Category: Ideas

Category: Ideas

Tricity Poland

Gdańsk, Gdynia and Sopot

Tricity (also Tri-City) is an urban area consisting of three Polish cities: Gdańsk, Gdynia and Sopot. They are situated adjacent to one other, in a row, on the coast of the Gdańsk Bay, Baltic Sea, in Eastern Pomerania, northern Poland.

Wealth

The area is home to some of Poland’s wealthiest people. Nearly 35% of taxpayers from Tricity are in the middle and high taxable income groups (average for Poland 10%). Approximately 12% of Tricity taxpayers are in highest taxable income group (Polish average 3%).

Tourism in Tricity

There’s plenty to do around Tricity, there are lots of tourist attractions and a lively nightlife scene not to mention all the fun of the seaside! Either enjoy sunbathing or take part in any of the many watersport activities on offer. From theatre to Rock concerts to quality restaurants, its all available in the Tricity area.

You will find some well-known events in Gdansk, in particular International Pop festivals such as the Heineken Opener Festival.

Sopot

Sopot has a great geographical location – lying between the beautiful woods of the Tricity Landscape Park, and the numerous sand beaches of the Bay of Gdańsk. Sopot is known for the endless quantities of tourists, who mainly visit the city during the summertime.

Monte Casino Street (ul. Bohaterów Monte Cassino) is the center of Sopot, a pedestrianised promenade. On both sides of the street there are countless XIX – XXth-century houses, some of them housing pubs or restaurants today.

To discover the real charm of the town, turn into one of Monte Casino’s side streets, where you’re bound to admire numerous art nouveau houses, parks and gardens. One such beautiful street shelters the splendid Sierakowskich Court (Dworek Sierakowskich).

At the end of Monte Casino you’ll find the Wooden Pier (Molo). It is the longest wooden pier in Europe. During the summertime, for a small fee you can enter the pier, and admire the coastline. You’ll enjoy the sight of the Grand Hotel (one of the largest and most impressive in the Tri-City) on one side, and the Zhong Hua Chinese Hotel on the other, where the Łazienki Południowe (Southern Baths) used to be.

In summer, there are jazz concerts on the hotel’s terrace every Thursday. Another destination for a long walk are the Castle Hill Caves, Sopot’s oldest historic site and the only monument of this kind located in the center of a contemporary European city.

Each August Sopot plays host to the annual International Sopot Song Festival. The Opera Lesna in the heart of the Tri-City forest is where you can watch and listen to the best artists arriving in Sopot and still feel the special atmosphere of this magic place.

Today Sopot bustles with cafes, bars, restaurants and clubs. Nightlife and countless summer events is what makes this city so popular. So let yourself be mesmerized by this remarkable resort where you will surely find something for yourself.

Gdynia

Gdynia is a young, but quickly expanding port situated right by the seashore, offering many tourist attractions as well as splendid shopping opportunities and a lot of entertainment.

The city was founded as a Polish harbor in 1926. Because of its unusual location, you will easily catch great views of the sea and beautiful scenery, and also find long promenades, beautiful waterfronts, marinas and yacht clubs. Gdynia is the only city in Poland and one of the few in Europe to pride itself on such a long and accessible seashore.

The city has a good transportation system, so you won’t have any problems reaching Gdynia from either of the other cities.

Kosciuszki square (Skwer Kościuszki) is the sightseeing center of Gdynia. The ships moored in the dockyards , like the ORP Błyskawica destroyer (“Lightning”) or Dar Pomorza (the Pomeranian Gift) for instance, are the biggest tourist attractions.

The beach in Gdynia hosts ‘the Summer Theatre Stage’. So if you are a theatre lover you should definitely see one of the most interesting plays of the season.

Gdańsk

Gdańsk is Poland’s principal seaport as well as the capital of the Pomeranian Voivodeship. It is also historically the largest city of the Kashubian region.

The city is close to the former boundary between West Slavic and Germanic lands and it has a complex political history with periods of Polish rule, periods of German rule, and two spells as a free city. It has been part of modern Poland since 1945.

Walking in the city and getting to know its history etched in the monuments will give you many magical moments and true emotions. Gdansk is a pearl of bourgeois architecture, boasting beautiful houses and a unique market. It is a world of cozy streets and historical churches. These are also perfectly preserved fortifications, ranked among the biggest in Europe, and interesting harbour architecture.

