Poland is one of the largest countries of Europe and due also to its geographical location has always been a coveted land, especially by the two adjacent superpowers of Russia and Germany. The borders of this country have changed continuously in the course of history. The formation of the Polish state started under the rule of the Piast dynasty in the 14th century. This was soon replaced by the lead of the Lithuanian prince Jagiello, which consolidated both nations together until 1572, when his dynasty suddenly died out. The 17th century marked a period of long disquietude for Poland, being involved in harsh conflicts with Russia, Sweden and the Ottoman Empire, culminating in a partitioning between these and other European superpowers and lasting for several decades. All the attempts of insurrection to get independent were unsuccessful and the country did not regain its sovereignty until the end of WWI. However, at the explosion of WWII Poland paid again a very high price, during a six-year occupation by the Russia of Stalin and the Nazi Germany. Millions of Polish people were captured and executed, mainly Jews and political opponents. In addition, after the war conditions set by the Allies were quite unfair since Poland ended up completely subjugated by the Soviet control. It was not until 1989 that Poland could finally claim the title of democratic nation. Today, most of the new development is focused on the capital, Warsaw, but more and more investments are also going to other major cities, such as Katowice, Cracow, Gdansk, Wroclaw and Poznan.
Poland is not just home to some of the most elegant and fascinating cities in Europe but also a land of many unspoiled natural landscapes. Almost 30% of the Polish territory is covered by woods and most of it is protected in the form of national parks. Mountain adventurers can fully seize the developed infrastructure of shelters and hotels. For watersport lovers, the areas to explore are definitely the ones around Warmia and Mazuria, also known as the land of a Thousand Lakes.
Most visitors tend to explore Poland during summer, between May and September, making the most of the good weather and sunlight. However, most music festival and open-air concerts are held in spring and fall. Famous examples are Festival of Stage Songs (Wroclaw in May), Gdansk International Guitar Festival (every two years in April), Poznan Jazz Fair (in May) and Festival of Early Music (end of October, itinerant). Even winter could be a good period to visit Poland, due to the well-developed infrastructure for ski and snowboard.
The capital, Warsaw, is virtually divided into three parts: the city centre, the Royal Route and the district of Stare Miasto (Old Town) and (Nowe Miasto) New Town.
The Old Town is, as the name itself would already suggest, the oldest part of Warsaw. It was founded during the 13th and 14th century and it is still partially surrounded by medieval walls. The most amazing view of the Stare Miasto is undoubtedly its market square with the characteristic colourful town houses. Other points of interest are represented by the Royal Castle, the Historical Museum and the Cathedral of St John. Next to Stare Miasto is the new district of Nowe Miasto, which became a separate entity back in the 15th century. Today, these two districts are the major touristic attraction and if you are looking for a good restaurant that is definitely the area to look first.
The Royal Route owes its name to the fact that the formal royal residences. This district has been massively destroyed during WWII and then rebuilt in the 1970s. It is mainly a residential area but it is the ideal place for a relaxing stroll along the river bank.
The city centre was completely renewed after the damage of the war. From a touristic point of view, the eastern side is the most interesting.
Around Warsaw there are also two sites that are worth it a visit: the Lazienki Park and Wilanow Palace. The first is part of a great complex of heritage gardens, owned by many wealthy men over the years. They change the gardens and the buildings according to their needs, making it better every time. Wilanow Palace was commissioned by Jan III Sobieski around the end of the 17th century to be his summer residence. Its gardens and monuments are envied in any part of the world. Luckily, both complexes survived to bombing during WWII.