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Poland Trip Report – April 2022

Just got back from 2.5 weeks in southern Poland! Finally had a chance to write down some thoughts and impressions. The goal of my trip was less so traditional sightseeing and more revisiting old friends and favorites places. To be honest traveling in Poland has never been better and more accessible. While the Ukrainian War and refugee crisis is quite a tragic situation it had no impact on traveling through Poland.

Overall impression
Poland is booming, lots of economic activity, new modern housing and buildings going up, more luxury cars on the street, infrastructure projects.

Everything "back to normal" and running at full speed, no covid restrictions.

Lots of domestic tourism and little foreigner tourism, mostly British and Germans only in the most touristy areas. I was there during off-season and Holy Week so that would certainly be the reason.

Gastronomy and accommodations now a lot more sophisticated than in previous years.

Weather
April is not a good month to visit Poland, weather changes a lot and unpredictable, it was snowing, rain, sun, windy, needed to buy extra clothes.

I had to go in April due to personal circumstances, but if I had a choice I would go from either mid May to late September or in December for the Christmas markets.

Covid protocols
None whatsoever zero masks inside or outside, no social distancing, like pandemic is over and done with (even though it isn't). Many times I was the only one with a mask.

I flew from Spain to Germany then to Poland, everyone on the flights had masks on throughout the flight. I was not asked for any coivd documentation.

Flew on United back to the USA, halfway through the flight (when people learned of the Florida judge ruling mid-flight) 1/2 the passengers took off masks including many crew. Thank god I did not catch anything then.

Ukrainian refugee situation
I have donated to quite a few organizations for both Ukrainian refugee assistance and the ongoing war effort. I am very aware of the tragic situation, however in the places in Poland I visited, other than some Ukrainian flags, you would not realize there was a war going on next door.

I drove all around from Wrocław to Krakow and I did not encounter many Ukrainian refugees, maybe 2-3 families in some of the shops and a number of the Uber/Taxi drivers were Ukrainian immigrants from before the war.

I did notice an uptick in Ukrainian license plates on the highways, but not a lot, most were for expensive luxury cars.

No military presence, no shortages of food or supplies, shops and restaurants full.

Hotels 60-70% full, mostly of local Poles, rest were tourists from neighboring countries.

I have seen some headlines from international media like "Poland struggling under the weight of Ukrainian refugees", that was certainly not the case from my experience. Everything was running very normal and orderly.

Logistics/driving
I landed in Krakow airport rented car from Krakow Panek Rental great service, very good slection of cars, no issues.

The tolls on the major highways in Poland have now been electronized called E-Tolls you can’t pay in person at the windows, you need to pre-pay beforehand on their website (https://etoll.gov.pl/en/), or go to specific gas stations for a pre-paid ticket before driving.

Uber is till one of the best ways to get around cities, many drivers Ukrainian immigrants. Polish Uber now allows you to donate a significant portion of your fare to the Ukrainian refugee fund, it was worth using Ubers just for that.

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3959 posts

Ustroń/Beskid Mountains
Impression: lots of local Poles enjoying the Holy Week holiday in the Beskid Mountains. The weather was really crazy had snow, rain, and sun all in the same day. Stayed at my favorite mountain spa-hotel, Hotel Belweder Ustroń, both the rooms and food still very good, feels like a mini Grand Budapest hotel, lots of activities on site.

Sights: Did some hiking, visited the mountain resort town of Wisła (another good place to stay), mainly just relaxing.

Food: Restauracja Rybka Ustroń, some of the best freshwater fish I ever had, caught directly from the local rivers.
Zbójnicka Chata Ustroń, very rustic wood lodge up in the mountains, serving traditional Silesian food like meat Roulade, winter vegetable salads, and kluski śląskie (like fluffy gnocchi)

Wrocław
Impression: very busy, lots of young people and tourists, clubs and bars full, weather the best we had, lots of sun.

Sights: The botanical gardens were great, Japanese gardens not recommended, old baroque university was fun to visit especially its very ornate Leopoldina Lecture Hall.

There is a brand-new modern Concert hall in Wrocław, went to see a baroque music festival there, very good acoustics.

Food: Whiskey in the Jar, don’t recommend mainly rude and drunk foreigners.
Pierogarnia Rynek 26, really wanted to eat here but was full every time, very popular with locals
Taverna Akropolis, excellent Greek restaurant for a break from Polish food, fantastic Moussaka and fish
Lepione - Kuźnicza Wrocław, hipster bistro/cafeteria, pay by weight, best meal in Wrocław, mostly young students eating here.
Bar Witek, simple yet delicious, best Zapiekanak (Polish pizza) in town

Should I visit Poland now?
Yes, you should definitely go, dispel with any notion that you will be somehow “adding” to the refugee crisis. Tourists and refugees mostly swim in different ponds.

