Can anyone recommend some smaller towns or villages visit? All the travel guides seem to concentrate on the cities. We prefer to meet the local people away from all the touristy places. We will be traveling to the Krakow and Gdansk areas next year. Thanks
Here are a few - you should look at travel books once you're on the ground, they're much more comprehensive than you'd find in the States. By the way, one drawback you may not expect is that it will be very hard to communicate with people in the very rural areas because they are, for the most part, old(er) and only speak Polish (and even some Russian depending on age).
Zalipie (I was shocked to find this in a travel magazine but I'm posting the link so you can get an idea)
Kazimierz Dolny (not totally untouristy, but small and very lovely)
UNESCO Wooden Churches near Krakow (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1053)
Zamość (city, but largely off the American tourist radar)
Częstochowa (touristy but major religious significance - Black Madonna is here)
Oliwa (small town outside of Gdansk; has a beautiful cathedral w/very old organ; neat organ recitals)
Wadowice (smaller city; birthplace of John Paul II)
Absolutely agree with Agnes' recommendation of Kazimierz Dolny. As nice as any small village as I've seen. You can get info fro Lonely Planet guidebook if necessary. We also liked Sandomierz. They are both relatively close to the Warsaw/Krakow corridor so easy to get to.
Thanks to all for your great suggestions. We are planning aprox. 7 days around Krakow and Zakopane, so will try to fit it some of those outlying areas. May have to rethink renting a car to get to those. Also, hoping to hop on an inexpensive flight up to Gdansk for 4 days. So much to see, and confusing at times. Do you think the timing looks right? The more you read in the guide books, the more there is you want to see. Waiting on my pre-ordered updated RS guide book on the Polish cities.
Thanks for any further suggestions for our once in a lifetime trip
Great info from all! Can anyone give me approximate driving times from Krakow to some of these spots? Primarily Kazimierz Dolny, Zaliple,Sandomierz
As I recall it was about three hours NNE from Krakow to Sandomierz, and another two hours north to K-D, which is on the way and closer to Warsaw. In K-D, walk up the hill above town for view of town and river. Both places have a lot of Polish tourists, but are very happy to meet and talk to the less common Americans. I recall passing through a lot of orchards.
If you go to Sandomierz, and like mystery novels, read "A Grain of Truth" by Zygmunt Miloszewski, which is set in the town. It has a lot of interesting references to places in the town including underground tunnels. The church there has a famous giant painting which shows the deaths of many early Christian martyrs, and legend has it that if you find the one associated with your birth month, you'll see the way you will die. How about that for point of interest!
Try Google to "guesstimate" the driving times (in rural areas, accuracy and correct directions may be a bit off). Other folks have also mentioned using Michelin in other countries (I haven't used it so I cannot vouch for it), but the hard copy maps are excellent.
Thanks again! The planning continues!
Try distancesfrom.com. It gives you time and a quick look map.
Places like Torun and Gdansk are well served by public transport , the buses. Taking a bus for one or two hours to see town from Gdansk, you can expect to find yourself as the only foreigners. In Torun in July 2005 we (3) took the bus ca, one hour from Torun to Chelmno on the Vistula as a day trip, certainly no anglophones go there. All in all, a very nice and historic place. It was also a town that survived the war intact.
I would suggest the small towns in the lower Vistula around Gdansk. You have a great opportunity. Not all the towns in the lower Vistula area were destroyed or suffered heavy war damage in 1945, the Soviets bypassed some of these towns thus sparing them from war damage.
I would suggest these towns near Gdansk if I were doing this visit: Gniew, Kwidzyn, and, if not too far, Elblag. In that area I only saw Malbork, went there not only for the famous castle but also for the town itself.
Andrew Durman is a wonderful guide who lives in Krakow. We hired him for a day trip into southern Poland, and he took us to places that tourists never see. Andrew is without a doubt the best guide we have ever had the opportunity to meet and his rates are extremely reasonable. He does book up quickly, so if you are interested in his services I would advise emailing him with your schedule ASAP to inquire about his availability. Andrew will give you the "once in a lifetime" experience that you desire, and you will leave Poland with a new friend. http://www.tour-service.pl/index.html
I also highly recommend him. As a matter of fact, he is the driver Rick Steves uses when he is in Poland. When in the villages, you really do need someone who speaks Polish. Most over 40 don't know English. Of course, this is not true in the better known tourist areas and big cities, but we found that true in three villages we visited.
Thank you to all. I am looking forward to a great trip!
examples near Cracow:
Tatra Mountains and Zakopane
Ojców National Park
Wolin National Park
http://www.kochamtomaszow.pl/ and a song https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6hvcU8LkWE
Masurian Lake District
WOW! Thanks Michal. You have given me lots of research
Thank you for appreciating. Wikipedia is very useful but only introductory source of information. I hope you will learn many things about Poland. Let me know if you need more, please?
Thank you. As my planning continues I will keep you in mind for any questions.