Fun Facts

50 or So Peculiar Facts About Poland

By on June 6, 2014

Most people think of vodka or the Pope when Poland is mentioned, but the country has so much more to it. Think: Bison; fire jumping; and the Enigma Machine. Very peculiar facts about Poland.

Check out our list of interesting Polish facts- some will surprise you.

Finding facts about Poland isn’t difficult; finding true and peculiar facts about Poland that aren’t copied and pasted is a bit tough. In the end, many of these Polish facts were surprising for us. In a good way. See if you agree?

Polish Stereotypes and Misconceptions

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I’d like to get this out of the way first, because it seems there are a lot of preconceived notions about the Polish that simply aren’t true.

World War II is a sensitive subject in Poland, for good reason. They’ve gotten a bad reputation as somehow being involved or responsible for the concentration camps. No. The truth:

  • Over 50,000+ Polish people gave their lives to save the lives of over 450,000+ Jewish people. More than any other country. Poland is also the highest number of people honored by the Riteous Among Nations.
  • The reason Poland was even chosen in the first place for the concentration camps? It was the most religiously tolerant in Europe, and thus had the highest number of Jewish people.
  • The concentration camps were German/Nazi. There was not a ‘Polish Concentration Camp.’ Propaganda in the aftermath of the war created the myth.
  • Poland was the only country the Germans enforced the death penalty for aiding a Jew. Not just death for them, but their entire family. Yet still thousands of Polish helped.

Polish people are quite educated. Despite the huge amount of Polish jokes, get this: they rank #23 in literacy (the U.S. is #26, just to compare) and about 40% have a university degree (30% in the U.S.).

For some reason, there’s the silly idea that Polish people are short. The average: 5’9”.3 for men; one of the tallest Polish basketball players is 7’2”.

Vodka isn’t a Polish invention; the word ‘wodka’ was coined in Poland, but alcohol was actually invented by the Turks. The Russians adopted vodka as their national drink and have been debating with the Poles over it since. (It’s called The Vodka War.’) (Seriously.)

Polish people drink less than many Euro countries. In fact, they come in at #14 or so. After: the French, Czechs, Germans and Danish.

‘Burek’ is not the most common dog’s name in Poland. It’s a general term for dogs. Like ‘Here, Fido!’ or ‘Here, Doggie!’

Polish people come off: cold. Reserved. Miserable. Angry. ‘They don’t smile.’ The same goes for: Czechs, Slovaks, Bulgarians and, I’d assume, Russians. It’s not because they’re not warm or friendly. It’s because:

  • For the older generation, a kickback to Communism and masking emotions in public.
  • Generally, in these cultures a smile equals a laugh. Which means smiling at a stranger could be the equivalent of laughing at them.
  • Don’t smile if you don’t mean it. It’s also used to flirt and show romantic interest.
  • Keep in mind: many Slavic cultures find Western greetings and smiles ‘false;’ why ask ‘How are you?’ if you don’t want to know-? Grin.

Bigos, a national Polish dish (‘Hunter’s Stew’), does not give off deadly gas after 3 days of cooking. In fact, you shouldn’t eat it until it’s been cooking for longer than 2 days. Traditionally, it lasted a week or more with extra ingredients added.

Polish Religion, Traditions & Superstitions

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I was super disappointed to find out there’s no such thing as a ‘Pope Channel’ on Polish TV. There is, however, a Christian Channel (TV Trwam).

The largest sections in bookshops are about the Pope; Poland has a 45-foot statue of the Pope and the world’s tallest statue of Jesus; and 90% of Polish people identify themselves as Catholics.

But only about 10% consider themselves ‘practicing Catholics.’

Marzanna Day

(Marzanna is the goddess of death, nightmares and winter) It happens around March 21st and it celebrates the ‘death of winter.’ A straw doll (3-4 feet tall) is decorated with ribbons and thrown into a body of water, thus killing off the cold and welcoming spring.

(I’m just curious- who cleans up the straw dolls after-?)

Kupala/Sobotka/Wianki

It’s around June 21st and is sort of a Polish Valentine’s Day. Traditionally, the midsummer solstice was the romantic time of year. On the ‘Feast of St. John the Baptist’ day, men jump over bonfires.

On the same day, women hope for wreaths. Wreaths with candles on one side of the river are floated to the other side; if a woman has one come to her she’ll be lucky in love.

Polish Superstitions

A lot of them echo the same of many countries (ladders, black cats, etc.) but there are a few uniquely Polish superstitions:

  • A woman’s handbag on the floor = no money.
  • Wearing red underwear to the ball before your final exams (and again- unlaundered- exam day) will bring you good luck.
  • Weddings: don’t marry in a month without an ‘r’ in it (which includes 6 months out of the year); a bride puts her shoes on the sill the night before for good weather conditions; and brides shouldn’t see their reflection when they’re fully dressed.
  • The more you eat at Christmas (typically 12 dishes- yikes-!) the happier you will be the next year.

Peculiar Facts about Polish Inventions and Famous People

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The inventor of Esperanto, L.L. Zamenhof, was Polish. The word ‘esperanto’ translates into: ‘one who hopes.’

Casimir Zeglen, a Polish immigrant in Chicago (and a priest), designed the bulletproof vest in 1893. It was made of silk layers and a steel plate.

Catherine the Great was born in Stettin, Prussia, which is now Szczecin, Poland. She went on to rule Russia.

Jerzy Kosinski (one of my all-time favorite authors) was Polish. His book ‘Being There’ was later made into a film.

The ‘father of rocket science,’ Wernher von Braun, was born in what is now called Wyrzysk, Poland.

Frederic Chopin was born near Warsaw in Żelazowa Wola and made his fame in Paris.

So did Madame Marie Curie- the first woman to win the Nobel Prize (in 2 categories/2 sciences, no less) and the University of Paris’ first female professor.

Copernicus, the man who ‘stopped the sun and moved the earth,’ gave the world its first Heliocentric model of the solar system. Most don’t know he was a clergyman and very religious; he wasn’t trying to undermine Catholicism.

Jerzy Rozycki, Henryk Zygalski and Marian Rejewski were the Polish mathematicians behind the breaking of the German Enigma Machine code, helping the Allied war effort. It’s estimated that help ended the war 2 years earlier.

Random and Peculiar Facts about Poland

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In September, Krakow has an annual Daschund Parade.

The Załuski Library in Warsaw was one of the world’s best, established in 1747.

Poland is known as ‘Lehistan’ by the Turks because of the 3 brother legend: Czech, Lech and Rus (founders of the Czech Republic, Poland and Russia).

Poland has a desert: the Bledow Desert. It’s an oddity in such a lush countryside.

People in Krakow can tell the time by listening for the sound of a bugle. It blows every hour, cut midway in honor of a bugle player who warned of a Tatar invasion and was hit in the throat with an arrow.

Gdansk many times gets confusing, since it’s also called the ‘Gulf of Danzig.’

Poland is super green: there are 23 National Parks and over 1,200 natural reserves. It’s also home to some rare European animals: the lynx; the bison; and the eagle.

Katowice is described as the ‘San Fran’ of Poland and is gay-friendly, which some might find strange in such a Catholic country. How cool is that?

Polish TV used to have (I think it’s changed now-?) a ‘lektor’ for voiceovers of foreign programs and films. That meant: one fella read all of the parts (male and female) with the original audio in the background.

Poland has had several serial killers. 3 shared the title of ‘vampire’ (as in the ‘Zagłębie Vampire’); one was a ‘Gentleman Killer;’ and the most interesting: the Skin Hunters. 4 medical people killed elderly patients to sell information to funeral home directors. Not kidding.

Warsaw’s symbol is a mermaid, according to a legend.

Łódź, Poland is slightly misnamed since it means ‘boat’ and the nearest shore is a 5-hour drive (according to a local).

Spokois the slang term in Polish for ‘Take it easy’ or ‘Okay,’ which can help calm down most situations.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our peculiar and interesting facts about Poland.

If we’ve got anything wrong, or if you want to add something more, no worries- just let us know in the comments below!

It’s spoko. Grin.

 

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222 Comments
  1. Reply

    jezier

    June 11, 2014

    Mary Woolstoncraft Shelley named her crazy doctor after a town in Poland in which some sect was stealing corpses from the local cemetery.

    • Reply

      PCScorpio

      June 12, 2014

      I didn’t know she got the name from that, but yes, there is a town which was called Frankenstein in the earlier days, now it’s called Ząbkowice Śląskie – the name comes from ‘teeth’, actually.

      • Reply

        Melony Candea

        June 12, 2014

        PC Scorpio, how disturbing is that-? Just the idea of teeth + horror means shivers. Ha.

        Mel

        • Reply

          Hermina

          June 14, 2014

          Great article !!!!
          I can not stop reading all the comment , it has been an hour …. Learn something new about my beloved country thanks . But I did not stumble upon any info about Smingus dingus second day of Polish Easter . It’s lots of wet fun….. It’s “spoko” if it’s sunny and worm outside if not you are in biiiiiiig wet trouble. You can dig something out about Smingus dingus for sure , spoko.
          Thanks again for a very entertaining Saturday night read.
          Hermina

    • Reply

      Narvienn

      June 13, 2014

      You’re absolutely right – Mary Shelley read an article about Frankenstein, Prussia, which is now known as Ząbkowice Śląskie, Poland :).

  2. Reply

    falconi

    June 11, 2014

    “I’m just curious- who cleans up the straw dolls after-?”

    Nobody, because before we throw them into water (river), we set them on fire. 🙂

    • Reply

      cs

      June 13, 2014

      Yeah, but it needs to be said that this tradition is disappearing in Poland. I remember only one such day, I was about 10yo.

      • Reply

        Marianna

        June 13, 2014

        Me and my friends we do it every year 🙂 Our Marzanna doll is much smaller, about 50cm tall; we set it on fire – which sometimes can prove rather difficult, what with all the wind and snow and rain- and throw it into the sea :3 And we are just one of the many groups, big and small, who celebrate the First Day of Spring in such manner 🙂
        But Kupala Night, oh, that’s the true celebration 😀 Bonfires till the sunrise.

        • Reply

          Dennis

          June 14, 2014

          It’s becoming more popular again of course, now that the bishops have started criticising it for being a pagan thing. As is usual when the church criticises something, they end up making it more popular. 🙂

  3. Reply

    the guy

    June 11, 2014

    Alfred Tarki also was a Polish important person.

