Poland is one of the major countries in Central Europe. Covering 312,685 sq km (120,696 sq mi), it is the 9th biggest country in Europe and the 69th biggest in the world. The country has a population of 38 million people, making it the sixth most populous within the European Union. The capital and largest city is Warsaw. The official language is Polish.
More on Poland
Poland shares a border with Germany to the west, the Czech_Republic to the southwest, Slovakia to the south, Ukraine to the southeast, Belarus to the east, Lithuania to the northeast, and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad Oblast to the north. Poland also has a coastline facing the Baltic Sea to the north.
Poland observes Central European Time, which is an hour ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC+1) and two hours ahead in summer. Traffic moves on the right in Poland. The phone IDD code here is +48. The official currency is the Złoty. The electricity is 230V/50Hz using European plug.
Poland is today moving towards a high-income economy. In 2010, it had a nominal GDP of $479 billion, equivalent to a per capita nominal GDP of $12,575. Its per capita GDP at purchasing power parity, estimated in 2009, was $18,705.
The history of Poland is traced back to AD 966, when its ruler Mieszko I made Christianity the state religion. The Kingdom of Poland was established in AD 1025 and in 1569, it joined Lithuania to form the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Its position between two major powers, Russia and Prussia, meant that it suffered the consequence of their belligerence. This proved true when in 1795, after Poland lost the Polish-Russian War, resulting in the country being partitioned among the Kingdom of Prussia, the Russian Empire and Austrlia, effectively erasing it from the map.
Poland reemerged when Allies forces agreed to reconstitute Poland in 1918. It even fought and won the Polish-Soviet War of 1919-1921. History seems to repeat itself during World War II, when it was invaded by Nazi Germany from the west and the Soviets from the east. Again it was split into two, the western part occupied by Germany while the eastern provinces by the Soviet Union.
At the end of World War II, Poland saw its borders shifted westward, displacing millions of Poles, German, Ukrainian and Jews. It was also 20% smaller than before. As for its population, 6 million died accounting for one-fifth of its population, more than any other country, half of whom Polish Jews. Its population would not reach its pre-war levels until the 1970’s.
In the post-war years, the Soviet Union instituted a communist government on Poland. Except for brief periods in 1956 and again in the 1970’s, the Polish people lived under communist oppression with their personal freedom curtailed. By the 1980’s, hardship and labor turmoil led to the formation of the “Solidarity” movement, which became a strong political force despite persecution, intimidation and martial law.
With the collapse of communism across Eastern Europe, Poland transformed from a socialist-style planned economy into a market economy. After an initial slump, the Polish economy reenergized to reach its pre-1989 GDP levels by 1995. It joined NATO in 1999, the European Union on 1 May 2004, and the Schengen Area in 2007.
Planning your visit to Poland
Being a member of the Schengen Agreement, Poland only require visitors from the EU and EFTA countries to bring an approved ID to visit. As of January 2011, you do not need a visa for entering Poland or any other Schengen member country if you are a citizen of Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Seychelles, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, United States, Uruguay, Vatican City, and Venezuela.
The main international airport is in Warsaw, however there are also airports in Krako’w, Katowice, Gdańsk, among others. The national carrier for Poland is LOT Polish Airlines. You can get direct flights from most major European cities to Warsaw, which also get flights from North America and Eastern Europe.
You can also take the train to Warsaw from Amsterdam, Berlin, Vilnius, Kiev, Vienna, Prague and Moscow.
Preparing Money for your trip to Poland
The currency used in Poland is the Polish Zloty (PLN). The following are the latest rates for Polish Zloty in the last 24-hours.
Recommended Travel Guidebook
My favorite travel guidebook for further reading in preparation of your trip is the Poland Eyewitness Guide, because it follows a format that I find useful to users, not to mention I have also contributed to some of the titles in the Eyewitness series of guidebooks.
Major Cities in Poland
1. Warsaw – capital
Places of Interest in Poland
1. Bory Tucholskie National Park
2. Kalwaria Zebrzydowska
3. Karkonoski National Park
5. Słowiński National Park
6. Wieliczka Salt Mine
7. Wielkopolski national Park
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Poland
1. Cracow’s Historic Centre
2. Wieliczka Salt Mine
3. Auschwitz Birkenau German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp (1940-1945)
5. Historic Centre of Warsaw
6. Old City of Zamosc
7. Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork
8. Medieval Town of Torun
9. Kalwaria Zebrzydowska: the Mannerist Architectural and Park Landscape Complex and Pilgrimage Park
10. Churches of Peace in Jawor and Swidnica
11. Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland
12. Muskauer Park / Park Muzakowski
13. Centennial Hall in Wroclaw