Polska (Poland) - Churches of all Ages and World War II Memorials
Travel pictures from Poland
by Dr. Günther Eichhorn
In June 2002 I spent a total of seven days in Poland during my visit to Central Europe. Coming from Slovakia I crossed into Poland through the Dukla Pass, the site of a fierce World War II battle. From there I drove north to Warsaw, with an overnight stop in a castle in Baranów Sandomierski.
I spent a couple of nights in Warsaw, visited the observatory in Warsaw and walking through the city. Warsaw was almost completely destroyed during World War II. It has been beautifully rebuilt. In the old city there was only one wall left standing, this wall is incorporated in the rebuilt house. There is a large park in the center of the city. The observatory that I was visiting is located in that park. This was also where I encountered the peacock, which was showing off his glorious feathers. Warsaw has of course a statue of Copernicus, just like so many other cities in Poland.
The Historic Centre of Warsaw is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
After the visit to Warsaw I flew to Lithuania for three days. After I got back I continued on my trip through Poland, heading east to Białowieża. The nature reserve in Białowieża is the place where the European Bison was re-introduced into the wild. I took a walking tour of part of the reserve. Unfortunately I didn't see wild bison. But I did see a lot of bird life, including large woodpeckers and storks. The Nature Reserve is completely left to its own, no trees are felled. They are not even removed when they fall down on their own, Nature is completely on its own in this reserve. The Nature Reserve in Białowieża is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I stayed overnight in a hotel next to the park. This area has a lot of very beautiful old wooden houses, many of them with storks nests on their chimneys. Don't ask me what they do in the winter, since these nests are perennial.
The next day I drove north-west towards the northern border of Poland with Russia. That is where the "Wolfschanze" (Wolf's Lair) is located. More on that is on the page about World War II Reminders. This is where Hitler spent most of his last three years. It is close to the border with Russia. I stayed in a hotel right next to the immense bunkers in the Wolfschanze.
From there I headed west to Baltic Sea to Frombork. On the way there I visited a very nice baroque church from 1687 in Święta Lipka.
Frombork is famous for Nicolaus Copernicus. This is where Copernicus spent the second half of his life and conducted most of his observations and research. There is a beautiful Gothic brick cathedral on the hill overlooking Frombork. It was built from 1329 to 1388.
From Frombork I headed south-west to Malbork, a huge castle/fortress. Started in 1276, it is definitely worth a visit, a very impressive sight.
The Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Next I headed south through Poland towards the Czech Republic. On the way I saw several Romanesque and Gothic churches. The oldest were from the 12th century. The one that I liked best was the one in Kruszwica.
Just north of the Czech Republic are the Sudeten Mountains. A small town, Paczków is worth visiting there. It has one of the most complete medieval fortifications and an interesting fortress-church. This type of medieval church was built with dual purposes, as a church as well as a defensive fortress. You can see that immediately when you look at that church. Just a little further down the road is Kłodzko, a town that was first mentioned in 981, with a Gothic bridge from 1390 and a fortress on the hill.
From there I crossed over into the Czech Republic near Kudowa-Zdrój.
After the conference in Prague I came back to Poland to visit Auschwitz and Birkenau, the Nazi concentration camps, gruesome reminders of the Nazi Holocaust.
Auschwitz and Birkenau are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Altogether it was a very interesting visit. I saw enough churches to last me a lifetime (or so I thought, see Russia).
Traveling by car in Poland is no problem. You can find hotels anywhere. You can get money from money machines with your regular bank card anywhere in Poland.
Traffic in the cities is usually quite heavy. Outside the cities, it is not bad. The roads are very good, which may be the reason why people tend to speed a lot. I tried to take smaller roads as much as possible. It turned out that even the smaller roads are generally very good. The biggest nuisance are the ubiquitous tiny cars. They are descendants of the Fiat 500, a very small Italian car with a 2-cylinder 500 cc engine. They are being built in Poland and they are everywhere. They are very slow, which together with the general speeding of the larger cars creates hairy situations sometimes. This large number of small cars was very obviously different from the other central European countries where cars were similar in size to other western European countries.
As in other central European countries there are lots of birds around. Storks can be seen everywhere and lots of birds of prey are around. In one area there were a lot of mistletoe on trees. So many in fact that some of the trees were dying, presumably from having too many of these parasites to carry. Most of Poland is gently rolling hills. In the southern parts are the Karkonoski mountains (Riesengebirge in German, which means Giants Mountains), the Sudeten mountains, and other mountain ranges all the way east to the Tatrzański Mountains (the High Tatra on the border between Poland and Slovakia).
It seems as if the Polish economy is catching up with western Europe. The feeling that I had was that is was just a little behind the Czech Republic and Hungary, but not much at all.
Birds in Poland
Nature in Poland
World War II reminders