The majority of the Polish population, about 90% are Roman Catholic, however, of these, only about 75% are practicing. Pope John Paul II hailed from Poland, so Catholicism's popularity and influence should come as no real surprise. Other religious denominations include Eastern Orthodox, Protestant and unspecified or no religion.
Polish is the official language and most of the population speaks it, around 98%. Like Czech, Slovak, Russian, and a host of others, Polish is a Slavic tongue. English is not too widely spoken, but should be able to get by.
Area (sq. km):
312,685 square meters
Poland is 1 hour in front of GMT.
Though Poland's climate is temperate; winters can be wet and cold. Chilling winds whip across the great plain during the late autumn and winter months and rain and come snow are common. Summers, on the other hand, are usually mild. Temperatures in July and August usually average around the low 20 degree Celsius range.
The best time to visit is May-October. Summer days can be hot, but take a jumper for the evenings. In May and June, the fields are overrun by wildflowers: poppies, cornflowers and daisies. October is also a good time to go, because the weather is mild and there are no crowds. The main tourist season peaks in July and August.
Krakow’s John Paul II International Airport is located about 11 kilometres west of the old town. Radio Taxi 9191 offers taxi transport on a round-the-clock basis; a taxi should cost around 300Zl. The bus stop is located directly at the roundabout, in front of the passenger terminal. Buses of the municipal transport authority (MPK S.A.) of Kraków no.192 - from Plac Matejki, through Podwale Street and the Cracovia Hotel. 208 - from Nowy Kleparz, through the Miasteczko Studenckie (Students' Town) and Balicka Street X08 - from Filharmonia through Powiœle Street (back- Zwierzynieck¹ Street), Aleje and Radzikowskiego Street. Journey time for the bus is around 30–40 minutes.
Most public telephones now use magnetic phone cards, which are available at kiosks and post offices. Major telecommunications in Poland are provided by Telekomunikacja Polska (TP). The international dialing code for Poland is 48.
220V, 50Hz AC, using a standard round two-pin variety.
Polish cuisine is heavy on meat and starch and not much else, and thus rarely elicits gasps of gastronomic rapture, the cuisine has developed dramatically over recent years and most cities have a wide range of dining options available. The cuisine has been influenced by various cultures including Ukrainian, Russian, Jewish, Hungarian and German. Try bigos (sauerkraut with a selection of meats), barszcz (a red beetroot soup which originates from Russian borscht), zurek (sour soup with hard-boiled eggs and sausage) and golacbki (cabbage leaves stuffed with minced beef and rice). If you're an avid drinker of distilled spirits, Poland is much closer to heaven. The Polish national drink is vodka, and lots of it, usually drunk neat. Beer is becoming increasingly popular too.
When in Poland, look out for a number of interesting souvenirs including crystal bowls, leather bags, and woollen sweaters, as well as fine amber and silver jewellery, paintings and sculptures. General shopping hours are Monday to Friday 0600-1800/1900, shorter hours on Saturday and Sunday.
Visa: Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, USA and British citizens, do not require a visa to visit Poland for a maximum stay of 90 days. Other nationalities should check with the Polish Embassy or Consulate in their country for up to date visa information.
A History of the Holocaust – Yehuda Bauer Privatizing Poland: Baby Food, Big Business and the Remaking of Labor (Culture and Society After Socialism) – Elizabeth C. Dunn Heart of Europe: The Past in Poland’s Present – Norman Davies Poland – James A. Michener The Polish Way: A Thousand-Year History of the Poles and Their Culture – Adam Zamoyski