FACT FILE — Poland — Polska :

Poland is situated in the centre of the European continent. It has an area of 312,683 sq/km. It has a frontier of 3,582 km, including 528 km of coastline. To the west, the Polish/German border runs along the Oder and Neisse rivers. To the north, Poland is bordered by the Baltic Sea and by Russia. Poland is separated from the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south by the Sudeten and Carpathian Mountains, whilst its eastern neighbors are Lithuania, Belarus and the Ukraine.

Itís climate is greatly influenced by oceanic air currents from the west, cold polar air from Scandinavia and Russia, as well as warmer, sub-tropical air from the south. In winter, polar-continental fronts dominate, bringing crisp, frosty weather. The late summer and autumn months enjoy plenty of warm days, thanks to the influence of the dry, sub-tropical, continental air mass. The greatest amount of sunshine in summer is to be found on the Baltic coast, whilst in winter this is true of the Carpathian Mountains. In the mountains, at any time of year, the climate is dependent on the altitude. In Warsaw, temperatures range from between 200 to 250C (680 to 77'F) during the summer months and O' to -50C (320 to 23"F) in winter.

The Capital is Warsaw and the country has a population of 38 million.

Recent brief history: Poland became the first of the central European countries to overthrow communist rule in 1989. It is the most populous state in central Europe. In 1989 it was on the verge of economic collapse, weighed down by massive foreign debt. Today, it is one of the fastest growing economies in Europe and a significant trading partner for the UK. On 13 December 2002 Poland completed negotiations to join the European Union. It signed an Accession Treaty in April 2003 and, following the public support shown in the referendum held on 8 June 2003, became a full member of the European Union on 1 May 2004. It became a member of NATO on 12 March 1999.

To find the soul of Poland, you must seek it in Krakow — wrote the author and critic Wilhelm Feldman at the beginning of this century. Poland's soul is chiselled into almost every stone of its old capital. This atmosphere can be felt in each of the city's most visited sites.

Krakow is a colossus of art and architecture, and its Old Town has been placed on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's — UNESCO — list of protected World Historic Sites. But Krakow is also a modern city — the third largest in Poland.

Set on a rocky point overlooking the Vistula River, Krakow has been attracting increasing numbers of tourists, lured by its colourful past, which is associated with Poland's national heroes. The country's patron saint, Stanislaus, charged with high treason and murdered by king Boleslav the Bold in the 11th century, rests in a silver tomb in the centre of the Wawel cathedral.

Legendary Krakow is filled with vivid reminders of the days when Polish kings were crowned and buried at the 11th-century Wawel Castle. A fabulous collection of Arras tapestries, portraits and other precious objects await visitors. The heart of the city is Rynek Glowny, a great plaza reminiscent of Brussels' Grand Place or Venice's Piazza San Marco. On any given day, a visitor will find Krakovians out for a stroll, itinerant musicians, university students and small groups of tourists from the hinterlands.

The Sukiennice, or Cloth Hall, dominates the square. It is here where merchants of old sold their wares. Today, visitors can stock up on local art and souvenirs or simply sip a cup of coffee or espresso. It's an easy traverse across Europe's largest medieval marketplace to feast at the Wierzynek Restaurant as the royalty once did! This Polish institution is the oldest, continuously operating restaurant in Europe. It dates back to 1364 when Mikolaj Wierzynek prepared a famous wedding banquet for the granddaughter of King Casimir the Great. Sit back and take in the rooms furnished with antique chandeliers, old battle armour and ancient clocks.

Other attractions in the area include the original city walls, the Barbican fortress and the Florien Gate. Once the main entry point to the city, the gate is now the site of a flourishing open art show. In addition, the Kazimierz district, one of the principal centres of Jewish religion, culture and learning since the 15th century, now boasts a large complex of partly restored historical architecture.

Vehicles drive on the RIGHT

See also Driving in Poland at insurance4carrental.com

Emergency Telephone number: pan-EU Emergency 112 Can be used in all EU Countries and it can be dialled from a locked mobile or a mobile with no sim card.

Population 2006: 38,635,144

Land Area: 312,685 Km2

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