Wałbrzych, Książ Castle

Poland's Terra Firma of historical architectural heritage

By Loreen Neville
July 13th 2009


Beskidy PanoramaPoland’s great state assets are more than eight hundred of magnificent surrealistic contradictive historic structures of medieval castles, baroque palaces, stately homes, and Manors. Great Poland also encompasses mysterious prehistoric sites, one hundred and thirty-eight registered churches and religious associations, open-air museums of folk culture emerging traditions with modernization. Apart from Poland’s terra firma of regional historical archietectural heritage, the country is blessed with  alpine mountains, wide beaches, clear lakes, forestry and is equipped with a major seaport route in Europe.


A wayside shrine on a mountain path

Truly a one stop destination with temperate climate, warm and hospitable people from various regions, each distinctive in character and history that have helped shaped Poland’s culture and traditions. 

Poland’s breathtaking country sights also includes the Białowieża Forest, the largest naturally afforested area in Europe with an abundance of unmatched flora and fauna. The Białowieża National Park was inscribed on the World Heritage list in 1992, and listed on the World Biosphere Reserve in 1993. It is also the habitat of the European bison, the continent's largest mammal, 26 species of trees and 56 species of shrubs. The average age of the trees is 126 years.

Poland’s Ministry of Tourism encourages visitors to visit as many cities as possible, and to venture into the countryside, “If you visit Warsaw, you have seen Warsaw and not Poland. If you visit Krakow, you have just seen Krakow and so it goes on.” Poland’s vast and distinctive character and culture of various regions also comes from the fact that parts of Western Poland were once Germany.  After World War II, borders shifting took placed and the Germans that lived in Poland were relocated west and the countries of Belarus, Lithuania and Ukraine, were once part of Poland.

Poland’s primary travel hubs are the City of Warsaw and the City of Krakow in which both have airports and major rails routes and are the major tourist and business destinations.  The City of Warsaw seats the Polish government and is the trade and financial economic gateway of Europe.

Warsaw by night  - The centre of the city by night - office blocks and hotels.Krakow, panorama

The Polish people take pride in their historical architectures for not only does it benefit history and data but its shows the capability of men creativity in architectural designs and mind sets. The great theatre located on the historic theatre Square in Warsaw, renamed ‘The Great Theatre and Polish National Opera,’ is a huge building with more than 60 rooms. This baroque-era palace complex was built between 1825 and 1833, replacing the older Marywil building. History says that it was built to honour King Jan Sobieski. The theater was inaugurated on February 24, 1833, with a production of Rossini's II barbiere di Sivigila. According to records, the Great Theatre was almost completely destroyed in World War II and was shut down for more than twenty years. The theater was rebuilt and reopened on November 19th 1965.

Warsaw, Grand Theater - National Opera-baroque-era palace complex

GDANSK BY NIGHT - Gdansk’s Old Town, Dluga Street.


Located to the north, is Poland’s sixth largest,   the city of Gdansk, formerly the city of Danzig). This city and the region surrounding it, is said to be also influenced by the history of Germany.  Gdansk is Poland’s principle seaport and is the birth place of the Solidarity trade union, a movement that led to the end of the Soviet Style government communist party rule in 1989. The buildings in this city are typical of the soviet block type architectures. The National Museum in Gdansk most famous display is the "Last Judgement" triptych by Hans Memling, a 15th century Dutch painter.




Poland’s Castles and Palaces

Castles or fortifications and palaces are part of Polish landscape since the 13th to the 17th centuries, once owned by aristocratic families, serving as the official residences of the country's lords and bishops. However, polish history before and after World War II, have reduced many of these historic structures into rubbles. The terra firma of Poland’s historical architectural of castles, palaces, and manors gives us an insight into the descriptive of Ancient European existence, heritage, and culture. Various influences can be seen in the architectural styles of these enormous fortifications of Gothic structures elaborately decorated on the interior with original furnishings and museum exhibitions.

According to tour brochures and guides, jousting tournaments are held in summer at Bytów, Gniew, and Gołub-Dobrzyń Castles. Fraternities of knights arrive from all over Europe. To watch lance and axe duels, archery and crossbow competitions, attacks on the fortress with massive siege engines, and in the evenings sit with the knights around a campfire, take part in feasts, and watch performances of courtly dancing.

In Northern Poland, are castles built during the 13th and 14th centuries by the Teutonic Knights a religious military order of Saint Mary. The most famous fortress in Poland is Malbork formerly known as the castle of Marienburg, was pawned by the Teutonic Order to their imperial soldiers from Bohemia. The castle was then sold in 1457, to King Casimir IV of Poland. Three castles nestled into one huge complex and for 230 years, Malbork under continuous construction, and were almost completely destroyed during the war. This medieval fortress, it is the world’s largest red brick castle museum and is listed as UNESCO's World Heritage Sites.

Photo slides of Poland’s castles, Building Structures and Places in different regions

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Churches and synagogues

According to records, there are one hundred and thirty-eight registered churches and religious associations in Poland in magnificent structures of Gothic or Renaissance cathedrals, once inhabited by peoples of diverse ethnic backgrounds and religions of the Roman Catholic churches, of the Orthodox, Uniate, Protestant and Jewish communities. In the villages of Bohoniki and Kruszyniany along Poland's eastern borders are two historic Muslim mosques. The majority of the Poles are Roman Catholics and the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church is the second largest official religion.

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Open-air museums

Poland’s ingenious kept sights are her outdoor museums of folk architectures routed with the original buildings of farmer's cottages, stables, windmills, and forges, churches and chapels. There are about thirty 17th -19th century wooden folk buildings, fully reconstructed, including cottages with porches, a Dutch windmill dating back as far as 1700. “The main virtue of open-air museums is that they're living exhibitions”, and in summer, organised folklore fairs, cultural shows and traditional dishes are relived.  Inside 17th- and 18th-century inns, visitors are shown folk artists and craftsmen at work painting pictures on glass, hand made embroidery, lacework, pottery, or carving wooden statues of the saints.

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Continuation: Poland, Step back in Time to unsurpassed Serenity, Poland’s Terra Firma of historical architectural heritage, Prussia and The Era of the Teutonic knights  

References: Embassy of the Republic of Poland-Jakarta, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland. Photographs obtained from Embassy of the Republic of Poland-Jakarta 

See also:

Poland, Step back in Time to unsurpassed Serenity, is dedicated to former Ambassador of Poland to Indonesia, now retired, Ksawery Burski and my good friend Tomasz Lukaszuk, who became an  Ambassador, on March  29th 2005, and is now referred as his Excellency. Both of whom, I met in the late 1990s, had opened the window of Poland’s friendship, an insight to her struggles towards Independence, her amazing cultural and remarkable architectural history and I appreciate it.


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