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Holidays in Poland

Understanding Poland

History

The first cities in today's Poland, Kalisz and Elbląg on the Amber Route 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 Kraków, 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 it's eastern Prussian territories, and the detachment of German-speaking Danzig contemporary Gdańsk as a free city

This put Poland in a precarious position of having potential enemies facing her again from all three sides

World War II

World War II officially began with a coordinated attack on Poland's borders by the Soviet Union from the east and Nazi Germany from the west and north Only a few days prior to the start of WWII, the Soviet Union and Germany had signed a secret pact of non-aggression, which called for the re-division of the newly independent central and eastern European nations Germany attacked Poland on September 1, 1939, and the Soviet Union attacked Poland on September 17, 1939, effectively starting the fourth partition, causing the recently-reestablished Polish Republic to cease to exist Hitler used the issue of Danzig Gdańsk and German nationalism to try to trigger a war with Poland in much the same way he used the Sudetenland Question to conquer the Czechs

Many of WWII's most infamous war crimes were committed by both the Soviets and Nazis on Polish territory, with the latter committing the vast majority of them Polish civilians opposed to either side's rule were ruthlessly rounded up, tortured, and executed Nazi Germany established both concentration and extermination camps on Polish soil, where many millions of Europeans were ruthlessly murdered; of these Auschwitz is perhaps the most infamous

The Soviets rounded up and executed the cream of the crop of Polish leadership in the Katyń Massacre of 1940 About 22,000 Polish military and political leaders, business owners, and intelligentsia were murdered in the massacre, officially approved by the Soviet Politburo, including by Stalin and Beria

Due to WWII, Poland lost about 20% of its population, added to the fact that the Polish economy was completely ruined Nearly all major cities were destroyed and with them the history of centuries was gone After the war Poland was forced to become a Soviet satellite country, following the Yalta and Potsdam agreements between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union To this day these events are viewed by many Poles as an act of betrayal by the Allies Poland's territory was significantly reduced and shifted westward to the Oder-Neisse Line at the expense of defeated Germany The native Polish populations from the former Polish territories in the east, now annexed by the Soviet Union, were expelled by force and replaced the likewise expelled German populations in the west and in the north of the country This resulted in the forced uprooting of over 10 million people and until recently had shadowed attempts at Polish-German reconciliation

Communism People's Republic of Poland

The Communist era 1945-1989 is a controversial topic After World War II, Poland was forced to become a Socialist Republic, and to adopt a strong pro-Soviet stance Between 1945-1953, pro-Stalinist leaders conducted periodical purges

After the bloody Stalinist era of 1945-1953, Poland was comparatively tolerant and progressive in comparison to other Eastern Bloc countries But strong economic growth in the post-war period alternated with serious recessions in 1956, 1970, 1976, resulting in labour turmoil over dramatic inflation as well as shortages of goods Ask older Poles to tell you about communism and you'll often hear stories of empty store shelves where sometimes the only thing available for purchase was vinegar You'll hear stories about backroom deals to get meat or bread, such as people trading things at the post office just to get ham for a special dinner

In 1980, the anti-communist trade union "Solidarity" Polish: Solidarność 2 became a strong force of opposition to the government, organizing labor strikes, and demanding freedom of press and democratic representation The communist government responded by organizing a military junta, led by general Wojciech Jaruzelski, and imposing martial law on December 13, 1981; it lasted until July 22, 1983 During this time, thousands of people were detained Phone calls were monitored by the government, independent organizations not aligned with the Communists were deemed illegal and members were arrested, access to roads were restricted, the borders were sealed, ordinary industries were placed under military management, and workers who failed to follow orders faced the threat of a military court Solidarity was the most famous organization to be de-legalized, and its members faced the possibility of losing their jobs and imprisonment

But this internecine conflict, and ensuing economic disaster, greatly weakened the role of the communist party Solidarity was legalized again, and soon led the country to the first free elections in 1989, in which the communist government was finally removed from power This inspired a succession of peaceful anti-communist revolutions throughout the Warsaw Pact block

