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Beautiful spots indeed.

As for German culture, well, Poland has felt the impact of German culture quite deeply...

[Nazi plunder] "After the occupation of Poland by German forces in September 1939, the Nazi regime attempted to exterminate its upper classes as well as its culture. Thousands of art objects were looted, as the Nazis systematically carried out a plan of looting prepared even before the start of hostilities. 25 museums and many other facilities were destroyed. The total cost of Nazi theft and destruction of Polish art is estimated at 20 billion dollars, or an estimated 43% of Polish cultural heritage; over 516,000 individual art pieces were looted, including 2,800 paintings by European painters; 11,000 paintings by Polish painters; 1,400 sculptures; 75,000 manuscripts; 25,000 maps; 90,000 books, including over 20,000 printed before 1800; and hundreds of thousands of other items of artistic and historical value. Germany still has much Polish material looted during World War II. For decades there have been mostly futile negotiations between Poland and Germany concerning the return of the looted property."





Further info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi_plunder
Agreed. By the way, Google Berlinka Art Collection. :)
 

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Białowieża National Park - the biggest monumental tree cluster in Europe



The Białowieża Forest is an ancient woodland straddling the border between Poland and Belarus, located 70 km (43 mi) north of Brest (Belarus) and 62 km (39 mi) south-east of Białystok (Poland). It is the last and largest remaining parts of the immense primeval forest which once spread across the European Plain.

The border between the two countries runs through the forest. There is a border crossing for hikers and cyclists. The forest is home to 800 wisent, the continent's heaviest land animals.

On the Polish side, part of the Białowieża Forest is protected as the Białowieża National Park (Białowieski Park Narodowy), with general area of about 100 km2 (39 sq mi). There is also the Białowieża Glade (Polana Białowieska), with a complex of buildings originally owned by the tsars of Russia – the last private owners of the forest (from 1888 to 1917) when the whole forest was within the Russian Empire. A hotel, restaurant and parking areas are located there. Guided tours into the strictly controlled areas of the park can be arranged on foot or by horse-drawn carriages. Approximately 200,000 tourists visit the Polish part of the forest annually. Among the group offers are: bird watching with local ornitologist, watching bisons in their natural environment, and sledge & carriage rides with bonfire. The popular village of Białowieża lies in the forest.

The entire area of eastern Europe was originally covered by virgin forests similar to that of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha Forest. Travel by people was limited to river routes until about the 14th century; roads and bridges appeared much later. Limited hunting rights were granted throughout the forest in the 14th century. In the 15th century the forest became a property of King Władysław II Jagiełło who used the forest as a food reserve for his army marching towards the Battle of Grunwald. A wooden manor in Białowieża became his refuge during a plague pandemic in 1426. The first recorded piece of legislation on the protection of the forest dates to 1538, when a document issued by King Sigismund I the Old instituted the death penalty for poaching a wisent (European bison). King Sigismund also built a new wooden hunting manor in Białowieża, which became the namesake for the whole forest.

Until the reign of Jan Kazimierz the forest was mostly unpopulated. However, in the late 17th century several small villages were established for development of local iron ore deposits and tar production. The villages were populated with settlers from Masovia and Podlaskie and many of them still exist.

After the Partitions of Poland, the tsar Paul I turned all the foresters into serfs and handed them over to various Russian aristocrats and generals along with the parts of forest where they lived. Also, a large number of hunters were able to enter the forest, as all protection was abolished. Following this, the number of wisent fell from more than 500 to less than 200 in 15 years.

In 1888 the Russian tsars became the owners of all of primeval forest. Once again the forest became a royal hunting reserve. The tsars started sending wisent as gifts to various European capitals, while at the same time populating the forest with deer, elk and other animals imported from all over the empire. The last major tsarist hunt took place in 1912.

