Poland lies in the central part of the European continent. The boundary between the East and
West European continental masses also runs through Poland. Poland's total surface area is
322,500 sq km. This makes it the ninth largest country in Europe, after Russia, Ukraine,
France, Spain, Sweden, Germany, Finland and Norway, and the 63rd largest in the world.
Over the centuries, Poland's territory has changed many times, but it has always comprised the
basins of the Warta and Vistula Rivers, and the lands between the Carpathians and the Baltic Sea.
In the 16th-18th centuries the country's area was as much as 1 million sq km. Before the
Partitions (late 18th century) it was about 733,000 sq km. Partitioned and annexed by Russia,
Prussia and Austria, in 1795 Poland disappeared from the map of Europe for the next 123 years.
On the restoration of independence in 1918 it covered 388,000 sq km.
Today's territory of Poland was determined after the Second World War by the victorious powers,
Great Britain, the USA, and the Soviet Union, as a result of the peace conferences at Yalta and
Potsdam. Poland lost some 20 percent of its prewar territory. Its borders were moved north, to
the Baltic coastline, Varmia and Masuria; and west, to the River Oder and the Lusatian Neisse
River. In the east, the new border now ran along the Bug River. Poland gained some 100,000 sq km
in the north and west (Varmia and Masuria, the Pomeranian Lake District, Ziemia Lubuska (the
Lubuska Region), Lower Silesia and part of Upper Silesia), at the same time losing about 78,000 sq
km of its territories in the east and north-east (the Vilnian region, Polessie, Volhynia and Podolia).
As a result of those dramatic shifts, the current borders of Poland were established.
Poland is a relatively low-lying country. 91.3 percent of its territory lies ca 300 m above
sea level. The highest point is Mt Rysy in the Tatras (2499 m), while the lowest point is
located west of the village of Raczki Elblaskie (1.8 m below sea level).
There are three main mountain ranges in Poland: the Carpathians, the Sudetan Mountains, and the
Góry Swietokrzyskie (Holy Cross Mountains). The longest rivers are the Vistula (1047 km),
the other main rivers are: Oder, Warta, Bug, Narew, San, Notec, Pilica, Wieprz and the Bóbr.
Poland has some 9,300 lakes with surface areas over 1 ha; they make up 1 percent of the country's
territory. The largest is Lake Sniardwy (11,383 ha) in the Masurian Lake District, and the deepest
is Lake Hancza (108.5 m) north of Suwalki.
Poland's climate is greatly influenced by oceanic air currents from the west, cold polar air from
Scandinavia and Russia, as well as warmer, sub-tropical air from the south. In winter,
polar-continental fronts dominate, bringing crisp, frosty weather. The late summer and autumn
months enjoy plenty of warm days, thanks to the influence of the dry, sub-tropical, continental
air mass. The greatest amount of sunshine in summer is to be found on the Baltic coast, whilst in
winter this is true of the Carpathian Mountains. In the mountains, at any time of year, the
climate is dependent on the altitude. In Warsaw, temperatures range from 20 o C to 25 o C
(680 to 77'F), during the summer months and between 0 o C to -5 o C (320 to 23"F) in winter.
Population and language
Poland has a population of about 40.0 million. It is estimated that this will
rise to 39.5 million by the year 2000. 61.8% of the population lived in cities in 1993. Polish is the
In 1998 the number of voivodeships (województwa), the major territorial division, was
reduced from 49 to 16. The major Polish cities are Warsaw, Lodz, Cracow (Krakow), Wroclaw,
Poznan, Gdansk, Szczecin, Bydgoszcz, Katowice, and Lublin. The main geographical regions are
Pomerania (Pomorze), Masuria (Mazury), Greater Poland (Wielkopolska), Mazovia (Mazowsze),
Podlassia (Podlasie), Silesia (Slask), Lesser Poland (Malopolska), and Sub-Carpathia (Podkarpacie).
For centuries, Poland has been a bridge between the East and West. Set in the heart of Europe,
Poland is a multifaceted country where the Capital and medieval towns are trawled by contemporary
city slickers, and where horse-drawn carts negotiate country lanes in areas where the new
millennium appears to have got lost somewhere down the road.
Poland remains reasonably cheap and safe, with hospitable people
who welcome visitors. Over the past decade, it has developed into a modern, vibrant and progressive
state, yet at the same time it maintains its traditional culture. It's a fascinating destination
and now is a good time to go.
Full country name: Republic of Poland
Area: 312,685 sq km
Population: 38.62 million
Capital City: Warsaw (pop 1.75 million)
People: 98% Polish, plus Ukrainian and Belarussian minorities
Language: Polish, English, German
Religion: 95% Roman Catholic
Facts for the Traveler
Visas: Citizens of most EU countries and the USA can enter Poland without a visa and stay for 90 days. As of 1 May, 2004 holders of Australian, New Zealand and Brunei Darussalam passports, travelling to Poland for a period of up to 90 days do not require a Polish visa. Border laws are being liberalised so check with a Polish Embassy before you leave.
Time Zone: GMT/UTC +1 (Central European Time)
Dialling Code: 48
Electricity: 230V ,50Hz
Weights & measures: Metric
Currency: 1 złoty = 100 groszy (1 grosz)
The Voivodeship of Silesia (województwo śląskie)
Area: 12,294 sq km
Major cities : Katowice , Częstochowa, Bielsko-Biała