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Fundacja Rozwoju Systemu Edukacji
Aleje Jerozolimskie 142A
02-305 Warszawa


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Geography

Location

Poland is situated in the eastern part of Central Europe. It shares land borders with Germany, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and Russia (Kaliningrad District). The northern border, as long as 440 kilometres, is the Baltic Sea coast line.

The country is divided into 16 provinces (województwo), which are subdivided into 308 powiats (districts), and the powiats - into 2489 gminas (communes, primary level units).

The official language is Polish. If compared to other European countries, Poland is homogenous as regards nationality. It is estimated that no more than 3% of total population is made up of national minorities.

Voivodships with their capital cities

  • Dolnośląskie (Wrocław)

  • Kujawsko-Pomorskie (Bydgoszcz)

  • Lubelskie (Lublin)

  • Lubuskie (Zielona Góra)

  • Łódzkie (Łódź)

  • Małopolskie (Kraków)

  • Mazowieckie (Warszawa)

  • Opolskie (Opole)

  • Podlaskie (Białystok)

  • Podkarpackie (Rzeszów)

  • Pomorskie (Gdańsk)

  • Śląskie (Katowice)

  • Świętokrzyskie (Kielce)

  • Warmińsko-Mazurskie (Olsztyn)

  • Wielkopolskie (Poznań)

  • Zachodniopomorskie (Szczecin)

Population

Poland is the seventh largest country in Europe. It has some 38 million inhabitants. Warsaw is the capital city. The Vistula is the longest river (1047 km).

The largest cities (with number of inhabitants):

  • Warsaw (1,6 mln)

  • Łódź (0,8 mln)

  • Kraków (0,74 mln)

  • Wrocław (0,64 mln)

  • Poznań (0,58 mln)

  • Gdańsk (0,46 mln)

  • Szczecin (0,42 mln)

  • Bydgoszcz (0,38 mln)

  • Lublin (0,35 mln)

  • Katowice (0,35 mln)

Climate

Winter is usually cold and snowy (the average for January is -2,5'C), summer is warm with showers and thunderstorms (the average for July is 17'C), spring and early autumn is very pleasant with moderate temperatures and lovely colours. Although in the summer it can be hot and dry with temperatures reaching over 30 Celsius, and in the winter the temperature falls below zero (occasionally reaching -20'C or more). Temperature varies for the region of Poland depending on the height above sea level and distance from the Baltic Sea. In the summer, for instance, temperatures are lower in northern Poland because of the Baltic Sea. The lowerst temperatures are in the mountains and the higherst in western and central Poland.

For accurate weather conditions search the Internet: www.pogoda.onet.pl; weather.yahoo.com

Time

The time zone is GMT plus 1 hour. Talking about time we very often say 13.00 or 20.00 instead of 1 or 8 pm. Twice a year the hour is moved: one hour forward in March, and one hour back in October.

Places worth seeing

We have a few natural regions - the mountains (Carpathian and ) in the south, the plains in the middle, the lake district (Mazury) in the north-east and the coast in the north. Every region and city offers unique places to visit. The list below gives an idea of how varied they are.

  • Warsaw - visiting our capital city you should not miss a chance to visit the Old Town with its unforgettable Marketplace and the Royal Castle (both completely destroyed during the World War II and carefully reconstructed afterwards). Łazienki Park, a big romantic 18th century park close to the city centre, summer residence of the last Polish king Stanisław August Poniatowski, you will find there lakes, the Palace on the Water, the amphitheatre, and the Monument to Chopin where piano concerts are held in summer. Along the Royal Way there are many historical buildings but also an elegant shopping street - Nowy Świat. Wilanów Palace and its gardens are also commonly visited by tourists and inhabitants of . You can also visit the National Theatre and the Opera, the Palace of Culture, and many others... If you have more time you can visit Żelazowa Wola where Chopin was born, or the primeval Kampinos Forest, both close to Warsaw.

  • Kraków - former capital of (11-17th cent) and one of the most beautiful cities. You can visit the Wawel (the castle of Polish kings and the legendary dragon); the Jagiellonian University (founded in 1364 is the oldest institution of higher education in Poland and one of the oldest in Europe); Kościół Mariacki - a magnificent church next to the Market Square (the largest mediaeval square in Europe); and the Jewish Kazimierz district. Kraków has been registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Each tourist will discover his won "magical" Kraków.

  • Wieliczka - a medieval (and still working) salt mine with underground galleries, halls with works of art sculpted in salt, and lakes. Out of 300 km of underground routes, app. 2 km are available for tourists. The biggest underground chapel has room for 500 people. A trip to the underground corridors takes about 2.5 hours. The salt mine is on the list of World Heritage compiled by UNESCO. Wielicza is located only 12 km from the centre of Kraków.

  • Gdańsk- thanks to its location at the delta of the river the city used to be a centre of international trade in the 16th century. witnessed historical events such as the outbreak of the World War II and the establishment of Solidarność. The city is famous for the annual Dominic Fair, which takes place in August, at this time thousands of tourists visit and neighboring and Sopot. When you are in Gdańsk we recommend you to take a walk along Długi Rynek and Długa street, visit Cathedral of the Virgin Mary (you can climbe up the tower and admire the view of the city), the Townhall, Artus Court, Cathedral in Oliwa. Along the whole coastline (from Krynica Morska to ) there is a stretch of sandy beaches commonly visited by tourists all year round.

  • Malbork - here there is the largest medieval castle in Europe. It was built in the 13th century as the seat of the Great Master of the Teutonic Order. You need 4 hours to visit the entire complex consisting of several buildings.

  • Częstochowa - with Jasna Góra, a fortified monastery and church, is the most venerated Polish sanctuary. Every year it attracts thousands of pilgrims.

  • Zakopane, Karpacz, Krynica or Wisła are famous as places to go for skiing in the winter, and for walking, climbing and hiking in the summer. In the South we have rocks of fantastic shapes, caves and valleys.

  • Biskupin - archaeological reservation. The excavations revealed a settlement built of wood over 2700 years ago. The Lusatian culture fortified settlement was built on a swampy peninsula about 2 ha in area.

  • Jura Krakowsko-Częstochowska - with the Eagles Nest's Trail, region of calcareous rocks with picturesque ruins of medieval castles.

  • Mazury - the land of a thousand lakes within old forests. If you like sailing this is the place for you. In we have over 900 lakes with a surface area of more than 1 hectare each.

  • National Forests - there are 22 of them in different regions. Unforgettable views, plants, birds, fish and other animals of different species living at large, crystal clear streams, rivers, rushes... They all create attractive scenery for those who love contact with nature.

  • Tatra Mountains - the only mountains of the Alpine type in this part of . The whole Tatry range is a part of the National Forest. Expedition to Kasprowy Wierch, climbing up Giewont, Rysy (the highest pick of the Polish Tatry - 2499m), trips to Czarny Staw, or Morskie Oko (lakes) are very popular among tourists.

These and many other wonderful places are waiting for you to discover them. More information about places worth visiting in Poland can be found at the following page: www.poland.travel/en

Last update: 2006-07-24