Contemporary Poland Third Republic of Poland

Nowadays, Poland is a democratic country with a stable, robust economy, a member of NATO since 1999 and the European Union since 2004 The country's stability has been recently underscored by the fact that the tragic deaths of the President and a large number of political, business and civic leaders in an aeroplane crash did not have an appreciable negative effect on the Polish currency or economic prospects Poland has also successfully joined the border-less Europe agreement Schengen, with an open border to Germany, Czech Republic and Slovakia, and is on track to adopt the Euro currency in a few years time Poland's dream of rejoining Europe as an independent nation at peace and in mutual respect of its neighbors has finally been achieved

Holidays

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

  • Easter Wielkanoc, Niedziela Wielkanocna, a moveable feast that happens 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 Poniedziałek, or Śmigus 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 baloons, but children, especially outdoors and in the countryside, like to use buckets and have no mercy on passers-by
  • Constitution Day falls on May 3rd, in rememberance 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 Labor Day into a larger celebration
  • All Saints Day Wszystkich Świętych, 1st of November In the afternoon and evening, 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 Day Narodowe Święto Niepodległości 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-Hungary, Germany and Russia As with most other holidays, many businesses will be closed on this day
  • Christmas Eve Wigilia, December 24th One of the most important days of the year, and the most important feast This is the day when everything closes down as people go home to celebrate Christmas with friends and family It's also one of the most interesting holidays due to the customs Typically, Poles will prepare a twelve representing the twelve apostles course vegetarian meal and will begin eating after they see the first star in the night sky Rest assured, even if the sky is cloudy, Poles will find a star They also leave an extra chair and place set at the table just in case anyone even a stranger stops by for dinner In Poland, Wigilia is more important than Christmas Day, but also a working day - shops are usually open till early afternoon
  • New Year's Eve Sylwester 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

Countryside

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 Travellers 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

Talking in Poland

The official language of Poland is Polish

Foreign visitors should be aware that virtually all official information will usually be in Polish only Street signs, directions, information signs, etc are routinely monolingual, as are schedules and announcements at train and bus stations airports seem to be an exception to this When it comes to information signs in museums, churches, etc, signs in multiple languages are typically found only in popular tourist destinations

Most of the young people and teenagers know English well enough Since English is taught at a very young age some start as early as 4 years old, only Poles who grow up in isolated towns or communities will not be given English lessons Older Poles, however, especially those outside the main cities, will speak little or no English at all However, it's highly possible that they speak either German or Russian which were taught in schools as the main foreign languages until the 1990s Russian has now largely been abandoned, but German is still taught in many schools throughout the country

A few phrases go a long way in Poland Contrary to some other tourist destinations where natives scoff at how bad a foreigner's use of the native language is, Polish people generally love it when foreigners learn Polish, even if it's only a few phrases Younger Poles will also jump at the chance to practice their English Be advised that if you are heard speaking English in a public setting you will be glanced; people will listen in to practice their understanding of English

Do your homework and try to learn how to pronounce the names of places Polish has a very regular pronunciation, so this shouldn't be a problem Although there are a few sounds unknown to most English speakers, mastering every phoneme is not required to achieve intelligibility; it's rather about catching the spirit

Poland's history has made it a very homogenous society today, in stark contrast to its long history of ethno-religious diversity; almost 99% of the population today is ethnic Polish; before World War II it was only 69% with large minorities, mainly Ukrainians, Belorussians, and Germans and less than two-thirds Roman Catholic with large Orthodox and Protestant minorities as well as having the largest Jewish community in Europe that composed 10% of Poland's population at the time Outside of the very touristy areas of the major cities, you'll find that there are few, if any, foreigners Most of the immigrants in Poland notably Ukrainians and Vietnamese stay in the major cities for work Poland's small group of contemporary ethnic minorities, Germans, Ukrainians, Belorussians, Silesians and Casubians all can speak Polish