During World War I the forest suffered heavy losses. The German army seized the area in August 1915 and started to hunt for the animals. During the more than three years of German occupation, more than 200 kilometres of railway tracks were laid in the forest to develop the industry of the area. Three lumber-mills were built, in Hajnówka and Białowieża and Gródek. Up to 25 September 1915 at least 200 wisent were killed, and an order was issued forbidding hunting in the reserve. However, German soldiers, poachers and Soviet marauders continued the slaughter until February 1919 when the area was captured by the Polish army. The last wisent had been killed just a month earlier. Thousands of deer and wild boar had also been shot by marauding soldiers.

After the Polish–Soviet War in 1921 the core of Puszcza Białowieska was declared a National Reserve. In 1923, Professor Józef Paczoski, a pioneer of the science of phytosociology, became a scientific manager of the forest reserves in the Białowieża Forest. He carried out detailed studies of the structure of forest vegetation there.

In 1923 it was discovered that only 54 wisent survived the war in various zoos all around the world – none of them in Poland. In 1929 a small herd of four wisent was bought by the Polish state from various zoos.

The reintroduction proved successful and in 1939 there were 16 wisent in Białowieża National Park.

In 1939 the local inhabitants of Polish ethnicity were deported to remote areas of the Soviet Union. They were replaced with Soviet forest workers, but in 1941 the forest was occupied by Germans and the Soviet inhabitants were also deported. Hermann Göring planned to create the biggest hunting reserve in the world there. After July 1941 the forest became a refuge for both Polish and Soviet partisans, and German authorities organized mass executions of people suspected of aiding the resistance.

After the war part of the forest was divided between Poland and the Belarusian SSR of the Soviet Union.

The Reserve was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1992 and internationally recognised as a Biosphere Reserve under UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme in 1993 (the Polish part had been so designated in 1976).

The Bialowieza Forest is the biggest tree(of monumental sizes) cluster in Europe.

The forest contains a number of large, ancient pedunculate oaks (Quercus robur), some of which are individually named.

The Bialowieza Oaks impress with soaring shape, habit diversity, majesty & age. The oldest ones sprouted in the times of Władysław Jagiełło, and maybe even of Kazimierz Wielki.



 

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Białowieża National Park - largest mammal of Europe

The wisent also known as the European bison or European wood bison, is a species of Eurasian bison. It is the heaviest surviving land animal in Europe.
Wisent were almost hunted to extinction in the wild, but they survived in Białowieża Forest, Poland, until the 1920s and have since been reintroduced from captivity into several countries in Eastern Europe, all descendants of the Białowieża or lowland wisent. They are now forest-dwelling. They have few predators (besides humans), with only scattered reports from the 19th century of wolf and bear predation.

In Poland, in Białowieża Forest, wisent were legally the property of the Polish kings until the Third partition of Poland. However, there were also wild wisent herds in Poland's eastern frontier lands until the mid-17th century. Polish kings took measures to protect their wisent. King Sigismund II Augustus instituted the death penalty for poaching a wisent in Bialowieza in the mid-16th century.

Most Bialowieza wisent became victims of World War I, with German troops occupying Bialowieza killing 600 of the animals for sport, meat, hides, and horns. A German scientist brought to the attention of army officers that the animals were facing imminent extinction, but at the very end of the war, retreating German soldiers shot all but 9 wisent.

Wisent were reintroduced successfully into the wild. Białowieża Forest in Poland and Belarus is home to 800 wild wisent.



 

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Rospuda Valley



The Rospuda Valley is one of the most valuable wetland areas (blanket, raised, and temporary bogs) with natural, intact water relations.

Rospuda Valley is under protection because of its rare animals and plants. For example, there are 19 kinds of Orchidaceae (all of which are under strict protection), including Musk Orchid (Herminium monorchis), and white variety of Early Marsh-orchid (Dactylorhiza majalis). The former has been recorded in Polish Red Data Book of Plants, and Rospuda Valley is its only Polish locality. The latter exists in a few more places in Poland.

For big mammals, like wolves or deer, the Rospuda Valley serves as a migratory corridor, through which they move west from Augustów Primeval Forest and Biebrza National Park. Moreover, the Valley is also inhabited by beavers, otters, foxes and other animals.