    • Reply

      Hubert

      June 13, 2014

      1) Alfred Tarski ( logician, mathematician and philosopher)
      but also:
      2) Roman Polanski (film director)
      3) Agnieszka Holand (film director)
      4) Leszek Balcerowicz (economist)
      5) Michał Kalecki (economist)
      * Kalecki has been called “one of the most distinguished economists of the 20th century.” It is often claimed that he developed many of the same ideas as Keynes, before Keynes; however, since he published in Polish and French, he remains much less known to the English-speaking world.
      6) Jan Jonston (philosopher)
      7) Bolesław Prus (philosopher and writer)
      8) Stanisław Wyspiański (playwright, painter and poet)
      9) Czesław Miłosz (poet)
      10) Ryszard Kapuściński (reporter, journalist, traveller, photographer, poet and writer)
      11) Jacek Malczewski (painter)
      12) Leon Schiller (theatre and film director)
      13) Czesław Miłosz (Noble Prize poet and writer)
      14) Jerzy Skolimowski (film director)
      15) Andrzej Wajda (film director)
      16) Stefan Banach (mathematician)
      17) Pola Negri (actress)
      18) Krzysztof Kieślowski (film director and screenwriter)
      20) Janusz Kamiński (film director)
      21) Stanisław August Poniatowski (King of Poland)
      * during his reign he processed many reforms including the Constitution of 3 May 1791 (second constitution in the world, ratified 3 years after Constitution of the United States)
      22) John III Sobieski (King of Poland)
      * Popular among his subjects, he was an able military commander, most famous for the victory over the Turks in the 1683 Battle of Vienna.[2] Following his victories over the Ottoman Empire, he was called by the Turks the “Lion of Lechistan” and held as the saviour of European Christendom by the pope.
      23) Wisława Szymborska (Noble Prize poet)

      And many, many others 🙂

  4. Reply

    Anita

    June 11, 2014

    I would only add that the reason almost no one knows Marie Sklodowska-Curie was polish, is because her name is always written as just “Marie Curie”. She was born and raised in Poland, she just decided to marry french guy and that’s why she got french nationality as well.

    • Reply

      polish

      June 13, 2014

      You should know that she left Poland only because at that time women were not allowed to study on university. She has heard that in France there is a way to attend university and she decided to leave.

    • Reply

      John

      June 16, 2014

      Her last name (after husband) was Curie not Sklodowska-Curie. That is the fact.
      Sklodowska – it was just her maiden name – that’s it.
      I think she was upset that Poland didn’t give her much.

      • Reply

        Tomasz

        July 3, 2014

        Poland was wiped off from world map at this time, hence it couldnt give her too much. She was educated by ‘flying universities’ illegal organizations (by Prussians and Russians occupiers) which travelled across state providing education in polish language. There were 2 more guys who were educated in such a way and provided inventions; of oil rafination, and screen refreshing method (which was later on used by TV constructor from Scotland). Sorry but I dont remember second names :/

      • Reply

        Pawel001

        July 20, 2014

        BS – Look at her 1911 Nobel Prize diploma to check what surname she used after her husband death….

      • Reply

        zaga

        September 29, 2014

        What does it mean ‘just a maiden name’? her hand written signature said M. Sklodowska Curie, which means that for her it was not ‘just a maiden name’ 😉

  5. Reply

    DonKlekote

    June 11, 2014

    I must say that’s a great article and very accurate observations. Congrats!
    I have one thought though, Catherine the Great and Wernher von Braun were born in nowadays Poland but they had no connections with the Polish nation.
    Oh! And the ‘lektor’ is still the thing in the TV 🙂 Maybe except in kids’ cartoons.
    Best regards

  6. Reply

    Michal

    June 11, 2014

    I haven’t noticed any fact about Wrocław. 😛 It’s the most beautiful city in Poland and it’s called the Venice of the northern Europe. 🙂

    • Reply

      cs

      June 13, 2014

      Michal, I love Poznan, although I come form Bytom near Katowice.

    • Reply

      Polak

      September 24, 2014

      That’s right, this is your pearl of Polish. Foreign tourists only know Krakow and Warsaw but the most interesting and most beautiful city is just Wroclaw. Krakow accepting municipal rights cue from the Wroclaw. In general, the history of Wroclaw is very rich and extremely interesting.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wroc%C5%82aw

  7. Reply

    Konrad

    June 11, 2014

    it’s good that somebody think about us in this way 😉 Thanks!!

  8. Reply

    Monika from Poland

    June 11, 2014

    Hey, we still have lektor on TV 🙂

  9. Reply

    Aga

    June 11, 2014

    Thank you for this. Especially for the German concentration camps part. It should be known.
    Greetings from Kraków, Poland 🙂

    • Reply

      irma

      August 16, 2015

      I would also include stopping for a minute every year on August 1st to commemorate the Warsaw Uprising.

      • Reply

        Melony Candea

        August 16, 2015

        There are many commemorations. Some of the affecting for us: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Day_of_Remembrance_for_Victims_of_Stalinism_and_Nazism We were adopted by two Lithuanians, whom we both love. They taught us much. I lived in the CZ for ages, and heard multiple stories about different 'special' days. Much like your August 1st, which is so... meaningful. Of humans. Of oppression and fighting it. Just brilliant. Thank you for reminding us.

  10. Reply

    Konrad

    June 11, 2014

    Hey. That’s pretty interesting, but there are few things you forgot. I’m Polish and I think you should mention that Maria SKŁODOWSKA-Curie was Polish, no only born in Poland. Same with Chopin – his last name was in Polish “Szopen” and he was just living in France for a long time. Also Copernicus – we call him just “Kopernik”.
    And I didn’t know that Katowice are gay-friendly in any way. And why would this be something “cool”?

    • Reply

      SuperYo

      June 12, 2014

      just an example of how “tolerant” Poland could be..

      • Reply

        Karolina

        June 13, 2014

        Does it mean that in every other country in the world EVERYONE is tolerant?

        • Reply

          Supadom

          August 16, 2015

          So if other countries are intolerant we should accept it as a norm?

      • Reply

        Falkster

        June 14, 2014

        😀 Obviously not Konrad… 😉

    • Reply

      Marcin

      June 14, 2014

      ‘cos it is – having problems with LGBTI ???

    • Reply

      John

      June 16, 2014

      Hey Dude,
      F. Chopin’s father was French, so don’t change the reality. In your opinion all famous people were Polish. Copernicus was Polish? These territories were German at the time, so his name wasn’t Kopernik but Copernicus. You can guess what nationality he was…

      • Reply

        Robert

        June 20, 2014

        Copernicus is not german name. It’s latin name. German name is Kopernikus. And he was polish, in 15 century nobody has nationality… 🙂 He was born in polish-german familly, but he was subject of a king (polish king) Zygmunt I Stary 🙂

      • Reply

        lolalitka

        June 21, 2014

        Well, actually,Dude,Torun was in the reign of the Polish king at the time Kopernik was born,so technically,he was Polish and,indeed,F.Chopin’s father was French,living an working in poland and Fryderyk was born and raised in Poland,so he was indeed Polish..unless you want to claim all those people with English passports in the Uk,born and raised there are not British,just because their parents weren’t…

        • Reply

          Olga Cecylia

          September 19, 2014

          Well, in Poland nationality comes from the parents, not from the land you’re born on, so if you’re born in Poland it doesn’t mean you’re Polish, especially when your father is French… So Chopin was French-Polish. How we call someone and how we write his/her name isn’t a proof of anything because Shakespeare and Voltaire are called Szekspir and Wolter here and they definitely were not Polish 🙂

      • Reply

        zaga

        September 29, 2014

        Actually, he was French-Polish. His mother’s maiden name was Krzyżanowska and she was Polish. His father, even though born in France, lived in Poland since he was 16 years old 🙂

  11. Reply

    Joanna

    June 11, 2014

    You got the wreaths part all wrong.
    Young women make them, light the candle and put them on a flowing water (typically – a river). Young men wait on the other side, somewhat downstream (they can’t see the girls) and try to catch them as a way of matchmaking. Sometimes a girl will describe her wreath in advance, to help her luck 🙂
    Christmas: not exactly the more you eat the more luck. You get luck if you try all the dishes. And pretty much anything can count as a dish, e.g. a potato.
    TV Trwam is not the only one, but the more known, because of it’s connection to a certain controversial priest. The other is TV Religia and is more broad.
    Marzanna does not have to be big. And since she’s made of straw and paper – nobody cleans them, they cust decompose.
    Anyway, the Marzanna and Sobótka customs are not widely practiced (but are well-known), so there is not a lot to clean up.

    And a bonus: 30th November, st. Andrew’s day, is a day for all kinds of witchcraft, especially of the romantic kind. People melt candles and pour the wax through a hole in a key into a pot of cold water. Then they interpret the shades of the shapes to predict future. A group of young women will take their shoes off and lay them in a snake shape all around the room. The one, whose shoe gets to the door first is supposed to be the first to marry next year.

    • Reply

      Anna

      June 12, 2014

      Thanks for the clarification, Konrad and Joanna, saves others the time of repeating.

    • Reply

      Barb

      June 22, 2014

      Great observation Joanna. What about November 1 – All Saint? After 28 year abroad I miss it.

      • Reply

        humo

        July 21, 2014

        November the 1th is favourit celebration day of my spanish coworkers. Although is a holiday, if they come to Poland to work in October or November, they always schedule to be here this day. And they love it 🙂

  12. Reply

    loki

    June 11, 2014

    It’s all true.

  13. Reply

    dziewion

    June 11, 2014

    Lektor is still most popular 🙂 all National and commercial chanels uses this type of translation, it helps us to lear english, thats a funny fact too

    • Reply

      Daniel

      June 12, 2014

      As a foreigner living in Poland I find the Lektor very annoying. Can’t concentrate on either language. And with subtitles you’d learn English much better in my opinion.

      • Reply

        Piotr

        June 12, 2014

        Daniel, try to watch any series or film in Spain – you’ll laugh loud, seeing Carrie from Sex and The City speaking Spanish! That’s properly annoying. Agree with the subtitles part though.

  14. Reply

    Krystian

    June 11, 2014

    Hello. Good article. One thing – Madame Marie Curie used also her polish surname Skłodowska. You should write Marie Curie-Sklodowska. It’s very important because many French think that she was a French because of her husband’s surname.

    • Reply

      Agnieszka

      June 13, 2014

      Actually she insisted on calling her by husband’s name and didn’t use ‘Skłodowska’ at all. She signed all documents and writings as Curie. All this Skłodowska stuff well that comes from us, as we love to highligh Polish roots everywhere 😉

      • Reply

        Pawel001

        July 20, 2014

        you are wrong – after Pierre’s death she used Sklodowska-Curie as her surname (check for example her 1911 Nobel Prize diploma…

  15. Reply

    Piotr Warych

    June 11, 2014

    Good job. Thank you very much. It is good to read positive and true things about my country. Too often Poland is described so unfair. Did you know that there is the project that Poland should pay the rent for concentration camps’ victims!? It’s unbelivable!

  16. Reply

    Przemyslaw

    June 11, 2014

    Hi,
    It’s true “lektor” reads all sentences. But there are also dubbinged movies for kids.
    I think many foreigners see polish ppl to drunk a lot. But this is not true. Some Poles just dont know when to stop and lost their humanity while drunk. Thats why we are know as “drunk nation’ 🙂

    Maria Curie also had polish surname – Maria Skłodowska – Curie.
    Don’t forget that polish inventor Kosecki created or rather “modded” mine detector:P http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metal_detector

    And the funniest thing. I can’t find englishman who can say my name properly.
    Polish is one of the hardest languages to learn due to it has male and female forms of almost everything: verbs, adjectives, numerals.
    So there are difference when u say: “He’s third” and “She’s third” : “On jest trzeci” & “Ona jest trzecia”; “He’s smart” & “She’s smart” : “On jest mądry” & “Ona jest mądra”.
    Some english think we are about to suffocate when speak polish.
    BTW, it’s really nice to read such articles about my fatherland.
    Cheers,
    Przemek

  17. Reply

    Jurenio

    June 11, 2014

    Being Polish myself, i read your article with true interest. It is always a little adventure to see oneself in other people’s eyes, especially if those eyes watch from a distance of another culture 🙂

    I am impressed with Your in-depth research, basically all the facts are true.