  • There are Polish language schools in Łódź, Kraków, Wrocław, Sopot and Warsaw

What to see in Poland

  • Beaches: Swim through the blue waters of Boracay and El Nido, sunbathe at the beaches of Puerto Galera and Pagudpud
  • UNESCO World Heritage Sites: See the spectacular Banaue Rice terraces in Batad and be fascinated at how it was built, see the only successful laid out plan of a European colonial town in Asia; Vigan The Baroque churches the Immaculate Conception in Manila, Nuestra Senora in Ilocos Sur, San Agustin in Ilocos Norte and Santo Tomas in Iloilo of the Philippines will amaze you about the European Baroque architecture
  • Coral reefs: Dive the Tubbatahaa Reefs National Park and see the spectacular collections of marine life and corals Anilao also offers good options
  • Churches and religious sites: See the Basilica of San Sebastian in Quiapo; the only all steel church or basilica in Asia A visit to a city's cathedral is worth it
  • Historical Sites: Intramuros, Rizal Park and Blood Compact site in Bohol are worth seeing and will give you a glimpse of the history of the country
  • Wildlife and Plants: Rare animals that can only be found in the Philippines and most of them are endangered and threatened Philippine Monkey Eating Eagle; The largest eagle, Tarsier; a small animal that looks like an alien and can be found in Bohol, Carabaos and Tamaraws; water buffaloes only endemic in the Philippines, aside from these animals, some species of rats, bats and water pigs are also endemic in the Philippines Endemic plants like orchids like the Waling-Waling one of the rarest flowers in the world as well as one of the most expensive in the world Visit the website of PESCCP67 Philippine Endemic Species Conservation Project for more information
  • Malls and Shopping: The bustling urban streets of Metro Manila, have fair options of bargain centers and malls, shop in the second and fourth largest malls of the world; SM City North EDSA and SM Mall of Asia


Itineraries

What to do in Poland

  • Aerial Sports - An annual Hot Air Balloon festival is held in Clark, Angeles in Pampanga, other than Hot Air balloons on display, people gather in this event to do sky diving, many activities are also held other than sky diving and hot air balloons The Festival is held between January and February
  • Basketball is the most popular sport in the Philippines, don't miss the PBA 82 and UAAP 83 basketball tournaments
  • Bentosa and Hilot are Filipino alternative ways of healing, Bentosa is a method where a cup cover a tea light candle then it flames out and it drains out all the pain on the certain part of the body, Hilot is just the Filipino way of massaging
  • Board Sailing - Waves and winds work together making the country a haven for board sailors Boracay, Subic Bay and Anilao in Batangas are the main destinations
  • Caving - The Archipelago has osme unique cave systems Sagada is one popular destination for caving
  • Dive - Blue, tranquil waters and abundant reefs make for good diving Compared to neighboring countries, diving in the country is cheaper
  • Festivals - Each municipality, town, city and province has their own festival, either religious or in honor of the city or a historical reason
See also: Festivals in the Philippines for more information
  • Golf - Almost every province has a golf course, it is a popular sport among the elite, rich and famous
  • Medical Tourism - The Philippines supplies the world with many medical professionals with large numbers leaving the country every year for a better future abroad This is indicative of the quality of medical education and medical tourism is on the rise too Most come from America and Europe as compared to their home countries, healthcare here is much cheaper; as much as 80% less than the average price abroad Most of the hospitals suggested for medical tourism are in Metro Manila Alternative medicine is also popular with spas, faith healing and other fringe therapies widespread throughout the archipelago
  • National Parks - National parks number around 60-70, they include mountains and coral reefs
  • Mountain Biking - The archipelago has dozens of mountains and is ideal for mountain bikers Bikes are the best mode of transportation in getting around remote areas Some options include Baguio, Davao, Iloilo, Banaue, Mt Apo and Guimaras
  • Rock Climbing - Apo Island, Atimonan, El Nido, Puting Bato, Wawa Gorge have the best sites in the archipelago for rock climbing
  • Sea Kayaking - Caramoan Islands in Camarines Sur, Palawan, Samar and Siargao are popular
  • Spas are popular, with many options, Spas are found near beaches, financial capitals etc
  • Trekking - Mountain ranges and peaks offer cool weather for trekking and it might give you a sight of the beautiful exotic flora and fauna of the country Mt Kanlaon and Mt Pulag are good trekking spots
  • Visita Iglesia - Visita Iglesia Visita is Latin for Visit, Iglesia is Latin for Church; Visit Churches is the practice done by mostly Filipino Roman Catholics to Churches, holy sites, shrines, basilicas etc If you are religious try this, if you love art and architecture; churches are the best way to define what Filipino architecture
  • Whitewater Rafting - One of the best, if not the best, whitewater rafting experience can be had in Cagayan de Oro City, a city in the northern part of Mindanao Also, Davao is emerging as the Whitewater rafting capital in Mindanao, if not in the Philippines