Polish tourism industry needs you now more than ever. I spoke with some Polish hoteliers and many Americans have unfortunately decided to cancel their upcoming trips to Poland.

By traveling to Poland now you are helping the situation and not making it worse.

There was no tension in the air or food shortages, hotels half empty, everything running normally. You would not even know there was a war on.

Photo album:
A small selection of my fotos from the trip - https://photos.app.goo.gl/KM3KkkTsLakrsBm48

Overall the trip was well worth it! Great food, modernizing infrastructure, fascinating sights, exciting activities, and welcoming people. Every time I visit Poland I am more and more impressed.

Posted by
18522 posts

With regard to the Refugees, I suspect Poland is struggling under the economic weight of taking care of the refugees. But, from a tourism perspective I also suspect what I saw in Hungary in April is what you would experience in Poland. That is, the refugees are being processed at the border and their accommodations and other needs are being taken care of before they move inward.

I remember the middle eastern refugee situation a few years ago and I have vivid memories of the roads lined with trash from border to city and of the transportation hubs in the cities becoming trash infested camps. None of that was evident this time. There have even been some news reports of refugees cleaning public spaces as a way of not imposing hardships on their hosts.

I did some tours of sorts for some of the Ukrainian refugees in Budapest and it was immediately apparent that no one that wasn't close enough to hear the language being spoken had any idea that the group walking up the street were Ukrainian refugees; they just assimilated (at least visually) so well that the impact on the tourist environment was less than nill.

Even out of Budapest now, I keep tabs on them and they report that they have been well received, well treated, and are functioning in the society well.

Posted by
14580 posts

Hi,

Thanks for this detailed report on Poland currently. Great that it's positive news.

"Great food...welcoming people" So very true ! I always found that to be the case, be it in the cities (Krakow, Warsaw, Torun and nearby Chelmno, and Gdansk), or the little border towns just across the Oder River.

Posted by
3959 posts

Happy to provide some "on the ground" insight.

Of course its difficult to put an exact number, I'd say only a handful at a time, maybe in a shopping mall here or walking down the street there. I do speak a little Polish so I could recognize Ukrainian if I heard it on the street. Interestingly, I could identify a number of Ukrainian refugees by the distinctive backpacks they wore. I assume they are given these backpacks when they cross into Poland.

Posted by
4290 posts

Thanks for the report, Carlos! I am really looking forward to my trip to Poland in September! Made a note about the tolls. Now off to look at your pictures. 😊

Posted by
3959 posts

September is a much better time to visit weather-wise lol!

Yes the new E-Tolls were a little annoying, but once you figure it out it's not too bad to navigate, just need to remember to prepay or one can incur a fine. The website was easiest but one can also prepay at any ORLEN Petrol Station.

Posted by
2459 posts

Thanks for sharing your experience and photos!

Posted by
985 posts

As soon as I saw your name I knew I would want to read the trip report. Interesting report and beautiful pictures. My favorite were the snowfall. Thank you for sharing!

Posted by
4290 posts

I guess it will require a bit of research on where the toll roads are…. It’s good to know to do that! Pictures are lovely. I also appreciate the info on Uber - especially as to how it might benefit Ukrainians.

Posted by
3961 posts

Another one of your great reports! Enjoyed the photos. Will add this to all your previous recommendations! Bookmarked!

Posted by
3959 posts

Happy to help :)

It's so great to see many of you are still planning on visiting in the coming months! I'm excited to hear the reports from the RS Best of Poland tours, I think the folks at RSE have done a great job crafting that itinerary.

Posted by
64 posts

Thank you for sharing your experiences! Would you mind sharing the names/websites Polish organizations that assist with Ukrainian refugees? We want to donate as well.

Posted by
697 posts

I really enjoyed reading this, thank you!

Poland is a ways down on our “where do we go next” list (I think it’s me and a food thing; just not drawn to the cuisine, and my plane tickets seem to follow my appetite 🤣), but there are obviously some wonderful experiences to be had. And your photos are lovely.

Thank you for sharing!

Posted by
3959 posts

@GlennH - of course! While in Poland when you use Uber it donates a portion of your fare to Polish organizations helping Ukrainian refugees. Here are some other Polish charitable organizations leading the effort to assist Ukrainian refugees.

Polskie Centrum Pomocy Międzynarodowej (PCPM) - https://pcpm.org.pl/en/about-us/support-us

Polska Akcja Humanitarna (PAH) - https://www.pah.org.pl/en/donate/

Caritas Polska - https://caritas.pl/formularz/

Fundacja Ocalenie - https://crm.ocalenie.org.pl/civicrm/contribute/transact?reset=1&id=3&lang=en

Polski Czerwony Krzyż (PCK) - https://pck.pl/na-pomoc-ukrainie/

Polska Misja Medyczna / Polish Medical Mission - https://pmm.org.pl/en/ukraine-urgent-medical-aid

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3959 posts

@DebVT

I think Polish food gets a bad rap in the States, mainly from outdated stereotypes, Polish-American food in the USA is definitely more carb loaded than what you will find in Poland, kinda like Italian-American food vs Italian regional cuisine in Italy.

