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Polish Culture: Beyond Pierogi and Cabbage

Daughter of first-generation Poles, I grew up in Ohio learning to cook and celebrate religious traditions. I've visited Poland three times.

Poland - Land of Green and Golden Fields

Welcome to Polish Culture! Here is a location on the Internet where you can read some short articles, find some little known links and overall learn a little bit more about modern-day Poland and Polonia - people of Polish descent who live outside Poland.


Poland, located in central Europe, is bordered on the west by Germany, in the north by the Baltic Sea, on the north-east by Russia and Lithuania, on the east by Belarus and Ukraine, and on the south by Slovakia and the Czech Republic.


Mining and manufacturing are the two largest industries, while services like retail, banking and finance, car services and food services like restaurants and cafeterias make up the rest of the economic output. Tourism continues to grow. Although the majority of tourists arrive from neighboring countries, American tourists showed the most substantial gains between 1995 and 1999 (the last years for which statistics seem to be available).

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Thank you for reading! Now, a little bit about modern Poland and its history.

Golden Polish Autumn Fields

Golden Polish Autumn Fields

Map of Poland Showing Topography

Topography of Poland: farm lands are green; golden-yellow areas are lowlands and marshes; and rust-colored areas are ridges and mountains.

Topography of Poland: farm lands are green; golden-yellow areas are lowlands and marshes; and rust-colored areas are ridges and mountains.

Poland's Administrative Areas Showing Cities and Larger Towns

Administrative Map voivodships

Administrative Map voivodships

In a Nutshell: Poland's Place in World Politics

Shifting Borders

Tiny Poland, located in central Europe, maintains its position as a crossroads between eastern and western European countries and cultures. While Poland's national origins date to the 10th century, its borders have repeatedly shifted due to a history of aggression and warfare initiated by neighboring countries. Border changes at the end of World War II (1945) could have overwhelmed the national mentality and culture.

Modern Politics and Alliances

However, today, tiny Poland, the 8th most densely populated country in Europe, is a free democracy and looks to align itself with western countries. In 1999, Poland joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and in 2004, the European Union (EU). Its citizens welcome prosperity while continuing to develop and enhance for visitors the country's history, folk culture, impressive architecture, and beautiful natural landscape.

Easy-To-Read Map of Modern Poland

Present Day Administrative Neighbors Major Regions, Towns, and Rivers

Present Day Administrative Neighbors Major Regions, Towns, and Rivers

Medieval Locations within Poland

Interesting Places to Visit in Poland

  1. 1. Chochołów

    This is a small village composed almost exclusively of the 16th - 17h century Polish wooden houses (góralskie chaty) built by the Góral highlanders. It became known as the place of Chochołów Uprising of 1846 (Powstanie chochołowskie) against the foreign oppression throughout the nineteenth-century Austrian Partition of Poland. The village economy is closely related to the near-by popular Polish-Slovak border crossing.

The Main Street of Chochołów

Traditional Wooden Farmhouse and Outbuildings in Chochołów

Traditional Wooden Farmhouse and Outbuildings in Chochołów

2. Krakow: A Perfect Polish Town

Krakow (Cracow) is one of the largest and oldest cities in Poland. It is also regarded by many, including residents, to be the cultural capital of Poland. It is the perfect Polish town to visit if you are "into" history. The city is relatively inexpensive and easy to reach via either train or plane. This city was not damaged much during World War II (1939-45). However, the Jewish population was basically annihilated. There is a lot for history buffs to see and admire. In 1978, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) placed Krakow on the list of World Heritage Sites. Krakow maintains the largest medieval intact marketplace in continental Europe.

A Central Point from Which to Explore the Region

Krakow is a good central point from which to reach other interesting places in central Poland such as the Beskid and Tatra Mountains; and historical places like the Auschwitz- Birkenau Concentration Camps, Wieliczka Salt Mines, and Jasna Gora with the Black Madonna of Czestochowa, and check out the McDonald's near the Florian Gate.