Buying stuff in Poland

Paying

The legal tender in Poland is the Polish złoty zł, international abbreviation: PLN The złoty divides into 100 grosze Poland is expected to adopt the Euro € sometime after 2012, but those plans are still tentative

Private currency exchange offices Polish: kantor are very common, and offer Euro or USD exchanges at rates that are usually comparable to commercial banks Be aware that exchanges in tourist hot-spots, such as the train stations or popular tourist destinations, tend to overcharge

Cash

Linguistic note: Polish has two types of plural numbers, which you are likely to encounter when dealing with currency Here are the noun forms to expect:

  • Singular: 1 złoty, 1 grosz
  • Nominative plural: 2 - 4 złote, grosze, then 22 - 24, 32 - 34, etc
  • Genitive plural: 5 - 21 złotych, groszy, then 25 - 31, 35 - 41, etc

There is also an extensive network of cash machines or ATMs Polish: bankomat The exchange rate will depend on your particular bank, but usually ends up being pretty favorable, and comparable to reasonably good exchange offices

Credit cards can be used to pay almost everywhere in the big cities Popular cards include Visa, Visa Electron, MasterCard and Maestro AmEx and Diners' Club can be used in a few places notably the big, business-class hotels but are not popular and you should not rely on them for any payments

Cheques were never particularly popular in Poland and they are hardly used nowadays

Goods

It is illegal to export goods older than 55 years that are of ANY historic value If you intend to do so you need to obtain a permit from the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage 42

Shopping

Super and hypermarkets

Hypermarkets are dominated by western chains: Carrefour, Tesco, Auchan, Real Usually located in shopping malls or suburbs

However Poles shop very often at local small stores for bread, meat, fresh dairy, vegetables and fruits - goods for which freshness and quality is essential

Prices in Poland are some of the cheapest in Europe

Food and eating in Poland

Tipping

For the most part, Polish restaurants and bars do not include gratuity in the total of the check, so your server will be pleased if you leave them a tip along with the payment On average, you should tip 10% of the total bill If you tip 15% or 20%, you probably should have received excellent service Also, saying "Dziękuję" "thank you" after paying means you do not expect any change back, so watch out if you're paying for a 10 zł coffee with a 100 zł bill With all that said, many Poles may not leave a tip, unless service was exceptional

Poles take their meals following the standard continental schedule: a light breakfast in the morning usually some sandwiches with tea/coffee, then a larger lunch or traditionally a "dinner" at around 1PM or 2PM, then a supper at around 7PM

It is not difficult to avoid meat, with many restaurants offering at least one vegetarian dish Most major cities have some exclusively vegetarian restaurants, especially near the city center Vegan options remain extremely limited, however

Traditional Local Food

Traditional Polish cuisine tends to be hearty, rich in meats, sauces, and vegetables; sides of pickled vegetables are a favorite accompaniment Modern Polish cuisine, however, tends towards greater variety, and focuses on healthy choices In general, the quality of "store-bought" food is very high, especially in dairy products, baked goods, vegetables and meat products

