Eyewitness Travel: Poland
Dorling Kindersley – £15.99
Being half Polish, I’ve been longing to visit Poland all my life and a couple of weeks ago, I finally did just that. It was admittedly only as far as Szczecin, which is just across the border and a mere two-hour train ride from my home city of Berlin; but it was still Poland – with a different language, a different currency, different customs, different, well you get the drift, different everything.
And what came in really handy was this mighty superb, bumper guidebook, Eyewitness Travel – Poland. Reason being, the Survival Guide located towards the back of the book, is veritably crammed with all kinds of vital and worthy information, that one wouldn’t normally associate with a brief visit. Practical information such as that related to customs, when to go, language and communication, electrical appliances, internal travel (including not only that by air, train and ferry, but also car, bus, tram and bus), banking and local currency, religion, as well as visiting churches – churches being of major importance in Poland.
One of the (many) aspects I found inspiring, were the nineteen pages devoted to ‘A Portrait Of Poland’ at the outset. Following on from ‘Population and Religion’ under the headed section ‘Cultural Variety and Shifting Borders,’ the editors write: ‘’The legacy of more than 100 years of partition rule is still visible in Poland’s cultural landscape today. Russian, Prussian and Austrian administration left their mark not only on rural and urban architecture but also on the customs and mentality of the Polish people.’’
Indeed, this was quite pronounced in central Szczecin, where much of the architecture appeared to lend itself to that of a German influence. That said, on the opposite page of said quote is a small colour picture of The Pazim, the city’s tallest building, which, from an architectural perspective, is more akin to that of the City of London!
Moreover, there’s a background on Early Polish (Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance) Architecture, immediately followed by Later Polish (Baroque, Neo-Classicism and Modernism) Architecture, which also includes colour drawings and photographs. And while this is closely followed by ‘The Literature of Poland,’ The Music of Poland,’ along with the ‘The Traditional Nobility,’ it is of course, The History of Poland’ that truly resonates.
As equally inflammatory as it is sobering as it is heartbreaking, the editors, by way homing in on just one aspect of Poland’s history, shed much light on a tragedy not yet truly healed: ‘’On 1 August 1944 the underground Home Army (Armia Krajowa) launched an uprising in Warsaw against the occupying Germans. Its aim was to liberate the capital before the arrival of the Red Army. The Russians were waiting on the left bank of the river, allowing the Germans to suppress the outburst. The uprising lasted over two months and led to the complete destruction of the city as well as the loss of tens of thousands of lives.’’
Eyewitness Travel – Poland is bookmarked either end with two maps: a road map of the country at the back, as well as a really insightful colour coded, region by region map (replete with related page references at the front to such areas as Pomerania, Silesia, Wielkopolska etc) at the front. Suffice to say, the biggest section of which consists of the forty-seven pages devoted to the country’s capital, Warszawa.
So yeah, there you have it. If you’re thinking of travelling to Poland, this guidebook really is something of an imperative read (the useful phrase section towards the rear especially). As stated in The Observer: ‘’A pleasurable read with ravishing photography plus maps and plans of supreme quality.’’
I couldn’t have put any better myself.