The countryside throughout Poland is lovely and relatively unspoiled. Poland has a variety of regions with beautiful landscapes and small-scale organic and traditional farms. Travelers can choose different types of activities such as bird watching, cycling or horseback riding.
Culturally, you can visit and/or experience many churches, museums, ceramic and traditional basket-making workshops, castle ruins, rural centers and many more. A journey through the Polish countryside gives you a perfect opportunity to enjoy and absorb local knowledge about its landscape and people.
Note that Catholic religious holidays are widely observed in Poland. Stores, malls, and restaurants are likely to be closed or have very limited business hours on Easter, All Saints Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas.
EasterWielkanoc, Niedziela Wielkanocna, a moveable feast that is scheduled according to the moon calendar, usually in March or April. Like Christmas, it is primarily a meaningful Christian holiday. On the Saturday before Easter, churches offer special services in anticipation of the holiday, including blessing of food; children especially like to attend these services, bringing small baskets of painted eggs and candy to be blessed. On Easter Sunday itself, practicing Catholics go to the morning mass, followed by a celebratory breakfast made of foods blessed the day before. On Easter Sunday, shops, malls, and restaurants are commonly closed.
Lany PoniedziaÅekor Åmigus Dyngus, is the Monday after Easter, and also a holiday. It's the day of an old tradition with pagan roots: groups of kids and teens wandering around, looking to soak each other with water. Often groups of boys will try to catch groups of girls, and vice versa; but innocent passers-by are not exempt from the game, and are expected to play along. Common 'weapons' include water guns and water balloons, but children, especially outdoors and in the countryside, like to use buckets and have no mercy on passers-by. Drivers - this means keep your windows wound up or you're likely to get soaked.
The Feast of Corpus Christianother moveable feast, is celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, or sixty days after Easter. It is celebrated across the country; in smaller locations virtually the whole village or town becomes involved in a procession, and all traffic is stopped as the procession weaves its way through the streets. Corpus Christi is a major holy day of obligation, and most stores will closed.
Constitution Dayfalls on May 3rd, in remembrance of the Constitution of May 3rd, 1791. The document itself was a highly progressive attempt at political reform, and it was Europe's first constitution and world's second, after the US. Following the partitions, the original Constitution became a highly poignant symbol of national identity and ideals. Today, May 3rd is a national holiday, often combined with the May 1 Labour Day into a larger celebration.
All Saints DayWszystkich ÅwiÄtych, November 1st. In the afternoon people visit graves of their relatives and light candles. After dusk cemeteries glow with thousands of lights and offer a very picturesque scene. If you have the chance, be sure to visit a cemetery to witness the holiday. Many restaurants, malls, and stores will either be closed or close earlier than usual on this holiday.
National Independence DayNarodowe ÅwiÄto NiepodlegÅoÅci is a public holiday celebrated every year on 11 November to commemorate Poland's independence in 1918, after 123 years of partitions and occupation by Austria, Prussia and Russia. As with other holidays, most businesses will be closed on this day.
Christmas EveWigilia and Christmas BoÅ¼e Narodzenie, December 24th, 25th and 26th. Christmas is one of the most important holidays of the year, and its eve is definitely the year's most important feast. According to Catholic tradition, celebration of liturgical feasts starts in the evening of the preceding day a vigil, hence wigilia. In Polish folklore, this translates into a special family dinner, which traditionally calls for a twelve course meatless meal representing the twelve apostles, which is supposed to begin in the evening, after the first star can be spotted in the night sky. On Christmas Eve most stores will close around 2-3pm; on Christmas Days people will still usually stay home, and everything apart from essential services will be closed and public transport will be severely limited, on the Second Day of Christmas less so.
New Year's EveSylwester, December 31st. One of the party nights of the year. Consider yourself extremely lucky if you can get into even a decent club as most clubs will be packed. Most clubs will sell tickets in advance, but you'll probably have to dish out at least 150 PLN, and that's just for entrance and maybe a couple of drinks. If you're a little more flexible, you might be able to get into non-club parties. Otherwise, there are always the firework displays to entertain you.
The first cities in today's Poland, Kalisz and ElblÄ g on the Amber Trail to the Baltic Sea, were mentioned by Roman writers in the first century AD, but the first Polish settlement in Biskupin dates even further back to the 7th century BC.
Poland was first united as a country in the first half of the 10th century, and officially adopted Catholicism in 966 AD. The first capital was in the city of Gniezno, but a century later the capital was moved to KrakÃ³w, where it remained for half a millenium.
Poland experienced its golden age from 14th till 16th century, under the reign of king Casimir the Great, and the Jagiellonian dynasty, whose rule extended from the Baltic to the Black and Adriatic seas. In the 16th century, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was the largest country in Europe; the country attracted significant numbers of foreign migrants, including Germans, Jews, Armenians and the Dutch, thanks to the freedom of confession guaranteed by the state and the atmosphere of religious tolerance rather exceptional in Europe at the time of the Holy Inquisition.
Under the rule of the Vasa dynasty, the capital was moved to Warsaw in 1596. During the 17th and the 18th centuries, the nobility increasingly asserted its independence of the monarchy; combined with several exhausting wars, this greatly weakened the Commonwealth. Responding to the need for reform, Poland was the 1st country in Europe and the 2nd in the world, after the US to pass a constitution. The constitution of May 3rd, 1791 was the key reform among many progressive but belated attempts to strengthen the country during the second half of the 18th century.
With the country in political disarray, various sections of Poland were subsequently occupied by its neighbors, Russia, Prussia and Austria, in three coordinated "partitions" of 1772 and 1793, and 1795. After the last partition and a failed uprising, Poland ceased to exist as a country for 123 years.
However, this long period of foreign domination was met with fierce resistance. During the Napoleonic Wars, a semi-autonomous Duchy of Warsaw arose, before being erased from the map again in 1813. Further uprisings ensued, such as the 29 November uprising of 1830-1831 mainly in Russian Poland, the 1848 Revolution mostly in Austrian and Prussian Poland, and 22 January 1863. Throughout the occupation, Poles retained their sense of national identity, and kept fighting the subjugation of the three occupying powers.
Poland returned to the map of Europe with the end of World War I, officially regaining its independence on November 11th, 1918. Soon, by 1920-21, the newly-reborn country got into territorial disputes with Czechoslovakia and, especially, the antagonistic and newly Soviet Russia with which it fought a war. This was further complicated by a hostile Weimar Germany to the west, which strongly resented the annexation of portions of its eastern Prussian territories, and the detachment of German-speaking Danzig contemporary GdaÅsk as a free city.
This put Poland in a precarious position of having potential enemies facing her again from all three sides.