The host country

Full country name Republic of Poland
Short form Poland
Flag Two equal-sized horizontal bands - upper white and lower red
Area 312,677 sq km (121,944 sq mi)
Adm. Divisions Poland is divided into 16 voivodeships
Population 38.6 million
Capital city Warsaw (population 1.75 million)
People 98% Polish, 2% others (Ukrainians, Belorussians, Germans, Jews, Slovaks and Lithuanians)
Language Polish
Religion 95% Roman Catholic, 5% others (mostly Eastern Orthodox, Protestant)
Government Parliamentary republic
Currency Poland's official currency is the zloty (PLN) divided into 100 groszy
Time GMT/UTC plus one hour
Electricity ~230 V, 50 Hz AC
Weights & measures Metric

The Republic of Poland is situated in Central Europe, bounded to the North by the Baltic Sea and an enclave of Russia, to the North-East by Lithuania, to the East by Belarus, to the South-East by the Ukraine, to the West by Germany and to the South by Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Poland became a member of the European Union in May, 2004. Situated in the very heart of Europe, Poland has been both a bridge and a front line between Eastern and Western Europe.

Poland is one of the largest countries of Central Europe and is part of the North European Plain. Its most extensive physical feature is the great plain that covers the northern two thirds of the country. The southern third of the country consists of hills and mountains. In the southwest, the Sudeten (Sudety) Mountains form part of the border with the Czech Republic. Further eastwards, several ranges of the western Carpathian Mountains continue along the border. The major range is the Beskids. Further southwards, part of the Tatra Mountain range is located on Polish territory and contains Rysy, the highest mountain peak in Poland at 8,199 feet (2,499 meters). To the north of the Carpathians there are areas of hills, of which the most notable are the Holy Cross Mountains (Gory Swietokrzyskie). The longest river in Poland is the Vistula, which rises in the Beskids and flows in a wide, S-shaped curve across Poland until it reaches the Baltic Sea. The Oder River has its source in the Czech Republic and flows through Polish territory. It forms part of the border with Germany. The largest lakes are found in the Mazuria Lake District in the northeast. Some natural forests stretch in the east. The remarkable one is the Bialowieza Wilderness with its European bison (winsent) protected in a forest reserve.

The major historical cities like Warsaw, Cracow, Sandomierz, Kazimierz, Plock, Torun and Gdansk were built along the Vistula river. Modern architecture coexists there with historical quarters that, like the Old towns in Warsaw and Gdansk, Cracow's center, and the market places of Kazimierz and Sandomierz, remember times from eight centuries ago.

Famous Poles:

  • Scientists: Nicolaus Copernicus and Maria Sklodowska-Curie (Nobel Prize winner)
  • Frederic Chopin - Polish greatest composer
  • Winners of the Nobel Prize for literature: Henryk Sienkiewicz, Wladyslaw Reymont, Czeslaw Milosz, Wislawa Szymborska
  • John Paul II- the first Pope of Polish descent
  • Lech Walesa - politician
  • Filmmakers - Roman Polanski, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Andrzej Wajda
  • Adam Malysz - sportsman

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