A dinner commonly includes the first course of soup, followed by the main course Among soups, barszcz czerwony red beet soup, aka borsch is perhaps the most recognizable: a spicy and slightly sour soup, served hot It's commonly poured over dumplings barszcz z uszkami or barszcz z pierogami, or served with a fried pate roll barszcz z pasztetem Other uncommon soups include zupa ogórkowa, a cucumber soup made of a mix of fresh and pickled cucumbers; zupa grzybowa, typically made with wild mushrooms; also, flaki or flaczki, a kind of spicy tripe

Pierogi are, of course, an immediately recognizable Polish dish They are often served along side another dish for example, with barszcz, rather than as the main course Gołąbki are also widely known: they are large cabbage rolls stuffed with a mix of grains and meats, steamed and served hot

Bigos is another unique, if less well-known, Polish dish: a "hunter's stew" that includes various meats and vegetables, on a base of pickled cabbage Bigos tends to be very thick and hearty Similar ingredients can also be thinned out and served in the form of a cabbage soup, called kapuśniak Some Austro-Hungarian imports have also become popular over the years, and adopted by the Polish cuisine These include gulasz, a local version of goulash that's less spicy than the original, and sznycel po wiedeńsku, which is a traditional shnitzel, often served with potatoes and a selection of vegetables

When it comes to food-on-the-go, foreign imports tend to dominate such as kebab or pizza stands, and fast-food franchises An interesting Polish twist is a zapiekanka, which is an open-faced baguette, covered with mushroooms and cheese or other toppings of choice, and toasted until the cheese melts Zapiekanki can be found at numerous roadside stands and bars

Poland is also known for two unique cheeses, both made by hand in the Podhale mountain region in the south Oscypek is the more famous: a hard, salty cheese, made of unpasteurized sheep milk, and smoked It goes very well with alcoholic beverages such as beer The less common is bryndza, a soft cheese, also made with sheep milk and therefore salty, with a consistency similar to spreadable cheeses It's usually served on bread, or baked potatoes Both cheeses are covered by the EU Protected Designation of Origin like the French Roquefort, or the Italian Parmegiano-Reggiano

Milk bars

If you want to eat cheaply, you should visit a milk bar bar mleczny A milk bar is very basic sort of fast food restaurant that serves cheap Polish fare Nowadays it has become harder and harder to find one It was invented by the communist authorities of Poland in mid-1960s as a means to offer cheap meals to people working in companies that had no official canteen Its name originates from the fact that until late 1980s the meals served there were mostly dairy-made and vegetarian especially during the martial law period of the beginning of the 1980s, when meat was rationed The milk bars are usually subsidized by the state Eating there is a unique experience - it is not uncommon that you will encounter people from various social classes - students, businessmen, university professors, elderly people, sometimes even homeless, all eating side-by-side in a 1970s-like environment Presumably, it is the quality of food at absolutely unbeatable price veggie main courses starting from just a few złotych! that attracts people However, a cautionary warning needs to be issued - complete nut jobs do dine at milk bars too, so even if you're going to for the food, you'll end up with dinner and a show Curious as to what the show will entail? Well, each show varies, but most of them will leave you scratching head and require the suspension of reality

Drinking in Poland

Poland is on the border of European "vodka" and "beer culture" Poles enjoy alcoholic drinks at least as much as other Europeans You can buy beer, vodka and wine Although Poland is known as the birthplace of vodka, local beer seems to have much more appeal to many Poles Another traditional alcoholic beverage is mead Polish liqueurs and nalewka alcoholic tincture are a must

Officially, in order to buy alcohol one should be over 18 years old and be able to prove it with a valid ID which is strictly enforced

On the down side, alcoholism is rife

Beer

Poland's brewery tradition began in the Middle Ages Today Poland is one of top beer countries in Europe

Although not well known internationally, Poland traditionally sports some of the best pilsner-type lagers worldwide The most common brands include:

