Poland


For me, there are 3 defining images of Poland.

Pope Paul 2nd, (I always thought he seemed like a pretty nice old bloke, in Poland he is revered; the effects of WW2, in particular the persecution of the Polish Jews; and pretty costumed people living a folklore life.

Poland, and in particular Warsaw, was heavily bombed in WW2. Hitler wanted “to create a larger living space” for his Aryan race and Poland was first in his sights. He was joined by Russia who at first attempted to destroy Poland and later became its benefactor/dictator, in the form of its Communist rule for the next 40 years. Talking with a young local boy, some of the older generations are not sure they prefer the new style of democratic government. Communism insured there was nothing they needed, providing housing, food, employment, medical care. A democracy can leave the weak behind.

Evidence of the past communist system is slowly being discarded and replaced, slowly but surely. Deteriorating buildings may be the last things to improve, but the locals seem to hold a peaceful, “lets just get on with it” attitude.

 

We first spent time in the charming old cities of the South. Krakow and Wroclaw. Both unique and interesting in their own way. Krakow, with a “botanical moat” of garden surrounding the city center was ideal for our bicycles and a guided tour. Passing through the old Jewish area it is a reminder of the past to be told up to 65,000 Jewish people once inhabited the area. It is now thought there are only about 60 living there.

 

An interesting trip before leaving the south was to the Wieliczka Salt Mines. To tour all the mines would take 4 months!! We visit for 3 hours. In operation for 700 years, it closed as recently as 1996 as the price of salt plummeted. It was incredible to think of the lives of those who lived, working in its depths. Massive timber structures held up the mine, salt acting as a preservative for timber, it was the ideal material to use. As danger was always present, the miners were very religious and 40 chapels have been created throughout the mine. The most impressive carved over 80 years by 3 different miners. Everything is carved in salt, the walls, the floors, the reliefs, the alter, even the chandeliers………… and a larger than life size version of PP2!

 

We whisked our way north through lush, green countryside, seeing plenty of crops but very few animals. Arriving at the Mazuri lakes district, we endured a road trip of approximately 600 kms, parking on the roadside over night, that’s a lot of travel for us over two days!

Poland has the most colorful, cared for cemetaries we have seen.

It was pretty around the lakes but a lot of rebuilding and improving took away some of the atmosphere and we were disappointed to find no bicycle paths around any of the lakes. ………….. spoilt by Switzerland I’m afraid!

Poland is rebuilding, restoring, growing and beautifying. It bought home to me that something as basic as sidewalk paving and a gutter denote a high standard of living. Poland is building a lot of sidewalk pavements and gutters.

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