10 Interesting Facts about Tricity

  1. Gdańsk is known and has been known as Danzig, Gdania, Gyddanyzc, Kdanzk, Gdanzc, Danceke, Danzc, Danczk, Danczik, Danczig and Gdąnsk amongst others!
  2. Gdańsk was the birthplace of the Solidarity movement which, under the leadership of political activist Lech Wałęsa, played a major role in bringing an end to Communist rule across Central Europe.
  3. Gdańsk has been around a long time. It was founded in 997.
  4. Sopot Pier is the longest in the Baltic at 640 metres.
  5. The area around Gdansk is famous for Amber which is also known by many other names such as: jantar, good stone, sacred stone, gold of the north, Baltic gold, and electron. Amber is also a mineral of many colours. Depending on the age amber nuggets range from nearly white, through all shades of yellow and orange, to dark, almost cherry-like red.
  6. Gdansk is the sixth-largest city in Poland.
  7. The Gdańsk Crane (a popular tourist attraction) was the largest port crane in Medieval Europe.
  8. Gdańsk is situated at the mouth of the Motława River, connected to the Leniwka, a branch in the delta of the nearby Vistula River, whose waterway system supplies 60% of the area of Poland and connects Gdańsk to the national capital in Warsaw.
  9. The name Gdańsk is thought to originate from the Gdania River, the original name of the Motława branch on which the city is situated.
  10. For much of its history, the majority of the inhabitants of Gdańsk were German-speakers, who called it Danzig. This name was also used in English until the end of World War II, and is still used in historical contexts. Other former English spellings of the name include Dantzig, Dantsic and Dantzic.

Christmas in Warsaw

How Christmas should be

A good time to consider having your dental treatment in Warsaw is over the festive period. Christmas in Warsaw is very special and you will find an abundance of Christmas fairs or markets. You will also find that the dental clinics are less busy at this time of the year.

Christmas fairs & markets

Starting in December you’ll find impromptu markets setting up on the plac Defilad, in front of the Palace of Culture and Science and the plac Zamkowy, by the castle.

These fairs and markets are definitely worth a visit and will make you feel like a child on Christmas Eve again! The best time to come to Warsaw if you want to enjoy the Christmas markets is in the second or third weekend of December.

Old Town Christmas Market

The much beloved Christmas Market returns to Warsaw’s Old Town starting at the end of November. The Market Square is filled with wooden stalls selling handicrafts (Christmas ornaments, amber jewellery, ceramics, carved wood decorations, and more), traditional food, mulled wine, and hot beer. A simple, but essential Warsaw winter pleasure!

The Christmas street lighting in Warsaw around the Old Town and along the Royal Route is just beautiful!

Warsaw is an excellent location to visit during Christmas and just perfect for picking up that original and unique Christmas present at a good price too! The best time to come to Warsaw for Christmas shopping is the last two weeks in November. Unlike the UK, this is when the shopping malls first get decorated for Christmas and you will enjoy the Christmas ambiance without the mad crowds during this time.

Polish Christmas

Christmas in Poland is taken very seriously and is mainly focused on family and friends. During Advent, families get busy baking Christmas piernik (gingerbread) and start making (yes making!) their Christmas decorations. Gingerbread is made in a variety of shapes including hearts, animals and St. Nicholas figures (St. Nick is the Polish version of Santa).

Traditional decorations include the pajaki, which are handmade stars and decorated eggshells.

Lit Christmas trees are placed in most public areas, outside churches and in homes. Traditionally the trees are decorated with shiny apples, walnuts, wrapped chocolate shapes, hand blown glass baubles, and many homemade ornaments and candles. On the top of the tree is a star or a glittering top piece. In many homes, sparklers are hung on the branches of the trees for ambiance.

Gwiazdory

During Advent the “Gwiazdory,” or star carriers, wander through the towns and villages and this continues until Epiphany. Some of the Gwiazdory sing carols; others recite verses or put on “Szopki” (puppet shows), or “herody” (nativity scenes). The last two customs are developments from traditional manger scenes or “Jaselka” (crib).

Oplatek

One tradition unique to Poland is the sharing of the “oplatek”, a thin wafer into which is pressed a holy picture. People once carried these oplatki from house to house wishing their neighbors a Merry Christmas. Nowadays, the bread is mostly shared with members of the family and immediate neighbors.

As each person shares pieces of the wafer with another person, they are supposed to forgive any hurts that have occurred over the past year and to wish the other person all the happiness in the coming year.

Christmas Eve in Poland

In Poland, Christmas Eve is a day first of fasting, then of feasting. The feast begins with the appearance of the first star; there is no meat in the feast, and it is followed by the exchange of gifts. The following day is often spent visiting friends. In Polish tradition, people combine religion and family closeness at Christmas time.

Although gift giving plays a major role in the rituals, emphasis is placed more on making special foods and decorations. On Christmas Eve, so important is the first star of the night that it has been given the affectionate name of “little star” or Gwiazdka, in remembrance of the Star of Bethlehem. On that night, all watch the sky anxiously, hoping to be the first to cry out, “The star!” The moment the star appears, people start eating.

