Rough Poland itinerary
Replies: 12 - Last Post: Mar 7, 2012 4:04 AM Last Post By: TassieTownsville
Mar 1, 2012 5:55 AM
Rough Poland itineraryHello all.
So I am in the early stages of planning at the moment and I have carved out an itinerary in Poland. My main reason for choosing Poland was because of budget restraints. As I really wanted to go everywhere in Europe (which I can't really afford) I narrowed my search down by looking at the cheaper countries to travel to and Poland seems to be perfect budget wise as well as activities wise.
My issues are with transport as I can't drive and I'm still trying to get my head around the train system. Also I'm not sure on how many days would be just right in each place. I'm definitively not a fasted paced travel, I really want to get to know a place (if I could live in each place for like 6 months I probably would), So I'm thinking my minimum stay over will be around 3 or 4 days. I know that's still fast paced but I think a month will end up being my limit at the moment. Also any suggestions on must see places that I may have missed or nice places on the way over to my outlined stops would be appreciated as well.
My main interests in Poland are: History, culture, some nature (I like caves and forests but not real keen on mountains), food and lifestyle oh and cute little villages are always good.
Bialstok (Bialowieza forest)
Thank You :)
Mar 1, 2012 1:24 PM
1If you're into history and culture, you really want to add Wrocław, Gdańsk and Toruń to that list. And as a day trip from Gdańsk you have to see the castle in Malbork (largest castle in the world by surface area, former main castle of the Teutonic Order). And you might want to take a boat trip along the Elbląg Canal. Also from Gdańsk - the town of Frombork, which was one of the towns where Nicolas Copernicus resided in for a long time (you can see his work and study rooms).
Lubin? You probably want to go to Lublin, which is a different city - Lubin is the central HQ of KGHM - one of the world's largest copper producers :), and it dominates the city. But if you mean Lublin - sure, nice city, but Gdańsk, Wrocław and Toruń are much more interesting IMHO. And Warsaw is also a city worth visiting if you find the time, although a day or two to visit is quite enough.
I would definitely go to Bialowieza. Majdanek is worth it, but perhaps Auschwitz is even more worth going. Auschwitz is a much larger former camp, with a good museum and very tourist-friendly. Although it's too much overrun by tourists if you want to contemplate in silence for a while.
If you like nature, I would recommend Mazury Lakes in the North-East in summer. Most of the lakes are very clean and great for a few days of relaxing at the beach - a very different type of beach than the ones at the sea-side - and you can go for walks in the adjoining forests or go berry-picking, or for a day-trip by bicycle.
Food and lifestyle - probably Kraków and Wrocław, with Kraków especially overrun by tourists (especially the Brits); I would also recommend Warsaw. For local specialties Zakopane also seems a good option (go to a restaurant with live music - góralska muzyka ).
Cute villages... I'd go for the mountains :).
Mar 1, 2012 5:51 PM
2Thank you so much for all that information It really was very helpful. I've tweaked my itinerary accordingly but I'm worried that it may be a bit full now? I don't want to be hopping from one place to the next without really getting to know a place. Also is this route okay using trains/buses? And how long would you recommend for each place? Would you recommend I stay in Frombork for a few days or just as a day trip? Thanks again :)
I'm not sure about Auschwitz... it seems to sound very overly touristy which tends to turn me off places. Is the camp any more historical/informative/intriguing to visit then Majdanek?
Edited by: TassieTownsville
Mar 2, 2012 6:58 AM
Mar 2, 2012 2:58 PM
The Polish Railways website has timetables and prices for train tickets.
A little note on buying train tickets - the staff at the ticket counters probably won't speak English, so have the details for your train journey written in Polish (I've travelled through Poland three times, only once have I experienced an English-speaking ticket seller). Also, check the ticket VERY carefully immediately after buying it and check the destinations and times are correct. Sometimes, they might ignore the fact you want to travel in two days time and instead issue you a ticket for the train that's leaving in 30 minutes, for instance.
Also, when you're on the train keep your eyes peeled for the correct stop - generally there's no announcements, and many of the stations are poorly signposted, though I noticed this situation had improved somewhat during my last visit (July 2011).
InYourPocket publish excellent city guides to many Polish cities, with information on smaller centres as well, for instance, their Gdansk guide has information on Malbork and Frombork as well.
Auschwitz is unmissable. Yes, it'll be most probably crowded with lots of tourists, but they will usually be behaving respectfully.
I'd recommend Poznan as well - it's a very nice, chilled out little city with a lovely town square.
Please do try and learn a little bit of Polish before your trip - just some basics! Your efforts will be much appreciated.