 

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Krasiczyn castle



The castle in Krasiczyn, one of the greatest treasures of Renaissance-Mannerist architecture in Poland, is also one of the most beautiful castles in Europe.

Its construction was begun in 1580 by Stanisław Krasicki, a descendant of the Masovian nobility of the Rogala army of coat, continued and eventually accomplished by his son Marcin in 1631.

Marcin Krasicki was regarded as an outstanding patron of art in Poland at that time, who transformed an austere fortress, erected by his father, into a splendid mansion which was named after him and so was a town encompassing a nearby area.. In spite of many fires and wars, the castle has almost maintained an unaltered shape from the beginnings of 17th century, built in a form of a quadrangle with the walls pointing to the four quarters of the globe.

Each corner of the castle has a cylindrical tower, called Divine, Papal, Royal and Knightly. The rectangular and specious courtyard is surrounded by the rooms and chambers from the north and the east, whereas the south and the west curtain walls are topped with a beautiful attic. In the middle of the western wing, where the Rectangular Tower Clock stands there used to be the main entrance. This is also where a road from a once existing town led to, over a moat and through a drawbridge.

Another exceptionally valuable architectural element of the castle is a chapel located in the Divine Tower, compared to the King Sigismund’s Chapel of Wawel. Ornaments such as a richly carved portal, loggias, arcades and the unique murals - sgraffitos are really tremendous and spectacular. Construction works were designed and supervised by Italian architects and the interior decorations were executed by artists of Przemyśl.

The significance of the castle was approved by numerous visits of the Polish kings, some of which were Sigismund III Vasa, Casimir and August II. After the Krasicki family passed away leaving no successor, the whole estate was inherited by the Modrzewski, Wojakowski, Tarło, Potocki and Piniński families, respectively. In 1835 the Piniński family sold it to the Prince Leon Sapieha whose family possessed the estate until 1944, greatly contributing to its development.

They renovated the castle, opened a sawmill, a brewery and a farming machinery factor, being active in social fields of the region as well. After World War II when the state took the castle over, a forestry school was located here. From 1973 to 1996 the Car Factory (FSO) took patronage and it was a rest center. In 1996, as part of the FSO’s liquidation process, the castle was taken over by the Industrial Development Agency (ARP) in Warsaw. The renovation works carried by the Agency turned the castle into a modern tourist, hotel and catering base called the Castle and Park Complex. The top class of this facility and the quality of services was confirmed in 2000 by The European Castle Hotels & Restaurants – a programme grouping hotels and restaurants in historical buildings.





 

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The Jan Matejko House in Kraków


The Jan Matejko House is a biographical museum of Jan Matejko, one of the greatest Polish painters of the 19th century. That is the place where the Polish artist was born, lived, created and died.

Jan Matejko (June 24, 1838 Krakow – November 1, 1893 Krakow) was a Polish painter known for paintings of notable historical Polish political and military events. His most famous works include oil on canvas paintings like Battle of Grunwald, paintings of numerous other battles and court scenes, and a gallery of Polish kings. He is counted among the most famous Polish painters.

In 1865 Matejko's painting "Skarga's Sermon" was awarded a gold medal at the yearly Paris salon. In 1868, his painting "Rejtan" was awarded a gold medal at the World Exhibition in Paris. Critics listed Matejko as one of the most important European historical painters. From the Polish perspective, he succeeded in propagating the Polish history, and reminding the world about Poland, which while partitioned and without any independent political representation, still commanded the hearts of many.

At the Jan Matejko House there are mementos of the painter and the collection that the painter had been gathering for his entire life – extensive collections of handcraft, fabrics and military items, Judaica, goldsmith’s products and even instruments of torture. He used most of these items as painting props. In the museum you can also watch portraits of the artist’s family and friends, caricatures and drafts of big canvases.