    Only one subject needs some amendment – the fragment on showing emotions by Poles.
    First. Even in the communist times we did not hide emotions. Poland was never ruled as harshly as East Germany or Romania, we had a relatively biggest margin of ‘freedom’ in the eastern block, so we were often called “The funniest barrack in the camp”.
    Second. It is not true that in the Slavic world a smile means laughing of someone. It is rather so that if you meet a stranger and smiles, you may be perceived as being not serious, not selfconfident. But this is marginal and vanishes.

    Finding the truth in this subject is a lost battle, as it is a matter of arguing and controversy among ourselves. On thing is certain though – we are a nation of complainers and there is no information good enough that we couldn’t read it in a dark and gloomy way.

    • Reply

      irma

      August 16, 2015

      I was also surprised by the fact that somebody percieves us as cold or gloomy… We’re Slavs, we do smile a lot 🙂

      But yes, we also complain much…

      • Reply

        Melony Candea

        August 16, 2015

        I think it’s definitely Slavic: I don’t know you, so I don’t smile or say hello. Try telling an Italian (my hubby) or and American (me) that, and you’ll get strong responses. Doesn’t mean that they mean it, just that they do it. 🙂

  18. Reply

    Jurenio

    June 11, 2014

    A little correction. I meant “The jolliest barrack in the camp”.

  19. Reply

    Slawomir Wojcik

    June 11, 2014

    “Lektor” thing is still the same – one guy reading all parts – male and female. Confirmed info – I’m Polish:D

  20. Reply

    gshegosh

    June 11, 2014

    I’m Polish and didn’t know all the facts 🙂 Very nice read, thank you.

    • Reply

      Melony Candea

      June 12, 2014

      You are most welcome, gshegosh. I’m glad you liked it. 🙂

      Mel

  21. Reply

    Przemek

    June 11, 2014

    It hasn’t change – we still have “lektors” in most of our tv chanels 🙂

    • Reply

      Melony Candea

      June 12, 2014

      Przemek, it seems to be annoying for many Polish. Strange that it’s an institution in your country, but if people like it they like it, eh?

      Mel. 🙂

    • Reply

      Marek

      September 17, 2014

      True, but it’s very good for old people, and some who don’t know english language. Now, in TV we can make a choice: lektor, original language or original language and subtitles (like on dvds or blu-ray discs) for most channel. In cinema only subtitles or dubbing (no lektor – thanks God). Melony great job.

  22. Reply

    Jadzia

    June 11, 2014

    “a bride puts her shoes on the sill the night before for good weather conditions” – I’m Polish but I’ve never heard about it, maybe it’s a regional supersition.

    • Reply

      Melony Candea

      June 12, 2014

      Jadzia, it could be regional. I thought it was an interesting aspect of premarital superstitions- it kind of makes sense, historically. 🙂

      Mel

      • Reply

        cs

        June 13, 2014

        well, i think it’s a bit exaggerated when sticking the superstition label to the Poles. It’s more like a fun and peculiar tradition and certainly some of them are regional.

    • Reply

      irma

      August 16, 2015

      I’m getting married this year and all that the others told me was to choose the month with “r”, have something blue, new, old and borrowed and that the groom should place a coin into my shoe 😉

      • Reply

        Melony Candea

        August 16, 2015

        Congratulations, Irma! We were told the same, but I have to say our marriage was a lot less traditional. I had the old, borrowed and new but not the blue or the coin. Ha. Must’ve worked, we’re still going strong. 🙂 Good luck, good love. 🙂

  23. Reply

    Karolina

    June 11, 2014

    Well, almost everything is correct. In Poland we still have a lector on TV, which, I think, is better than dubbing, because You can hear the real voices of characters in movie 🙂 For me movies or tv shows read by male and female are quite funny 🙂
    And name Łódź is not so missnamed. There are 18 rivers under Łódź, they are little and almost all hidden, but still they are very impotrant for an ecological point of view. In XIX century when City had its best years for development and the industrial revolution started, Łódź was chosen to be best place for factories of textile industries. Unfortunately the years of developing industry has changed riverbeds and destroy many of Lodz rivers. Under the Manufaktura which is biggest Shopping Centre in region (it was one of greatest factories) rivers have a big junction 🙂 i think over 11 of them have intersection there:)

  24. Reply

    Rasvjet

    June 11, 2014

    Hi, I enjoyed reading this. As a Pole, I’d like to comment on a few things you mentioned.
    – “Burek” IS a common dog name. On some occassions, we do use it to denote a mutt (“Is that a purebred dog?” “Nah, just a plain Burek”), but basically it is a name 🙂
    – Most Poles (including myself) will tell you Czechs are more joyful then we are and have better sense of humour.
    – We do have this Catholic TV channel, but most Poles consider it really lame, manipulative and embarrassing to watch. The common belief is that only pious elder ladies watch it.
    – You might find it interesting that the word “wódka” (as well as the Russian vodka) is a diminutive of “woda” – water.
    – 12 dishes sounds huge, but in fact a bowl of walnuts or pickled mushrooms will be considered a dish and you only need to eat a single nut or mushie for it to count. In fact, each dish is meant to bring you luck in one month of the following year (hence, 12 dishes in total).
    – Sadly, Poland is not as green as we’d like it to be – only less than 30% of the land is covered with forests. That being said, Poles do love nature and the current president had to exchange his rifle for a camera before he could be elected.
    – Lektor is still the most common method of translating TV shows – only children’s shows are dubbed and it’s really rare to see subtitles on Polish TV. On the other hand. lektor disappeared completely from the cinema.
    – It never occured to me that my hometown was so gay-friendly. I mean, I was aware that gay people were tolerated here more that in other parts of Poland, but I had no idea we were famous for that 🙂 Good to know ^^

  25. Reply

    Agnieszka

    June 11, 2014

    Hi!

    Your article is great, I don’t agree with some facts but I think it’s because they are regional and only apply to certain regions.

    That thing with “lektor” still exists. Every young person hates it but my mom won’t watch a movie without it (she’s ok with dubbing, but only kids’ films get dubbed here, and she’s too lazy for subs). So yeah, that’s why I don’t watch TV!

    • Reply

      Melony Candea

      June 12, 2014

      Agnieszka, if you want to speak about laziness: most Americans won’t watch a film with subtitles. Seriously. Me? I prefer them. I like to hear the actors’ timbres, the emotion. Call me a huge fan of subtitles. Ha. I’m sorry if there are some facts that are wrong, but don’t hesitate to let me know if any bother you. I’ll edit.

      Readers make the writer.

      Mel. 🙂

      • Reply

        irma

        August 16, 2015

        Mel, I would also add the fact that between the ball and the exam (studniówka-matura) you shouldn’t have your hair cut! 😉 and that means a hundred days.

        • Reply

          Melony Candea

          August 16, 2015

          Irma, that is something that is really Eastern European- and so very cool. Unique. Thank you.

  26. Reply

    Maciej

    June 11, 2014

    Absolutely loved it. I remember searching for a brief summary of interesting Polish facts to show to my friends from the U.S., Colombia and Japan during a student exchange. I wish I’d known about this article at the time!

    • Reply

      Melony Candea

      June 12, 2014

      Maciej, I wish I’d written it ages ago so you could have found it. Ha. I’m really glad you enjoyed it- I really enjoyed finding these things out about such a quiet country.

      Mel

  27. Reply

    Wojtek

    June 11, 2014

    The Constitution of May 3, 1791 (Polish: Konstytucja 3 maja) was adopted by the Great Sejm (parliament) of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and was the first constitution of its type in Europe and second-oldest codified national constitution after the 1789 U.S. Constitution. 🙂 Spoko

    • Reply

      Melony Candea

      June 12, 2014

      Heya Wojtek, I did know that but I wasn’t sure it’d be interesting for Polish people to be compared to the U.S. (I’m American). I wanted to try to capture the best of the Polish I could find. You guys have been brilliant in giving me extras, so I’ll add yours to our list tomorrow. 🙂

      Mel

      • Reply

        Robert

        June 13, 2014

        Yes the constitution was definitely inspired by the US. Several Poles fought in the American revolution, some returned, but Poland itself was inspired. General Pulaski is a hero of the American Revolution, considered to be the father of the American cavalry, he died in combat in Georgia. I think every city in Georgia has a Pulaski street or a school, or it seemed that way the last time I was there. Strange thing I barely heard of him before I moved to the States.

        You heard about Koscioszko already. But he returned, was one of the main leaders of reforms, including the Constitution. After we passed it were were invaded by Russia and he led the revolt against those bastards. Now he is one of our most important historical figures. He was a good friend of many of America’s founding fathers and advocated against slavery, they obviously owned slaves so that failed. I heard rumours that he was given lands in America, for his service, and slaves, whom he immediately freed. But have not been able to verify it. I heard a lecture once and someone mentioned that bit.

        Before the Constitution Poland was a quasi democratic monarchy. It had a Sejm (parliament) which would vote for a king. After the Jagielonians died out we begun to vote for our kings. Of course only the szlachta (nobility) was allowed to vote. No Jews or peasants. But we had more noble families than anywhere else. A szlachcic could be a homeless mercenary, as long as he had a name then his vote counted as much as a princes’ vote would (or however much he would take to vote for someone’s candidate). But it was a terrible system, we had no national army to defend ourselves. Kings had to beg for money to run the country or to defend it. We were surrounded by absolute monarchies which had standing armies and obviously, those kings did whatever the hell they wanted, and what they wanted, was to regularly invade Poland in the XVIIIth century. If you are a history buff then I recommend Norman Davies. A Welsh historian educated in Krakow (PHD) he wrote many books about Poland and is a wonderful writer. His books were even used as history textbooks in some schools in Poland. Which says a lot, we are a proud people.

  28. Reply

    Nikola

    June 11, 2014

    It’s not true, that Katowice is gay-friendly place. We hate them. They live there because there is many people and they can hide.

    • Reply

      Keirek

      September 16, 2014

      Speak for yourself. You may be intorelant and may have intorelant family and friends. But most people I know (and I’m from Katowice and was born there) are tolerant and don’t have a problem with gay people. For example: Two gay men were studying with me on the same faculty. We had 120 different people there and they were never harassed by anyone and most of us like them and still have contact with them. And I don’t believe that so many gay people live in Katowice. now I’m living in Warsaw and I think that percentage of gay people here is higher than in Katowice

    • Reply

      Supadom

      August 16, 2015

      I’ve heard ISIS are looking for gay haters. Have you thought of joining?

  29. Reply

    kijcze

    June 11, 2014

    Funny fact Łódź in fact have a lot of water. There is 18 rivers and streams, but… they are all underground.

    • Reply

      Melony Candea

      June 12, 2014

      Kijcze, if they’re underground are boats still used-? Grin.

      Mel

  30. Reply

    K

    June 11, 2014

    Do poprawki:

    W sumie, liczba Polakow, którzy zginęli w wyniku II Wojny Światowej to około 6 milionów Polaków (z czego połowa to Polscy Żydzi) – nie tylko w obozach koncentracyjnych!

    Bigosu nikt nie gotuje dwa dni… Ale rzeczywiście na drugi dzien smakuje lepiej.

    • Reply

      Kasia

      June 12, 2014

      Ja gotuję Bigos co najmniej 4 dni według przepisu babci 🙂

      I cook bigos at least 4 days, as my grandmother taught me 🙂

      • Reply

        Melony Candea

        June 12, 2014

        Kasia, only 4 days? Ha. Fantastic. I’m sure the recipe is tasty (I’ve only had Bigos at Christmas, and it was yummy). Any special secrets to making your family’s?

