Geography of Poland

Submitted 1 year 10 months ago by CultureWhiz.

Poland is located in Central Europe. It covers 120,700 square miles (312,680 square kilometers). On the north Poland is bordered by the Baltic Sea, Russia, and Lithuania; on the east by Belarus and Ukraine; on the south by Slovakia and the Czech Republic; and on the west by Germany. Originally, the capital was Cracow (Kraków), but in 1611 it was moved to Warsaw (Warszawa), the current seat of government.

Seventy-five percent of the land lies below 650 feet (200 meters). The Baltic Sea forms a natural northern border, and the Sudetes and Carpathians form the southern border. Poland does not have any natural borders on the east or west. Polish wars and large scale changes in the borders, both ethnically and politically, have been to the east and west while the northern and southern borders have changed little over the past one thousand years.

Regions

Poland's sixteen administrative regions are called województwa, often abbreviated as "woj.". The word is roughly equivalent to the word "province" in English.

Central Poland (Łódzkie, Mazowieckie)
Central Poland is focused around the capital city of Warsaw and the large city of Łódź with rich textile manufacturing heritage

Southern Poland (Małopolskie, Śląskie)
Home to spectacular mountain ranges, the world's oldest operating salt mines, fantastic landscapes, caves, historical monuments and cities. The magnificent medieval city of Kraków is Poland's most-visited destination, while the Silesian conurbation is the largest in the country.

Southwestern Poland (Dolnośląskie, Opolskie)
Colorful mixture of different landscapes. One of the warmest regions in Poland with the very popular, dynamic city of Wrocław. Within this region you will find Polish, German and Czech heritage.

Northwestern Poland (Lubuskie, Wielkopolskie, Zachodniopomorskie)
A varied landscape, profusion of wildlife, bird-watcher's paradise and inland dunes. Much of this part of Poland belonged to Germany for centuries, which shaped its heritage.

Northern Poland (Kujawsko-Pomorskie, Pomorskie, Warmińsko-Mazurskie)
Home to Poland's attractive seaside; sandy beaches with dunes and cliffs; lakes, rivers and forests.

Eastern Poland (Lubelskie, Podkarpackie, Świętokrzyskie, Podlaskie)
Very green area filled with lakes. It offers unspoiled nature and the possibility of camping in beautiful countryside. Unique primeval forests and picturesque rivers (e.g. Biebrza river) with protected bird species make the region increasingly interesting for tourists.

The sixteen provinces have elected self-governments, who oversee local regional and economic policy, EU funding, and cultural affairs. Some English dictionaries use the word voivodeship to describe the provinces, although the use of the word is rare, and is likely not to be universally understood at first by some Poles.

Poland's current voivodeships (provinces) are largely based on the country's historic regions, whereas those of the past two decades (to 1998) had been centred on and named for individual cities. The new units range in area from less than 10,000 square kilometres (3,900 sq mi) for Opole Voivodeship to more than 35,000 square kilometres (14,000 sq mi) for Masovian Voivodeship. Administrative authority at voivodeship level is shared between a government-appointed voivode (governor), an elected regional assembly (sejmik) and an executive elected by that assembly.

The voivodeships are subdivided into powiats (often referred to in English as counties), and these are further divided into gminas (also known as communes or municipalities). Major cities normally have the status of both gmina and powiat. Poland has 16 voivodeships, 379 powiats (including 65 cities with powiat status), and 2,478 gminas.

Cities

Warsaw — capital of Poland, and one of the EU's thriving new business centres; the old town, nearly completely destroyed during World War II, has been rebuilt in a style inspired by classicist paintings of Canaletto.

Gdańsk — formerly known as Danzig; one of the old, beautiful European cities, rebuilt after World War II. Located in the centre of the Baltic coast, it's a great departure point to the many sea resorts along the Baltic coast.

Katowice — central district of the Upper Silesian Metropolis, both an important commercial hub and a centre of culture.

Kraków — the "cultural capital" of Poland and its historical capital in the Middle Ages; its centre is filled with old churches, monuments, the largest European medieval market-place - and more recently trendy pubs and art galleries. Its city centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Lublin — the biggest city in Eastern Poland, it has a well-preserved old town with typical Polish architecture, along with unusual Renaissance elements (the so-called Lublin Renaissance).

Łódź — once renowned for its textile industries, the "Polish Manchester" has the longest walking street in Europe, the Piotrkowska Street, full of picturesque 19th-century architecture.

Poznań — the merchant city, considered to be the birthplace of the Polish nation and church (along with Gniezno); presents a mixture of architecture from all epoques.

Szczecin — most important city of Pomerania with an enormous harbour, monuments, old parks and museums.

Wrocław — an old Silesian city with great history; placed on 12 islands, it has more bridges than any other European town except Venice, Amsterdam and Hamburg.

Poland, Poland Geography