Poland: An Overview - Part 1 - Orlando / Florida Guide
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If you have travelled in Europe and not been to Poland then you have missed out in a big way. The country is currently transforming itself but can still draw on more than 1000 years of history. In this article, I will take a look at what I think are the top places to see or visit if you go to Poland after a brief overview of what to expect in general. Some of the places to visit are close together while others are further afield. The road system between the major centres is very good but once you leave them then you can expect to take a bit longer on your travels. A hire car is a good choice if you plan to see the whole country in one visit. In which case plan on at least a week’s stay, but you will be busy.
Poland’s boundaries have been continually redrawn over the course of the last eight centuries. At one point between 1795 and 1918 it disappeared from the map, wedged in the middle of Europe, Poland just ceased to exist. Partitioned for a third time at the end of the 18th century by Prussia, Austria and Russia, Poland became the object of a tug-of-war between more powerful states. That was before the real tragedy occurred, Germany invaded Poland, launching World War II. It then destroyed many of its cities and eradicated 20 percent of its people, including nearly its entire Jewish population of three-and-a-half million, which until then was the largest Jewish community in Europe.
However, Poland rebuilt itself from the rubble of war. Photographs, paintings, architectural drawings and the memories of survivors helped Poland reconstructed the Old Towns of Warsaw and Gdansk brick by brick, it then went on to suffer four decades of Soviet Communist rule. Yet Poland freed itself once more. In the 1980s, the trade union movement Solidarity helped to trigger the demise of Communism in Poland and then throughout the Soviet bloc. Poland has survived with its culture, language, spirit and most of its territory intact. In 2004 it decided to join the European Union, as a modern, independent nation.
Largely rural, Poland has great tracts of wilderness and primaeval forest in its 23 national parks. However, the country is perhaps best known for the ancient town’s rich in history and architecture. Kraków, which survived unscathed from the war, is a splendid medieval city and it was the royal capital for 500 years, with a magnificent market square, hilltop castle, and one of Europe’s oldest, most prestigious universities.
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