  • Lech pronounced LEH
  • Żywiec pronounced ZHIV-y-ets
  • Tyskie pronounced TIS-kee
  • Okocim pronounced oh-KO-cheem
  • Warka pronounced VAR-kah
  • Łomża pronounced Uom-zha
  • Tatra

Vodka

  • Żubrówka Zhe-BROOF-ka - vodka with flavors derived from Bison Grass, from eastern Poland
  • Żołądkowa Gorzka Zho-want-KO-va GORZH-ka - vodka with "bitter" gorzka in the name, but sweet in the taste Just like Żubrówka, it's an unique Polish product and definitely a must-try
  • Żytnia ZHIT-nea - rye vodka
  • Wyborowa Vi-bo-RO-va - One of Poland's most popular rye vodkas This is also one of the most common exported brands Strong and pleasant
  • Biała Dama Be-AH-wa DAH-ma is not actually a vodka but a name given by winos to cheap rectified spirits of dubious origin best avided if you like your eyesight the way it is
  • Luksusowa Look-sus-OH-vah "Luxurious" - Another popular brand, and a common export along with Wyborowa

Deluxe more expensive brands include Chopin and Belvedere Expect to pay about 100 złoty a bottle 2007 prices Most Poles consider these brands to be "export brands", and usually don't drink them

  • Starka "Old" - A vodka traditionally aged for years in oak casks Of Lithuanian origin

Wine

Poland does make a few quality wines around Zielona Góra in Dolnośląskie, Małopolskie and Podkarpackie in the Beskids with the most famous Polish wineyard in of the Dionisos of Jasło 43 website only in Polish and Świętokrzyskie in central Poland They used to be only available from the manufacturer or at wine festivals, like in Zielona Góra But with a new law passed in 2008, this has changed and Polish wines will also be available in retail starting in 2009

As for imported wine, apart from the usual old and new world standards, there is usually a choice of decent table wines from central and eastern Europe, such as Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Moldova, the Balkans, and Georgia

It the winter time, many Poles drink grzaniec mulled wine, made of red wine heated with spices such as cloves, nutmeg, and ginger A similar drink can be made with beer, although wine is the most popular method

Mead

Mead - Miód Pitny is a traditional and historical alcohol drink in Poland Mead is brewed from honey and has excellent unusual taste similar to wine Original Polish mead contain 13-20% alcohol Sometimes it can be very sweet

Cocktails

Poles are very keen on beer and vodka, and you'll find that cocktails are often expensive but can be found in most bars in most major cities

Tea and coffee

Throw stereotypes out the door For Poles, one of the most important staples to quench their thirst is not wódka or beer, but rather tea and coffee

When ordering a coffee, you'll find that it is treated with respect reminiscent of Vienna, rather than, say, New York Which is to say: you'll get a fresh cup prepared one serving at a time, with table service that assumes you'll sit down for a while to enjoy it Mass-produced to-go coffee remains highly unpopular, although chains such as Coffee Heaven have been making inroads

Ordering a tea, on the other hand, will usually get you a cup or kettle of hot water, and a tea bag on the side, so that the customer can put together a tea that's as strong or as weak as they like This is not uncommon in continental Europe, but may require some adjustment for visitors

For the most part, a good coffee can be had for 5 - 10 zł a cup, while a cup of tea can be purchase for the same, unless you happen to order a small kettle, in which case you'll probably pay something between 20 - 30 zł

Water

Drinking water with a meal is not a Polish tradition; having a tea or coffee afterwards is much more common If you want water with a meal, you might need to ask for it - and you will usually get a choice of carbonated gazowana or still niegazowana bottled water, rather than a glass of tap water Beware that even "still" bottled water, while not visibly bubbly, will still contain some carbon dioxide

Carbonated mineral waters are popular, and several kinds are available Poland was known for its mineral water health spas pijalnie wód in the 19th century, and the tradition remains strong - you can find many carbonated waters that are naturally rich in minerals and salts You can also travel to the spas such as Szczawnica or Krynica, which are still operational

