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10 Interesting Facts About Poland

How much do you know about the country of Poland, one of Europe's emerging tourist destinations?

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Seventeen Nobel Prize winners were born in Poland.

There are seventeen Nobel Prize winners of Polish decent including Maria Skłodowska-Curie who won for her scientific discoveries in physics in 1903 and then again for her work in chemistry in 1911. Others honored for their valuable scientific contributions include Maria Curie’s oldest daughter Irene Joliet-Curie who won in 1935 for her work in chemistry, physicist Isidor Isaac Rabi (1944), and Roald Hoffmann whose work in chemistry earned him the award in 1981. Nobel winners in the fields of physiology or medicine include Tadeusz Reichstein (1950) and Andrzej Viktor Schall (1977). Polish born Nobel Award winners in literature have included such names as Henryk Sienkiewicz (1905), Władysław Reymont (1924), poet Wisława Szymborska (1996), Isaac Bashevis Singer (1978), author of the novel The Tin Drum Günter Grass (1999), and Czesław Miłosz (1980). Nobel Peace Prize winners from Poland include former Polish President Lech Wałęsa (1983) and Joseph Rotblat (1995).

Poland is the world’s largest exporter of amber.

The export of amber plays an important part in Poland’s economy. Amber, a fossilized tree resin, is valued as a gemstone and used as a key element in various types of jewelry items. The variety of amber native to Poland is referred to as Baltic amber. It can be found on local beaches as well as mined in sea water. Despite the shrinking supply of raw amber the Polish city of Gdansk is still considered to be the international amber capital as well as the home of the International Amber Association.

90% of Polish citizens have a post-secondary education.

Poland has long been considered to be one of the most educated countries in Europe and is known for placing a great deal of value on post-secondary education. The nation’s very first university, Jagiellonian University in Kraków, opened its doors way back in 1364. The majority of Poland’s 38,433,600 residents have graduated from a post-secondary educational institution. After attending compulsory studies Polish students are afforded the opportunity of earning a three year bachelor’s degree program which can then be followed up by a two year Master’s program. Additional doctoral studies take another three years to complete and vocational training programs are comprised of two and a half years of training courses.

Amongst European Union countries, people in Poland marry the youngest. 

The Roman Catholic Church has long played a significant role in the lives of the people of Poland. The institution’s traditional teachings as to the importance of marriage is no doubt one of the main reasons why Polish citizens tend to get married younger than citizens from other European nations. Although marriage rates have decreased from the 1990s, the church continues to play a major role in terms of shaping the beliefs and value systems of the majority of Catholics living in Poland.

In Polish society, it is still customary for men greet women by kissing them on the hand.

Seen as a matter of courtesy and chivalry the act of kissing a woman’s hand is still a popular way for Polish men to greet their female companions. This practice is thought to have originated in Spain and amongst the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries.

Polish residents celebrate Name Day.

Name day in Poland serves to commemorate the Saint with whom a citizen was named after. In many ways name day has more significance to Polish residents than their actual birthday. Names associated with saints have traditionally been printed on Polish calendars. One such example is the date of January 26th at which time the names Paula, Paulina, and Wanda are acknowledged and celebrated.

Poland is home to Sixteen World Heritage Sites.

The country has a long and complex history so it comes as no surprise that it is home to a long list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These internationally recognized places of cultural and historic importance include Prague Castle, the Historic Centre of Kraków, the Wieliczka as well as Bochnia Royal Salt Mines, the Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork (built by the Teutonic Knights in the 13th century), Centennial Hall in Wrocław, and the Medieval Town of Toruń which dates back to the Middle Ages.

Poland is home to the second-oldest constitution in the world.

Poland established its first constitution in 1791. It was officially enacted by the Government Act and put into place by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth parliament on May 3, 1791. Among the main purposes of the constitution was to protect the nation’s laborers and establish political equality between members of the noble classes and the Bourgeoisie. Unfortunately this historic document only lasted just over fourteen months.

In WWII the Nazis established a large number of concentration camps in Poland thus making it the site of that war’s largest mass murder.

During World War II, the people of Poland suffered unspeakable horrors at the hands of the Nazi regime. Within its nation’s borders, Hitler’s forces constructed an array of forced labor and death camps. Among the most notorious and well known concentration camps located in Poland included Belzec (where an estimated 600,000 people perished), Chelmno (320,000 murdered), Majdanek (250,000 lives lost), Sobibor (250,000), Treblinka (870,000), and Auschwitz-Birkenau (where 2.1 million to 4 million human beings were systematically murdered).

Poland is considered to be one of the most religious countries in Europe.

Christianity continues to play an influential role in the lives of Polish citizens, particularly in regards to the teachings of the Catholic Church. According to statistics from 2011 among Poland’s population over 87% of its citizens identify themselves as followers of the Roman Catholic faith. Among Protestant denominations in Poland include a variety of Lutherans, Pentecostals, Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mariavites, Jews, Muslims, as well as a small percentage of so called neopagans. Despite the tremendous number of Catholics living in the country Pope John Paul II remains the only pope ever to be born in Poland. He served as the head of the Catholic Church from 1978-2005. Poland is also home to a number of renowned Catholic sites including the Monastery of Jasna Góra, Basilica of Our Lady of Licheń, Divine Mercy Sanctuary, as well as Mountain Grabarka located near Grabarka-Klasztor.

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