Some Other Highlights

1 - The Jagiellonian University is wonderful with old buildings, but more modern facilities are spread out over the city.

2 - The market square (Rynek Glowny) "comes alive" after about 9pm especially on the weekends There are bands, food, general good times; police crack down on rowdiness and drunks.

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3 - There are lots of wonderful free and inexpensive classical music concerts.

4 - The Royal Wawel Castle, the Wawel Cathedral and archaeological ruins on the grounds.

Musicians Dressed in Krakow's Regional Costume


Wawel Castle and Wawel Cathedral (left), Krakow


3. History abounds in Warsaw

Even though Warsaw was completely rebuilt after WWII, it still a fascinating city. Here are some Warsaw sites few people mention or visit, but which are important to the Polish people:

  • Warsaw's Old Town Market Square and its surroundings, the Old Town (Stare Miasto, also called Starowka), is a reconstruction that contains many homes with their outdoor living spaces.
  • St. John's Cathedral was completely destroyed during WWII and recently rebuilt. Embedded in the wall along a side section and placed there as a memorial is a portion of a German small tank track used in one phase of the destruction.
  • The National Museum (Warsaw) holds a rich collection of Medieval art in the permanent exhibition. There are works from Polish lands as well as pieces created in other prominent European art centers.

Warsaw Places to Explore

  • Lunch on a budget in Warsaw
    What can hungry tourists as well "Varsovians" eat for a cheap and filling lunch in Warsaw? There are many options of where to eat an adventuresome lunch for less than 20 Polish zloty, while broadening one's culinary horizons.
  • The Gardens of the Royal Castle in Warsaw | The Royal Castle in Warsaw
    The Castle has always had a garden, right from the beginning of its history. It extends over 2.5 hectares of land, from the Castle to the Vistula River, along the steep slope of the escarpment and along its base. It was first planted in mediaeval tim
  • The Warsaw Uprising Monument
    Walking to the Old Town in Warsaw on ul. Długa or heading to the Żoliborz district along ul. Miodowa, on Krasiński Square, there is a scene that seems to be taken from a war film. Here is a group of sculptures comprising the Warsaw Uprising Monument.
  • About the Museum | POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews
    The idea to create a Museum of the History of Polish Jews emerged at the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute. This idea soon secured support both in Poland and abroad.
  • The Warsaw Rising Museum
    This museum opened on the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of fighting in Warsaw. The Museum is a tribute of Warsaw’s residents to those who fought and died for independent Poland and its free capital.

Look carefully around Warsaw to find remnants and reconstructions of medieval time

Photo: Christ in Distress, Pomerania, early 16th century, wood with paint; from the study collection of The National Museum in Warsaw

Photo: Christ in Distress, Pomerania, early 16th century, wood with paint; from the study collection of The National Museum in Warsaw

Warsaw - Fascinating Polish Army Museum

Winged Hussars near Entrance of Polish Army Museum, Warsaw; Collage © Georgene A. Bramlage

Winged Hussars near Entrance of Polish Army Museum, Warsaw; Collage © Georgene A. Bramlage

Armor of Zbroje husarskie (Winged Hussars) in the Polish Army Museum, Warsaw

Armor of Zbroje husarskie (Winged Hussars) in the Polish Army Museum, Warsaw

Advent Market in Old Town Warsaw

See the City Center of Modern Warsaw

See Part of Warsaw Old Town Before Exploring

Polish Saints - An Evolving Calender of Feastdays and Celebrations

As seasons roll around so do the feast days of saints recognized by the Roman Catholic Church. Nowhere else like Poland are the Church and People so connected. Here is a list I am slowly building of Polish saints, their feast days and some little known facts about them. This list of Polish saints, once completed, will read like a history, an animated history of Poland.

