Category Archives: travel tip

Travel Tip: Szlak Orlich Gniazd (Trail of the Eagles’ Nests)

The Orgodzieniec Castle ruins by Mariusz Kucharczyk (Flickr, CC Licence)

The Orgodzieniec Castle ruins by Mariusz Kucharczyk (Flickr, CC Licence)

1.What is it?

A protected area  with 25 Medieval castles, often built on tall white rocks, by Kazimierz the Great, the Polish king. The trail itself is over 160 kilometres long and passes through all 25 castle sites, including the most famous Polish castle, the Wawel Castle in the heart of Kraków. Many of the castles were destroyed or damaged during the Swedish Invasion of Poland in the 17th century.

2. Where is it?

In the south of Poland, between Częstochowa and Kraków.

Pieskowa Skała Castle by Francisco Manzano (Flickr, CC licence)

Pieskowa Skała Castle by Francisco Manzano (Flickr, CC licence)

3.  Why bother?

The Trail of the Eagles’ Nests is one of Poland’s best and most picturesque trails. You don’t need to follow the entire trail, of course, you can just pick a castle and go there. The Pieskowa Skała Castle, for example (see above), is easily accessible by car and bicycle. It’s a stunning location, perched high on a tall rock, with lovely views and garden.

4. And you don’t want to miss…

… the Maczuga Herculesa (‘Hercules’s bludgeon’) rock. Called that thanks to its distinctive shape resembling a bludgeon. It’s located just a few minutes down from Pieskowa Skała.

5. Want to know more?

Watch the lovely promotional video (no, I wasn’t paid to show it, I just came across it on YouTube), created  to promote the region. Oh, and when you visit, go in the summer or early autumn…

Travel tip: Trzęsacz, the church swallowed by the sea

Trzęsacz by Tomek Witan via Flickr, used under Creative Commons licence
No, I haven’t chosen today’s destination only because of its tongue-twisting nature. Trzęsacz is also a very unique place which shows the destructive power of the Baltic Sea.

1. What is it?

Trzęsacz is a tiny village on the Polish coast famous for its disappearing church (see below).

2. Where is it?

North-west Poland, on the coast, sandwiched between other (bigger) holiday resorts like Rewal or Pobierowo. It’s easy to get there by car, local narrow-gauge train or, if you’re adventurous, you can also go for a very long walk along the beach if you’re staying in any of the nearby resorts.

3. Why bother?

Several centuries ago the village of Trzęsacz had a church which was built right in the middle of it – some 2 kilometers from the sea. Over the centuries though the unstoppable process of coastal erosion has ‘swallowed’ much of the land separating Trzęsacz from the sea and by late 19th century the church was emptied of its fittings and artwork and was left to its own devices. The first part of the church collapsed into the sea at the beginning of the 20th century. Now only the southern wall survives – but it’s become a major tourist attraction in the area.

4. And you don’t want to miss…

The recently-built long viewing platform rises above the beach and allows you to admire the ruins from an elevated perspective, but hey, it’s a beach too! Jump into the sea or admire the sunset. It can be as spectacular as in the Med (the sunset, that is, not the sea itself). The whole area is also a heaven for extreme sports enthusiasts.

5. Want to know more?

You can find tourist information about Trzęsacz on Google, but if you want a detailed scientific analysis of the coastal processes in the area, have a look at the Messina Project which also contains very old images of the church before it collapsed into the sea.

 

Travel tip: rafting on the Dunajec

Feeling adventurous? Fancy a bit of whitewater rafting minus the whitewater? Want some stunning views and possibly some equally amazing stories thrown in? Well, hop on a plane to the south of Poland, where you can go rafting and explore the fantastic Dunajec River Gorge.

1. What is it

The Dunajec river runs through a very picturesque gorge (Przełom Dunajca), whose peaks rise over hundreds of metres above the water. The rafting is organised by local flisaks (“flisak” is an old Polish word used to refer to those who transport people or goods on rivers). They have special boats, or canoes, which take up to 20 people and travel almost 20 kilometers downstream to the town of Szczawnica. On the way you pass through the Pieniny National Park with its mind-blowing views and lush nature.

