Many say that Poland is most beautiful at its edges. That is indeed true. But most people mean the Baltic Sea coast and the mountains in the south of the country. Hardly anyone thinks of the east – a big mistake. Because the eastern Polish sights need not hide from those in the south and north of the country.
Poland consists of 16 voivodships in total. The three eastern ones, Podkarpackie, Lublin and Podlaskie, are the poorest regions of the country. But there is a lot to discover here. In the following article we would like to take you on a little journey to the unknown beauties of eastern Poland.
East Poland sights – these are the most beautiful places
Lublin is the capital of the voivodeship of the same name and at the same time the largest city in the region. I lived here for half a year and spent a really wonderful time. Lublin is especially known for its beautiful old town. The Lublin Castle houses one of the most beautiful churches in Poland. Since the 15th century, it has been decorated with colorful frescoes that create a mystical atmosphere. Thanks to two famous universities (at one of which Karol Wojtyla, the later Pope John Paul II studied), young people are attracted to Lublin, which is why the density of bars and pubs is particularly high. In this article we have a closer look on Lublin.
On the outskirts of the city, however, is the Majdanek concentration camp, a terrible place, one of the largest Nazi concentration camps.
Majdanek, Sobibór and Bełżec
In Majdanek, the Nazis set up the first concentration camp in occupied Poland during World War II. For some time the camp was also used as an extermination camp, but today it is not known exactly how many people died here, probably up to 100,000. The camp is relatively well preserved and in the moving memorial you can get an impression of the hard life on site and visit the gas chambers.
Sobibór is located directly on the border to Ukraine and Belarus and, unlike Majdanek, was planned from the very beginning as a pure extermination camp. Up to 250,000 people were murdered here. Sobibór is also known because courageous prisoners dared to stage an uprising against the Nazis here in October 1943. Some of them actually managed to escape, whereupon the SS murdered all remaining prisoners and razed the camp to the ground.
With Bełżec the region has yet another concentration camp, in which over 400,000 people died an agonizing death. Since the SS meticulously documented the exact number of victims of the concentration camp here, Bełżec was an important place for historians to better assess the dimensions of the Holocaust. Nearly 20 years ago, a modern memorial site was created here, which informs about the history of the place and commemorates the victims.
All the beautiful cities in eastern Poland are topped by the small town Zamość. The old town of the “Padua of the North” belongs to the UNESCO world cultural heritage since 1992. On the gorgeous renaissance-style market place stands the famous town hall with its curved staircase, which has often been used as a film set. The most beautiful house on the market square is the so called Angel’s House. It belongs to the ensemble of Armenian houses and has a beautiful facade decoration. Here we describe a little walk around Zamość.
I have been to Kazimierz Dolny countless times. Although only about 2500 people live here, the small town is one of the most beautiful things Poland has to offer. Situated directly on the Vistula, a mountain is enthroned high above the city, which offers a wonderful view of the old town. Numerous houses from the Renaissance period have been preserved here, all built of local limestone and typical for the region. No wonder that people from Lublin and even Warsaw are regularly drawn to this pretty little town, making Kazimierz Dolny one of the most important sights in eastern Poland.
The small mountain range is part of the Polish Forest Carpathians and is located in the extreme southeast on the Slovak and Ukrainian borders. Besides lynxes, wolves and bears, many other animal species are at home here, otherwise you will find mainly lush meadows, gentle hills and some mountains. So the National Park Bieszczady is perfect for hiking tours for days in beautiful natural landscape. That is why the Bieszczady are also one of the most important sights of eastern Poland.
High in the north, just a stone’s throw from the border with Belarus, is a city that has been little developed for tourism. In the picturesque Białystok once lived one of the largest Jewish communities in the country, today many Orthodox people live here besides Catholics. The city is known for its historical buildings such as the town hall, the Branicki Palace, the cathedral and the Palais Nowik. The most famous son of the city is Ludwik Zamenhof, who embodies the multicultural spirit of the city like no other and was the creator of the language Esperanto. Of course, Białystok also belongs on the list of our eastern Poland sights!
Białowieża National Park
One of the last European primeval forests measures over 140,000 hectares. The Białowieża primeval forest is divided into a Polish and a Belarusian area and here many things look as if no human being had ever been there. The forest is famous for the many bisons living here, of which many Poles are particularly proud and which even decorate beer and vodka bottles. On the Belarusian side of the Białowieża jungle in 1991, by the way, historical events took place: Here the Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian presidents agreed on the end of the Soviet Union. In 2017 the Polish government planned to clear parts of the forest. Fortunately, this did not happen, so you will be able to enjoy the most original of the eastern Polish sights for a long time to come.