  • Saint John of Kanty (Cantius) - Franciscan Media
    Saint John of Kanty was a beloved priest in Kraków, Poland, where he taught Scripture. A simple, humble man, John was often taken advantage of, but maintained his generous attitude to those in need. He died on Christmas Eve in 1473.
  • St. Casimir of Poland
    March 4 Patron saint of Poland and Lithuania, some say Russia. Born in 1458 or 1460; canonized in 1522 by Pope Adrian VI. The third of thirteen children of King Casimir IV and Elizabeth of Austria, daughter of Albert II of Hapsburg born in the royal
  • St. Stanislaus, Bishop and Martyr
    Stanislaus, Bishop & Martyr Memorial - April 11th St. Stanislaus was born at Szczepanw, in the Diocese of Cracow, July 26, 1030.
  • Blessed Helen of Poland
    Blessed Jolenta (Yolanda or Helen) of Poland, also Helen of Hungary June 12, (some sources say June 11; others June 15)
  • St. Kunigunde
    Memorial Day - July 24 Sister to Blessed Jolenta of Poland
  • The Black Madonna of Czestochowa: Queen of Poland
    August 26 is the day observed as the Feast Day of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa because it was on this day in 1382 that the icon was placed by Prince Ladislaus of Belz in the small Church of The Assumption that stood on Jasna Gora.
  • St. Maria Faustina Kowalska
    October 5 St. Maria Faustina's name is linked to the annual feast of the Divine Mercy (celebrated on the Second Sunday of Easter), the divine mercy chaplet and the divine mercy prayer recited each day by many people at 3 p.m.
  • St. John Paul II
    October 22 is the feast day of Blessed John Paul II (1920-2005). It is celebrated each year in Rome and the dioceses of Poland and in the U.S. This is the day on which he was inaugurated as pope in 1978.
  • Blessed Honoratus Kozminski (1825-1916)
    December 16 Blessed Honoratus Kozminski (1825-1916) was born in Biala Podlaska (Siedlce, Poland) and studied architecture at the School of Fine Arts in Warsaw. Given name was Wenceslaus. In 1848 he received the Capuchin habit and a new name.

From Pope John Paul II to St. John Paul II

St. John Paul II reigned as pope of the Roman Catholic Church for almost 27 years.  He was formally beatified 1 May 2011 by Pope Benedict and canonized April 27, 2014 by Pope Francis.  he is greatly loved by the Polish people.

St. John Paul II reigned as pope of the Roman Catholic Church for almost 27 years. He was formally beatified 1 May 2011 by Pope Benedict and canonized April 27, 2014 by Pope Francis. he is greatly loved by the Polish people.

Statue of St. John Paul II in a Modern Rendering

Statue of St. John Paul II © Georgene A. Bramlage

Statue of St. John Paul II © Georgene A. Bramlage

The Miraculous Icon of The Black Madonna of Czestochowa, Queen of Poland and Jasna Gora Monastery

This miraculous painting of Our Lady, the Mother of God, in the style of an icon, is housed at the Jasna Gora (Shining or Luminous Hill) monastery. It is the monastery's most valuable treasure and is housed in the Chapel of the Virgin at the heart of the monastery. The image is painted on a board that measures 81.5 x 121.7 cm (approximately 32 x 48 inches) and shows (without the jeweled coverings) as in this illustration a standing Virgin holding the infant Christ. Jasna Gora is now Poland's most famous Marian shrine among the many others throughout Poland.

"Our Lady of Czestochowa" - "Queen of Poland"


Polish Pottery

Really stoneware, the Polish pottery (Bolesławiec pottery) is traditionally made from white clay found in the Bolesławiec region of Poland. The pottery is fired twice at very high temperatures. Artisans use sponge stencils for hand stamping patterns onto the pottery. The eye of the peacock feather is a traditional designs and was a sign of prosperity and wealth. Polish pottery is durable and functional, although somewhat heavy in weight, It is conveniently amazing safe for use in the oven, microwave and dishwasher.