 

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Matejko paintings - examples

The Battle of Grunwald


Dimensions 426 cm × 987 cm
Location Warsaw National Museum

It took Matejko three years to complete The Battle of Grunwald. The theme of the painting is the historic battle in Grunwald (in German: Tannenberg) 1410, which ended with a complete Polish-Lithuanian victory over the Teutonic Crusader Knights. It was the first step for Poland to emerge as a major power in Europe.

It was after Matejko's painting that, during their wartime period of German occupation, was the object of a furious and detailed search. The Germans were however unsuccessful in their search because of the many Polish patriots who risked their lives to keep it hidden.

The Prussian Homage or Tribute


Dimensions 388 cm × 785cm
Location Sukiennice Museum, Kraków

It depicts a tribute made by Albrecht Hohenzollern, the Duke of Prussia, to Polish King Sigismund I the Old in the Kraków market square on 10 April 1525.

Matejko began to paint it on the Christmas Eve of 1879 and finished it in 1882.

The pro-Polish and anti-Prussian character of the painting caused William I, German Emperor to object to a proposal about rewarding Matejko; it was the time that Prussia would engage heavily in an attempt to replace Polish culture on its territory with a German one.

During World War II, in occupied Poland, this painting, together with the Matejko's painting on the battle of Grunwald, was one of the two paintings on the "most wanted" list by the Nazis, who engaged in a systematic action of trying to physically destroy all artifacts of Polish culture. It was, fortunately, hidden and safeguarded through the course of the war (in the town of Zamość).

As of 29 August 2011, the painting has been dismantled for an art exhibition entitled "Side by Side Poland - Germany" promoted by the 1000 Years of Art and History project of the Royal Warsaw Castle in cooperation with the Martin-Gropius-Bau exhibition hall in Berlin. The exhibition will be open to the general public in Berlin from 23 September 2011 to 9 January 2012.

King Stefan Batory at Pskov


Dimensions 322 × 512 cm
Location: Warsaw

During the Livonian War (1578-1582), between Ivan the Terrible of Russia and Stefan Batory of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the city was besieged by Polish forces. Poland failed to capture the city, but forced Russia to return other territories and gained Livonia. The siege was the setting of this painting. The siege of Pskov from the Polish perspective: Batory at Pskov, 1579. Painting by Jan Matejko in 1872. Matejko's allegoric painting illustrates the concept of romantic nationalism: the Muscovites are represented doing homage to the Polish king.

The Lublin Union


Dimensions: 298 × 512 cm
Location: Lublin Castle

The Union of Lublin in 1569 replaced the personal union of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania with a real union and an elective monarchy, since Sigismund II Augustus.

It was signed July 1, 1569, in Lublin, Poland, and created a single State, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Commonwealth was ruled by a single elected monarch who carried out the duties of Polish King and Grand Duke of Lithuania, and governed with a common Senate and parliament. The Union created the largest and one of most populous states in 17th century Europe (excluding the states not completely in Europe - the Russian or Ottoman Empires).
 

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Table Mountains National Park



The Table Mountains National Park (Polish: Park Narodowy Gór Stołowych) is a National Park in Poland. It includes the Polish section of the Table Mountains (Góry Stołowe), which are part of the Sudetes range.

It is located in south-western Poland, in Kłodzko County in Lower Silesian Voivodeship, near the border with the Czech Republic. Created in 1993, the Park covers an area of 63.39 square kilometres (24.48 sq mi), of which forests accounts for 57.79 km².

The Table Mountains landscape started to form 70 million years ago. The range’s unique shape is a result of hundreds of thousands of years of erosion. There are several notable rock formations, among them Kwoka ("Hen"), Wielblad ("Camel") and Glowa wielkoluda ("Giant’s head"). Also, there is a sophisticated system of corridors which creates rock labyrinths.

In the forested areas of the park there are deer, red deer, wild pig, squirrels, hedgehogs, many birds and reptiles including lizards and adders.
The history of the Table Mountains is closely connected with the history of the Kłodzko region, located on the borderland of Silesia, Bohemia and Moravia. After Hussite wars of the 14th and 15th century, the area thrived and later on first spas at Kudowa, Duszniki and Polanica were opened.



