land and runs from west to east through the regions of Weilkopolska, Lower Silesia, Kujawy, Mazovia and Podlasie. South of the central lowlands are the uplands of Malopska and Upper Silesia, where the Sudenten and Carpathian Mountains form the Southern Frontier. The tallest mountain, Mount Rysy (98386ft), is part of the Poland's only alpine range, the Tatras , in the south of the country. North of the Tatras lie the Beskids, which are lower but far more extensive and densely forested. The main river is the Vistula, which like all the country's other rivers, runs north to the Baltic. Poland enjoys warm, occasionally hot summers but has cold damp winters with temperatures dropping as low as -20C. Therefore, it is safe to say summer is the best time to visit unless you enjoy braving the elements.

That's geography out of the way. Now let's get to the good stuff. Poland has such a rocky history that it reads more like a fascinating tale than a chronological list of events. Let the tale unfold before your eyes. Days gone by live on in the cities and villages holding tried and true to old traditions. Although much of the country suffered severe war-torn damage, the surviving buildings and monuments are truly spectacular. Folk culture, music, art and education are also shining elements of this Slavic nation - just take some of it's natives, Chopin and Copernicus, for example.

Beyond history and culture, Poland has a wide range of outdoor pursuits to partake in. With over 22 Bialowieza Forest, anything from mountain biking to bison watching, kayaking to camping are on offer. One bonus of taking advantage of Poland's recreational offerings is that you certainly won't find any crowds wandering through the hills or cluttering up the rivers, it can be all yours.

Perhaps the greatest feature of all however, is the country's fascinating cities. Located in central Poland on the Wisla River is Warsaw, Poland's capital city. Unlike Poland's second city, Krakow, Warsaw was completely wiped out in World War II, there are even recordings of the Nazis systematic plan to destroy the city on display at the National Museum . Thankfully, the city's Old Town was reconstructed according to the original city plans, making it a listed World Heritage Site and a site to remember! Not exactly Poland's prettiest city, Warsaw more than makes up for what it lacks aesthetically with it's extensive cultural offerings. Choose from any 20 plus museums, each monumental in it's own right, 17 theatres, three opera companies, numerous galleries, monuments, religious sites, palaces and parks.

The real gem of them all is Poland's old capital. For over 500 years Krakow was the king of all cities in Eastern Europe. Today it remains a city of culture, kings and learning. Even today, it is considered to be a spiritual centre for the Polish people. It offers the chance to spend a few days in one of the most elaborately beautiful cities in Europe. Walking along the cobbled streets it is evident that Krakow is an architectural utopia, with exquisitely intriguing buildings of pastel colours and elaborate doorways. Most of the city's sights are in the old town whose layout has remained unchanged since the 13th century. One of the most impressive is the biggest and most decorative square in Europe, Rynek Glowny. There is also the Sukennice, a covered market place built around 1300. Today, the ground floor still functions as a market selling souvenirs, whilst the second floor houses a gallery packed with 19th century Polish paintings. Towering over Krakow's 140 churches, 600 monuments, 11 universities and 50 museums on the Wawel Hill is the Wawel Royal Castle, another must see for the culture-seeking Krakow visitor.

Rarely at the top of the list of European destinations, Poland retains a haunting untouched appeal. However, with the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe and the rapid capitalist development of these countries, Poland will soon become flogged with tourists so get packing.

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