        Mel

        • Reply

          Anna

          June 13, 2014

          You don’t have to cook it an entire day. You cook it for an hour or two on low heat, then cool it off & let it rest in the fridge. Then you do the same the next day, and the next, etc. My dad wouldn’t serve his bigos till day 7. Yum!!!!

      • Reply

        irma

        August 16, 2015

        Me too, but, to be precise, I fry it constantly stirring in the meantime.

  31. Reply

    Kuba

    June 11, 2014

    Katowice gay-friendly? Silesia is probably one of the least tolerant areas of Poland 😀 They’re a national minority and they’re very traditional, especially in Katowice and neighbouring cities (it’s the only real megalopolis in Poland, BTW, with several cities put so tightly together that they seem as one, a heavy industry area). I’d expect Sosnowiec, which is at a cultural war with Katowice, to be much more tolerant, since it’s culturally Polish instead of Silesian (and like Szczecin consists of mainly descendants of the people who were forced by Russians to move out from Lituania, Belarus and Ukraine after WWII, so the society there was moulded from scratch on modern values, cut off from old traditional mentality) and belongs to the same megalopolis.

    Genetrally, the more north-west, the more ‘progressive’ the society is, with the most ‘western’ mentality in Szczecin (an atheist city, BTW). And the more south-east, the more traditional mentallity of people (Warsaw, as a capital, is an exception and is probably as progressive as Szczecin, a progressive “island” in the traditional “sea”) – this phenomenon is linked to the mentioned fact of the north-western parts being populated with the people forced to move from other areas (creating a very succesful melting pot instead of a salad bowl!) and that they are very close to the German border in the west (which has its impact on the culture) and the sea in the notrh (the societies heavily influenced with sailors who travel all over world and bring things and ideas!), and obviously Warsaw as a capital is a big centre of the international culture and a melting pot of the constant immigration from all over the country, with people quickly assimilating to the “moderness” seeking a better standard of living.

    Oh, and Burek is not a general term for a dog. It’s a stereotypical name for a dog, along with Azor and Fafik. It is true that I don’t know a single dog with those names, because nobody wants to give their pets such a beat name. But those are still names, just stereotypical ones that act almost as if synonyms of the term “pet dog”. I know a cat named Burek though, sort of a joke 😉

    And being Polish, I don’t know most of the steretype mentioned in the article 😀
    – never heard of the handbag thing
    – the red underwear thing is true BUT it can obviously be clean, come on! That would be disguisting
    – never heard of the thing with weddings and the months with ‘r’ in the name and other wedding superstitions either
    – there is a tradition that you SHOULD prepare 12 dishes at a Christmas table (each reperesenting a month) and you SHOULD at least take a taste of each of them (a spoonful is enough), but there is no stereotype attached. Just a tradition relating to the symbolism of months.
    Yet, there are some very important cutoms (that originate in the superstition of bringing bad luck, however nobody believes it anymore… it;s jsut a matter of good upbringing nowadays) that people from other countries very often don’t know and it can cause a faux pas:
    – When there are 4 or more people shaking hands you NEVER cross them, you wait for your turn to greet with everyone separately
    – you never shake someone’s hand wearing a glove (it’s very rude and offensive, saying that you are disguisted to touch the person)
    – you never shake person’s hand through a door, both people have to be either outside, or inside

    I’ve lived in Szczecin my entire life BTW.

    Cheers! 🙂

    • Reply

      Daniel

      June 12, 2014

      The handbag thing is true. Maybe it’s a regional thing though. Since you’re from the northwest and I live in the south. However, I’ve been warned many times not to put ladies handbags on the floor, because the money would “disappear” otherwise (I’ve lived here for 6 years as a foreigner).

    • Reply

      Melony Candea

      June 12, 2014

      Hey Kuba. First, I want to say wow and thank you for such an in-depth and thoughtful reply. I’ll try to do you the same. 🙂

      Katowice: one of many links I found, not really others in Poland: http://www.cruisinggays.com/katowice/c/bars/ My husband and I have many people who are straight and married; many gay; many single. I don’t search out gay places- the reason I found it interesting is being in such a Catholic country that’s open minded. That seemed nice.

      Burek, as I mentioned, is like “Fido” in English. A general name for a general dog. And no one names dogs Fido, either. Ha.

      I got the unwashed red undies from a student site (not saying it’s reputable as a source, grin).

      I love the idea of tasting 12 dishes for each month- not necessarily eating platefuls- and I really like it.

      If you don’t mind, I’d love to add the extra superstitions to our list. So cool.

      Mel

      • Reply

        irma

        August 16, 2015

        That reminds me:

        – in my home we were always making the “cross” sing on the loaf of bread before cutting in
        – my mum likes “predicting” weather according to the days between Christmas and the 6th of January (12 days=12 months).
        – most of the houses are marked K+M+B and the current year (on the front door) with chalk we get from the church on January 6th.
        – our first name had to be a name of a benedicted or canonised person. It not, then such a baby was given a second name (saint). It’s changing nowadays, but for sure we cannot name a baby “Apple” or anything like that. Also, almost every female name finishes with “a”.
        – we celebrate Name Days (the majority of my foreign friends find it ackward that we can provide them with the dates when such and such name is celebrated).

  32. Reply

    AveSatan

    June 11, 2014

    Actually, it’s not that 90% of Poles identify themselves as Catholics. The number is extremely exaggerated by the Catholic church. The thing is – according to Roman Catholic Church – about 90% of Poles have been baptised – and that’s totally different thing. Catholic church claims you can’t just leave their church (once catholic – forever catholic) and there is no procedure for leaving it officially, so the church operates that ridiculous number to gain political power.
    Also – Poles may not have pope tv, but they have enormous number of pope statues – at the moment it’s over 600 (and counting).
    It’s not a good idea to ever call Maria Skłodowska-Curie Marie Curie in front of the Pole. Ever. They’ve got an ongoing argument with the rest of the world about it – and for a good reason, may I tell you this. Although she had never forgone of her surname, she’s somehow referred to as Marie Curie and regarded as French. Even educated people happen to not know she was Polish.
    I guess no one cleans all those dolls afterwards – it’s supposed to swim right down to the sea, but the reality is – it just rots before it reaches the sea, which is quite understandable – come one, it’s just straw and paper, all biodegradable!

    • Reply

      Melony Candea

      June 12, 2014

      Hi AveSatan, numbers can always be tweaked. I wouldn’t be surprised at the upping of numbers by the church. No clue there were so many statues (600-? Crikey!) I always knew Marie was Polish, not French, but I think you’re right to specify. I’ll correct it tomorrow. 🙂

      And apparently Polish firemen clean up the dolls. Interesting, eh?

      Mel

      • Reply

        Mrugacz

        June 15, 2014

        The number of believers is exaggerated by the Catholic church because of the subventions they get from the government for every believer.
        @AveSatan there is a procedure that allows you to leave the church officially, just not everyone knows about it. It’s called apostazja, but it can take years and they make lots of problems when you try to do so. There were few cases when people formally done that and yet still were listed as believers.

  33. Reply

    Przemek

    June 11, 2014

    Hi!
    That’s a really nice article. One little fact about bigos. Now it’s polish national dish, but, as far, as I know, it was invented by Krzyżacy (Teutonic Knights) knightly order. They not only use it as food, that can stored for a long period of time for army purposes, but they also sell it in big barrels. That way it gets from Prusy (Prussia) to Poland in early medieval ages.
    Best regards,

    Przemek

    • Reply

      Melony Candea

      June 12, 2014

      Hey Przemek, holy cow- the Teutonics?! How cool is that. I am a huge history buff- and it makes so much sense, no? The food was long lasting. Must check into it more… thanks for the lead. 🙂

      Mel

  34. Reply

    Lopez

    June 11, 2014

    It’s spoko reportaż. Greetings z Poland.

    • Reply

      Melony Candea

      June 12, 2014

      Lopez, dziękuję! Glad you liked it.

      Mel. 🙂

  35. Reply

    Veetor

    June 11, 2014

    Adding the only winged cavalry (husaria) in the world which was victorious many times over much more numerous enemies, that would be all 😉 Nice set of facts.

    • Reply

      Tom

      June 12, 2014

      It’s quite probable it wasn’t winged at all. Wings were invented after original cavalery ceased to exist as a kind of a myth. But the victories and their power wasn’t a myth. They won battles where they were outnumbered 100 to 1!

      • Reply

        Melony Candea

        June 12, 2014

        Hi Tom, the Polish have always been renowned for their bravery. I can’t recall reading one tome of history that didn’t mention it. They are pretty (quietly) amazing, no?

      • Reply

        Veetor

        June 12, 2014

        Tom, I don’t know from where you have this information but I ensure you: wings attached to the armour is a historic fact. If you want, you can visit few museums in Poland where you can see typical husaria’s winged armour sets. Besides, it’s in every historic manual and book provided by a common system of education, so it’s strange you cosider it as a probable myth. believe me, there’s no myth at all.

      • Reply

        Hersir

        June 12, 2014

        @Tom – Winged armor a myth?! Check photos of husar armors – exhibits from any museum. I’m astonished that a confirmed thing can be still treated as a myth.

      • Reply

        Polak

        September 24, 2014

        Hussars had wings. It’s not a myth. Disputes concern mounting wings. There are two versions, according to one wing were fixed to the armor, the other was attached to the saddle.

    • Reply

      Melony Candea

      June 12, 2014

      Hi Veetor, seems the ‘winged cavalry’ is more well known, less advertised. I’ll certainly add it to our page. Thank you for giving us the info. 🙂

      Mel

      • Reply

        Hersir

        June 12, 2014

        Thank you very much. It’s a really cool military unit, very unique and stylish (!) if we speak about European history, especially about their role in the battle of Vienna in 1683. And it’s a great thing you write about Poland. It’s one of those still undiscovered by people from around the world toursitic countries, yet very diverse and beautiful. Keep up the good work!

  36. Reply

    Darek Starzynski

    June 12, 2014

    Gdansk or Danzig is a city by the Baltic Sea. The former is a Polish name, the latter – German. ‘Gulf of Gdansk’, or rather ‘Gdansk Bay’ (or ‘Danzig Bay’) is – as the name implies – just a bay.

    Throughout history Gdansk was quite wealthy and changed hands many times between Poles and Germans, couple times it was even declared a ‘Free City’ (sort of like an independent state). On perhaps the most notable instance the III German Reich, under Adolf Hitler rule, made a ridiculous claim for Gdansk despite it being surrounded by territories under firm Polish control. They even proposed to build a special ex-territorial highway connecting the city with Berlin. The refusal to comply was an official pretext for German invasion of Poland, which started the II World War.

    ‘Lektor’ voice-overs are unfortunately still prevalent in Polish television. The rationale is that full dubs are too expensive and the TV viewers are not used to subtitles. On the other hand in cinemas virtually all foreign films are translated with subtitles only, so while visiting you can go enjoy latest Hollywood flicks with original voices.

    And to a list of most famous Poles I’d add two:

    Lech Walesa, obviously – a simple electric technician, who led industrial workers’ protests against communist Polish government in the ’80 and overthrown it, starting the chain reaction of events which eventually led to the fall of whole Soviet Union.

