Poland on UNESCO

Auschwitz-Birkenau

Auschwitz-Birkenau is considered to be the symbol of the Holocaust and the Nazi crime, and the largest cemetery in the world. Here, between 1940-45 about 1,5 million innocent people, including women and children were perished in the ashes of crematories or killed with the criminal medical experiments, starvation, exhausting work. Most of the victims were Jewish, as Birkenau camp became the center of extermination of the European Jews – almost 1 million was killed here. Except for Jews there were also Poles, Russian, Gypsies and members of other nationalities who were brought to the Nazi camps. In 1940 on the suburbs of the town Oswięcim (in German Auschwitz), only 70 km from Krakow the Nazis established the concentration camp, that later on was turned also into the extermination camp. One year later the second part of the camp was built, known as Auschwitz II or Birkenau. Very soon it became the real Factory of Death with four crematories with the capacity of burning about 5000 corpses a day.

Today Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum protects the site of the former concentration and extermination camps. In Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum one can still see the brick and wooden barracks, were the prisoners were kept, the gallows, barbed wires, the crematorium and the gas chamber (in Auschwitz) or their ruins in Birkenau. Auschwitz Birkenau Museum is considered not only the monument to the deliberate Nazi genocide, but also the monument to the strength of the human spirit, who in the appalling conditions of the Nazi camps was still able to show its heroism defending fellow human being and its dignity.

 

Bialowieża Forrest

The National Park of Bialowieża protects the oldest remain of the primal immense forest that used to cover the lowlands of Europe more than 1000 years ago. Bialowieza Forest is located in the borderland between Poland and Belarus. The Polish part covers the area of 580 km2. 500 years ago it used to be the favorite hunting area of the Polish kings, that is why they forbade settling down and tree felling in this region. Due to it the forest survived intact by any civilization till today. In 1924 the national park was set up here, the oldest one in Poland. In 1977 it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List, as one of the 2 national parks that are on this List in Europe (another one – Durmitor is in Montenegro). In the Bialowieża forest there are about 20 different types of the forests! The Bialowieża Forest is famous for the bisons living here, the largest mammals in Poland. Due to the herds in Bialowieza the species of bison was reconstructed in Europe. In 1927 the animals extincted – among the 50 mammals that were found in the world some of them were chosen to be brought to Bialowieza, when the program of reintroduction of the bison in Europe started.

 

Churches of Peace in Jawor and Swidnica

The Churches of Peace in Jawor and Swidnica are one of the most unique examples of the wooden architecture and the cultural phenomena. Both were build in the 17th c. for the protestant communities in the catholic Silesia as a result of the agreement of the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) that ended the Thirty Years War in Europe. This war was the struggle between the protestant Reich (supported by other protestant countries: Holland, Denmark, Sweden) and the catholic Habsburg dynasty. The Austrian emperor Ferdinand III Habsburg allow the protestants in to build three churches – to maintain peace in Silesia. Only two of them – in Jawor and Swidnica have remained till today.

 

These churches are the largest timber-framed religious building in Europe and the great testimony of the religious tolerance. The churches however were to be built of different materials (wood, clay, sand), out of the city and during 1 year only. It implemented the pioneering the constructional and architectural solutions what made the churches of Peace one of the most astonishing artifacts in Europe. The Church of Peace in Swidnica has the 4 floors with the galleries for about 7500 people. The furnishings of the church also astonish with their beauty: the altars, pulpits, painted ceilings and the marvelous baroque altar.

 

Kalwaria Zebrzydowska

Kalwaria Zebrzydowska is a breathtaking example of the cultural landscape and the religiousness that flourished in Europe as the result of the struggle between the Catholic and the Protestant church. In the 17th c. the Zebrzydowski family founded the Calvary with about 40 tiny churches and chapels that formed the symbolic copy of Jerusalem. The architects used the natural hilly area whose topography reminds this in the Holy Land making Kalwaria Zebrzydowska one of the most beautiful man-made large scale landscapes combining the natural beauty with the spiritual objectives. Kalwaria Zebrzydowska is still the active pilgrimages center – the second big one devoted to Our Lady in Poland. Here in the Basilica the holy icon of Our Lady is kept attracting thousands visitors each year. Kalwaria has become the special place for the veneration of Christ Passion – visiting the chapels picturesquely located around the hills, one can follow the Way of the Cross. Each year in the Holy Week the great misterium of Passion takes place here, one of the most spectacular such religious events in Europe. Kalwaria played a special role in the life of the Pope John Paul II, who visited this places hundreds of times as a young boy – today it is one of the most important places in the John Paul II Route.

