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General Information about Poland - Truth and Stereotypes

What is about Poland that people do not know? Poland is one of the bigger countries in Central Europe. But not too much is known about Poland and there are many misconceptions especially in the USA... Probably partly due to the fact that we were so long behind Iron Curtain.

Although Poland's size is comparable in the size with New Mexico state, Poland is inhabited by almost 40 millions people (New Mexico has less than 2 millions of population). Climate in Poland and generally in Europe is much milder than in the USA with mild summers and winters and lots of rain.
I was working in Poland as a guide part time. A tourist from the USA, a military officer stationed in Austria said, "I did not have an idea that Poland is bigger than Austria. I thought than Austria was bigger than Poland".

On a couple of occasions when asked, "where I am from?" I answered "from Poland" then people confuse Poland with Holland. I heard several times: "Wow, Holland, I was there!". When I try to correct, "I am not from Holland but from Poland" then, there is a silence.

Poland is located in the Heartland of Europe

People from outside Europe do not known much about Poland. Poland is seen as a small country somewhere in the Eastern Europe. The truth is quite different. Geographically the center of Europe is in Poland near Warsaw. That means that Poland is situated in the very center of Europe, not in the East. The idea of dividing Europe between the Eastern and the Western parts is relatively new and was introduced after the WW II when Poland was forcefully transformed into one of the Soviet Union satellite country.

Poland has unfavorable political location between two powers, Russia and Germany.
Without natural barriers from East and West. The mountains are in the South and the Baltic Sea on the North.

Poland is blessed by a pleasant, mild climate, rich geological resources and an access to the Baltic Sea. Unfortunately the political position is not that convenient. Very mighty neighbors, on the East (Russia) and on the West (Germany), surround Poland. The unfavorable political location caused military struggles, political instability and loss of the Polish independence after the third partition for 150 years (1795-1918) [http://www.emulateme.com/history/polahist.htm]. The attack of Hitler's Germany onto Poland started the WW II. Poland was the most damaged in human loss (in majority due to Polish Jews but not only) and the most destroyed economically country in the WW II. Warsaw, the capital of Poland was destroyed in 95 %. In spite of the difficult history or maybe because of that Poles were always famous for their spirit and the resistance against occupants. Poland was the first communist country that tried to abolish communism in the legal way (through workers union "Solidarity") before the collapse of the Soviet Empire.

Poland - a Bridge and a Front line between Eastern and Western Europe

A complicated political situation of Poland had a deep impact on Polish culture. Historically Poland was always belonging to Western culture through religion (Poles are mostly catholic). On the other hand Polish rules had a policy of expansion to the East. As the result for hundreds of years Poland was reaching far more to the East embracing areas mostly populated by Ukrainian, Belarussian, Lithuanians etc. [http://www.magma.ca/~pfeiffer/poland/history.htm.]. People with different language, religion and habits were living often in the same town as neighbors. The coexistence of different cultures enriched our own culture in many ways (cuisine, habits, language etc).

Recommended reading(s):

travel guide to poland Eyewitness Travel Guide to Poland (Eyewitness Travel Guides) by Teresa Czerniewics-Umer, Malgorzata Omilanowska, Jerzy S. Majewski, DK Travel Writers

travel guide to warsaw Eyewitness Travel Guide to Warsaw
by Magorzata Omilanowska (Editor), Jerzy S. Majewski, Deni Bown

travel guide to krakow Lonely Planet Krakow (Lonely Planet Krakow) by Krzysztof Dydynski

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