Wigilia

Families unite for the most carefully planned meal of the year, Wigilia, the Christmas supper. The Wigilia derives its name from the Latin word vigilare, which means “to watch” or keep vigil. According to tradition, bits of hay are spread beneath the tablecloth as a reminder that Christ was born in a manger. An even number of people must be seated around the table or, tradition states, someone may die in the coming year. Wigilia is a family feast. In some places an empty place setting is symbolically left at the table for the Baby Jesus or for a wanderer who may be in need, or if a deceased relative should come and would like to share in the meal.

The meal begins with the breaking of the oplatek. Everyone at the table breaks off a piece and eats it as a symbol of their unity with Christ. They then share a piece with each family member giving good wishes for the following year. There should be twelve dishes, as a symbol of the Twelve Apostles, or an odd number of dishes for good luck (usually five, seven, or nine). Poppy seed cake, beet soup, prune dumplings, carp, herring and noodles with poppy seed are universal Polish Christmas foods.

Traditionally, there is no meat eaten on Christmas Eve. Often there is compote of dry fruits. The remainder of the evening is given to stories and songs around the Christmas tree. In some areas of the country, children are taught that “The Little Star” brings the gifts. As presents are wrapped, carolers may walk from house to house, receiving treats along the way.


Wolf’s Lair

Wolfsschanze

Wolf’s Lair in Poland is the standard English name for Wolfsschanze, Adolf Hitler’s first World War II Eastern Front military headquarters, one of several Führerhauptquartier (Führer Headquarters) or FHQs located in various parts of Europe.

Operation Barbarossa

The complex, which was built for Operation Barbarossa, the 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union, was located in the Masurian woods, about 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) from the small East Prussian town of Rastenburg, now Kętrzyn in Poland.

Hitler first arrived at the Wolf’s Lair late on the night of 23 June 1941 and departed for the last time on 20 November 1944. Overall, he spent over 800 days there during that 3.5 year period.

The complex was blown up and abandoned on 25 January 1945, but many of the bunkers were so thick that their damaged walls and ceilings remain. The remains are located in Poland at the hamlet of Gierłoż (German: Forst Görlitz) near Kętrzyn.

The decision to build the Wolf’s Lair was made in the autumn of 1940. Built in the middle of a protecting forest, and located far from major roads. The complex occupied more than 6.5 km2 (2.5 sq mi) and consisted of three separate security zones.

The bunkers at Wolfs Lair

The most important of which was Sperrkreis 1 (Security Zone 1), in which was located the Führer Bunker and concrete shelters of members of the inner circle such as Hermann Göring, Martin Bormann, OKW chief Wilhelm Keitel and “chief of operations” OKW Alfred Jodl.

There were a total of ten bunkers in this area, all camouflaged and protected by 2 metres (6 ft 7 in) of steel-reinforced concrete. Hitler’s was on the northern end, with all its windows facing north to avoid direct sunlight. Both Hitler’s and Keitel’s bunkers had rooms in which military conferences could be held.

Sperrkreis 2 (Security Zone 2) included military barracks and housing for several important Reich Ministers like Albert Speer, Joachim von Ribbentrop and Fritz Todt as well as Hitler’s escort battalion, the Führer Begleit Brigade.

Sperrkreis 3 (Security Zone 3) made up the outer security area of the compound, complete with land mines, special security troops and guard houses.

Close by was a facility for the Wehrmacht Operations Staff, and army headquarters was located several kilometres to the northeast of the FHQ complex. All these installations were served by a nearby airfield and train lines.

About two thousand people lived and worked at the Wolf’s Lair at its peak, among them twenty women.

Assassination attempt at Wolf’s Lair

The Wolf’s Lair was the location of the July 20 plot to kill Hitler. During the period of reconstruction of the Führer Bunker in the summer of 1944, the daily strategy meetings were moved to the little building known as the Lager barrack, where staff officer Claus von Stauffenberg carried a bomb hidden in a briefcase into the meeting room and placed it just a few feet away from Hitler.

At 12:43 p.m. the bomb devastated the interior of the building but left Hitler only slightly injured. However, four others died from their wounds a few days later. The force of the blast was diminished because a staff officer unknowingly moved the briefcase on the opposite side of a thick wooden table leg from where von Stauffenberg had placed it, probably saving Hitler’s life. It is believed that had the bomb exploded in the massive concrete Führer Bunker as originally intended, everyone in the structure including Hitler would have been killed.

The Escape

Just moments before the blast, the would-be assassin and his adjutant, Lieutenant Werner von Haeften rapidly made their way from the conference barrack toward the first guard post just outside Sperrkeis 1. After a short delay they were allowed to pass and proceeded along the southern exit road toward Rastenburg airport.