As the crossroads of Europe, Polish cuisine has been influenced by the various cultures, Jewish, Scandinavian, Hungarian, German, and even Italian (via the Sforzas of Milan). In Poland there has been a trend reinventing traditional dishes in a sophisticated manner and rediscovering Poland's pre-communism cuisine, of fresh vegetables and produce.

Here's a good English language cookbook on Polish vegetarian cuisine - https://www.amazon.com/Fresh-Poland-Vegetarian-Cooking-Country/dp/1615196552

Here's an interesting article on a Polish chef reinventing the traditional cuisine of the medieval Teutonic Knights of Malbork Castle (as a Michelin star menu no less!) - https://culture.pl/en/gallery/the-cuisine-of-the-teutonic-grand-masters-in-malbork-castle-image-gallery

On the Italian (Sforza) influence on Polish Cuisine:
https://culture.pl/en/article/bona-sforza-the-accidental-foodie-influencer-from-renaissance-italy

Posted by
106 posts

Hi Carlos and thanks so much for your trip report. We are leaving for Poland this Saturday, May 7 for the RS Pland tour and very excited to return. I'm glad your trip was great and that you enjoyed it.

Posted by
93 posts

@Lisa, I hope you will post a review of the first RS Poland tour once you return. I will be on the Poland tour in September, and would love to hear first impressions of what the tour is like.

Posted by
3959 posts

You'll have a great time Lisa. I'm also eagerly awaiting the first reports coming in from RS's new Poland tour. Might be a bit chilly/rainy in the north Gdansk area still in early May, but the weather should mellow out as you head south. Szczęśliwej drogi!

Posted by
1523 posts

Thanks, Carlos, for this report! We're scheduled to be there in September and your information is helpful. And the food looks delicious!

Posted by
4853 posts

Thanks for the impressions, Carlos. I enjoyed revisiting Wroclaw through your report. Beautiful pictures of the Rynek!

Is the restoration complete on the Leopoldina Lecture Hall? It was fun to watch the work in progress when I was there.

Reading your report makes me eager to revive my 2020 Poland itinerary! And go back to Wroclaw, which wasn't in the 2020 plan.

Where was the cave type restaurant from your photo?

Posted by
3959 posts

Hi! Yes as far as I could tell the Leopoldina Lecture Hall was fully restored when I was there in April.

Reviving your 2020 itinerary sounds good to me, it's never been a better (or more important) time to visit Poland these days :)

The "cave" restaurant is actually the underground area of adjacent photo of the restaurant, which is on the ground floor. The restaurant is called Zbójnicka Chata Ustron, which is an old half timbered chalet located in the Silesian Beskid Mountains, close to the border with Czechia. Great food and very interesting atmosphere, they still had a photo of the old Austrian Kaiser Franz Joseph hanging proudly on the wall.

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4853 posts

Thanks, Carlos, the food in your photos looked great, too. Glad you enjoyed your trip!

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2531 posts

My uncle, born in 1924, was trained as a watchmaker in Katowice, which ended up keeping him alive during the war, when he was put into two different forced labor camps doing mechanical work before being moved by cattle car to Buchenwald concentration camp, where he was when the Allies liberated it in April of 1945.

The photos of the liberation of the camp that appeared in Life magazine included one of him on a palette in the barracks - he said that when the US troops weighed everyone he was about 80 pounds. He was resettled into a displaced persons camp in Würzburg, and eventually migrated to the USA.

I have it in mind to visit Katowice as part of a Poland trip, perhaps trying to cover more of Silesia.

https://sztetl.org.pl/en/towns/k/398-katowice/99-history/137450-history-of-community

https://www.inyourpocket.com/katowice/Jewish-Katowice_71266f

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3959 posts

@avirosemail - that sounds like a great idea, Silesia is my favorite region in Poland and I've been to Katowice a few times before. Though your uncle may find the city much more industrialized now, as Stalin had a lot of heavy industry moved to the area to "punish" the locals with pollution, even renaming the city "Stalingrad" for a short time.

However since the fall of the communist regime in Poland, Katowice has been reborn into a modern city with a charming historic core. Much of the heavy industry has been cleaned up and the air quality is much better these days.

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14580 posts

In July 2001 on the return trip from Krakow to Berlin, the train's first stop was Katowice, a long pause too, and where I saw for the first time coal sitting in boxcars on the train tracks, very interesting, an eye-opener. No wonder both countries wanted Upper Silesia. My only time being in Katowice...so far.