    And Ignacy Lukasiewicz – a 19th century chemist who was an oil industry pioneer. He invented a kerosene lamp (which quickly replaced candles as a primary pre-electric light source), he build some of the first modern oil wells and the first large scale refinery. Unfortunately there was never much crude oil under Polish soil, so he didn’t get a chance to build a real oil empire like his successors in other parts of the world (still managed to get quite wealthy for the time though).

    • Reply

      Melony Candea

      June 12, 2014

      Hi Darek. First: thanks for the Gdansk thingamajobbies; we both really loved that place. Second: totally dig the 2 that we should add to the list for famous Polish people. Well chosen, I’ll add them tomorrow. 🙂

      Mel

  37. Reply

    piotr

    June 12, 2014

    about catherine: it’s szczecin, poland, not szczecin, russia

    • Reply

      Melony Candea

      June 12, 2014

      Hi Piotr, crikey, did I add the wrong link or words? Will defo double-check. Thanks for the heads up. 🙂

      Mel

  38. Reply

    Ewa

    June 12, 2014

    Hi,

    we still have a “lektor” in our TV! I am not sure it’ll ever change;)

    Very nice article!

    BR,
    Ewa

    • Reply

      Melony Candea

      June 12, 2014

      Ewa, so glad you enjoyed it! I think your ‘lektor’ will be around for awhile; they’re kind of cultural icons now, right? And good on them. 🙂

      Mel

  39. Reply

    Bartosz

    June 12, 2014

    Hi Melony, great post. I just want to correct one thing, Catherine the Great was 100% German as Stettin was a German city back then, so she didn’t have any Polish roots (yet before she became an empress she was a lover to a Polish ambassador, Stanisław Poniatowski who later became a last king of Poland). As to famous and interesting Poles, check Ignacy Łukasiewicz, who is the father of modern oil industry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ignacy_%C5%81ukasiewicz) or Tadeusz Kościuszko who created famous West Point Academy.

    Best
    Bartosz

    • Reply

      Melony Candea

      June 12, 2014

      Hi Bartosz, I love fellow history-lovers. Thank you for the correction, I’ll edit tomorrow. And I’ll definitely check out Ignacy to add in our famous list. Tadeusz I knew about, but I wasn’t sure to include him because of the military link. I’ll rethink it.

      Again, thanks much for the feedback.

      Mel

  40. Reply

    Bartek

    June 12, 2014

    “Polish TV used to have (I think it’s changed now-?) a ‘lektor’ for voiceovers of foreign programs and films.”

    Nothing has changed. Foreign programs still have voiceovers! 🙂

    • Reply

      Melony Candea

      June 12, 2014

      Bartek, what’s interesting is that everyone seems to dislike the voiceovers but don’t do anything to change it. Then again, I come from a country that had an 8-year president no one voted for… I’ll just be a little quiet now, eh? Ha.

      Mel

  41. Reply

    Azi

    June 12, 2014

    Who cleans the straw dolls on Marzanna Day? Those are organized events, Marzannas are burned and threw into rivers. Then someone (usually firefighters) wait further down the stream to catch these dolls and get them out. So don’t worry, our rivers are exceptionally clean 😀

    • Reply

      Tom

      June 12, 2014

      It’s forbidden in Poland to make Marzanna out of textiles or syntetic materials. So most of them just decay.

      • Reply

        Melony Candea

        June 12, 2014

        Heya Tom, that actually makes sense to create them out of natural materials. Someone else on here mentioned burning it first, and another that it’s part of a yearly fireman’s duty to clean them up. 🙂

        M.

    • Reply

      Melony Candea

      June 12, 2014

      Hi Azi, I’ve seen how clean your rivers are- thus my confusion. Grin. Love that you took the time to let me know how it works with the Marzanna Dolls. Very cool of you.

      Mel

  42. Reply

    natalia

    June 12, 2014

    we still have ‘lector’. almost everyone hates dubbing until it’s not an animated movie. it is just so frustrating when you can see actor’s lips moving in a different way they suppose to!

    • Reply

      Melony Candea

      June 12, 2014

      Natalia, it’s the same with bad American dubbing. Only no background sound- I honestly can’t say which is worse. Ha. Maybe both are equally bad-?

      Mel

  43. Reply

    Tatiana Talbi

    June 12, 2014

    Beautifully written. Thank you. We have wolfes, elks -some with unique DNA in Biebrza. and we have bears! just 2 or 3 in Tatra mountains.

    • Reply

      Tom

      June 12, 2014

      it’s more then 100th of them and only in Karpatian mountains – not Tatra.

      • Reply

        Melony Candea

        June 12, 2014

        Tom, did I get the mountain range wrong-? I’ll defo edit if needed. Oops and sorry, eh?

        Mel

        • Reply

          Robert

          June 13, 2014

          Karpaty are the main chain which run through several countries, of which Tatry are a smaller part (south Poland, Zakopane and near area). And I think a lot of the wolves are in Bieszczady in the south east of Poland, that area is less populated and has a lot of forests. And of course in other National Parks.

          Saw elsewhere that you like our little country, Montana is not too shabby either, though I only saw a little of it.

          And yes, for Christmas Eve dinner (supper really) 12 dishes is the norm, not counting some salads. No meat on that night. I have been gone for 30 years, my in laws a little less than that, and my mother in law still serves 12 dishes minimum, mostly all hand made stuff like Pierogi (about 5 different kinds), fish dishes and other delicious stuff. Getting up from the table is no mean feat after that.

          As for sernik, find the kind with raisins, not the soft pureed French crap, it looks like Szarlotka (apple cake, also delicious) and it’s the best thing in the world. Nothing sophisticated, but oh so good. It’s almost like a pie but more open, has a cake layer on the bottom, about a centimeter or a bit more, and striped thin layers of cake on top of it. Damn, now I want some, and my mother in law just went to Poland so I will have to wait a few weeks, no one else knows how to do it properly.

          Something like this: http://www.mojeciasto.pl/assets/Uploads/img_2974_wytfz.jpg

    • Reply

      Melony Candea

      June 12, 2014

      Tatiana, you are most welcome. I got so tired of the same (untrue) tripe thrown around about Poland. I tried to dig deeper. I love your wildlife- reminds me of home (Montana)- and you all are so lucky to live in such a beautiful place.

      Mel

    • Reply

      Polak

      September 24, 2014

      In Poland, there dozens of bears. They live only in the Tatra and the Beskids.

  44. Reply

    Leszek

    June 12, 2014

    We still do have ‘lektor’ – and I still think it’s better than full dubbing. I hate dubbed movies in German 🙂

    • Reply

      Melony Candea

      June 12, 2014

      Hi Leszek, fair enough I think. Everyone has personal preferences. I like subtitles better than 1/2 dub, but I do hate really bad dubbing. Think: Ninja films and delayed sound. Ouch. Ha.

      Mel

  45. Reply

    Laura

    June 12, 2014

    There are still “lektors” for voiceovers! 🙂 Though, on some channels you can choose an original audio and subtitles (that is how you would watch it at the cinema. Only cartoons and children movies have dubbing).

    • Reply

      Melony Candea

      June 12, 2014

      Hi Laura, I know it’s normal for you guys- we just find it a bit odd to hear a man say “I love you” and a woman say “I love you, too!” in the same manly voice. 🙂

      I love the original audio option- I prefer reading subtitles to dubbing unless it’s a terribly bad Spanish soap opera. Ha.

      Mel

      • Reply

        Mrugacz

        June 15, 2014

        You can still hear actors’ voices so one manly voice over them is not a problem, but now that I think about it I don’t remember ever hearing lady lektor. O.o
        Besides it’s much better than dubbing, because you still hear original voices, emotions in them, background sounds.

  46. Reply

    Tomek

    June 12, 2014

    There still IS a ‘lektor’ in our TV. Moreover i concider it obvious that sth like this occures in TV andi couldn’t have imagined that they were only in Polish TV 😀
    But to conclude: Spoko!

    • Reply

      Melony Candea

      June 12, 2014

      Hey Tomek, I found it super strange watching the Simpsons with one voice for everyone. Ha. We have to love our cultures, don’t we? Just brilliant. 🙂

      Mel

  47. Reply

    Monika

    June 12, 2014

    ,,Polish TV used to have (I think it’s changed now-?) a ‘lektor’ for voiceovers of foreign programs and films. That meant: one fella read all of the parts (male and female) with the original audio in the background.” – no, nothing’s changed. Polish TV still has a >lektor< 😀

    ,,The more you eat at Christmas (typically 12 dishes- yikes-!) the happier you will be the next year." – LOL, honestly – I didn't know about it 😀 What I know is: You HAVE to eat all 12 dishes IF you want to open the presents 😉 (but you needn't eat much, you can try just a little)

    Greeting from PL 😉

    • Reply

      Melony Candea

      June 12, 2014

      Hi Monika, greetings from Warsaw at the moment! I love the idea of tasting 12 dishes for every month. It’s a little romantic, no? I do find the Lektor strange, though. Huge grin.

      Mel

  48. Reply

    Jarek

    June 12, 2014

    Hi.

    Very fun to read and surprisingly accurate. One clarification: the woman handbag thing is a fairly new thing and it’s more like a joke than actual superstition. It comes from a fact that it’s easier for money to run(escape) from the bag when it’s placed on a floor than when it’s hanging high. It’s women joke/superstition so don’t try to look for too much logic in it ];-> Oh, and polish dubbing of movies, especially cartoons and animations like “Ice Age” is considered one of the best in the world, and for good reason (we have some great actors). The Witcher FTW!

    Cheers.

    • Reply

      Melony Candea

      June 12, 2014

      Hi Jarek, first things first: thank you so much for the compliment (surprisingly accurate). It’s nice to hear. 🙂 And to clarify, I’m sure that the dubbing for animated films is fantastic- it’s the dubbing with the sound in the background that I was commenting on. I might be wrong, but I thought it was uniquely Polish-?

      • Reply

        Robert

        June 13, 2014

        It’s not unique to us. I believe many countries do that, it’s much cheaper than dubbing a film. And in the old days there were still people who could not read as well (older pre war crowd), so subtitles were out of the question. Although in cinemas, if I remember correctly, we also had subtitled movies. Russia still does subtitles.

        Funny thing, whenever Russians made war films they used foreign actors who spoke the actual languages of the soldiers filmed (instead of stupid accents like in the West). So if a movie made it to Poland, then you had a German speaking whatever dialogue he had, over him you had a Russian “Lektor” and over him a Polish Lektor….. I kid you not. Even recently saw a 1970’s WWII Soviet epic with a Polish Lektor and that is exactly how it went. If they were showing Churchill then you had Polish over Russian which was over English. So yes, some of those Polish jokes may be true.

        • Reply

          Robert

          June 13, 2014

          It meant to say “Russia still does ‘Lektors'” at the end of the first paragraph, not subtitles.

  49. Reply

    Tom

    June 12, 2014

    Vodka (wódka) as a word whas been used first by Poles in XIV century. So marketing rights for the name “vodka” are polish (Russians stole this name and don’t want to pay for it). In Poznan also was the first production of clean (as we know it today) vodka – double or triple filtered. And it was Poland that made vodka famous and known in the world (I’m not sure if it’s something to be proud of though 😉 )

    • Reply

      Melony Candea

      June 12, 2014

      Tom, I think that Żubrówka is something to be proud of, just not in excess. Ha. It’s dangerously delicious.