By the time they reached the guard house at the perimeter of Sperrkreis 2, the alarm had been sounded. According to the official Gestapo report, “at first the guard refused passage until von Stauffenberg persuaded him to contact the adjutant to the compound commander who then finally authorized clearance”. It was between here and the final checkpoint of Sperrkreis 3 that von Haeften tossed a second briefcase from the car containing a second bomb which was also intended to explode in the conference barrack.

It is believed that had this bomb also been placed with the other, everyone inside would have been killed. Checkpoint three, the final barrier located at the outer reaches of the Wolfsschanze, was expected to prove impenetrable, but the two men were simply waved through to the Rastenburg airport.

Operation Valkyrie

Thirty minutes after the bomb blast the two men were airborne and on their way back to Berlin and Army general headquarters. It was in this building, called the Bendlerblock, that “Operation Valkyrie”, a covert plan to react to the breakdown in civil order of the nation and suppress any revolt was transformed into the secret plot to assassinate the Führer of the German Reich.

However, when it was discovered that Hitler was still alive, the plan was doomed and along with it von Stauffenberg, his adjutant Werner von Haeften and co-conspirators General Friedrich Olbricht and his chief of staff Colonel Albrecht Mertz von Quirnheim, who were arrested and executed in the courtyard of the Bendlerblock on the evening of July 20, 1944.

The Red Army reached the nearby border of East Prussia in October 1944. Hitler departed on 20 November and two days later the order was given to destroy the complex.

The actual demolition did not take place until the night of 24-25 January 1945. Many tons of explosives were required to do the job; one bunker required an estimated 8 tons of TNT. The Red Army took the site without a shot two days later, on 27 January. It took until 1955 to clear over fifty-four thousand landmines which surrounded the installation.


Castles in Poland

Castles, forts & palaces

Poland is home to an enormous number of castles, Teutonic fortresses, Silesian strongholds, palaces & fortified manor houses. Unfortunately many of the great castles in Poland are in ruins or have been transformed into palaces & hotels; however there are still many left intact offering tourists a unique window into the history of Poland, it’s culture & heritage.

The Teutonic Knights

The Teutonic Knights were responsible for building the most remarkable castles in Poland and these are situated in the North East of the country.

Malbork Castle is the largest surviving Medieval castle in Europe and should be on your list of castles to visit. Other castles built by the Teutonic Knights and worth a visit are in Lidzbark Warminski and Kwidzyn.

Nicolaus Copernicus lived at Lidzbark Warminski castle for several years, and it is believed he wrote part of his De revolutionibus orbium coelestium there.

Kwidzyn contains the partially-ruined 14th century Brick Gothic Ordensburg castle of the Teutonic Order. Connected to the castle to the east is a large cathedral (built 1343-1384) containing the tombs of the bishops as well those of three Grand Masters of the Teutonic Knights. The literally outstanding feature of the castle is a sewer tower which is connected to it by a bridge. The tower used to be placed at the river which has changed its course since, leaving it on dry land.

The Kings of Poland

The Kings of Poland all resided within either Wawel Castle in Krakow or the Royal Castle in Warsaw and both of these castles are popular tourist attractions.

Eagles’ Nest fortification

Between Czestochowa and Krakow, many castles were built in the Middle Ages as part of a great Eagles’ Nest fortification; however were destroyed during the Swedish Deluge of the 1650s.

The most popular ruins in this area are the castles of Bobolice, Bolków, Olsztyn, Mirow & Ogrodzieniec. Pieskowa Skala is the only one well-preserved castle from the whole Eagles’ Nest fortification system.

Other recommended castles are located in Baranow Sandomierski, Ksiaz, Niedzica, Goluchow and ruined castle in Krzysztopor in Ujazd village.


Canoeing in Poland

Canoeing and kayaking

Canoeing and kayaking are popular leisure activities in Poland. There are almost 10,000 kilometres of rivers and lakes in the country and many of these waterways are very popular for canoeing in Poland.

The Lubuskie Lake District and the rivers of the west of Poland offer some of the best kayaking.

Four of the best rivers in Poland for kayaking and canoeing enthusiasts are the River Obra, Warta River, River Notec, and River Drawa. Other rivers suitable for canoeing and kayaking include the River Odra, River Postomia, Czarna Hancza River, Brda River and the Krutynia River.

Krutynia route

The most beautiful route is the almost two hundred kilometer long Krutynia route. The river winds its way through the land of a Thousand Lakes, among a picturesque landscape of lakes and streams. The Krutynia River is always a wonderful experience, a close encounter with lush nature, beautiful lakes and the wildlife of the Pisz Forest.

Drweca River

Another interesting Mazurian route is that of the Drweca River which is one of the clearest rivers in Poland. It is about 200 km long. It starts at Ostroda, flows through forests and wildlife reserves, and goes all the way to the Vistula River near Torun. Comfortable sites for camping are found on both riverbanks. There is an annual “International Canoe Trip on Drweca river”, which is popular among canoeists from many countries.

