Heritage

Poland is a country with over a thousand year's of tradition and a turbulent history which may be traced through its various historic, religious, industrial and architectural monuments and relics. Most of these have been well preserved within the major urban centres of Krakow, Gdansk, Poznan, Wroclaw or Sandomierz. The origins of a country which found itself in the central part of Europe, where the East, West, North and South come together, resulted in a multicultural, divergent style of customs, traditions and historical monuments that are revered within each of the respective regions.

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An estimated 9.5 million Polish-Americans are living in the United States. They represent about 3% of the U.S., population. Many grow interested in tracing their family heritage to rediscover their ancestral ties to Poland. This type of travel tends to create a very memorable, emotional and personal attachment to the country or location. Many first-time heritage focused visitors are found to be returning to Poland for sentimental reasons or further research. With many resources available, reconnecting with your Polish heritage has never been easier. There are specific resources and tools you can use to begin tracing your heritage trail. You could start by contacting the Polish Genealogical Society of America (PGSA) for particular questions and tips. Warsaw’s POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews has created a Virtual Shtetl project which can prove invaluable in researching your Jewish ancestry in Poland. One can also explore the history and fates of Polish emigrants at the Emigration Museum in Gdynia. Additionally, the Polish State Archives collect vital information from various sources but unfortunately could prove challenging to navigate for non-Polish speakers.
Roman-Catholic sanctuaries are Poland's landmarks. The majority of pilgrims f lock to the Pauline Monastery on Jasna Góra in Częstochowa. Here you will find the blessed icon of the Black Madonna, venerated both in Poland and abroad. The followers of other faiths have their sanctuaries in many places around the country: the Eastern Orthodox Church at Grabarka, the Protestants at Karpacz, Wisła and Cieszyn, and the Muslims at Bohoniki.
Before the first Palaeolithic hunters appeared on the lands that are now Poland around 100,000 years ago, our country was a marshy green plain on which dinosaurs grazed. The most famous of these, Silesaurus Opolensis, meaning "Silesian lizard from Opole", one of the oldest known reptile species in the world, lived more than 230 million years ago in Krasiejow!
Warsaw: Remains of the Warsaw Ghetto are few, namely the restored Nozyk Synagogue, and the Jewish Cemetery. Of particular interest are the exhibits at the Jewish Historical Institute that focus on the history of the material and spiritual culture of Polish Jews from their beginnings to the present day. Warsaw is also home to the only European theatre performing in Yiddish, the State Jewish Theatre.
Until recently, these were being treated as a blight element on the landscape. Today, the ones that have been restored attract large crowds. Old factories, breweries and mines are becoming popular tourist attractions. More than 2000 post-industrial sites have already been added to a list of available attractions!
What is most interesting is usually well and truly hidden! In Poland, under the surface, there are real treasures to be found like fabulous caves, mysterious tunnels, multi-storey medieval cellars and even entire cities build by the military.
Themed tourist trails are an opportunity to learn what is unique and unrepeatable in the Polish landscape. They can be a lesson in history, literature or .......tolerance.
National Parks cover a mere 1% of Poland’s territory. But what a 1%! You can find everything there: mountains, sea, lakes. You can see bison, shifting sand dunes or the tree beneath which King Jagiello once rested. There are 23 national parks in total. The oldest is Bialowieski National Park, founded 86 years ago, which consists of an area of virgin forest inhabited by Europe’s largest mammals (the bison) as well as its smallest (the pygmy shrew, weighing only a few grams). The park is also famous for its record-breaking trees, in terms of both age and size. It is said that under Jagiello’s Oak (circumference 550 cm, height 39 m), King Jagiello rested on his way to the battle of Grunwald. The newest National Park, at the mouth of the river Warta, provides protection for a valuable area of flooded plain near Slonsk, where over 250 species of birds have been counted. 170 species nest here, while others stop over during their migratory journeys across the continent. The largest, Biebrzanski National Park, is almost entirely covered by water, consisting of a river and spongy peat bogs. The smallest National Park is the pocket-sized Ojcowski National Park, a 12 km section of the Pradnik Valley full of calcareous rocks in fairy-tale shapes, caves and castles from the time of the Piast dynasty. Each of the national parks is a treasure-house of records. Of only two primeval forests bordering on a great metropolis anywhere in the world, one lies in the suburbs of Warsaw in the Kampinoski National Park. The other is in Nigeria. The Narew river, a long section of which is protected within a National Park, is one of only two braid-like rivers in the world. And the Gory Stolowe (Table Mountains) National Park has the only plate-structured mountains in Europe. Although the national parks are places set aside for the protection of nature, they also contain reminders of historic events. Sosnowica in the Poleski National Park is the place where the young Kosciuszko, in love with the daughter of the estate owner, was served the traditional black soup of rejection. And Zelazowa Wola, close to the Kampinoski National Park, was the birthplace of Frederic Chopin. Most frequented by Poles are the Wielkopolski, Tatrzanski and Karkonoski National Parks. There are also many foreign visitors each year, particularly to those national parks which are noted for their bird life: Słowinski, Biebrzanski, Narwianski, Poleski and the park at the mouth of the Warta.
From the times of the Temple of Sybilla, the first museum in Poland created in Puławy, some 200 years have passed. Today’s museums have become increasingly very modern places with interactive facilities, which enlighten us about our world; they intrigue and can even provoke laughter. They are often established as a result of someone’s passion, some person so interested in the subject that he or she wanted to pass on this passion. In the remarkable Museum of the Warsaw Rising the horror of those days is amplified by the sounds of the planes dropping bombs and the explosion of shells. The visitor to the museum can ‘call’ an insurgent, who will tell them their story; he pushes himself through the sewers; he tears off the pages of a calendar documenting the days of the Rising. In the Museum of Papermaking in Duszniki-Zdroj anyone can drain off the paper mass on a riddle then put it into the press to obtain their own sheet of paper-mache. Museums lead us along many, different trails. Biographical museum with the lives of people known only perhaps from encyclopedias: Nicolaus Copernicus (Frombork), Nikifor (Krynica), Kornel Makuszynski (Zakopane) or Stanislaw Wyspianski (Krakow). Ethnographical museums can revive forgotten customs, often in a practical manner, for example in the Museum of the Mazovian region in Sierpc clay pots are still manufactured, butter is churned by hand, carpets are woven on a loom, and during the harvest the wheat is stacked in sheafs in the fields and then threshed with flail. Museums of industry, such as the Museum of the Textile Industry in Lodz, the Museum of Copper in Legnica or the Railway Museum in Jaworzyna Slaska are particularly fascinating. The latter will be appreciated particularly by steam train enthusiasts who will find several dozen elderly wagons and an impressive collection of locomotives in the museum. Next to the very important National Museum, there are small, private museums established by those passionate about certain subjects. The Museum of Arms and Weapons in Swidnica was born out of the passion of Stanislaw Gabrys, a retired locksmith. From dolls, toy cars and other varied toys collected by Henryk Tomaszewski, the legendary founder of the Wroclaw Mime Theatre, the Museum of Toys was created. A small, funny Museum of Socrealism in Poznan recalls how street carbonated water vending machines must have looked like, and teaches the art of writing Party speeches.
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