Opinions regarding the safety of tap water vary: odds are it's OK, but most residents opt to boil or filter it anyway Water in Warsaw, Wroclaw and the rest of Silesia has a particularly poor reputation

Accommodation in Poland

Lodging prices are no longer the bargain they used to be several years ago; now they're comparable to standard European prices For the bargain hunter, standard tactics apply: if hotel prices are too much, look on the Internet for private rooms, pensions, or apartments for rent, which can sometimes be found for a very reasonable price Best deals are usually offered off-season

Hostels affiliated with the national hostelling association are often horrid options for backpackers because of imposed curfews Additionally, Hostelling International HI affiliated hostels are frequently used by large school groups, which means young children may very well be screaming their heads off and running around the halls Some private Hostels are clean and welcoming, but others can be even more dangerous than HI hostels

Working in Poland

At the moment Poland is one of the best places around the world to find a job as an English teacher TEFL courses that's Teaching English as a Foreign Language are run in many cities across Poland The demand for TEFL teachers is enormous and teaching language is a brilliant way to fund your travel and earn as you go

Cities in Poland

aleksandrow kujawski  andrychow  augustow  barlinek  bartoszyce  bedzin  bielawa  bielsk podlaski  bierun  biskupiec  bochnia  bogatynia  boguszow-gorce  braniewo  brodnica  brwinow  brzeg  brzeg dolny  brzesko  brzeszcze  brzeziny  bukowno  busko-zdroj  bydgoszcz  bytom  bytow  chodziez  chojnice  chojnow  chorzow  choszczno  chrzanow  ciechanow  ciechocinek  cieszyn  cracow  czarnkow  czechowice-dziedzice  czeladz  czersk  czestochowa  dabrowa gornicza  dabrowa tarnowska  debica  deblin  debno  dobre miasto  drawsko pomorskie  drezdenko  dzierzoniow  elblag  garwolin  gdansk  gdynia  gizycko  gliwice  gniezno  goleniow  golub-dobrzyn  gora  gora kalwaria  gorlice  gorzow wielkopolski  gostyn  grajewo  grodkow  grodzisk mazowiecki  grodzisk wielkopolski  grojec  grudziadz  gryfice  gryfino  gubin  hajnowka  hrubieszow  janikowo  janow lubelski  jarocin  jawor  jaworzno  jedrzejow  jelenia gora  jozefow  kalety  kalisz  kamienna gora  kamien pomorski  karczew  kartuzy  katowice  kedzierzyn-kozle  kepno  ketrzyn  kety  kholm  kielce  kluczbork  knurow  kolno  koluszki  konin  konskie  konstancin-jeziorna  koronowo  koscian  koscierzyna  kostrzyn  koszalin  kowary  kozienice  kozuchow  krapkowice  krasnik  krasnystaw  krosno  krosno odrzanskie  krotoszyn  kruszwica  krzeszowice  kudowa-zdroj  kutno  kwidzyn  lebork  ledziny  legionowo  legnica  leszno  lezajsk  libiaz  lidzbark warminski  limanowa  lipno  lubaczow  luban  lubartow  lubawa  lubin  lubliniec  lublin  lubon  lubsko  lwowek slaski  makow mazowiecki  malbork  marki  miastko  miechow  miedzychod  miedzyrzec podlaski  miedzyrzecz  mielec  milanowek  milicz  minsk mazowiecki  mogilno  monki  morag  mosina  mragowo  murowana goslina  myslenice  mysliborz  myszkow  nidzica  nisko  nowa deba  nowa ruda  nowa sol  nowe miasto lubawskie  nowogard  nowy dwor gdanski  nowy dwor mazowiecki  nowy sacz  nowy targ  nowy tomysl  nysa  oborniki  olecko  olesnica  olesno  olkusz  olsztyn  opalenica  opoczno  opole lubelskie  opole  orneta  orzesze  ostroda  ostrowiec swietokrzyski  ostrow mazowiecka  ostrow wielkopolski  ostrzeszow  oswiecim  otwock  ozimek  ozorkow  pabianice  parczew  piaseczno  piastow  piekary slaskie  pieszyce  pinczow  pionki  piotrkow trybunalski  pisz  pleszew  polaniec  police  polkowice  poniatowa  poreba  poznan  prudnik  pruszkow  przasnysz  przeworsk  pszczyna  pszow  puck  pyrzyce  pyskowice  raciborz  radlin  radom  radomsko  radzionkow  radzyn podlaski  rawa mazowiecka  rawicz  reda  rogozno  ruda slaska  rumia  rybnik  ryki  rypin  rzeszow  sandomierz  sanok  sepolno krajenskie  siedlce  siemianowice slaskie  siemiatycze  sieradz  sierpc  skarzysko-kamienna  skawina  skierniewice  skoczow  skwierzyna  sochaczew  solec kujawski  sopot  sosnowiec  srem  sroda wielkopolska  stalowa wola  starachowice  stargard szczecinski  starogard gdanski  stary sacz  staszow  strzegom  strzelce krajenskie  strzelce opolskie  strzelin  sucha beskidzka  suchedniow  sulechow  sulecin  sulejowek  swarzedz  swidnica  swidnik  swidwin  swiebodzice  swiecie  swinoujscie  sycow  szczecinek  szczecin  szczytno  szprotawa  szubin  tarnobrzeg  tarnowskie gory  tarnow  tczew  tomaszow lubelski  tomaszow mazowiecki  torun  trzcianka  trzebiatow  trzebinia  trzebnica  tuchola  turek  tychy  ustka  ustron  ustrzyki dolne  wabrzezno  wadowice  wagrowiec  warka  warsaw  wegorzewo  wegrow  wejherowo  wieliczka  wielun  wojkowice  wolbrom  wolsztyn  wronki  wrzesnia  wschowa  wysokie mazowieckie  wyszkow  zabki  zabkowice slaskie  zabrze  zagan  zakopane  zambrow  zamosc  zary  zawadzkie  zawiercie  zdunska wola  zdzieszowice  zgierz  zgorzelec  ziebice  zielona gora  zielonka  znin  zory  zychlin  zyrardow  