Experienced tourists can seek adventures along more challenging whirls and rocks of mountain rivers. Kayak trips for groups are organised on the Dunajec River, which seems to be the best choice, also because of its picturesque gorges in the Pieniny Mountains.

Polish waterways are good both for long trips as well as for one-day expeditions. One day is all it takes to sail half the Radunskie Circle or the Kowaliowy Trail in the Przemecki Natural Park. Boatmen wait for visitors on the River Krutynia and take them down the prettiest parts of the river at a good pace and with no effort. The Dunajec has its traditional raftsmen — called Flis — who can take you on a breathtaking rafting excursion.

You can join rafting trips on the Odra, from Nowa Sol, all the way to Szczecin. Or paddle your way from Bory Tucholskie to Hamburg; the route about 900 km going through Brda, Bydgoski Canal, Notec, Warta, Odra and Laba.

Mountain rivers

Kayakers looking for that special, intense experience should go down one of the three true Mountain rivers, best suited for kayaking. For example the Bialka running through Tatry and Podhale – horrifyingly cold, rushing, foamy and strewn with granite rocks.


Rock climbing in Poland

Mid Grade Rock Climbing

Just 2.5 hours away from Krakow with some of the best dentists and dental clinics in Poland, you will find the Tatras; which provide excellent opportunities for climbing in Poland. For those of you coming to Poland for dental treatment who also enjoy the great outdoors and activities such as skiing, climbing & hiking, Tatra is the perfect destination.

Zakopane

One of the most popular locations in Poland to rock climb is Zakopane in the Tatra Moutains. Every year, climbers from all over the world arrive at Zakopane and take on the many climbs available.

Morskie Oko

Many climbers take the 10 km cart ride to Morskie Oko which is a beautiful lake located in the Hight Tatras at around 1395 m. The horse and cart journey is very scenic and follows a beautiful stream called Rybi Potok. On arrival at Morskie Oko, you can choose to be accommodated in a chalet with food and beds for the night.

Czarny Staw

In the winter, the lake freezes and you can walk across it to climb the trail at the other side of the lake to Czarny Staw. This leads to another lake some 200 meters above Morskie Oko. From Czarny Staw one can walk around the lake to begin the accent of Rysy which is the highest mountain in Poland at 2499 m. The average climb time is around 4 hours.

The climbing around here tends to be in the higher grades, and to get the most out of the area you should be comfortably operating at UIAA VI or above.

Challenging Climbs

The most difficult mountain to climb in the area is Mieguszowiecki Szczyt at 2409 m and this climb is described as challenging even for experienced climbers.

Morskie Oko is the starting point for mountaineering climbs. As the mountains are all within view. One follows the trails and then climbs the mountain they choose. It is usually a four to six hour climb up any mountain and the same time descending. Winter climbing is harsh as the wind is strong on top of the mountains. Climbers bring crampons and ice axes. Snow can be two to three feet deep, or up to one meter. You must be watchful of avalanches.

Other climbs include Mnich, 2069 m and Cubryna, 2323 m.

From Zakopane you can see Giewont, the sleeping knight. You can hike to Giewont in about two to three hours. There is a small chalet which serves food about half way to Giewont. The climb is not that difficult and is ideal for beginners.

Weather

Weather can change fast in the mountains and it has been known to snow in June. Lightning can also be a problem in the summer. Most climbers start climbing early in the morning. From the tops of the mountains, you can see most of the High Tatras on a clear day.


Zakopane

The Winter Capital of Poland

Zakopane is a town in southern Poland. The location is informally known as “the Winter Capital of Poland,” and lies in the southern part of the Podhale region at the foot of the Tatra Mountains, the only alpine mountain range in the Carpathian Mountains.

The town is located in southern Poland near the Slovak border. It can be reached by train or bus from Krakow, which is about two and a half hours away.

It lies in a large valley between the Tatra Mountains and Gubałówka Hill. It is the most important Polish center of mountaineering and skiing, and is visited annually by some three million tourists. The most important alpine skiing locations are Kasprowy Wierch, Nosal and Gubałówka Hill.

It also has the highest elevation (800-1,000 m) of any town in Poland. The central point of the town is at the junction of Krupówki and Kościuszko Streets.

Championships

Zakopane hosted the Nordic World Ski Championships in 1929, 1939, and 1962; the winter Universiades in 1956, 1993, and 2001; the biathlon World Championship; several ski jumping world cups; and several Nordic combined, Nordic and Alpine European Cups. It hosted the Alpine World Ski Championships in 1939, the first outside the Alps and the last official world championships prior to World War II.

The town recently made unsuccessful bids to host the 2006 Winter Olympics and the 2011 and 2013 Alpine World Ski Championships.