 

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Vistula Spit



The Vistula Spit (Polish: Mierzeja Wiślana) is a spit, or peninsular stretch of land, which separates Vistula Lagoon from Gdańsk Bay in the Baltic Sea.

The border between Poland and Kaliningrad Oblast, an exclave of Russia, bisects it, politically dividing the spit in half between the two countries. The westernmost point of Russia is located on the Vistula Spit. The Polish part contains a number of tourist resorts, incorporated administratively as the town of Krynica Morska.



 

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Bolczów castle



Bolczów Castle is located near Janowice Wielkie. Building of the castle is attributed to Clericus Bolcze, a courtier of Polish duke Bolko II in the year 1375.

Captured by Hussites, it was destroyed by the punitive expedition of Wrocław and Świdnica townsmen. Since the 16th century, the castle was owned by Justus Decjusz, a courtier of Polish king Sigismund I the Old. He reconstructed the ruined castle and developed copper mining in the surroundings.

After Decjusz's death, the castle became property of the Schaffgotsch family. It was destroyed again during the Thirty Years' War, when Swedes were looking for its treasures. After this invasion, Bolczów Castle never regained its splendor, even though it was partly reconstructed in the 19th century.



 

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Polish folk - Łowicz region



The historical Łowicz region is part of Mazowsze, one of the five main ethnographic areas of Poland. The region is situated in the very heart of the country, southwest of Warsaw, in the valley of one of the Vistula's tributaries, the river Bzura.

The traditional wear of the Łowicz region is one of the most beautiful in all of Poland, rich on colorful woven patterns and ornate embroidery. The history of the development of Łowicz woolen woven cloth and of the garments made from it is carefully recorded and skillfully presented in the unique ethnographic museum in Łowicz.

Łowicz folk music has been an inspiration to many artists. We can hear the motifs of the 0berek and the Kujon in Chopin's mazurkas, waltzes, and preludes.

Besides the singing, dancing also plays a very important part in the Łowicz region. As is typical in all central Poland, the dominant rhythm is 3/4 or 3/8 time. The most popular dances are: the exuberant 0berek, the nostalgic Kujon characterized by its variable tempo, similar to the Kujawiak, the ceremonial Chodzony (walking dance) and various Walczyks (light waltzes). The 2/4 meter is represented by various polkas and the Klapok (clapping dance). As in other parts of Poland, the dances are often interrupted or accompanied by short songs, often composed on the spot. Łowicz melodies, songs, and dances are sometimes similar to those of the neighboring sub-regions.



 

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Łęczyca





Łęczyca castle

The Łęczyca Royal Castle is a medieval castle situated in Łęczyca, Poland. The castle was erected by Polish king Casimir III the Great as a fortification during 1357-1370.

Immediately after its completion, the Castle became one of residences of king Casimir the Great, and then was the seat of governor od Łęczyca. In 1406 it was burned by the Teutonic Knights and rebuilt the following years to serve as a place of a conference in 1409, where decisions were taken in connection with the approaching war with the Order.

After the Battle of Grunwald many of the Teutonic Knights were incarcerated here. In subsequent years, four diets were held here (1420, 1448, 1454 and 1462), and the castle became the seat of the king Casimir IV Jagiellon during another war with the Order (1454-1466).

After a great fire in the second half of the 15th century the castle remain in ruins till the early 1560s. Then, in 1563-1565, Jan Lutomirski, Grand Treasurer of the Crown completely rebuilt the castle. The cost of the entire project amounted to nearly 3,000 florins, derived from the royal treasury. The disasters that strucked the stronghold in the first half of the 17th century, helped the Swedish General Robert Douglas, Count of Skenninge to take the castle, which was defended by starosta Jakub Olbrycht Szczawiński, during the Deluge in 1655. The destruction was completed in 1707 during another another Swedish occupation.

Over the next years local residents used the remains of the castle as a source of building materials. After the World War II, the castle became the seat of the scout troop, and in 1964 reconstruction started. Now it's a museum.

 
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