Bordering seven countries spreading out over some 312 thousand square miles is the totally underrated country of Poland. Mostly famous for its World War II history, Poland is actually quite an old country with sandy beaches, Teutonic Castles, and its famous sausages.
Just about 95-percent of Poland is Catholic, and its people friendly but conservative. The official language here is Polish, but English and French are spoken by many of its 38 million residents. You will hear Russian being spoken, but said to be less so as the years of its former Soviet Occupation pass.
Before the Soviets came to Poland, the Nazi were here. Their Auschwitz Concentration Camp stands as a memorial and State Museum to those who lost their lives to the atrocities associated with the regime.
World War II caused its capital city of Warsaw to have to be totally rebuilt. Using plans from the 16-and 1700s, the city maintains an Old World feel, despite actually being just over half a century old.
Krakow (often spelled Cracow) is much older, and now a UNESCO area with its 14th century gate into its Old Town. Cities like Wroclaw, originally Breslau in German, are also historical having a 15th century Town Hall (a Rathaus in German) that's now a museum. As beautiful as it is, the 100 bridges of Breslau are really remarkable.
Gdansk is another fantastic Polish city, home to the Black Madonna said to be painted by St. Luke himself; and the Basilica of St. Mary, the largest Gothic church in Poland. Not too far away you'll find a number of castles that used to belong to the Teutonic Knights.
Don't you just love Knights in shining armor?
You'll love the Chopin House, with all sorts of information on the famous composer; but it's the beaches of Szczecin along the Baltic Sea Coast that's the true winner.
Don't you just love lounging around on the sand all day?
The Baltic Coast, by the way, offers some 325 miles of coastline--so you're bound to find a spot you love, even if it isn't the port city of Szczecin. Or as the Germans called it, Stettin.
Name changes can all be pondered while trekking around Poland. You can have some fun with sleigh rides, or mushroom picking. But you can also do some regular hiking, too. The Bialowieza National Park is a good one for seeing all kinds of wildlife, including bears, European bison, wolves, and wild horses.
Who knew Poland was so untamed?
It's also quite cultured on the flip side of the coin. A place of arts and crafts, cinema, a National Opera, nightclubs, bars, and dancing. Polish posters are said to be highly valued by collectors, so if you can get one--go for it.
What you need to get is a seat in a Polish restaurant, ordering things like pierogi (often referred as a ravioli or dumpling) stuffed with all sorts of goodies, or bigos made with cabbage, onion, and some kind of meat. And who can mention meat in Poland without saying anything about kielbasa. It's really good with cabbage, too.
If you're gonna drink like the Polish big boys, you better order your vodka "neat". No appletinis for this crowd. Ah, the vodka will keep you warm on those cold Polish winter nights. But, if you want beer--ask for it in Polish as piwo.
It's totally shocking that Poland really is underrated, but you'll know how wonderful it truly is.