Climbing, Skiing & Hiking

Climbers from all over Europe travel to Zakopane to climb in the High Tatras and thousands of people arrive in Zakopane to go skiing in the winter, especially around Christmas and in February.

Zakopane has many hiking trails and ski slopes. This makes Zakopane a tourism mecca for all seasons. The downtown bustles with outdoor wear shops and ski rental stores. Tourists come here in large numbers in summer and during the Christmas and New Year Season.


Tatra Mountains

The Tatras

The Tatra Mountains, Tatras or Tatra, constitute a mountain range which forms a natural border between Slovakia and Poland. They occupy an area of 750 km², the major part (600 km²) of which lies in Slovakia. The highest mountain is Gerlach at 2,655 m, located in Slovakia just north of Poprad. The north-western peak of Rysy (2,499 m) is the highest Polish mountain.

Alpine Landscape in Poland

The Tatras are the highest mountain range in the Carpathian Mountains. Although considerably smaller than the Alps, they are classified as having an alpine landscape. Their high mountain character, combined with great accessibility, makes them popular with tourists and scientists.

The area is a well-known winter sports area and includes the resort of Zakopane, the “Winter Capital” of Poland.

Temperatures

Temperatures range from -40 °C in the winter to 33 °C in warmer months. Temperatures also vary depending on altitude and sun exposure of a given slope. Temperatures below 0 °C last for 192 days on the summits. Maximum snow thickness on the summit amounts to around 320 cm (125 in) in March. Peaks are sometimes covered with snow throughout the year. Avalanches are frequent.

Fauna & Flora

The Tatra Mountains are home to many species of animals including Tatra chamois, marmot, snow vole, brown bear, wolf, Eurasian lynx, red deer, roe deer, and wild boar. There is also a diverse variety of plants.

Skiing in the Tatra Mountains

For skiers, the Kasprowy Wierch Peak is serviced by cable-car, and there are chairlifts in the Goryczlowa and Gasienicowa valleys. For hikers, there are 250 kilometres of trails in the park, ranging from leisurely strolls to hair-raising ascents for serious climbers. Entrance to the valleys is possible by bus, but from there you must continue on foot to the heart of the Tatras. Mountain bikes are permitted only on a few paths. Owing to the unpredictability of Mother Nature, there are basic safety precautions which are essential to bear in mind.

Hiking in the Tatra Mountains

With the collapse of the Iron Curtain, border relations are now freer than ever. Thus for dedicated hikers, the opportunity to explore the region in depth is very much an option. Poles are the first to say how wonderful the Slovakian Tatras are, and it’s well worth bearing this in mind if you want to get a full flavour of this wild region.

Probably the easiest way to get to the Polish side of the Tatras is to take a plane to Krakow and then take the train (five hours) to Zakopane. If you want to get to the Slovak side then Bratislava airport is currently rebranding itself as a low-cost hub (Vienna East!). Alternatively, Vienna to Bratislava is only about an hour and-a-half by train. From Bratislava take the train via Poprad to Stary Smokovec. Poprad also has an airport.


Auschwitz

Dental treatment in Krakow

If you are considering dental treatment in Krakow, you may wish to visit Auschwitz between treatments. It is widely agreed that everyone should visit Auschwitz at least once in their lives, it is a stern reminder of the horrors that human beings can inflict on each other and for some people, a life-changing experience.

Auschwitz was a network of concentration and extermination camps built and operated in occupied Poland by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. It was the largest of the German concentration camps, consisting of Auschwitz I (the Stammlager or main camp); Auschwitz II-Birkenau (the Vernichtungslager or extermination camp); Auschwitz III-Monowitz, also known as Buna-Monowitz (a labor camp); and 45 satellite camps.

Oświęcim

Auschwitz is the German name for Oświęcim, the town the camps were located in and around; it was renamed by the Germans after they invaded Poland in September 1939. Birkenau, the German translation of Brzezinka (birch tree), refers to a small Polish village nearby that was mostly destroyed by the Germans to make way for the camp.

The Final Solution

Auschwitz II-Birkenau was designated by Heinrich Himmler, who was the Reichsführer and Germany’s Minister of the Interior, as the locus of the “final solution of the Jewish question in Europe”.



From spring 1942 until the fall of 1944, transport trains delivered Jews to the camp’s gas chambers from all over Nazi-occupied Europe. The camp’s first commandant, Rudolf Höss, testified after the war at the Nuremberg Trials that up to three million people had died there (2.5 million exterminated, and 500,000 from disease and starvation), a figure since revised to 1.1 million, around 90 percent of them Jews.

From spring 1942 until the fall of 1944, transport trains delivered Jews to the camp’s gas chambers from all over Nazi-occupied Europe. The camp’s first commandant, Rudolf Höss, testified after the war at the Nuremberg Trials that up to three million people had died there (2.5 million exterminated, and 500,000 from disease and starvation), a figure since revised to 1.1 million, around 90 percent of them Jews.