      Mel

      • Reply

        Monika

        June 15, 2014

        If you like Zubrowka, then you should also know the legend, that each blade of grass you can find in each bottle was “christened” by bison…

        …yes, I mean pissed on 😉

        • Reply

          Melony Candea

          June 22, 2014

          Monika, I heard something about that. I was hoping it was just an urban myth… great vodka, though. Ha. Mel

  50. Reply

    Oofol

    June 12, 2014

    I learned a lot about my country here:)

    – You forgot about the Pope (I’m not catholic but that’s important I think)
    – Poland’s national sport is football, but we are the worst in the world in it and no one cares of the other sports we are getting gold in;)
    – Sernik. If you don’t know it – google it
    – most recent – CD Project Red – Wiedzmin which is the best RPG ever comparing the budget and the final games;)

    and loads more;p

    Thanks!!
    Oofol

    • Reply

      Melony Candea

      June 12, 2014

      Hey Oofol, I so did not forget about the Pope-! I did mention the largest statue of him, after all. 😉 Sernik I will Google (and probably add to the article, if you don’t mind). Thanks so much for helping us with more inside-Poland info. Really nice of you.

      Mel

      P.S. I love cheesecake-!!

  51. Reply

    PCScorpio

    June 12, 2014

    I live in Katowice and I’d call it anything but ‘gay-friendly’; seek for that in Warsaw, possibly. Silesia is known for its conservatism.
    Many people already wrote about lector (we still have him, usually only the children films are dubbed) and other things.
    And TV Trwam advertises itself as a Christian channel, but actually it’s just the TV part of a media company of father Rydzyk, which represents just the most fanatical/right-wing/maniac outskirts of Catholicism, not even agreeing to the whole of Pope’s teaching. Angry old ladies and possibly football hooligans, that’s the TV Trwam crowd :]
    Apart from that, it’s a really great article!

    • Reply

      Melony Candea

      June 12, 2014

      Hi PC Scorpio (I’m a fellow Scorpio, if that’s where your nom comes from :), I heard from someone who visited Katowice and checked out several sites like: http://www.inyourpocket.com/poland/Katowice/Bars-and-Clubs/Gay-and-Lesbian.

      Thanks much (really) for the inside scoop on TV Trwam- we had no clue. We don’t want to upset the old ladies and hooligans with an extreme edit, but I’ll see what I can do. Grin.

      Thank you for the compliment, I’m super glad you liked it.

      Mel

      • Reply

        rafal

        June 12, 2014

        Mel,
        unfortunately there’s still a gap between us and the rest of Europe when it comes to tolerance…
        we need some more time… and we’ll get there – no doubts about it…
        Rafal

        • Reply

          Polak

          September 24, 2014

          Very well, that in Poland there is no tolerance for deviance. Not everything European or American is good.

          Tolerance is the virtue of people without convictions

  52. Reply

    Ania

    June 12, 2014

    I believe that 50% of Poles attend church regularly, so it wouldn’t be just 10 %:

    58% say they are active practicing Catholics, according to a survey done by the Centre for Public Opinion Research.[2] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Catholicism_in_Poland#cite_note-2)

    I know it’s Wikipedia, but it’s based on information from a solid research centre.

    • Reply

      Melony Candea

      June 12, 2014

      Hi Ania, fair enough. 🙂 There is definitely strong Christianity/Catholicism here that is part of the Polish spirit and identity. In a good way, I think, as the sense of morality and justice is quite strong. You kids are cool. Grin.

      • Reply

        Ewa

        June 12, 2014

        No way. I don’t go church, my boyfriend neither. My dad doesn’t go, and my brother neither. Only my mom is doing this.
        I have no friends who are going to church!

      • Reply

        Robert

        June 13, 2014

        I don’t know what the numbers are, but there is no way 50% are regularly attending church.
        The religious, no matter how little faith they have, tend to exaggerate their church attendance and religious involvement. If the figures were representative then churches would be all full in Poland. Or in the States, for that matter, which is where the exaggeration was found. And it is by a considerable amount. It turned out that religious people think being religious makes one a better person, therefore they present themselves as practicing anything. The figure could be anywhere between the 10% you posted and what Wikipedia claims.
        We didn’t have 50% even under the commies, when it was frowned upon (so many did it out of spite and patriotism). Now it’s less than that.

  53. Reply

    Darko

    June 12, 2014

    Regarding the no-smiling thing… in some cultures it’s a sign of mental instability to grin for no apparent reason. 🙂

    Check this article: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2955922/

    “The Polish reserve towards smiling has been quite well documented (Szarota 2006). According to Wierzbicka (1994), one of the core values of the Polish culture is szczerość (roughly, sincerity).”

    This article highlights Russian attitudes toward smiling, but there are some similarities in Polish culture as well: http://www.theapricity.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-26808.html

  54. Reply

    Piotrek

    June 12, 2014

    Worth to mention is the inventor of kerosene lamp Ignacy Łukasiewicz 🙂 he was also responsible for building first oil refinery in the world in 1856 🙂

  55. Reply

    Maestros United

    June 12, 2014

    Someone forgot to mention that the Poles are right behind Arabs in being anti-Semitic.

    • Reply

      Patric

      June 12, 2014

      And Polish citizens have the world’s highest count of individuals[1] who have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem as non-Jews who saved Jews from extermination during the Holocaust.

  56. Reply

    dorota

    June 12, 2014

    now we can’t throw a body of Marzanna of water – there is interdict for this. now we burn it 😉

  57. Reply

    Kathy

    June 12, 2014

    You forgot to mention the Polish-born Nobel laureate for literature Isaac Bashevis Singer who is one of the world’s greatest novelists and story tellers. He was also a vegetarian who equated the treatment of animals in the modern, industrialized meat industry with the Nazi’s cruelty. One of his character’s described the treatment of animals by humans as “an eternal Treblinka.

  58. Reply

    Arri

    June 12, 2014

    Why does everyone calls us “Polish” or “the Polish”, it’s sound all wrong. We are “Poles”.

  59. Reply

    Dominika

    June 12, 2014

    Also good to know: The world oldest movie theater is in Szczecin (Stettin), West Pomerania, Poland 🙂 “Pionier 1909 Cinema”

  60. Reply

    Piotr

    June 12, 2014

    unlaundered underwear? I hear it for the first time and the idea is disgusting to me. red underwear and borrowed handkerchief ( again, CLEAN!) are two attributes you should have on you when going for an exam.

  61. Reply

    ziolokos

    June 12, 2014

    Paweł Edmund Strzelecki

  62. Reply

    Maciej

    June 12, 2014

    Very interesting article! Just to make one thing clear: Łódź has some dozen rivers flowing through. The problem is just that they’re not navigable anymore. But the nearest navigable river is only some one hour’s drive.

  63. Reply

    Maciej

    June 12, 2014

    Sorry, didn’t notice the numerous comments already mentioning this :).

  64. Reply

    Beats

    June 12, 2014

    What about Śmingus Dyngus?:-)) the “best” part of Easter!;)

  65. Reply

    Marcin

    June 12, 2014

    Thank you for this article Melony!
    As you can see from the number of comments we are very devoted to our history and culture. I think you must be tired of reading them but I’d like to mention about something more (sigh!).
    There are (or were) other worldwide known Poles such as:
    – 5 Polish Nobel laureates in Literature: Henryk Sienkiewicz, Władysław Reymont, Wisława Szymborska (I absolutely love her!), Isaac Bashevis Singer and Czesław Miłosz
    – film music composers: Leopold Stokowski, Bronisław Kaper, Jan Kaczmarek (all three of them are Oscar winners), Wojciech Kilar, Krzysztof Komeda (Rosemary’s Baby – Lullaby <3), Władysław Szpilman
    – film directors: Oscar winners Andrzej Wajda and Roman Polański, Agnieszka Holland
    – cinematographers: two times Oscar winner Janusz Kamiński, Paweł Edelman, Sławomir Idziak, Andrzej Sekuła
    – founder of Max Factor – Maks Faktorowicz
    – founder of Inglot – Wojciech Inglot
    – Irena Szewińska – she participated in five Olympic Games, winning seven medals, three of them gold. She also broke six world records and is the only athlete (male or female) to have held a world record in the 100 m, 200 m and the 400 m events (copied straight from Wikipedia)
    Maybe these people aren't very popular and you don't have to mention them in your article (most of the people won't find it interesting), but I hope that someone will read my comment and will find it interesting. I especially recommend the works of Wisława Szymborska!
    Best regards,
    Marcin

  66. Reply

    Piotr

    June 12, 2014

    When it comes to famous Poles what about Nicolaus Copernicus? I’d say he’s the far most recognizable all over the world.

  67. Reply

    Beran

    June 12, 2014

    Hello!
    I am a true Poland lover from Turkey. I’ve been interested in Poland for years now. I totally love this article. However, there are some things I want to talk about. Just like they want Curie to be called “Maria Skłodowska-Curie”, they prefer to call Chopin “Fryderyk Chopin”, because he was born in Poland and moved to France as we all know, and there his name became Frederic because it’s French.
    The other thing is that “Lehistan” thing, which I find interesting because I am from Turkey. Today we call Poland “Polonya” but during the times of the Ottoman Empire we called it Lehistan. However, since Poland got its independence 123 years after the partitions in 1918, Turks started to call the country “Polonya” (because there was huge French influence in Turkey, so the word comes from the French word “Pologne”). But although we call it Polonya today, Polish language in Turkish is “Lehçe” and the people from Poland are “Leh”, plural “Lehler”, which is a bit confusing. But that’s how it is. 🙂
    * I have one more thing to tell since we are all interested in historical stuff here. Ottoman Empire was the only country that did not recognize the partitions of Poland in 1795, many Polish people know this. However, there is something they don’t know. After the Ottoman Empire collapsed and the Republic of Turkey was founded, Poland was the first country to recognize Turkey. I find this very cool.
    Thanks for these wonderful facts!

  68. Reply

    łiiii

    June 12, 2014

    This thing about Katowice being gay-friendly and polish “San Fran”, i’ve never heard about it, i wonder where did it come from. ( I mean the “San Fran” part). The only thing i would add to this article is something about Wrocław (It was mentioned earlier in some comment). From what i’ve heard for most of people this is the most beautiful city in Poland. I have no idea what should be written about it but it should be mentioned 🙂

    loved the article !

  69. Reply

    Amirgse

    June 13, 2014

    @Maestros United

    To be honest, in the light of being so falsely accused on international forum of antisemitism by many, I’m not surprise this feeling has taking stronger root with each passing year in Poland. Yet, if you think on semantics, a Semite is a very wide term that describes not only Jews and I believe it to be WRONGLY used all-over.

    @the author of the article
    I was surprised to see no mention of Hetman Stefan Czarniecki. Apart from appearing in Polish Anthem, he is known for many things (bad and good alike) e.g. he beats Vlad Tepes (aka. Dracula) in number of men impaled, at the same time he was the one who managed to save this country numerous times (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stefan_Czarniecki). And I see no mention of another, often missed point, of the Battle of Vienna which from tactical point was pretty much won by polish king Sobieski (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Vienna) shielding Europe from inflow of Turks. During my studies I have been asked why this victory is so commonly assigned to Austrians? Simple fact is that at the same time period when the battle took place Polish Commonwealth had a long lasting good relations with the Turks and non-aggression pact, so for the sake of keeping the deal up polish diplomacy was downplaying the involvement. This did pay off later on during the 125 years of being under foreign rule (Russian, German and Austrian) as Turkey was the only country to maintain an embassy of the Polish state, thus (in the light of old international custom) keeping the country alive.