 

Krakow – Old Town

Krakow was luckily never destroyed by the German Nazis during World War II (in contradiction to most of the big Polish cities) and today is known as one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe. For this reason in 1978 it entered UNESCO World heritage List together with the first twelve sites in the world that were chosen by the UNESCO Committee! Krakow was the former capital of the Polish Kingdom and due to it the political and artistic center. It is often called the Cultural Capital of Poland or the Royal City. The living heart of the city is the Main Market Square, the largest medieval Square in Europe (200m x 200m). Here you can find the beautiful building of the Cloth Hall and St.Mary’s Basilica, a marvelous Gothic church with the largest medieval altar of Europe, made in the 15th c. by the artist Veit Stoss. Along the Royal Way there are numerous medieval and baroque churches. The pearl of Krakow is the Wawel Hill with the renaissance royal castle and the cathedral, the main coronation and the burial church of the Polish kings. Nearby there is also the Old University Quarter with the Gothic building of Collegium Maius (15th c.). Krakow is the seat of the oldest University in Poland. In the center there is also Kazimierz, the old Jewish Town, that has become world famous due to the film the Schindler’s List that was made here by Steven Spielberg.

 

Salt Mines in Wieliczka and Bochnia

The Salt Mine in Wieliczka is one of the oldest and the largest salt mines in Europe and definitely one of the Wonders of Poland! It entered UNESCO List together with the first 12 sites in the world that were placed on this privileged list. The mine in Wieliczka nearby Krakow has been operating since the 13th century. Today it is not only the monument to the history of mining but also a great monument to the human work. All the underground chambers, chapels, tunnels were carved in the rock salt by the miners working in the depths. The salt mine in Wieliczka has 9 levels, but only three are available for the visitors. It is 324 m deep and has more than 2000 salt chambers, that all together are about 300 km long! One of the most amazing things under the ground are the chapels with the beautiful decoration: altars, statues, chandeliers that are carved in salt. Among them the most spectacular is the St. Kinga’s Chapel, the largest underground chapel made of salt in the world. Except for the tourist route in the mine there is also the museum of mining and the underground health resort.

 

Near to Cracow and Wieliczka there is one more Salt Mine, the oldest one in Poland. It is located in Bochnia and from 2013 also placed on  the UNESCO World heritage List as an extension of the Wieliczka Salt Mine inscription of 1978.  There is 16 levels under the surface. The most famous in Bochnia are August Passage, the main transportation and communication route and the biggest chamber – Ważyn Chamber. Underground operates  multimedia exhibition, where visitors can trace the history of salt mining.  During guide’s stories visitor listen the history of  Polish kings, Genoese mine workers as well as the spirit of the Cistercian monk – a monk of the law involves creating a mine in Bochnia. There are two ways of exploring this place  –  on foot or by boat.

 

Malbork – Castle of theTeutonic Order

Malbork castle is one of the largest and the finest brick medieval castles, beautifully located on the Nogat River. It was built by the Teutonic Order in the 13th c, but enlarged and turned into the enormous fortified monastery after the arrival of the Grand Master of the Order. He moved to Malbork from Venice in 1307 placing here the headquarters of the order. The castle is really impressive – it consists of 3 inner castles, tho lower one, the middle and the upper one. The complex is crowned with the beautiful silhouette of the Gothic basilica. The guided tour through the castle moves you back to the Middle Ages and the dark history of the Crusades and the christianisation of Prussia. In the Northern Poland there is the route of the Teutonic Order – following it one visits the gothic cities or the castles build by them in the Middle Ages (Grudziadz, Kwidzyn, Chelm, Olsztyn). Among all the buildings however the Malbork Castle is the supreme example of the Crusading Teutonic Order architecture in Europe.

 

Muzakowski Park/Muskauer Park

The Muzakowski Park/Muskauer Park covers the area of more the 700 ha and is one of the largest and the most beautiful landscape parks in Europe. It was established by the Prince Herman Puckler-Muskau between 1815-1844, but his work was being continued by the descendants of the prince till the World War II. After 1945 the new border was marked that divided park into Poland and Germany. The park surrounds the 19th c. residence and is not only the outstanding example of the 19th c. landscape design but also the monument of nature: there are forests, marshlands, moorlands, lakes and the picturesque valley of the Nysa River. Walking around the park one can admire the views of the valley, solitary trees, romantic bridges and green hills. The Muzakowski/Muskauer Park was a milestone in the development of the ideal human made landscape and the landscape architecture as a discipline.

 

Torun – Old Town

Toruń is picturesquely located on the Vistula River – the panoramic view of the medieval historical centre (seen from the embankments of the Vistula River) was chosen in 2007 to be one of the seven Wonders of Poland. The development of Torun was connected with the Teutonic Order who settled down here in the middle of the 13th c, building the gothic castle – the base for the christianisation of Prussia. Very soon the city started developing as the commercial trading centre, being one of the most important cities of the Hanseatic League. Torun still has its medieval spirit hidden in the old 14th and 15th century houses, fortifications, churches (Cathedral of St. John) that are considered one of the best examples of the brick medieval architecture. The unique thing is the medieval urbain plan that can still be remarked. The heart of the city is the medieval Main Square with the amazing brick Town Hall. Torun is also the city of Nicolaus Copernicus, the great astronomer who invented the revolutionary heliocentric theory. He was born here in 1473 (in St. Anna’s Street there is the museum of Copernicus). Being in Torun don’t miss tasting famous ginger cakes, that have become the symbol of the city. In the Middle Ages Torun being a great trading center and the important port had access to the exotic and rare spices: cardamom, cinnamon and ginger, what gave possibility to start baking these cakes.

