Exploring Western Europe: Poland
When you relocate to Europe, you have the exciting opportunity to visit many countries rather cheaply – some destinations may be places you have not considered visiting before. Global Lead Researcher Peg Kirkpatrick shares her recent adventure in Western Europe through the charming country of Poland:
This year we took an extended trip through Poland. Airfare from many countries to Warsaw and Krakow is very inexpensive (think Ryan Air), making it possible to visit a few times to see the many beautifully restored cities in this large country.
Poland has overcome a very difficult and complex political history to blossom into a very worthwhile, well-organised travel destination. Our two-month circle trip started in Krakow. From there we went by bus to Lublin, then by train (also inexpensive) to Lublin, Gdansk and Gdynia, Torun, Poznan, Wroclaw and finally, Warsaw. Each of these cities has a beautifully rebuilt Old Town, except for Krakow, which only needed spiffing up since it was not bombed or destroyed during World War II.
Poland was pulled apart for centuries by warring countries, with ethnic populations forcibly moved to other sections of the country or expelled entirely and new ethnic groups brought in. One city has a German history, another a Russian, another an Austrian, etc. Due to this, you will notice cultural differences in the food. For example, fat, bread-like pretzels are a great snack when walking all afternoon in Krakow; however, these pretzel stands have completely disappeared from the streets by the time you get to Gdansk. In Lublin, you can get goulash with your potato pancakes, but in Torun, you will get mushroom sauce. Despite regional differences, Polish food is generally “comfort food” – it can be heavy, but generally delicious.
The pride of the Polish people is evident everywhere. The cities are clean and local public transportation is speedy and easy to navigate. There are many good restaurants and compared to restaurant prices in most of Western Europe, they are inexpensive. The many museums take advantage of new technologies to make exhibits beautiful and understandable. Interactive exhibits abound, with explanations translated into excellent English. The Poles are kind and willing to help a lost tourist, very often in English.
Walkative Tours offers walking tours in almost all these cities. These free walks are led by well-informed young people who have grown up in and love their town. In addition to telling you about the town you are in, they tell stories their parents and grandparents told them about Poland’s turbulent postwar history. One thing I noticed about this tour group is at the end of the tour, there are just as many participants as at the beginning. Tips are encouraged and freely given. Don’t miss these walks!