About Poland

Poland on the map

Poland is located in the very heart of Europe and for ages it has been the border between the East and West. Travelling around the country you can get the spirit of both. Nearby Warsaw is the geometrical center of Europe! Poland extends from the Baltic Sea toward the Tatras (part of the Carpathians) covering an area of 312,685 km2. Territorialy it is the 9th biggest country in Europe and the 63rd in the world. Poland has quite a lot of neighbors: Germany to the West, Czech Republic and Slovakia to the South, Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania in the East and Russia to the Northeast. The Baltic Sea also creates marine borders with Denmark and Sweden. Poland is a member of the UN, NATO and the EU. The country is divided into 16 administrative regions – voivodships (wojewodztwo). The name of the country probably derives from the name of one of the largest tribes that used to live in this region Polanie, ‚dwellers of the plains’.


Poland extends between the Baltic Sea and the Carpathians, which provides a picturesque variety of landscapes. Almost 75 % of Poland is comprised of lowlands. They cover the Northern and Central part of the country, while the South is mountainous. In the North are the Lakeland and Masurian Lake districts, with tiny postglacial hills,countless lakes and hundreds kilometers long canoeing routes. Central Poland is a great green plain. The Southern part features Jurassic uplands and mountain ranges: Karkonosze, Beskidy and the Tatras, the highest mountain range in Poland (the highest peak is Rysy at 2499 m above sea level). The longest river in Poland is the Vistula („Wisła” in Polish), which flows for 1047 km from the South through Central Poland towards the Baltic Sea.



Polish is a Slavic language and belongs to the group of Western Slavic languages (together with Czech and Slovakian, among others). It originates from the Indo-European language group. It seems to be one of the most difficult languages with many grammar rules and an even bigger number of exceptions… The pronunciation is a very hard nut to be cracked by foreigners. But even for Poles, words like chrząszcz or rzeszowszczyzna are not easy… But the Polish language is worth learning – it is spoken by about 50 million people!

Travelling around Poland you shouldn’t have any problems communicating in basic English. In places that attract many tourists or in the big cities English is rather widely spoken, especially by young people. Descriptions in museums or menusin restaurants are in English as well. In some parts of Poland (the Silesia region, the Baltic sea shore, the Masurian Lake district) you can also communicate in German easily. But if you plan to go off road, to the places that are not very popular among visitors you may have some difficulties. Polish people are very hospitable and they will help you with pleasure, but your success in getting information may be based only on sign language… People in their fifties or older still remember some Russian, which was thought in the schools as a second language under the communist regime.



Poland is inhabited by about 40 million people, which makes it the 8th most populous country in Europe and the 29th in the world. In contrast to past history, today it is a very homogeneous country – more than 96% inhabitants are Polish. Ethnic minorities are 3,6 % of the population (before World War II they were 35% of the population!). Among them the largest groups are Germans (about 150 thousand people), Belorussians and Ukrainians. The reason for this homogeneity is the tragic 20th century history of Poland: during World War II about 6 million people were killed on the battlefront or exterminated. After the conference in Yalta (1945) the borders of Poland were marked. As a consequence, the country lost about 20% of its territory from before World War II as well as 6,5 million people. Resettlements and emigration under the communist regime further decreased the population by 1,7 million.