I’ve prepared a list of places for Taiwanese people to see in Poland, a country with a colorful, yet tragic, history. Here’s a list of places in Poland that will surprise you, sadden you, and make you smile.
Gdansk is associated with Solidarity and Lech Walesa. The Polish icon sometimes strolls through the streets of Gdansk. If you’re lucky, there is a chance you might meet him. Lech Walesa enjoys taking pictures with appreciative strangers and chatting with them.
Poland's WWII history
Warsaw’s motto is semper invicta, which is Latin for always invincible. Destroyed by Nazi Germany in 1944, the city rose up from the ashes like a phoenix.
Warsaw Old Town is a shining example of post-war reconstruction. The only traces of war today are the bullet holes left in the walls as a reminder of Warsaw’s haunting past. No wonder the Warsaw Old Town was inscribed on Unesco’s list of World Heritage sites.
On August 1, at 5 p.m. (11 p.m. Taiwan time, six hours ahead), sirens wailed throughout the city to commemorate the victims of Nazi occupation who bravely fought against the occupiers for 63 days in the Warsaw Uprising. Hitler’s order was clear: Warsaw was to be razed to the ground.
The Warsaw Uprising Museum is an excellent place to learn what state-sponsored genocide leads to. You’ll learn about the Scouting Battalion Zoska and brave Polish Girl Scouts fighting against the Nazi-German occupiers.
Other influences and Polish eccentrics
France's historical impact on Poland was powerful, so it shouldn’t surprise you that the Monument to Napoleon Bonaparte is a place of historical significance for Poles. Indeed, Napoleon is mentioned in the Polish anthem as the one who has shown us ways to victory. Maria Sklodowska-Curie is sometimes seen as French, and you can learn about her Polish heritage when visiting the Maria Sklodowska-Curie Museum.
The same is true of Fryderyk Chopin, who was described as a Varsovian by birth, a Pole in his heart, and a citizen of the world by virtue of his talent. Chopin’s birthplace, Zelazowa Wola, is an easily accessible town 45 km west of Warsaw.
As with many cities around the world, Warsaw has its share of puzzling people who eventually turn into legends. One of them is Czarny Roman, who walked around central Warsaw, shouting prophecies of doom. Some say he lost a fortune which caused him to lose his mind; others say he was cursed.
Poland has a rich Jewish heritage. Polish-Jewish history goes back a thousand years. A third of Warsaw’s population was Jewish before the Second World War. Visit the Polin Museum to learn more about the Jewish contribution to Polish and global culture.
If you’re a science buff, Centrum Nauki Kopernik is a great place to visit.
How could we forget about the Palace of Culture and Science? Make no mistake: the name of the building is deceiving. In fact, the Palace of Culture and Science is a symbol of Soviet oppression; Stalin’s gift, as it’s informally called.
The Palace of Culture and Science is the most famous building in Poland. Some Poles love it, some Poles hate it and would love to tear it down. Rumors have swirled for years that there are tunnels leading all the way to Moscow, which is extremely unlikely. Someone would have found them by now.
Krakow, the south and Thomas Jefferson
It’s time to venture south to the old Polish capital Krakow.
He played an important role in the American Revolutionary War and Thomas Jefferson was his close friend. So close, in fact, that Kosciuszko had an unusual request for the Founding Father, "I beg Mr. Jefferson that in case I should die without will or testament he should buy out of my money so many Negroes and free them, that the restart sum should be sufficient to give them education and provide for their maintenance."
Jefferson called Kosciuszko the purest son of liberty I have ever known.
The Wawel Royal Castle and the Wawel Hill are, arguably, the most important cultural centers in Poland. For enthusiasts of the esoteric, visiting the Wawel Chakra is a must. It is rumored to be one of the world’s main centers of spiritual energy.
As it is Ghost Month in Taiwan, click here to learn about the Warsaw urban legends and hauntings.
See you in Poland!