What do you think about Poland?

How expensive is Poland?
(1 PLN = 0.25 USD)
Meal in inexpensive restaurant16.2 PLN
3-course meal in restaurant (for 2)94.27 PLN
McDonalds meal18.75 PLN
Local beer (0.5 draft)5.94 PLN
Foreign beer (0.33 bottle) 6.51 PLN
Cappuccino6.46 PLN
Pepsi/Coke (0.33 bottle)3.62 PLN
Water (0.33 bottle)2.74 PLN
Milk (1l)2.57 PLN
Fresh bread (500g)2.83 PLN
White Rice (1kg)3.64 PLN
Eggs (12) 5.95 PLN
Local Cheese (1kg) 24.49 PLN
Chicken Breast (1kg) 17.48 PLN
Apples (1kg) 3.08 PLN
Oranges (1kg) 4.26 PLN
Tomato (1kg) 4.4 PLN
Potato (1kg) 1.76 PLN
Lettuce (1 head) 2.46 PLN
Water (1.5l)1.87 PLN
Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range) 18.6 PLN
Domestic Beer (0.5 bottle)3.12 PLN
Foreign beer (0.33 bottle) 4.28 PLN
Cigarettes12.6 PLN
One way local bus ticket3.33 PLN
Monthly pass for bus108.49 PLN
Taxi start5.82 PLN
Taxi 1km2.16 PLN
Taxi 1hour waiting33.18 PLN
Gasoline (1 liter) 4.73 PLN
Utilities for a "normal" apartment662.24 PLN
Tennis Court Rent (1 Hour on Weekend) 38.01 PLN
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