  70. Reply

    Robert

    June 13, 2014

    Hello, thank you for your valiant effort.
    However you gave us too much credit. While the Szczecin area is now Polish, Catherine was a German princess and the territory belonged to the Krauts for a long time. We didn’t get it till Stalin gave it to us as reparations for stealing Wilno and Lwow.
    Werner von Braun was also as German as could be. I know you don’t call them Polish, but some people could be misled.

    Poland was a fairly plural society until the partitions at the end of the 18th century, and historically more tolerant (not saying much) than most when it came to race or religion, but obviously far from perfect. Until the partitions Poland was quite a large nation, ruined by long wars.

    Even after it regained its independence Poland was still fairly plural with about 1/3 of the population ethnically not Poles and not Papists.
    Hitler, and later Stalin made sure we became a bunch of boring papists. The latter moved the borders and pretty much relocated all of our minorities. Poland used to have vibrant communities of Germans, Russians, Ukrainians, Tatars, Jews, Lithuanians, Latvians, even Dutch and Scots. Hitler murdered most of our Jews, for which Poland suffers to this day, as Polish Jews contributed greatly to Polish culture. We lost 3 million Jews, with only at most 40,000 left now. From what was once the biggest Jewish population anywhere.

    If you want more facts then you could write about the Polish underground. We had a govt in exile in London (multi party), under which we formed an underground army and many levels of a functioning underground nation. An education system under which thousands were able to finish high school and university degrees. As untermenschen we were allowed only rudimentary education. We had legal system, of course, streamlined because of war. But when someone was accused of working with the Nazis, they were tried under an underground military tribunal, and if convicted, were legally executed under the authority of the Polish govt in exile. Armia Krajowa was a well organized force with a top down structure like in any military. Of course there were other partisan groups, from the far right to even the commies, after 1941. And the AK was able to conduct major military operation later in the war, sometimes liberating whole cities before the Red Army arrived.

    Of course while we were losing our Jewish citizens, both Hitler and Stalin systematically tried to eliminate the Polish cultural and intellectual elite. The best and the brightest perished in WWII, from the partisan groups in which the future leaders of Poland perished, to the concentration camps in which man of our university professors were murdered. Many were forced to flee to, or stay in the West. Those who fell under Stalin’s rule were persecuted for long after the war ended.

    I hope I am not repeating anything others have said, but this has attracted a lot of comments so I did not read them all. Again, thanks for the valiant, and amusing, effort.

    Oops, just scrolled up and saw something which needed correcting.

    It is correct that about 6 million polish citizens were killed in WWII, but not all of them perished in the camps. Many died fighting the Nazis on battlefields in Poland, Africa, Italy, France, Germany, the USSR, over British skies, on the seas, in the rubble of Warsaw, in the Ghettos… I can’t recall the exact number of those who perished in the camps, but it was much less than 6 million.
    Which also reminds me, Poland’s contribution in WWII on the Allied side was bettered only by the Big Three, UK, US and USSR. We contributed more fighting men than the French and certainly fought for much longer and in more places.

    Of course there are many more facts about us, but then this would turn into a book.

    Again, thank you very much. 🙂
    Robert.

  71. Reply

    pompiak

    June 13, 2014

    Ernest Malinowski was polish constructor and builder of highest railway Ferrocarril Central Andino in the Peruvian Andes.

  72. Reply

    Pawel

    June 13, 2014

    Hi,
    please add some more information about II war , generally about polish squadron 303 and rest of 2000 Polish Pilots fight during second war in England

    paweł

  73. Reply

    Grze

    June 13, 2014

    Pola Negri
    JP2
    Lech Wałęsa
    Zbigniew Brzeziński
    Tadeusz Kościuszko
    Ryszard Kukliński
    Jan III Sobieski
    Barbara Trzetrzelewska
    Jan Heweliusz
    Andrzej Gołota
    A.P. Kaczmarek

  74. Reply

    justyna

    June 13, 2014

    Hi, I’m Polish and it was a pleasure to read about Polish traditions from American perspective 🙂 I would say most of them are true. “Lektor” in Plish Tv is still a common thing- but it seems so normal to me that I wouldn’t think it may interest somebody 😉 As far as Zabkowice Slaskie is concerned- I live quite near the town and I kon that Mary Shelley read once a story (and thus got inspired to write her story) of an undertaker who robbed graves (with a couple of his fellows) and it caused a deadly disease to be spread around the town and many people died. After some time the undertaker was caught and executed. The name of the town back then was Frankenstein because it is just near the German border (and then it was a German town in fact), then it changed to Ząbkowice when it became Polish – and as somebody has already noticed , the name has to do with “teeth”. I think it’s an intriguing story.
    I would add Joseph Conrad – Jozef Konrad Korzeniowski – the great writer who shortened his name after moving to the USA.
    Greetings from Poland 🙂

  75. Reply

    allerune

    June 13, 2014

    Vodka – I disagree, and Wikipedia confirms :
    “The word “vodka” was recorded for the first time in 1405 in Akta Grodzkie,[7] the court documents from the Palatinate of Sandomierz in Poland.[7] At the time, the word vodka (wódka) referred to chemical compounds such as medicines and cosmetics’ cleansers, while the popular beverage was called gorzałka (from the Old Polish gorzeć meaning “to burn”), which is also the source of Ukrainian horilka (горілка). The word vodka written in Cyrillic appeared first in 1533, in relation to a medicinal drink brought from Poland to Russia by the merchants of Kievan Rus’.[7]”

    Copernicus – Polish wasn’t his first language, he studied in Cracow so he knew Polish but his ancestors were in most part Prussian/Germanic

    Culture – I agree, but there is more. People don’t smile at strangers on the street and don’t say “sorry” all the time just because they are passing you in the hands reach. On the other hand, standing in the queue, traveling in the same train compartment, people are starting to get really friendly. It comes from the times where people used to wait multiple days in the queue when some very rare product was going to be delivered to the store (in communism people could afford stuff – but there was not enough stuff for everyone)

    Things you might add 🙂
    Kosciuszko was Polish – his statue is around 500 meters from the White House 🙂

    The battle of Warsaw 1920 – After soviet revolution the Red Army started marching to conquer Europe and impose communism everywhere, no one was prepared for that fight, especially not Poland which just regained independence after 123 years. Somehow, the miracle happened and we managed to defeat Russians. This battle is considered one of the decisive battles in history!

    When visiting a hippy store in San Francisco the guy behind the counter asked where I was from. I said Poland – he responded that Beksinski is one of his favourite painters, I was really surprised that he knew Beksinski. If anyone likes creepy modern art – I recommend him too!

  76. Reply

    Jo

    June 13, 2014

    Hi, Thanks a lot for your article. I would also add few words about Pola Negri, Andrzej Gołota and Słowiński Park Narodowy with moving dunes, what is unique in Europe. I also think, that we are very patriotic but also sarcastic and very often make lots of jokes and laugh at our national vices.

  77. Reply

    Martyna

    June 13, 2014

    I’m supriced that no one mention about 1st of november.all Polish People go in cementeries and pray over the graves for souls of their family and friends. We put Candles and flowers on graves and in that they cementeries Look beautifull

    • Reply

      peter

      June 14, 2014

      oh the cemeteries are so beautiful around this time!
      but all saints day is not uniquely polish!

  78. Reply

    Scyzor

    June 13, 2014

    Interesting blog post. Shared link among my American friends 🙂

  79. Reply

    Piotr

    June 13, 2014

    few words to comment World War issue:
    The great Polish marshal Piłsudski was an idol of Adolf Hitler and after his death, Hitler put his picture on the wall and honor him for few hours. when he planned invasion on Europe. he want to attack countries on German west borders so therefore he ask Poland to join him and to be “backs protection” from Russia. Polish government reject the offer and choose offer of French-English union which decide to sacrifice Poland to Germany to have few more months to prepare for war. They agree this before they ask Poland to join “union against Hitler”. This make Hitler so angry on Polish so he ask Russia and agree with them to attack Poland from two sides. So one more time (4th time in 150 years) Poland was occupied by Germans and Russians (not only Germans). Russians were angry on Polish for winning with them just about 20 years earlier so it was easy for Hitler to get Russians it to his plans. This is main reason why Hitler attack Poland. He changed plans because Polish are proud nation so if Hitler would attack France, Poland will keep promises and attack Germany…. sorry for my English… 🙂

  80. Reply

    Michal

    June 13, 2014

    Madame Marie Curie – NO, she never took surname after her french husband. Her full name was Maria Sklodowska, eventually Maria Sklodowska-Curie, but never Maria Curie-Sklodowska or Maria Curie.

  81. Reply

    Anna

    June 13, 2014

    I have enjoyed this post a lot. I was born in Poland but moved to Canada when I was 12 years old. I had many kids tell me I must be stupid since I am polish while I thought they were crazy because the things we were doing in school in Canada I have done 2 or 3 years before in Poland.
    The things you guys forgot are:
    Smingus Dingus, that is a fun tradition.
    Poland also has wolves, as well all the bisons and wolves in Europe have been taken from Poland because everyone else has killed theirs.
    Irena Sendler has saved 2500 Jewish children. There have been some movies made about her recently.
    Poland was the country which started the movement of separation from Russia.

  82. Reply

    Zuzanna

    June 14, 2014

    This is amazing! Thank you for that.

    I think you should also mention Joseph Conrad (born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski), Stanisław Lem, Korczak Ziółkowski (the designer and sculptor of Crazy Horse Memorial), Polish Pilots in the Battle of Britain and Wojtek bear (great story, well known in the UK).

    • Reply

      Zuzanna

      June 14, 2014

      Józef Retinger (a founder of the European Movement that would lead to the founding of the European Union; he was also involved in founding the Bilderberg Group) and Christine Granville (born Krystyna Skarbek) – she was a british spy during WWII, and after the war – Ian Fleming’s lover, probably an inspiration for the Vesper character from Casino Royale.

  83. Reply

    Francisco

    June 14, 2014

    incredible history of Poland! great country I hope I will visit one day, greeting from Chile

  84. Reply

    peter

    June 14, 2014

    well done!

    i think the percentage of actual practicing catholics in poland is more than 10%

    interesting note – poznan contains the last imperial palace to be built in all of europe :))

  85. Reply

    Daria

    June 14, 2014

    Hey, you’ve picked some really interesting facts 🙂
    I’m glad that you’ve cleared WWII things up, because some misconceptions are truly hurtful to us…
    And about the rest: I’m not really sure if the biggest bookshop section is about the Pope, and I was always told you should (!) get married in a month with an “r”. Danzig is a German name of Gdansk (town after which a gulf is named).
    And another interesting fact that needs clarification: Polish Calvary never charged German tanks – it is also a propaganda, unfortunately repeated by many including Polish director Andrzej Wajda in his film “Lotna”, but still untrue. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charge_at_Krojanty – for more information

  86. Reply

    John

    June 14, 2014

    And they have great musician:
    Michal Lorenc
    https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Michal+Lorenc

  87. Reply

    Paulina

    June 15, 2014

    Another superstition is when you drop a piece of cuttery on a floor by accident it means that there will be an unexpected visit. A knife – a man, a spoon – a woman.

  88. Reply

    Chris

    June 15, 2014

    polish famous people, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stefan_Banach it is a joke not to put it in or know everything about a person

  89. Reply

    Cezary

    June 16, 2014

    Nothing has changed about ‘lektor’ in Polish TV. We love it.

