Welcome to another trip down memory lane from the days when we used to explore the world (still hoping they come back eventually!) P is for many places including Poland, and a twelve day visit in July 2009, flying into Gdansk for three days, then taking the train to Warsaw for four days, and another train to Krakow for five days, before flying home. A fantastic experience, and one we thoroughly recommend. So what do you think of, when you think of Poland? Maybe this:
Tyskie, like Guinness, tastes so different in its home country. On draught, it’s probably the most refreshing lager-style beer I’ve ever tasted. And if wining and dining is your thing, you probably couldn’t do better than visit Gdansk – especially the wining part, as it’s a true party town. The central area around the River Motlawa is dedicated to having fun – and we loved it.
Those boats are primarily designed to serve you beer, and they do it really well.
An interesting feature of the downtown river is its medieval port crane, looming majestically out over the water.
Outside the party area, it’s a beautiful smallish city, with attractive buildings and architecture
with beautiful churches like St Bridget’s
Gdansk is of course also noted for its shipyard, and as being the birthplace of the Solidarity Movement.
It’s a major tourist sight in its own right
With some very striking civic art
Solidarity was probably the first thread coming loose in dismantling the Iron Curtain, and I love this Polski Fiat making a break for the West
A little out of town is the Westerplatte memorial park, the site of the first battle between Polish and German forces that heralded the start of the Second World War.
Again there are lots of impressive monuments
On the day we were there, they were still looking for unexploded mines!
Moving on to Warsaw. A stately and attractive place, full of wide spaces, elegant architecture and fascinating statues
It’s mixed with plenty of monuments from the modern era too, like the Monument to the 1944 Uprising
and the Monument to those Fallen and Murdered in the East
Other sights include the President’s Palace
with its beautiful gardens, remarkably peaceful in the pouring rain, as we experienced that afternoon!
There’s a very attractive Old Town
And now to Krakow, which felt like a much more compact, and picturesque city, reminiscent of a mini-Prague, with a great cafe culture, chocolate-box architecture and a thoroughly relaxed vibe.
St Mary’s Church is stunning
As is, in a different way, the Jagiellonian University
A river boat excursion on the Vistula shows you a few sights from a distance
Krakow is well placed for a few other out of town visits. The Salt mines at Wielicka are out of this world! Extraordinary carvings that take your breath away.
We also took a “Crazy Commie” tour around the suburb of Nowa Huta, in a Trabant; a tour that’s designed to give you an insight into what living here under Communism might have been like, including a typical Nowa Huta apartment:
With inspirational art
And if you were one of the fortunate, important party members, an exclusive restaurant from which to observe how well your Communism is going amongst your peers.
Another sight, close to Krakow, is Auschwitz. It may seem bizarre, or just wrong, for it to be considered a tourist sight. But a visit to Auschwitz is an unforgettable opportunity to bear witness to the horrors of what happened, so relatively few years ago. It’s a sombre place. No one takes selfies. No birds sing. There may be quite a few people there, but all you hear is silence; no one talks until they’re on the way home. I’m attaching a couple of photos, not to be insensitive or sensationalist, but simply to look the atrocity in the face and vow that it must never happen again.
When you return to your comfortable hotel room at the end of the day, you really feel like celebrating life – every minute you have is a victory.
So, to round off, here’s a few of Poland’s quirkier sights.
…and one of the oddest photos of me ever taken!
Thanks for joining me on this little tour of Poland! Hopefully we can all go travelling again soon.