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Away from the bigger cities

Have a week in Poland in Spring 2019 coming up. First time to Europe. Interests include history, food, drink, outdoors, politics and culture/community/people...but anything is game at the moment. Nothing's booked, but we have a tentative itinerary (see below) focused on Krakow and Gdansk, with a day stop in Warsaw in transit between the two. I don't know much about villages, but would be interested in any tips on small towns or villages we should consider for a night or two (I'm figuring we'll be back eventually, just don't know when, and when I say "small towns" I'm not really talking about the big-ish cities that are smaller than Warsaw and Gdansk like Torun, Lodz and Wroclaw.) Auschwitz is a must-hit all-day trip for my wife and I...other elements can be up for debate/negotiation. Nothing is booked at this moment.

Tentative itinerary at the moment:

After a few nights each in Vienna and Prague and a night train into Krakow:

Krakow four nights > early morning train to Warsaw for a day trip en route to Gdansk > late train into Gdansk with three nights planned in Gdansk.

Posted by
242 posts

I have had the privilege of visiting and being the guest of newly discovered cousins in Poland's small villages. We have traveled to the villages of Zawoja, Lutcza, and Niwiska. The experience there, compared to the big cities is like night and day. The beauty of the areas are amazing, and the wooden churches that go back several centuries, the groceries, the laid back way of life, etc. are something you won't find in Krakow and Warsaw. You also may not find many people who speak English either! My guess is that anyone over 35-40, unless well educated, does NOT speak English and you would need a translator.

Since you are near Krakow, Zawoja is a short drive and very worthwhile with the mountains for hiking and skiing. They have many tourist hotels and it is a favorite for Polish vacationers. Rent a car and wander around. Go see what a Polish cemetery looks like and eat at their local restaurants.

Considering your itinerary, you might want to do any overnight in Zakopane, but that isn't really a true small village area as it sees MANY tourists.

If you are a WWII buff, Niwiska might be a great side trip. This village (my grandparents') was evacuated by the Germans in 1939, and was turned into the site of the Nazis' largest SS training camp outside of Germany and then after Penemunde was destroyed in 1943, they moved Hitler's top research V1 and V2 site to Blizna (right next door). They have a museum and historical park there. You can learn the fascinating history of the Home Army by visiting this place. Research Operation Wildhorn III. A visit to Niwiska will allow you to see small village life, the Kolbuszowa Ethnographic Museum, and these WWII sites. Stay overnight at Hotel Dworek in Kolbuszowa. PM me if you would like to read some articles or have questions.

Posted by
242 posts

Also, I could recommend a wonderful translator who could drive you around. She became like a cousin to me in Niwiska and still stays in contact with my own cousin there.

Posted by
4941 posts

griderma83, we loved two small towns that are roughly between Warsaw and Krakow: Kazimierz Dolny, and Sandomierz. They are both covered in Lonely Planet guide to Poland, so maybe you read up on them. We also liked Zakopane, but because it is a mountain resort destination, it is heavily touristed. If you really want to see culture, the shrine of the Black Madonna at Czestochowa (also roughly between Warsaw and Krakow) is a core part of Polish history.

I guess I would really recommend checking out the Lonely Planet guide and perusing all the smaller places covered in there. RS really needs to step up the game here.

Posted by
12090 posts

Hi,

Since you'll be in the area of Gdansk, what about seeing those small towns and villages in the lower Vistula area, such as Gniew, which survived the war intact. Not all towns/villages were devastated by the war.

If you are in Torun, there is a bus day trip doable from there to the small town of Chelmno. I went there in 2005, took the bus from Torun. It is also a town not destroyed by the war.

That Chelmno survived the war intact, you'll see that right away as you walk from the station to the rynek (town square.).

In 2003 when visiting Gdansk for 4-5 nights, we went to Malbork by train, not only to see the famous castle, obviously, but also to visit/explore the town itself after spending the time at the castle. Very interesting considering the history of the place in 1914 and 1945.

My only experience (so far) with small towns.villages, ie visiting the "centre ville" in Poland are Malbork and Chelmno. I would suggest also the villages/small towns in the Masurien Lakes area.

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you all for the tips. I'll take a little time and look into each of them a little more closely. I'll say, it seems like it pays to do this research early...we still have a more than a year before our trip. Thanks again!

Posted by
15 posts

I would just suggest the Krakow and Wroclaw (into the forest) for your trip if you'd like to stay out of city. But I'm not sure it's a good idea to go in Spring, nothing special there, Autumn would be a better idea.

Posted by
12090 posts

Hi,

On reading up and researching this Poland trip, I heartily recommend Rough Guide Poland...very useful, loaded with historical info, I consulted it before each of the three trips to Poland, especially for small hotel/Pension accommodations.