Others deported to Auschwitz included 150,000 Poles, 23,000 Roma and Sinti, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, and tens of thousands of people of diverse nationalities. Those not killed in the gas chambers died of starvation, forced labor, lack of disease control, individual executions, and medical experiments.

Liberation of Auschwitz

On January 27, 1945, Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet troops, a day commemorated around the world as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In 1947, Poland founded a museum on the site of Auschwitz I and II, which by 1994 had seen 22 million visitors (700,000 annually) pass through the iron gates crowned with the infamous motto, Arbeit macht frei (“work makes you free”).

Selections

By July 1942, the SS were conducting the infamous “selections,” in which incoming Jews were divided into those deemed able to work, who were sent to the right and admitted into the camp, and those who were sent to the left and immediately gassed.



Prisoners were transported from all over German-occupied Europe by rail, arriving in daily convoys. The group selected to die, about three-quarters of the total, included almost all children, women with children, all the elderly, and all those who appeared on brief and superficial inspection by an SS doctor not to be completely fit. Auschwitz II-Birkenau claimed more victims than any other German extermination camp, despite coming into use after all the others.

SS officers told the victims they were to take a shower and undergo delousing. The victims would undress in an outer chamber and walk into the gas chamber, which was disguised as a shower facility, complete with dummy shower heads. After the doors were shut, SS men would dump in the cyanide pellets via holes in the roof or windows on the side. In Auschwitz II-Birkenau, more than 20,000 people could be gassed and cremated each day.



Sonderkommandos removed gold teeth from the corpses of gas chamber victims; the gold was melted down and collected by the SS. The belongings of the arrivals were seized by the SS and sorted in an area of the camp called “Canada,” so-called because Canada was seen as a land of plenty. Many of the SS at the camp enriched themselves by pilfering the confiscated property.

The last selection took place on October 30, 1944. The next month, Heinrich Himmler ordered the crematoria destroyed before the Red Army reached the camp. The gas chambers of Birkenau were blown up by the SS in January 1945 in an attempt to hide the German crimes from the advancing Soviet troops. The SS command sent orders on January 17, 1945 calling for the execution of all prisoners remaining in the camp, but in the chaos of the Nazi retreat the order was never carried out. On January 17, 1945, Nazi personnel started to evacuate the facility.

Nearly 60,000 prisoners were forced on a death march toward a camp in Wodzisław Śląski (German: Loslau). Those too weak or sick to walk were left behind. These remaining 7,500 prisoners were liberated by the 322nd Rifle Division of the Red Army on January 27, 1945.



Approximately 20,000 Auschwitz prisoners made it to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany, where they were liberated by the British in April 1945. Among the artifacts of automated murder found by the Russians were 348,820 men’s suits and 836,255 women’s garments.

Auschwitz Today

Today, at Birkenau the entrance building and some of the southern brick-built barracks survive; but of the almost 300 wooden barracks, only 19 remain: 18 near the entrance building and one, on its own, farther away. All that survives of the others are chimneys, remnants of a largely ineffective means of heating. Many of these wooden buildings were constructed from prefabricated sections made by a company that intended them to be used as stables; inside, numerous metal rings for the tethering of horses can still be seen.

The Polish government decided to restore Auschwitz I and turn it into a museum honouring the victims of Nazism; Auschwitz II, where buildings (many of which were prefabricated wood structures) were prone to decay, was preserved but not restored. Today, the Auschwitz I museum site combines elements from several periods into a single complex: for example the gas chamber at Auschwitz I (which had been converted into an air-raid shelter for the SS) was restored and the fence was moved (because of building work being done after the war but before the museum was established). However, in most cases the departure from the historical truth is minor, and is clearly labelled.

The museum contains many men’s, women’s and children’s shoes taken from their victims; also suitcases, which the deportees were encouraged to bring with them, and many household utensils. One display case, some 30 metres (98 ft) long, is wholly filled with human hair which the Nazis gathered from people before they were sent to labor or before and after they were killed.

Auschwitz II and the remains of the gas chambers there are open to the public. The camp is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The ashes of the victims were scattered between the huts, and the entire area is regarded as a grave site. Most of the buildings of Auschwitz I are still standing. The public entrance area is outside the perimeter fence in what was the camp admission building, where new prisoners were registered and given their uniforms. At the far end of Birkenau are memorial plaques in many languages, including Romani.

The Dentist of Auschwitz

Benjamin Jacobs was a dentist who in 1941, was deported from his Polish village and remained a Nazi prisoner until the final days of the Second World War. He survived Auschwitz and the death march to the Baltic, with the help of his dental tools.