2. Where is it?

The gorge runs through the Pieniny Mountains which are in the south of Poland, near the Slovak border. In fact, part the river itself forms the border between the two countries.

3. Why bother?

It’s stunningly beautiful and unique. The flisaks have been doing it for well over a hundred years and they have plenty of stories to tell and, if you’re lucky, songs to sing. The views of the gorge are breath-taking and it’s definitely at its best in the summer or in early autumn, when the colours of the trees begin to change.

4. And you don’t want to miss…

The most famous peak, Trzy Korony (The Three Crowns), a distinctive mountain rising over 900 metres above the river.

5. Want to know more?

The season usually starts in April and ends in October. You can find out more from the official Pieniny website.

Image of The Gorge © Leszek Kozlowski, Flickr, used under the Creative Commons licence
Image of the river © Thomas Ritz, Flickr, used under the Creative Commons licence

Travel tip: Bieszczady

Bieszczady

1. What is it?

It’s a stunning mountain range and Poland’s largest National Park with (mostly) unspoilt nature and some rare wild animals like wolves and brown bears.

2. Where is it?

You’d need to travel to the extreme south-east corner of Poland. The mountain range spans three countries (Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine)

3. Why bother?

It’s a hikers’ heaven and it’s wild. It’s not unusual to hear wolves at night, while brown bears roam free in the more remote parts of the mountains too. Plus the views are breath-taking.

4. And you don’t want to miss…

Apart from the nature, there are quite a few man-made structures you’ll see over and over again in Bieszczady. look out for the old road shrines and crosses, often well-maintained despite being in a remote location.

5. Want to know more?

There are more and more resources in English as people discover this remote part of Europe, try Destination360 or Stay Poland for more info, maps and images.

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Bieszczady – image ©animisiewaz, via Flickr, used under Creative Commons licence

Celebrate Frederic Chopin’s birthday

Frederic Chopin statue in Warsaw © Patrick F via Flickr

This one is for music lovers planning a trip to Warsaw.

To mark the bicentennial of Frederic Chopin’s birth (yes, he was Polish), the Polish capital has published a Chopin audio city guide.

Available in eight languages, the guide will take tourists to some key locations related to the great pianist.

You can download the audio guide from Warsaw City Hall’s website (in English and other languages) or you can get in while walking through the capital as there will be several ‘music banks’ with special codes, which you can scan using your mobile – and get the audio files this way.

If you are a Chopin fan, you’ll be pleased to know that next year over 2,000 evens are planned across the globe to mark the 200th anniversary of his birth – and over half of them will take place various cities across Poland.

Just remember that – as Chopin was born to a French father and Polish mother – his name will often be spelt in two different ways in Poland. Frederic Chopin is the internationally recognised spelling of course, but Poles will refer to him as Fryderyk Szopen. The pronunciation is similar, just swap the French accent for a Polish one ;)

So, if you haven’t been yet, it looks like 2010 might be a good year to visit Poland at last!

Frederic Chopin Statue in Warsaw – image © Patrick F via Flickr, used under Creative Commons licence

Travel tip – Mazury

MazuryMy second Polish travel tip for the summer is aimed at those of you who love water – and big lakes in particular:

1. What is it?

Mazury is famous for its wild, largely unspoilt nature and numerous lakes. It’s very popular in the summer, many Poles go there for their summer holidays.

2. Where is it?

Mazury is a region in north-eastern Poland; easy to reach from Warsaw or Gdańsk.

3. Why bother?

Whether you love spending time on a boat, do a bit of bird-watching or just relaxing in the middle of nowhere, the Mazury lake district is big enough to cater for all those needs.

4. And you don’t want to miss…

… Śniardwy, the largest lake in Poland, and the neighbouring town of Mikołajki.

5. Want to know more?

Visit this site (in Polish, but with a nice Google map with photos). ALternatively read all about Mazury on Wikipedia.

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Image © ekieraM via Flickr, used under Creative Commons licence