Polish Pottery

Polish Culture in Photography

Digital Images Made During Trips to Poland - Summers, 2005, 2006 & 2007

Some representative images of modern Poland found within my photographs may be found on Pinterest.

They include:

  • Green and gold backgrounds represent Poland or Polanie, the Land of Fields / Living on the Field.
  • Our Lady of Czestochowa, St. Maximillian Kolbe, St. Pope John II, diverse images of the Virgin Mary and Christ, and amber rosaries symbolize ties with and traditions of the Roman Catholic Church.
  • Amber represents a continuing source of commerce from prehistory to current times.
  • Solidarity represents the establishment of the first Autonomous Trades Unions and the official end to the Communist-dominated Polish People's Republic more than a quarter-century ago.
  • Crocheted lace and pottery signify folk crafts as well as expanding international markets. They also represent the beautiful and tough women who have kept these crafts alive.

Poland's Cities and Countryside in Pictures - Websites Available in a Variety of Languages

  • Daniel Schultz the Younger
    Page about Daniel Schultz the Younger, the most important and famous Polish Baroque painter born in Gdansk about 1615. Paintings reflect the countryside as well as people of the Baroque period.
  • An Archive of Pictures of Poland
    An incredible archive of pictures of modern Poland. Some of these are of little known spots as well as the more typical tourist areas.
  • Site dedicated to the black stork.
    The monitoring of the migration to Africa of the black stork. Includes tools to make it easier for you to follow this journey, with a lot of interactivity and useful information as possible.
  • Jasna Gora - Sanktuarium -
    Sanctuary of the Mother of God at Jasna Gora (Bright/Shining Hill) at Czestochowa Referred to as "Our Lady of Czestochowa" The miraculous painting of Our Lady, Mother of God, is Jasna Góra's most valuable treasure. Jasna Góra is now Poland's most

A Visit to Poland

Krakow Skyline

Krakow Skyline

A Visit to Poland

Polish-American Communities - Polonia in the United States -

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2007 Georgene Moizuk Bramlage

Reader Feedback

Margaret on February 14, 2020:

I do not have enough $$$. I would love to go. It is part of my heritage.

Georgene Moizuk Bramlage (author) from southwestern Virginia on March 07, 2014:

@David Stone1: Hi Dave! Thanks for visiting the lens and learning a bit more. I hope that you and your wife might visit this beautiful and historical country.

David Stone from New York City on March 07, 2014:

Always nice to learn more about Poland, my wife's family's homeland.

Georgene Moizuk Bramlage (author) from southwestern Virginia on October 12, 2013:

@Erin Mellor: Hi Erin! Thanks for visiting and for your comment. Like beauty, I guess tiny is all in the eyes of the beholder :+) I can't speak to the Polish population of Coventry, but Detroit is definitely ahead of Cleveland where I grew up.

Erin Mellor from Europe on October 12, 2013:

To an English person describing Poland as "tiny" seems very strange! Having spent a lot of my life in Coventry, and Detroit before now I've mostly lived in cities with large Polish populations - and great Polish deli's. When JPII visited Coventry it was a wild celebration.

Georgene Moizuk Bramlage (author) from southwestern Virginia on October 01, 2013:

@smine27: Hi! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. The history of Poland, like that of Israel, is unique because of its geographical location as well as the determination of its people.

Shinichi Mine from Tokyo, Japan on September 30, 2013:

I would love to visit Poland one of these days. It looks like such a beautiful place with a fascinating history.

Delia on November 14, 2012:

Although my memory is very faint one of my Christmas' that I do remember was when I lived in Poland for a short time during the war, in a Castle named Gross Stein (Kamien Slaski) near Opole (Oppeln) in Silesia (see my lens)

~d-artist Squid Angel Blessing~

Georgene Moizuk Bramlage (author) from southwestern Virginia on September 25, 2012:

@greg2biz2: Hi! Thanks very much for visiting, commenting on this lens ans squidliking it. I appreciate it very much.