Poland saw some of the most horrific aspects of World War II including the depravities of Auschwitz. When the citizens of Warsaw staged a failed uprising, Hitler ordered that the city be demolished with bombs, flamethrowers and dynamite. And yet, the dignity of the proud people of Poland survived. The one third of the Warsaw population that lived on began rebuilding in 1945. They meticulously reconstructed portions of the Old City, including the Royal Castle, brick by brick. This is resilience. This is Poland.
In contrast to Warsaw, Krakow was not targeted for obliteration. As a result it retains a wealth of romantic architecture dating back to the 13th century. Outside Krakow, the Wieliczka Salt Mine has been in operation for 700 years. In this mind-boggling subterranean labyrinth of over 200 km of caverns, passages and lakes, intricate sculptures, alters and shrines have been carved into the massive salt beds. The Chapel of Saint Kinga is just one of several churches here in the salty depths of the earth. Poland has Baltic beaches and southern mountains. It is home to Europe’s largest land animal, the European bison, which roams freely in the Bialowieska forest. Poland is surprisingly rich in history, nature and charm.