For centuries Poland has been a border country between Western and Eastern Europe. Polish regions experienced various rulers and were influenced by many cultures. Here are short descriptions of seven main Polish regions and our choices of the most interesting places worth visiting.
MAZOVIA – Mazowsze – Of course it is Warsaw that attracts the attention of most tourists. Not only is Warsaw a capital city but it is also a thriving business centre in Europe these days. Mazovia is one of the most dynamically developing regions in Poland. But again, historical and cultural region of Mazovia is much bigger than most of people think, it contains Łódź and Mazovian Voivodship. Łódź may be overshadowed by Warsaw but it is equally interesting. For centuries Łódź has been famous for its textile industry and often compared to Manchester. Today it is very lively and dynamic city, which was even competing to become European Capital of Culture for 2016.
LESSER POLAND – Małopolska – With its cultural Kraków and Zakopane as ”The Winter Capital of Poland”, Lesser Poland is often filled with tourists. After Partition of Poland the region was annexed mainly by Austria. In fact the region is much bigger than the current Lesser Poland Voivodeship and it stretches over Lublin, Świętokrzyskie and Subcarpathia Voivodeships. Undoubtedly, beautiful Tatra mountains and wooden, Catholic churches are the pride of the region. But, there are many off-the-beaten-path small towns worth visiting such as Sandomierz, Kazimierz Dolny, Zamość or Puławy. They all share the same incredible atmosphere of remote but at the same time very historic and cultural towns.
SILESIA – Śląsk – A historical region of southwestern Poland, which is divided into sub-regions, at the same time voivodeships of Lower Silesia, Upper-Silesia and Opole. Silesia is full of beautiful, off-the-beaten-path places. Over the century, this region was a part of Poland, Czech Republic, Austria, and Germany. Even though history has made this region very specific, its complexity cannot be grasped by even many Poles from outside Silesia.
The historic capital city of Silesia is Wrocław, today the capital of Lower Silesia Voivodeship, and one of the fastest developing cities in Poland. However, Lower Silesia is full of tourist gems such as: spa resorts in Kudowa or Duszniki Zdój situated in the beautiful Sudety mountain range. But, what’s really worth recommending is The Church of Peace in Świdnica listed as the UNESCO World Heritage Site. This unique and beautiful church dates back to XVII century and was named after Peace of Westphalia of 1648, which allowed the Lutherans in the Roman Catholic parts of Silesia to build three Evangelical churches.
Click on the following link to visit the church online and admire its beautiful interior. http://zieba.wroclaw.pl/kpg/kps.html
In contrast to Lower Silesia, Upper Silesia has always been considered less attractive, mainly because of its heavy industrial cities. However, nowdays some of Upper Silesian cities are flourishing. Old mine shafts have been transformed into concert halls and play host to many cultural events. Such places like Historic Coal Mine Guido in Zabrze have a tight schedule for the whole year.
POMERANIA – Pomorze – Pomerania stretches over three voivodeships: Kuyavia-Pomerania, West Pomerania and Pomerania. The Baltic Sea coast witnessed many historical events but most people remember the beginning of trade union “Solidarity” in Gdańsk shipyard in September 1980. Gdańsk is also considered the most beautiful city in Pomerania. Together with Sopot and Gdynia they form a metropolitan area called Tricity (Trójmiasto). But, for people who prefer more peaceful places to visit there are beautiful parks such as Bory Tucholskie National Park, which has recently been designated by UNESCO.
MAZURIA – Mazury – Northeastern region of Poland, best known for its lake area (more than 3000 lakes). Mazuria contains the Mazurian Lake Districs (Pojezierze Mazurskie) and the Iława Lake District (Pojezierze Iławskie). Here, the greatest battle in Polish history took place in Grunwald fields in 1410. Polish victory over Teutonic Knights is now commemorated by the inscenization of the battle in Grunwald fields. Because of its beautiful landscape Mazuria is often visited by many tourists.
GREATER POLAND – Wielkopolska – Not surprisingly Greater Poland is often called “The Cradle of the Early Polish State”. Historically this is the most important region. Here the Polish prince, Mieszko I, was baptized in 966, probably in Gniezno, which was then the centre of the early state power. After the Partition of Poland, Greater Poland was taken by Prussia which brought far-reaching political and cultural changes to the region. However, it is always remembered that the single successful uprising in Polish history, Greater Poland Uprising (1918-1919), led to the independence of Poland. Today the region makes an administrative voivodeship with its capital city in Poznań.
Greater Poland is famous for its oak trees located in Rogalin Landscape Park, which contains the largest group of monumental oak trees in Europe. In recent years a lot of controversy has been brought up by the largest church in Poland located in a small village of Licheń Stary. In 2004 a Sanctuary of Our Lady of Licheń was completed and is now visited by a great number of pilgrims. The church authorities have been criticized on spending too much money for such a monumental and lavish church.
PODLASSIA – Podlasie – Because of the beautiful national park known as Puszcza Białowieska, Podlasie is sometimes called “The Green Lungs of Poland”, and is listed as the UNESCO World Heritage Site. All kinds of unique animals can be found in the Białowieski National Park and Biebrza National Park. For people interested in bird watching or bisons, Podlassia this is the best place to go. Podlassia region stretches over Podlasie Voivodeship and some parts of Mazovia with Lubelskie Voivodeships. In the past, when Poland formed a joint state with Lithuania, the major trade routes to Vilnius crossed this region. As a typical border region it has been shaped and influences by various cultures: Polish, Lithuanian, Ukrainian and Bielorussian. Until the 19th century the region was also inhabited by Jews, Greek Catholics, Roman Catholics and Muslims. You can really feel the atmosphere of a cauldron of cultures in Podlassia.
To learn about Polish Cuisine – Region by Region – please visit Poland Culinary Vacations website by following this link: http://www.polandculinaryvacations.com/polish_cuisine.php
Various photos courtesy of:
Neptun Fountain in Gdańsk, Royal Castle in Warsaw, Orlak hostel in Tatra Mountains, Wroclaw Dwarfs & Nature at Szklarska Poreba – Anna Oszczęda and Aneta Łaszewska.
Sailing in Mazury – http://www.skysail.pl
Historic Mine Guido- http://www.paiz.gov.pl