 

Warsaw – Old Town

Warszawa, the capital of Poland is very often called by Polish people: The City-Hero. This beautiful city, since the beginning of the 17th c. the administration center of Poland and the seat of the royal family suffered the most during World War II. After the Warsaw’s Uprising in 1944 Warszawa was was completely damaged by the German Nazis, bombed down to the ground. More than 85 % of the buildings were destroyed and the splendid historical centre turned into ruins. It took years to rebuilt the city and it was great effort for its citizens Warszawa entered UNESCO world Heritage List in 1980 as one of the most amazing, meticulous and near total reconstructions of the historical centre.

Today walking around the Old Town one can still get the spirit of Warszawa in its heyday – 18th century, when it was the scene for the important political and artistic events in the court of the last king of Poland Stanislaw Poniatowski. The highlights of the Old Town are: the Royal castle, picturesque tiny streets and the Main Market line up with the beautiful tenement houses, the fortifications and St. John’s Cathedral. The contemporary landmark of the city is the Palace of Science and Culture , built in 1955 as the compulsive gift from Stalin. Warszawa is also famous for its parks. The most beautiful is Lazienki Park (Baths), the former subarbian residence of the Polish king with the Palace on Water, tiny temples and the statue of Chopin.

 

Wooden churches of Southern Poland

The wooden churches of Southern Poland (Malopolska region) is one of the most unique monuments one can find in Poland. These buildings is the part of the famous Wooden Architecture Route showing the most valuable examples of the traditional wooden architecture: the manor houses, mills, churches, chapels, orthodox churches or the bell towers. Only in the region of Malopolska (Krakow is its capital) there are 237 objects in this route. The most beautiful however are the old wooden churches – 6 of them were placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2003 (churches in Binarowa, Blizne, Debno Podhalańskie, Haczów, Lipnica Murowana, Sękowa). They were founded by the local nobles as the symbol of their religiousness but also richness and used to serve also for the whole village. Some of them have still its original decoration: the wall paintings , wooden furnishings and sculptures. Visit to such church is an unforgettable experience. The silence and the smell of old wood move us back to the Middle Ages. On the other hand however visiting these churches, picturesquely located in the small villages in the hilly Malopolska region give us opportunity to get the real taste of Poland off the roads.

 

Wroclaw – Centennial Hall

The Centennial Hall in Wroclaw is the only modern monument on the UNESCO List in Poland. It is a building erected in 1911-13 by Max Berg as the multi purpose recreational hall and was a pioneering work of modern engineering. It is considered one of the best examples of the concrete architecture and is a key building in the development of the concrete structures in the 20th c. In form it is a symmetrical quatrefoil with a vast circular central space that can seat some 6,000 persons. The 23m-high dome is topped with a lantern in steel and glass.

 

Zamosc – Old Town

In 1580 a Polish noble and dignity Jan Zamoyski took decision to found a city – in the junction of the trading routes leading from Western and Northern Europe toward the black see. The city was given the name deriving from the name of the founder: Zamosc. It was designed by an Italian from Padua Bernardo Morando – now wonder, that by some Zamość is called the Pauda of Northern Europe. The modern city was based on the renaissance theory of the ideal city. Its unique urbain plan of the ideal fortress city with the complex of about 120 historical buildings made Zamość one of the best examples of late 16th c renaissance city. It was the reason why in 1992 it was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. When Zamosc was built it was located in the heart of the Polish Kingdom, today however it is only 50 km from the eastern border with Ukraine. Being in Zamosc you can really get the spirit of Eastern Poland. The heart of the city is the Main Square, lined up with the marvelous 16th c. tenement houses with the picturesque arcades on the ground floor. It is the best preserved complex of the renaissance houses in Poland. It is dominated by the beautiful town hall designed by Morando. Retracing the history of Zamosc and looking for its spirit one can see the numerous churches, monasteries, the Zamoyski Palace and the building of the Zamosc Academy, one of the 3 universities in the 16th c Poland.

 

Wooden Tserkvas of the Carpathian Region in Poland and Ukraine

This record includes 16 selected from the tserkvas, of which eight is located in mountainous territory of Poland (Radruz, Chotyniec, Smolnik, Turzańsk, Powroznik, Owczary, Kwiatoń and Bunary Wyżne) and eight in Ukraine. Orthodox churches and communities of Greek Catholic stand out among the other sacred wooden parts of Europe complex construction solutions. Established technology channel. They overcame store or onion-shaped domes. They have wooden bell and amidst a beautiful iconostasis and murals.