Mar 2, 2012 11:52 PM
5Sorry ig0r, I'm thinking either oct/nov this year or feb/march next. Which ever is cheaper really.
Thanks for the advice on the trains kmcat, the polish website was surprisingly easier to use then the general European ones. With the looking for the right stop, exactly how poorly were the stops marked? Will I have to memorise certain land marks and/or take a photo with me to check?
I think I will pick up some of those pocket guides and I think I could visit Auschwitz on my way through to Wroclaw. Is it worth spending a day or two in Osweicim?
Also how long would you recommend for Poznan? I could go from Wroclaw to Poznan on my way to Torun as that seems easy enough.
Also how hard is the Polish language to learn? Is it close to German linguistically at all?
Edited by: TassieTownsville
Mar 3, 2012 12:33 AM
The train station signage is not that great especially in smaller towns or villages. With stations in major towns or cities it's not too bad. I wouldn't worry about landmarks etc - you can also print off a copy of the train's itinerary from the Polish Railways website or Die Bahn and cross towns off as you pass through them. Again, I think you only need to be mindful of this if you're visiting smaller places. You can always ask locals on the train as well, people are usually very helpful! I think with the upcoming Euro 2012 tournament, there's been quite a lot of upgrade work at some of the train stations, including new signage. Which is good!
I'm not sure what else there is to do in Oświęcim, I think a fellow Thorntree member had some suggestions they posted a few months back - try and do a search of the forums. A visit to both camps in Auschwitz will proabably take several hours.
I stayed in Poznan for two nights, it was nice.
Polish is very difficult if you want to learn to speak it fluently, but I think the basics aren't too bad. Arm yourself with a copy of the Lonely Planet Polish phrasebook, it's pretty helpful. It's not at all close to German linguistically, it's related more to other Slavic languages such as Czech or Slovak.
Mar 3, 2012 1:15 AM
7Thanks again Kmcat :)
This is probably a stupid question but which would you consider smaller towns that I might need to look out for more? Would Poznan count as one of those towns?
Is there another town near Auschwitz that might be better then Oswiecim? I'm thinking because Auschwitz is so big I might go there straight from Krakow, have a look for a couple of hours and then maybe go stay somewhere near by and go back again the next day. Or would 2 days really be over doing it?
Ah I know neither Czech or Slovak unfortunately but I do know a bit of German. Oh well thats okay, I like a challenge and you can never know too much when it comes to languages.
Mar 3, 2012 9:06 AM
8Well, I think kmcat is exaggerating a bit. It's true, some small-town train stops (as opposed to train stations) are not very well marked. However, this is only if you're traveling with local trains (the ones that stop every 3-5 minutes), and you want to get off at a small stop somewhere in the middle of nowhere - doubtful this would be a problem in your case, looking at your itinerary. Might be something to remember, if you need to get to the beginning of a mountain trail at some small village. kmcat, where did you have these problems?
With Polish trains, delays are pretty common, so from time to time check how late you're running versus schedule to know when you'll arrive. When your expected time of arrival is coming up, queue in the corridor and look out for the signs on the platform :). And if you're not 100% sure, you can always ask - if you say your destination or show it in writing, everybody will understand with no other words required. Grand majority of the young people (say, below 35 y.o.) speak enough English to talk about getting off the train without any problems :). But kmcat is right, that the ticket clerks rarely do speak any English, so it's better to write down the key information (date, hour, destination) before buying the ticket. And, yes, do always double check your ticket before leaving the ticket stand.
I think it's a good idea to do day trips whenever possible - Malbork and Frombork from Gdańsk, Auschwitz from Kraków. This way you'll get to know Gdańsk and Kraków, you won't get bored, plus if you want to go out at night (dining, partying, strolling), it's all there, available. Frombork is a really small town, and in Malbork you won't find many nice places to go out at night (if any).
I don't think Oświęcim (the town) itself is interesting, it's not worth staying there overnight. One day for the camp is quite enough unless you have a special interest. The Auschwitz camp museum is really crowded, like the main pedestrian area in a large city in peak hours. The visitors are all respectful, but judging by what you wrote, visiting Majdanek might be an option if the crowd bothers you. I went to Majdanek as a child, to Auschwitz many many years later, and Auschwitz seemed only larger and crowded like crazy.
Biskupiec --> You want to stay at the lake for a few days? Or did you mean perhaps... Biskupin?
Białystok --> that's a major city, but you're probably only interested in Białowieża, 1.5 hour's drive from Białystok.
Oh, and in Warsaw the non-obvious place to visit would be the birthplace of Madam Curie (aka Skłodowska-Curie), it's a house in the Old Town.
