Located in central Europe, Poland has one of the fastest developing economies and is one of the most populous countries on the continent. Many people outside the continent know little about the country compared to Russia, Germany, and Ukraine, its neighboring countries. The past few years saw this being remedied, as joining the EU has helped draw more tourists to Poland, with Kraków, its former capital, being the most visited city in the country. Given the influx of travelers to the area, there are now more people visiting there who can talk about their experiences there. What, however, do they — or even those who haven’t visited — actually, tend to talk about when talking about the country? Take a look at this list of things Poland is famous for. When you know where to visit, check out our guide to the best Airbnb vacation rentals and beach holidays in the country too.
1. Polish Folk Dolls
These traditional Polish dolls are primarily handmade from cloth and paper mache. The dollmakers of such toys follow a generations-long technique of crafting this famous product from Poland. The dolls usually are a display of folk costume designs of the country and usually depict family traditions and cultural activities. If there’s anything you’d want to bring home from your trip to Poland, we highly suggest getting one of these. It’s great memorabilia to display in your own home while being constantly reminded of the roots of Poland.
2. Amber Jewelry
Poland has always considered amber as its native gemstone. Its long history with amber goes back as early as the Neolithic period when people began making objects from amber. Gdansk is known as the capital of Baltic Amber collections. If you aren’t familiar, amber is the resin of ancient trees and a block of rock with a warm orange color. It is then transformed into beautiful jewelry and ornament. Polish Art Center, Poland’s treasury of cultural heritage, prominently feature amber necklaces in their collection, along with other original products like folk dolls.
3. The Masurian Lakeland
If you don’t know the main thing about what is Poland known for, it is this majestic lakeland. Masuria is dubbed by locals as “the land of one thousand lakes”. This may sound like an exaggeration, but the reality is that there are actually over 2,000 lakes spread in this district, the largest of which is Sniardwy, which is 22 km (13.7 miles) long and 13.3 km (8.3 miles) wide. Besides offering a number of activities, travelers will also love hiking in this area during the summer.
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4. Love for beer
The Polish have an almost legendary love for drinking beer. According to researchers, the average citizen drinks between 92 and 99 liters of beer every year. Their love for vodka runs a close second for their love for beer, which makes sense, considering that this alcohol is said to be very good and cheap in the country. In fact, one of the best things to buy in Poland is the Bison Grass vodka. The number of breweries that have emerged in the past few years is a silent testament that the Polish will continue to live up to their reputation.
5. Strong religion
The Polish are among the most religious people in the world, and certainly the most religious in Europe. At least, it has the highest number of Christian across the continent. Roughly 90% of their population is Christian, and around 85% identify themselves as Roman Catholic. Furthermore, Poland is home the tallest statue of Jesus Christ in the world. The Pomnik Chrystusa Króla (Christ the King) statue in Świebodzin, located in western Poland, stands at 33 m (108.3 ft).
6. Pope John Paul II
The most well-known Polish in the world is arguably Karol Wojtyła, better known as Pope John Paul II, the first non-Italian pope since Pope Adrian VI, who served until 1523. He was instrumental in helping end communism not just in Poland, but across Europe. He was the second longest-serving pope in history, having served from 1978 to 2005, as well as one of the most well traveled. He was canonized as a saint in 2014.
7. European bison
The European bison is the largest and heaviest land mammal in Europe, and the national animal of Poland. Over 1,500 of these animals are found in the country, roughly half of which live in the Białowieża Primeval Forest, which happens to be the last ancient forest in Europe. These were hunted close to extinction and were classified as endangered, although these have since been reclassified as vulnerable following conservation efforts.
8. Wieliczka salt mine
The Wieliczka salt mine, located near Kraków, was actively used from the Middle Ages to 2007, making it one of the oldest salt mines at the time. This famous thing from Poland has since been converted into a tourist attraction and is even recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Travelers can explore the mine, which has nine levels of galleries and is roughly 190 mi (305.8 km) long. Among the highlights of this destination include the Chapel of St Cunegond, which features rock salt chandeliers, statues made of salt, and briny lakes. The mine sees around a million visitors per year.
9. Auschwitz Birkenau Museum
If there’s anything else that Poland is known for, it’s the Auschwitz Birkenau Museum. It provides visitors a somber reminder of why the Holocaust and World War II remain part of the darkest periods of the world’s history. Established in 1947 almost as soon as the concentration camp was liberated, this famous building was where millions of people, primarily Jews, were transported and imprisoned. Included in the grounds are the original wooden barracks where the prisoners slept, the gas chambers, photos and documents, and other memorabilia from this period. The museum continues to stand as a silent monument to the horrific effects of war.
10. Malbork Castle
Located just outside of Gdansk, the Malbork Castle is the largest castle in the world in terms of surface area, and the largest brick building in Europe. It was built in the early 13th century and completed in 1406 by the Teutonic Knights of Prussia to serve as the headquarters of their order. Although the castle was severely damaged during World War II, with half all but destroyed, it has since been restored and is now used as a museum and exhibition area. It was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. Poland also has a number of castle hotels in the area if you’re looking for a luxurious place to stay.
11. Picturesque landscapes
Contrary to popular belief, Poland features more than snow in its landscape. In fact, the country has different settings and terrains, ranging from beaches and lakes to mountains, forests, and even deserts. Besides the Masurian Lakeland, the other notable landscapes in the area include the dunes in the Pomerania region; the picturesque Tatra Mountains; the Baltic Sea coastline; and Pustynia Błędowska, the only desert in central Europe.
12. Oscypek cheese
Made from salted sheep’s milk, Oscypek cheese may seem easily identifiable because of its distinctive shape. However, not all spindle-shaped cheeses are actually Oscypek cheese. There are actually specific EU regulations set to guarantee that the cheeses sold are authentic. These include the following: the cheese has to be made from at least 60% sheep’s milk (and acquired between late April and early October), weigh between 600 and 800 grams (around a pound), and measure 17 and 23 cm (6 to 7 inches). A specific process must also be followed to ensure that the produced cheese is authentic Oscypek.
Learn more about this central European country
While there are many misconceptions revolving around Poland, there are also some things that the country has come to be known for the past years. It’s always a good idea to learn more about a place’s culture and history before you visit it, so if you’re planning to spend some time in the area, you can educate yourself about it by reading up more about Poland. Be sure to check out the best things to do and places to visit during your vacation.
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