On the advice of his mother, he carried his dental tools and despite being limited as to which procedures he could perform, he became known as “the dentist” and was sought after for his treatments. He performed simple dental procedures including draining a fistula and cleaning gums with iodine. His bright red box, containing his dental tools, became “his passport to survival”.

Once at Auschwitz with his father and brother, he was appointed to the dental station to treat SS men and was also given the job of extracting gold from prison corpses. It was hard to do and he recounted “I heard the voices of broken hearts and crushed souls”. He also witnessed the selection processes and labouring in the mines. Despite saving extra rations for his family, his father died. At Auschwitz, he also crossed paths with Adolf Eichmann.

Jacobs wrote his memoirs which were published by the University Press of Kentucky in 1995. The Dentist of Auschwitz: A Memoir recounts his experiences and revulsion at having to strip gold from prisoners at Auschwitz in exchange for extra provisions for his family.


Masuria

Eco-tourism

Masuria is an area in northeastern Poland famous today for its many thousands of lakes. Today, the region’s economy relies largely on eco-tourism and agriculture. The lakes offer varieties of water sports such as sailing and holiday activities.

Poland’s Lake District

Masuria and the Masurian Lake District are known in Polish as Kraina Tysiąca Jezior and in German as Land der Tausend Seen, meaning “land of a thousand lakes.” These lakes were ground out of the land by glaciers during the Pleistocene ice age, when ice covered north Eastern Europe. By 10,000 BC this ice started to melt. Great geological changes took place and even in the last 500 years the maps showing the lagoons and peninsulas on the Baltic Sea have greatly altered in appearance.

As in other parts of northern Poland, such as from Pomerania on the Oder River to the Vistula River, this continuous stretch of lakes is popular among tourists.

Size

The Masurian Lake District extends roughly 290 km (180 mi) eastwards from the lower Vistula River to the Poland-Lithuania border and occupies an area of roughly 52,000 km² (20,000 sq mi).

The lakes are well connected by rivers and canals, to form an extensive system of waterways. The whole area has become a prime destination for yachtspeople and canoeists, and is also popular among anglers, hikers, bikers and nature-lovers.

Getting there

The Masurian region can be reached by train, bus, or car from anywhere in Poland or from Lithuania. The nearby international airports are in Warsaw, Gdansk, and Vilnius. The main transport hub in the region is the town of Ełk. There are trains to Masuria from Warsaw, Gdańsk and Vilnius, and buses to there can be found in many Polish cities. A boat service connects some central towns in the region. Biking and boating are popular ways to get around.

Accommodation

Hotels can be found mostly around the Great Masurian Lakes, namely in towns of Giżycko and Mikołajki, as well as in the larger town of Ełk. There are also guesthouses & campsites in villages and countryside areas of Masuria. English is spoken by many educated locals and those who work in tourism professions.

Masuria is famous for its thousands of lakes and nearby forests, offering a wide range of outdoor activities from sailing to kayaking and swimming. The region includes the largest lake in Poland, Śniardwy as well as small lake resort towns of Giżycko, Mikołajki, Ełk, Węgorzewo, Ryn, Pisz, and Iława.

Tourism in Masuria

The most popular tourism centers in Masuria are Mikołajki and Giżycko. Giżycko is located on the shore of Lake Niegocin, and has a historical fortress, and passenger boats to the towns of Węgorzewo, Mikołajki and Ruciane-Nida. The historical town of Mikołajki is also a popular tourism centre with a beautiful historic church and bridges. In addition to lakes, the Masurian region also has many rivers good for fishing and forest areas that offer many trails for trekking and biking.

Fauna & Flora

There is also a nice variety of wildlife, edible berries and mushrooms, and large protected areas, including the Masurian Landscape Park that includes 11 nature reserves such as the Łuknajno Lake that is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, or the Białowieża Forest with a breeding station for European Bisons.

Climate

Masuria has a temperate climate with cold winters and warm summers. The weather here is cooler than in most parts of Poland, and the area also has some snow during the winter. The Masurian lakes are usually frozen from December to the end of April. Springtime can be wet, while summers are generally drier.

The Lakes

With almost ten thousand closed bodies of water covering more than 1 hectare (2.47 acres) each, Poland has one of the highest number of lakes in the world. In Europe, only Finland has a greater density of lakes. The largest lakes, covering more than 100 square kilometres (39 sq mi), are Lake Śniardwy and Lake Mamry in Masuria, and Lake Łebsko and Lake Drawsko in Pomerania.

In addition to the lake districts in the north (in Masuria, Pomerania, Kashubia, Lubuskie, and Greater Poland), there is also a large number of mountain lakes in the Tatras, of which the Morskie Oko is the largest in area. The lake with the greatest depth—of more than 100 metres (328 ft)—is Lake Hańcza in the Wigry Lake District, east of Masuria in Podlaskie Voivodeship.