Okay, maybe Poland doesn’t seem like a sexy destination. But that
could change. Before even mentioning the many events slated for
2005 and the numerous attractions, let’s get to the bottom line:
Poland hasn’t adopted the euro yet, so prices have not skyrocketed
as they have in many other popular European nations.
What this means is that good hotel rooms in summer go for only
120 zlotys a night or $40. Dinner in a top restaurant in Gdansk is
around $20 per person. Sound like something your
exchange-rate-conscious clients might be interested in? Read
“Poland for U.S. travelers is interesting because of its
cultural heritage,” said Jan Rudomina, U.S. director of the Polish
National Tourist Office. “What’s unique is the mix of Western and
Eastern European culture.”
On top of the Poland to-do list is the city of Krakow and its
environs. The city is rich with palaces, castles and universities,
including the one where Copernicus studied. The city also has the
largest medieval central market square in Europe.
Krakow is also home to the cathedral where Pope John Paul II was
a bishop before he was elected pope.
From June 26 through July 4, the 15th Jewish Culture Festival
takes place in Krakow’s Kazimierz Quarter. Performers from
Ashkenazi and Sephardic cultures entertain with modern and
traditional music, plays, exhibitions and workshops in Hasidic
dance and song, Hebrew calligraphy and cooking.
Outside the city are two of Poland’s most noteworthy locations;
one of them Auschwitz, the World War II death camp is conceivably
one of the most important historical sites in the world. The site,
40 miles west of Krakow, is open to visitors.
Twenty miles east lie the 13th-century salt mines in Wieliczka,
where tourists can visit underground statues, chapels and
restaurants all sculpted in salt. The 1,000-year-old port city of
Gdansk, with historic architecture reminiscent of Amsterdam, is on
Poland’s Baltic coast. This is where the Solidarity movement was
born and was home to its leader Lech Walesa.
From July 20 through Aug. 22, Gdansk is home to St. Dominic’s
Fair, a tradition dating back to the 13th century and featuring
feasts, concerts and a wide array of cultural events. More than
1,000 artists, merchants and collectors set up stands along streets
in the town center.
Nearby is the seaside resort of Sopot where the beautiful dunes
and beaches have been enticing vacationers since the late 19th
Travel within Poland can be done in style by train. The
two-hour, 40-minute rail journey between Warsaw and Krakow costs
only about $30 per person, first class. From within Europe, many of
the new discount carriers offer flights from major capitals to many
Polish destinations for as little as $30 each way.
Rudomina said Poland would not adopt the euro anytime soon,
which will undoubtedly make the country increasingly attractive as
“We have much lower prices than any Western European country,”
he said. “But the standard of service in hotels and transportation
is the same as in Western Europe.”