On my recent trip to Poland with my sister Lisa, I realised just how much she loved this country so I asked her to write a post about her favourite things to see and do in Poland! Get ready for a little sing-a-long to start with in the tune of My Favourite Things from The Sound of Music…
Bagelmama bagels and Moa Burger burgers
Bookshopping at Massolit and Tempero in concert
Ambling around Kazimierz and strolling along Planty
These are a few of my favourite (Krakow) things…
But this post has to show some love to other parts of that great big country in Europe full of heart that I love…Poland
The Warsaw Rising Museum
This year will be the 70th Anniversary of the Warsaw Rising so it is the perfect time to check out this brilliant museum which wins the title for me of best museum ANYWHERE. It is an interactive tribute to those residents that fought and died fighting to free their city. Depicting everyday life and fighting during German occupation and the time of the city’s rising.
Please don’t overlook this industrial town that has held the titles of Poland’s Manchester and Hollywood. Where else can you take a rickshaw ride down a road (ul Piotrkowska) with its own Polish walk of fame while sitting down to Rubinstein’s piano or Tuwim’s bench. Before checking out the massively impressive Poznanski Palace from which the wealthy industrialist could watch as his employees came to work at his cotton mill which has now become the rather impressive Manufaktura now a mix of shops, restaurants and museum.
Solidarity in Gdansk
‘You who wronged a simple man/ Do not feel safe. A poet remembers./ You can kill one, but another is born.’ Czeslaw Milosz. And here is Gdansk you will find many a reminder of Poland’s long road to democracy and solidarity. You could spend the better part of a day exploring the beautiful old town but you must not leave without checking out the Monument to the Fallen Shipyard Workers in front of the Gdansk shipyard gates commemorating the workers killed in riots in 1970. Also nearby is the Roads to Freedom exhibition which is imperative to give a better understanding about the hard road to democracy for Poland.
The dubious title for Hitler’s headquarters from 1941-44 from which one of the most famous attempts in Hitler’s life was made. Though not as easy to reach as other places in Poland it is not impossible as a solo traveller sans car. In Ketrzyn in the northern Masurian forests is the lair and the easiest way to visit would be to stay overnight on the site which is surprisingly or unsurprisingly, depending on how you look at it, affordable. This hidden town in the woods at its height was home to more than 2000 people where decisions that shaped our history and story forever were made.
The Majdanek State Museum was founded in the fall of 1944 only four months after its liberation while more infamous camps were still in operation. The concentration and extermination camp was captured by the Soviet Army nearly intact and remains the best preserved of the Nazi concentration camps. It is located within the limits of Lublin making it very easy to visit from the city centre which itself is a drawcard to visit with winding streets and alleys.
Renaissance Italy in Zamosc
Built by a Paduan architect and modelled on Italian theories of the ‘ideal city’ by its Polish founder (Hetman or head of the army) who was himself educated in Padua, this city in Eastern Poland could seem slightly out of place if it didn’t charm the pants off you. When I visited I was able to see performances in the Eurofolk festival with groups also from Russia and Romania
Easily reached as a full or half day trip from Krakow is Wadowice, the birthplace of Pope John Paul II. Even if you are not religious you can not come to Poland without noticing how beloved Pope John Paul II or Jan Pawel is here in his homeland. Thankfully Wadowice has not gone the way of tacky overcommercialisation but has kept it tasteful. Here you can visit the family home of the Pope as well as visit the Lesser Basilica he frequented. If this all leaves you a little hungry don’t leave without partaking of Wadowice’s culinary claim to fame, the Kremowka Wadowicka which you will have no problem finding in the cafes around the Lesser Basilica.
Zakopane itself is a brilliant drawcard not to be missed be for me Morskie Oko aka the Eye of the Sea is its crowning jewel. If you aren’t an avid hiker this trail is not to difficult, only 9km though you can take a horse cart most of the way, but the views of the lake at the top of the mountains is worthy of the fairytale that first brought me to it. And like me you may even get a bambi moment as you make your way around the lake with wildlife coming for a drink. Just make sure you do like the fairytale says and make a sign of the cross, spit and stamp your foot on the ground three times to avoid being buried under an avalanche from the mountains.
Jewish Culture Festival
A festival in its 24th year that brings Kazimierz to near brimming with workshops, concerts, talks, films and a schedule so full you won’t be bored for a moment. Taking place for two weeks from the end of June this festival is the perfect place to meet people of all different denominations from across the globe who have been brought together to bring back an abundance of Jewish culture and life to the former Jewish quarter of Krakow. While I attended I discovered klezmer fusion music in the shape of Tempero, learnt Jewish folk dances, attended tours of Krakow and former shtetls, concerts and yet there was still more to do including jewellry making classes, cooking classes, music lessons the programme goes on and on. It truly is an amazing festival to be part of.
And trust me this is only a small portion of this amazing country. This is so much more to see like the Lajkonik parading through Krakow, the painted village of Zalipie, the midsummer festival of Wianki and the university city of Wroclaw…
Have you fallen in love with Poland, what cities or places would you add to this list?