Websites - trains aka PKP, intercity buses aka PKS.
Languages - I would recommend sticking to English (German is much less common). Learning simple Polish words will be appreciated, though of little practical use, unless it would be something like "Z której platformy odjeżdża pociąg ..." (which platform does the train to ... leave from?). :)
Mar 3, 2012 3:46 PM
Sorry, didn't mean to overstate the case - I just remember taking the train from Wroclaw to Görlitz a few years ago, which stopped at every single city, town, village and hamlet along the way - there wasn't really any signage for a lot of the stations. There was also a few places along the Poznan-Gdansk line where it was hard to tell where you were. I like to know what places I pass through so I can go over my journeys with a map later on!
Really though, it's only going to be something to think about if you're going to be stopping at any off-the-beaten-track villages, and won't be an issue arriving at larger towns like Poznan, Gdansk, Malbork etc.
Piotr1981 is right about daytrips to Malbork/Frombork from Gdansk and Oświęcim from Krakow. These places are really only worth a daytrip, which are easy to organise from the larger cities.
Mar 3, 2012 7:29 PM
10Thanks Piotr, that makes a little less nervous about the trains. I will definitively be sure to keep an eye on the time. In reference to the tickets, do they just get confused or do they just not care when/where you might like to go? Is there any problems with over-charging over there at the train stations? Or is it just mainly mistakes for destinations and departure/arrival times?
With day trips to Malbork and Frombork is it best to catch say buses/train/or tour? I suppose a tour of Frombork wouldn't be very useful but what about the castle at Malbork? I want to be able to experience it myself but I know that tours can be useful for historical sites. With that in mind, would be good to take a short tour of Auschwitz and Majdanek as well as look on my own?
I want to visit Biskupin and Biskupiec. Biskupin because it looks and sounds very interesting and Biskupiec because it looks stunning from the photos I have seen and its on the way.
Yes, my main interest in Bialystok is Bialowieza but if there is anything else you could recommend there I'd love to know.
I think for the languages I might just pick up a simple phrasebook if thats all I really need to know to communicate.
Thanks again Piotr.
Kmcat would you suggest spending anytime in any of the smaller places along the way of my itinerary? I really want to get a feel for the country.
Thanks again :)
Mar 5, 2012 3:36 AM
I'd suggest going either in October (as early as possible) or in March (as late as possible). November is generally quite awful for sightseeing: the days are short (it gets dark around 4 pm), the weather is typically bad (cluody, windy, lots of fog and rain, cold), the landscapes don't look nice - there's no snow to cover the grayish fallen leaves etc. The first half of October has good chances of sunny, warm weather and the coloured leaves are still on the trees.
In March the trees will still be barren, but there are good chances of sunny weather. And the days are longer than in Oct/Nov.
All the months you named are considered off-season (apart from February in the skiing resorts) - I wouldn't expect differences in cost of accomodation etc. on the spot. Cost of flight tickets might be a factor here though.
The best area for those is the mountains. Doing part of the Lesser Poland wooden architecture trail would be a great opportunity to see some nice villages, but it's quite tough to follow the trail without a car - although probably not impossible. Villages around Białowieża forest are also quite nice - the best method of seeing them would be by bike. There are also two quite interesting villages east of Białystok, with wooden mosques built by local muslim (Tartar) minority population - the easier accessible of the two is the village of Kruszyniany, with direct bus connections from Białystok making it an easy daytrip.
If you like nature, consider visiting the seaside - the sand dunes near Łeba (the Słowiński National Park) are rather spectacular, and won't be crowded in the time of your visit. The Hel penisula is also recommended. Both can be done as a daytrip from Gdańsk.
Mar 7, 2012 4:04 AM
12Thank you very much Ig0r :)
I could perhaps arrange it for late september/october. Do you think this time frame would be better? Also I plan on traveling through France/Germany/Czech Republic to arrive in Poland so would september be a good time to see a litle of these countries aswell?
I would love to see some of the villages you have mentioned and anymore you could direct me towards along my itinerary, specially any along the wooden architecture trail.
This is my newest revised itinerary with rough times for some places:
Krakow - 5 days/nigghts (day trip Auschwitz)
Zakopane - 2 days/nights
Wroclaw - 3 days/nights (day trip Biskupin)
Poznan - 2 days/nights
Gdansk - 5 days/nights (day trips Malbork, Frombrock, Leba, Hel peninsula)
Bialystok - 5 days/nights (day trips Bialwieza forest, surrounding villages)
Lublin/Majdanek - 3 days/nights
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