Next year Studio Traveler is offering a trip to Poland in partnership with UNCG’s Emeritus Society. ‘Why Poland?’ is the question I have been asked numerous times since announcing this destination—and I can understand why. The sole impression most Americans have of Poland is drawn from certain dark episodes in the country’s history. The tragedies and crimes are real and undeniable—and for passionate history lovers certainly reason enough for a visit. Like Germany, a visit to Poland is a chance ‘to walk in the footprints of history’. With this in mind, next week I will post Dr. Jeff Jones’s response to ‘Why Poland?’—and he makes a very good case indeed based solely on the country’s role in history. But, also like Germany, there is more to Poland than the dark and the traumatic. So this week for my first blog post in quite some time I take a stab at my own version of ‘Why Poland?’.
The truth is there is a strange romance for me in the very notion of Poland. It is the same romance that was promised by all European travel in the 1960’s. In those long-ago days, Europe represented something older and more beautiful than home. To the child I was then it was a marvelous, strange and boundless mashup of cuckoo clocks, baguettes, berets, Vespas, the Mona Lisa and Maria von Trapp. And who could possibly forget the allure of Europe on Five Dollars A Day? For me, the thought of the book still evokes an almost painful longing to just go.
And Poland? It is and always has been short on berets and cuckoo clocks but it abounds in the enduring, ineffable richness and charm of ‘Old Europe’—the Europe we once found in other countries before the homogeneity of modern travel leveled out so much of the essential experience of ‘being in another place’. Poland has cities shaped by centuries. A distinctive cultural richness evidenced in both everyday life and in World Heritage treasures. A cuisine that marries sophistication with earthiness (and here I cannot resist including a quote from a recent review of Polish cooking ‘…dinners of venison and wildfowl, mushrooms and beets, fresh eggs and thick creams.’) And yes, of course, history but a history not limited to the monstrous events of the 20th century but including the splendid Royal Wawel Hill Complex, dating from the 9th century, the massive Malbork Castle, pictured above, erected by the Knights of The Teutonic League in 13th century or Warsaw’s lovely central market square dating from the 16th century. And in another nod to long ago days, Poland is a bargain, a rock bottom bargain. Our ten-day trip is the least expensive international tour Studio Traveler will be offering next year and yet participants will enjoy Poland’s finest hotels and restaurants along with first class train travel and our always excellent guides.
There is one more reason on my personal ‘Why Poland’ list. It is not yet much visited by Americans. To be ahead of the inevitable crowds is a delightful extra.
I hope I have piqued your curiosity. Click here for our itinerary. And check back next week for Jeff Jones’s far more erudite response to ‘Why Poland?”