planning to visit an entire country in three weeks’ time is sort of daunting. the first step i took was to think about the obvious, unmissable places i needed to see on this trip. that would be kraków (my triumphant return!), warsaw (really jonesing to see it!) and gdańsk (love affair with this city ever since seeing it on the amazing race).
with three major cities, i started to see a path forming in my mind: working my way up the country from south to north (or vice versa). the next logical steps were to fill out the other areas. i polled all of my facebook friends with polish connections and asked them where i should go, and the results were very informative: almost everyone urged me not to miss zakopane and suggested the mazurian lake region as well. (never discount facebook is a crowd-sourcing tool– it’s brilliant!)
step three: after much deliberation, i decided to invest in a guidebook and read it front to back in a day. this helped me pick in choose specific areas from different regions to see to fill in the blanks: wrocław as the up-and-coming silesian capital, toruń for a dose of cuteness, hel for it’s amazing geographical features, and szczecin because i’d heard a lot about it already. for awhile i considered a jaunt to the northeast mazuria lake region but realized three weeks wasn’t long enough for that, and had to cut it. finally added berlin because duh, any excuse to stop by. also, only two hours from szczecin and on the way back home– not too shabby. ostrava (czech republic) was finally added at the end to make the trip from české budějovice (home) to kraków a bit more palatable.
what you see above is the near final draft of my trip. bam.
what i did right? four nights in warsaw felt just right! stop-over in berlin was genius. two nights in zakopane felt perfect and it was one of my favorite areas i visited. taking the polski bus around the country instead of the train saved me a bit of zloty. one night in tiny toruń was just right.
what i would change? got a major jolt of travel whiplash going from zakopane to wrocław one day, then warsaw the very next– i could barely look at a bus at that point! i could’ve used one extra night in kraków because of the day-tripping to wieliczka salt mine. i would’ve booked early on the baltic coast to get nicer accommodations in hel than the slim pickins’ i was left with.
it really comes down to whether you want to see the whole country with a day or two in each location or spend a good amount of time getting to know specific destinations. with this particular first real crash course in poland, i felt pretty good (if not a bit tired) about seeing the country and most of its regions this way.
next time i’m in poland? you can bet i’m going back to kraków and to visit the area between it and warsaw (czestochowa, lodz, and some other beautiful natural areas in this region), and i’d love to have a few more polish phrases up my sleeve! where do you want to visit in poland?