  90. Reply

    maria

    June 23, 2014

    As to the wreaths, probably somebody mentioned it already, but girls are not hoping for them, girls are floating them, and boys are catching them downstream. And wreath is a symbol of virginity, which should give you the idea what that festival, obviously pre-christian, was originally about. To make it short, it’s a very special night of the year (shortest one!) whan magic goes wild, miracle happen and social norms are suspended. In other word it was one wild party 😉

  91. Reply

    doda

    June 24, 2014

    In Chorzow city centre,near Katowice, there is a looping path,like promenade,that used to be called Hitler stressed,now,after we have our independence,it’s simply called the freedom way….

  92. Reply

    Piotr

    July 3, 2014

    “Polish TV used to have (I think it’s changed now-?) a ‘lektor’ for voiceovers of foreign programs and films. That meant: one fella read all of the parts (male and female) with the original audio in the background.”

    It did not change at all. 🙂 Actually, I am so used to it, I feel strange when I watch the movie with “full” dubbing.

  93. Reply

    Mops

    July 8, 2014

    Same as Lithuanian:
    Don’t whistle indoors. It’s bad luck to whistle inside, since it’s believed to call evil little devils.
    Want to get married? Don’t sit at a corner. Apparently only true for unwed ladies, sitting at the corner of a table makes you unmarriageable.
    Bread & Salt. Combined, they’re considered good luck. To welcome ‘Witać chlebem i solą’ especially Newlyweds.

  94. Reply

    Ewa

    September 13, 2014

    Hi Mel,

    Thank you so much for this article, it was written with true interest and desire to compliment a complicated ( at least) country and nation, history facts and culture. Very well, indeed !

    I would like to mention that Poland has 14 UNESCO World Heritage Sites that make great additions to your tour of Poland. Many are located in or near major metropolitan areas and can enrich ones understanding of, and appreciation for, this country.

    1. Krakow
    Krakow’s historic center exhibits hundreds of years of Polish history. Krakow miraculously escaped much of the damage that ravaged so many other Polish cities, so many of its sights are original, including Wawel Castle and its square.
    2. Wieliczka Salt Mines
    An extremely popular day trip from Krakow, the Wieliczka Salt Mines offer a glimpse into hundreds of years of salt mining history. The biggest draw of the mines is the sculptures and rooms carved from salt. There is a St.Kinga’s Cathedral carved entirely from salt rock. Whatever you lick is from salt !
    3. Auschwitz-Birkenau
    The death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau are now a part of a museum located near Krakow that is also a memorial to victims who perished there.
    4. Malbork Castle
    Malbork Castle, near Gdansk, is a Teutonic Knight’s Castle that is now a museum. The castle’s exhibits illustrate medieval life as it was lived there and is popular with adults and children alike.
    5. Warsaw
    Warsaw’s historic center was almost completely destroyed over the course of WWII, but resourcefulness and determination helped to rebuild it to former glory. Warsaw’s Old Town, carefully reconstructed, is a testament to community spirit and resolve.
    6. Torun
    Torun is the birthplace of Nicholas Copenicus ( Mikołaja Kopernik) and many sites in this medieval town are associated with the famous astronomer. Museums, the ruins of a castle, and other sites make Torun a potential side trip from Gdansk.
    7. Wroclaw
    The World Heritage Site in Wroclaw is its Centennial Hall, which is recognized for its innovative architectural design. Those who visit Wroclaw may find it convenient to visit the nearby Peace Churches in Jawor and Swidnica.
    8. Zamosc
    The Old City of Zamosc has been made a World Heritage Site because it is an example of Renaissance urban planning that remains virtually intact due to a fortification system that protected the town from invaders.
    9. Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland
    The Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland (Malapolska Province) are examples of medieval wooden religious architecture that exist today in small villages in the southeastern part of the country. The architecture is notable for its construction and design, and preserved polycrhome paintings on the interiors of the churches are also significant.
    10. Park Muzakowski
    Straddling the Polish-German border, Park Muzakowski (also known as Muskauer Park) is a shared World Heritage Site. Its landscape designer sought to “paint with nature,” and his style diverged from the style of landscape architecture that had been seen in Europe up until that time. Buildings on the premises can also be visited – one has been converted into a museum to tell the story of Prince Muskauer and his park.
    11. Kalwaria Zebrzydowska
    Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, which is located in a town of the same name, is a religious complex that attracts pilgrims 400 years after its establishment. Constructed in the Mannerist style, it symbolically reinterprets events in the Passion of Christ using the natural layout of the land.
    12. Bialowieza Forest
    Bialowieza Forest is also a shared World Heritage Site – some of this primeval forest exists in the neighboring country of Belarus. Bialowieza Forest protects endangered species like the European bison and serves as an outpost for scientific research.
    13. Churches of Peace in Jawor and Swidnica
    These Lutheran churches, built in the 17th century, remain the largest timber-frame religious buildings and are preserved in two Polish towns. The churches have the capacity to hold thousands of worshipers each and their design exhibits certain constraints put on their construction.
    14. Wooden Tserkvas of the Carpathian Region in Poland and Ukraine( shared site)
    Situated in the eastern fringe of Central Europe, the transnational property numbers a selection of sixteen tserkvas (churches). They were built of horizontal wooden logs between the 16th and 19th centuries by communities of Orthodox and Greek Catholic faiths. The tserkvas bear testimony to a distinct building tradition rooted in Orthodox ecclesiastic design interwoven with elements of local tradition, and symbolic references to their communities’ cosmogony.

    There is four more on tentative list:
    – Gdańsk- Town of Memory and Freedom
    – The Augustów Canal
    – The Dunajec River Gorge in the Pieniny Mountains
    – Tarnowskie Gory Lead-Silver Mine and its Underground Water Management System

    I believe that since your Peculiar list was meant mostly for Westerners and North Americans this fact will add some interest to their travels, because more and more are visiting Poland 🙂

    Appreciate your input about my country, it’s a great work !

    Best Regards,

    Ewa

    P.S. There is one Polish superstition I still continue religiously : on the New Years Eve one has to wear brand new underpants and have cash in the pocket (or in the bra , as in my case) for good luck and prosperity in New Year 🙂

  95. Reply

    cissic

    September 22, 2014

    This warriors from pic are Dobrynya Nikitich, Ilya Muromets and Alyosha Popovich 😉

  96. Reply

    Agz

    November 10, 2014

    So, to say at first – fantastic article 🙂
    I have two comments for this, nothing bad though!

    As this is article about Poland and you mention Marie Curie, I believe you should really use her full name – Marie Skłodowska-Curie (ok, you’re allowed to skip the ł for an l).

    I was actually not sure, whether Poles call her like that purely from national proud, so I tried to google up what was her real name after marriage, and although I did not find any reference to her legal status nor to which name she used to publish her works, the nobel prize contains her full name, and that is an argument enough for me: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Dyplom_Sklodowska-Curie.jpg

    Her page on Wiki contains discussion, in which argument is: “She is overwhelmingly better known by the French version of her name” which is a bit of an absurd to me. We are talking about encyclopaedia after all, it should contain the REAL name for main article, and other can be used as reference. As long as she was using her full name, I think it’s ok we, Poles, fight to get it out there too. Every nation likes to be proud of achievements of their people (even though, sadly, Maria was refused any possibilities in her home country, but that is another story). So, give us back Maria Skłodowska-Curie! Chopin, while many people seem to forget he was Polish as well and turn him into French, was at least actually using his French name in the world of music.

    Anyway. On the lighter note – YES, we still do have commentaries in the movies on the tv. Yay, it’s really weird for people who don’t know it 🙂 We’re not the only country though. Mind, Polish market is a small and poor one, we cannot afford making dubbing on movies, while people are just not used to reading subtitles. This commentary is not a bad thing, when you’re used to it. The voice has to be the most devoted from emotion an pace, so you hear the words, but you don’t pay attention to it at all, while you still hear the actual energy and tone from the original voice. It kinda works, though if you want to learn foreign language – forget about it. There is just too much mess around it 🙂

  97. Reply

    Kowal

    December 2, 2014

    My Dad lives in Raciborz (neat the Czech border) and I love visiting him. One item wasn’t mentioned were herbs. I love it that each city has it’s own mascot. 🙂 Wonderful stories still to be told. 🙂 Tadeusz Kosciuszko fought in the American Revolutionary War. My brother’s name is Thaddeus which is an Americanized version of Tadeusz. 🙂

  98. Reply

    jarek

    August 15, 2015

    hi all

    Polish are very proud from all biggest things and peoples which comes from Poland. lots of famous peoples are born in Poland but the had to emigrated to fund theirs innovations. Poland was always in the middle of the wars between east and west of Europe and Muslim’s. we are proud from ours well knows peoples and very angry for nations those try to steals our inventions and people who emigrated to found theirs inventions. according to researches Poland is quite green. 30.5 % of Poland is covered by forests. In UK is only 12% of the country is green. every one knows about robin hood and Sherwood Forest which no longer exists. Britain is plain without nature. that’s why I like Poland but leave in UK (economic reasons). only Scandinavia is prettier (I love Norway).

    links:
    http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-kingdom/forest-area-percent-of-land-area-wb-data.html
    http://www.bdl.lasy.gov.pl/portal/lasy-na-swiecie-cd

    • Reply

      Melony Candea

      August 16, 2015

      Hey Jarek, totally understand moving- yet being proud of home- to earn a living. It must be difficult sometimes. Polish minds and inventions are credited well, for most of them. You kids really were creative and innovative. It is true that some things were stolen, ideas manipulated and credit not given. You’re right. The same is true for many countries. Yet you come from a brilliant, strong culture that continues it’s strength around the world. Yet another reason to be proud, no? 🙂

  99. Reply

    Brygida

    August 15, 2015

    I woul add that Poland has been mistaken for being a country in Eastern Europe, where actualy is in Central Europe. Same as Czechs and Slovakia.

    • Reply

      Melony Candea

      August 16, 2015

      Hi Brygida, I understand your complaint. I lived in the CZ for ages. But the way the world sees things is that Central Europe is pretty much France and Germany. Everything else is ‘Eastern,’ which is why the terminology exists. Not because it’s real, but because most people (unlike you) really don’t know. 🙂

  100. Reply

    Iwona

    August 16, 2015

    Why would Kosinski be a favorite author of anyone who admires Poland? His portrayal of Poles is very unflattering.

    • Reply

      Melony Candea

      August 16, 2015

      Have you read ‘Being There?’ I think it is one of the most insightful and emotional books I’ve read. With a huge dose of Polish poetry, because he couldn’t write any other way. It’s very clear how much he loves Poland, despite what he went through there. It was his home.

  101. Reply

    Supadom

    August 16, 2015

    Pawel Pawlikowski is worth mentioning too, I think. Thanks for the piece. Good effort.

  102. Reply

    Karl

    August 19, 2015

    Toilets were also invented in Poland. Henri Valois had brought them to France and from there they went to England 😀

  103. Reply

    Oliwia

    December 17, 2016

    Actually, the ‘lektors’ are still widely ongoing in a variety of channels here in Poland! They hit onky voice over movies, but also normal TV shows from other countries.
    We haven’t changed that yet. It’s quite cool.

    • Reply

      Melony Candea

      December 28, 2016

      Oliwia, it is a pretty unique Polish thing. 🙂 I didn’t realize it’s for foreign TV shows, too. Ha.

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