Poland is probably the most under-rated country of the Baltic states. It sounds distant, cold, under-developed, stuck in the past. None of which is true. Speaking from personal experience, I too was apprehensive about visiting Poland. In simpler words, I was not excited at all. But on a student budget it seemed like a great idea at the time. And what a great idea it was!
Poland is cheap: from flights to accommodation, food and drinks, it is an ideal destination for a weekend getaway.
It is a known fact that it is almost impossible to escape from history in a country like Poland (or any European country for that matter…). We all think we know, the brutality of its wars and invasions, the liberation and re-birth of a country and the deep marks all of it left on the country and its people. It is still very visible what Poland has had to endure throughout history and that extends well beyond its borders. But if anything, it makes visiting Poland even more special.
In memorium to the victims of World War I, the Polish-Soviet War, World War II and Holocaust there are countless museums, monuments, churches, talks and tours, all of which are truly unique. The Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp is a must visit for what it teaches us, for how it makes us feel and for what should never be forgotten. If history is your not-so-secret guilty pleasure, the Museum of Second World War in Gdansk is indescribable.
So where should you go in Poland?
Gdansk, Wroclaw and Krakow for the historic city getaway. Think colourful old city centres, flea markets with handcrafted goods and paintings, food stalls and music. In Gdansk get hold of amber jewellery at Mariacka Street; in Wroclaw find the gnomes (there’s over 300, each with a different story!); in Krakow visit the Wieliczka Salt Mines.
Warsaw, while its old town is still very impressive (check out the view from St. Anna’s Church!) Warsaw is a modern city with a solid night life and growing street art scene. It even has a vegan district – can you find that in London? Must do’s: POLIN museum, Copernicus Science Centre and Palace of Culture and Science; free Chopin Concert (May to September); the pub crawl in Pawilony district.
For a longer holiday Masurian Lake District and Trata Mountains is a must for the thrill and nature seekers. Skiing in the winter; camping, rock climbing and kayaking in the Spring-Summer.
What should you eat in Poland?
Absolutely everything! And if you don’t have any dietary requirements step out your comfort zone, save some money and eat where the locals eat. The Polish – contrary to popular belief – are very friendly and welcoming to tourists so ask a passerby where they usually eat. You will not understand a word, the menu will be in Polish, but you will not be disappointed! Food is a way of travelling too! Pro Tip: google some dishes in advance if you’re a fussy eater. Traditionally must try’s: “pierogi” (just look it up!), “bigos” (meat stew), paczek (wild rose jam donut) or zapiekanka (mushroom and cheese open sandwich).
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