Poland is an eastern European country with medieval architecture and a Jewish heritage. It’s home to historic castles, buildings, and museums.
Population: 38 million
Key Cities: Warsaw, Krakow, Gdansk, Lodz
Official Language: Polish
Major Religions: Roman Catholic
Bordering Countries: Germany, Russia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Belarus
Size: 120,726 sq. miles
Lowest point: Raczki Elblaskie at -6 ft.
Highest point: Rysy at 8,199 ft.
An eastern European nation on the Baltic Sea, Poland borders seven different countries. Its land consists of sandy beaches, rolling hills, and snowcapped mountains.
Major mountain ranges in Poland include the Carpathians and the Sudetens. The land is also home to over 1,300 lakes, including the Oder and the Vistula.
Poland’s diverse geography creates a diverse climate. Winter is snowy, while summer and autumn are warm and rainy. Spring is cold for about half the season before becoming sunny and warm.
There are over 2,250 species of plants in Poland. This includes beech, fir, spruce and oak trees. There are also nearly 400 species of vertebrate animals.
Commonly spotted animals include deer, wild pigs, elk, gophers, and wildcats. Brown bears, bison, and marmot live in the region as well.
Poland was occupied by people as early as 2000 B.C. In A.D. 966, the area’s tribes were united by Mieszko, a Slavic chief.
In the late 1500’s, Poland united with Lithuania to form a commonwealth ruled by elected kings. The commonwealth was large and powerful, but it was gradually weakened by several wars.
Poland was conquered in 1795 and divided up by Prussia, Russia, and Austria. It wasn’t a united country again until after World War I.
World War II began when Poland was attacked by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, who wanted to divide the country between them.
About 1/5 of the Polish population died during World War II, and Poland was occupied by the Soviets for over 40 years.
In 1980, Polish workers started to protest communist rule. The protestors, called Solidarity activists, fought with the government until 1989, when democratic elections were held.
The country was renamed as the Republic of Poland, and the Communist Party was dissolved. Today, Poland is a semi-presidential democratic republic with a president and a prime minister.
Poland’s main industries are coal mining, chemicals, food processing, shipbuilding, glass, beverages, and textiles.
Top agricultural products include potatoes, wheat, poultry, eggs, pork, dairy, and various fruits and vegetables.
Like most European nations that were under Soviet rule, Poland’s economy has struggled to recover. Since joining the European Union in 2004, however, the economy has made great improvements.
As recently as 2003, unemployment was at 20, but today it has dropped to about 4%. Poverty levels are decreasing, but pay is still low for many citizens.
Poland’s currency is the Polish zloty.
97% of people in Poland speak Polish as a first language. Officially recognized minority languages include Kashubian, German, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Romany, Rusyn, Lithuanian, Armenian, Hungarian, Slovak, and Czech.
About 90% of Poles are Roman Catholic. Other religions in Poland are mostly Christian denominations, with smaller communities of Muslims, Jews, and Hare Krishnas.
Polish cuisine is mostly simple, consisting of meat, bread, and potatoes. Popular vegetables include beets, carrots, cabbage, beans, peas, and lentils. Milk, sour cream, cheese, and butter are also part of most meals.
Dinner usually includes a large bowl of soup and dessert. Pancakes or rice baked with apples and other fruit may also be served. In Poland, tea and coffee are served after meals.
Pierogi, or Polish dumplings, are the most recognized Polish dish around the world. They are usually filled with meat, cheese, mushrooms, or fruits like blueberries and strawberries.
Many of Poland’s popular festivals are based on the country’s love of music, like November’s All Souls Jazz Day.
One of the most significant celebrations is Independence Day, with fireworks, performances, food, and rides throughout the capital city of Warsaw.
The Warsaw International Film Festival and the International Street Art Festival are popular and lively events as well.
Marie Curie- Nobel Prize winner
Frederic Chopin- composer
Joseph Conrad- writer
Lukas Podolski- soccer player
Poland has 17 Nobel Prize winners, including five for Literature and four Peace Prizes.
The most popular name for dogs in Poland is “Burek.” That translates to “brownish-gray color.”
The Polish city of Wroclaw holds an annual medieval festival, complete with jousting, horse archery, and medieval dances.
Pizza in Poland doesn’t usually have tomato sauce. At restaurants, waiters bring a pitcher of sauce for customers to pour on top. Sometimes this sauce is ketchup.
An estimated 100 million paczki (a Polish donut) are eaten every year—on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday alone!
The Polish alphabet has 32 letters.