Stunning architecture, rich and haunting history, picturesque cities, lovely seaside beaches, breathtaking mountain ranges, birthplace of vodka, all those phrases and more describe Poland. If pierogis and Poland are in your travel plans, GetAway Travel is happy to plan your adventure.
Warsaw: a thriving capital city
With 1,000 years of history behind it, Warsaw boast unique architecture, culture and museums.
Warsaw was the last residence of Polish royalty and its historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its cultural significance.
The scars and legacy of World War II are visible around the city.
A 15-or so minute walk from the city’s Old Town to the Monument of Ghetto Heroes at the site of the Warsaw Ghetto. It is near the Warsaw Rising Museum which offers a fascinating personal glimpse into the Polish underground that took a stand against the Nazis as they sought to destroy the ghetto where they had herded the Jewish population.
It is not the same as the POLIN Museum which is about the same distance in a different direction from Old Town. The POLIN Museum covers the broader aspects of the history of Polish Jews through exhibits and collections.
Krakowskie Przedmieście is the mile-long avenue that links Old Town and the Royal Castle. Along the avenue is some lovely Baroque churches, Warsaw University and the Copernicus Science Centre. The famous scientist and mathematician was born in Poland and he formulated the theory that the earth revolved around the sun. In the middle of the centre is a planetarium devoted to space and how it impacts our lives.
The Royal Castle was the official residence of Polish rulers for centuries. It dates back to the 14th century. It’s a pretty spectacular building with a tower in the center and it has served as a design inspiration for other buildings in Warsaw.
Wilanow Pałace is one of Poland’s most important monuments. Originally built as a residence for King John III Sobieski, it “survived” WWII because its furnishings and art were removed and then reinstalled after the war. It now functions as a museum which showcases the country’s artistic and royal heritage.
The National Museum in Warsaw has seven permanent galleries with a great collection of works from European artists including Botticelli, Tintoretto, Van Dyck and Rembrandt. The galleries have artifacts from ancient civilizations as well, including from Egypt.
Yes, the Vodka Museum in Warsaw which chronicles the history of the beverage DOES have tastings at the end of the tour!
Picturesque, quaint Krakow
In medieval times Krakow was the national capital, now it is second to Warsaw. But it has one of the first Old Towns in the world to be honored by being designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. Krakow is a fabulous blend of architectural styles, from Gothic churches to Renaissance palaces to Baroque style buildings.
Just outside of Krakow is the Wieliczka Salt Mines, a UNESCO site because it’s the only mining facility that has operated continuously for 700 years. There are 2,350 chambers and almost 150 underground miles of tunnels. The two miles open to the public have statues, chandeliers, chapels, floors and artwork carved or entirely made of salt. The grand chapel is dedicated to Princess Kuga whom miners believed brought them good fortune. The chapel is still used for weddings and concerts.
Another UNESCO site near Krakow is Auschwitz-Birkenau, the most notorious of the Nazi death camps. A stop there is thought-provoking, somber and emotional. The camps are a heart-wrenching piece of history. Schindler’s factory is open to the public. Oskar Schindler is credited with saving more than 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his enamelware and ammunitions factories. His main factory is now a fascinating interactive museum which chronicles the history of the city from 1939 to 1945. Continue reading