Posted on April 1st, 2009 No comments
Poland? Why would anyone want to go to Poland?
Castles, Catholics and Krakow
Few countries have a history more turbulent than Poland’s. With one castle built for each of its 1,000 years of history, the undying spirit of the people is evidenced all over the countryside. Constantly invaded and overrun, the Poles have managed to maintain their cultural identity amidst a fragmented history. Their tumultuous heritage is proudly exhibited in moving museums, inspiring, monuments, and a multitude of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Fortresses built by ancient dynasties and feudal kingdoms have been restored to unrivalled grandeur providing an exciting glimpse into Mediaeval Europe. The marks of history are etched into the modern existence of a nation emerging from modern dark times.
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One constant throughout Poland’s often painful past has been the Roman Catholic Church. Devotion is expressed everywhere, from Renaissance churches, to roadside shrines, to holy processions through every town and village. A people strongly united behind one another, the Poles have celebrated their faith since the nation’s inception, throughout oppression and in times of peace. The ritualistic nature of Catholicism is nowhere better experienced than at Poland’s most holy site, Czestochowa, where pilgrims gather round the clock to worship. It is difficult not to get caught up in the movingly open expression of faith so rarely seen in Western religion. A country so often left defeated in war now constantly demonstrates the power of religion.
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Most everyone falls in love with at least one of Poland’s great cities. A major trading centre and former seat of the kings, Krakow encompasses the power of hope in post-communist Europe. Artistic freedom and market liberalisation has created a most appealing setting for exploration of the country’s history, as well as all the indulgences of modern city life. Bursting with restaurants, exhibitions, attractive architecture, and entertainment, Krakow has incorporated an often painful past with a bright and exciting future. Virtually every day sees another festival celebrated, providing ample opportunity to soak up the unique atmosphere and sample the local delights. One of Europe’s great cities, it will leave you aching to return.
Exploring Poland is emotional and fulfilling. Its accelerated transformation from communist afterthought to European success story is inspiring. This is the time to experience Poland and the opportunity should not be missed.