Poland is a unique incentive travel destination that everyone should experience
You know how it is the days before you leave the country. You are furiously trying to tie up all the loose ends at the office while simultaneously attempting to get your personal life together by calling the bank, notifying your cell phone company, finding a sitter for your fur baby, and packing for every possible weather scenario. During this time, you also inevitably will attract the attention of those around you who can see you preparing for what to you feels like a move to another country rather than just a visit. Their curiosity will, of course, lead them to ask you, “Where are you going?” This time around, the answer for me was “Poland!” However, you would not believe the amount of confused faces I got from that response. “Poland? Why are you going there?” Well, after spending eight days in the glorious land of pierogis, Gothic architecture, and rich history, I can prove that it was a bucket-list experience worth sharing!
1. Incredible History
Probably the most notable characteristic of Poland is the country’s fascinating history. In 1939, Poland was invaded by Germany for the start of World War II, which greatly affected the country. It became home to one of the largest concentration camps, Auschwitz, which travelers can venture to for an eye-opening insider view of what life was like there. I had the opportunity to go myself, and it is an experience I will never forget. After the war, they were under Soviet rule, and it was only in the late 1980s that they emerged from communism. In fact, one of Warsaw’s most iconic buildings, The Palace of Arts and Science (pictured right), was actually a gift from Joseph Stalin himself. While there, I had the opportunity to take part in a tour that took you through a day in the life of the average person during the communist time, which was a great way to get a feel for just how different things were. I thought it was so interesting to see what a different culture this country had because of how their experiences from the past shaped them. It was a history buff’s heaven!
2. Old Town Squares
As with all European cities, Poland did not fall short in offering the charming city squares filled with cafes, entertainment, and local artisan shopping. Krakow, one of the oldest cities in Poland, has structures dating back to the late 900s and is filled with amazing sites to be seen in their old town. From the Wawel Castle to the Vistula River, to St. Mary’s Cathedral, you can’t go wrong with a trip to this city. I personally loved stopping in front of the Cathedral on the hour to hear the trumpet player play a tune out of the top window of the left spire of the building. He even can be heard in the middle of the night. Now that is dedication!
However, I couldn’t go without mentioning the Old Town in Warsaw. Unlike Krakow, this part of the city is practically wholly rebuilt after being destroyed during the Polish Rebellion. Although the “old town” name doesn’t fit its age, this city was built to replicate the area as it originally stood. You can find anything from fine dining to street food here, and you are sure to stumble across a few street performers performing some of Chopin’s famous pieces as you enjoy your stroll through the cobblestone streets. I loved getting to enjoy the thrill of exploring the nooks and crannies with my husband, who couldn’t miss the opportunity to tag along.
Does anyone have a client with a tight budget? Well, this destination may just be your gift from above. Especially when you make the conversion from U.S. dollar to the Polish Zloty. An impressive 1 to .27 ratio makes your dollar stretch pretty far. This allows hotel rooms to cost anywhere from $75 – $150 a night, and those rates included a robust breakfast! I had the opportunity to stay at the 5-Star Sheraton Warsaw Hotel while at a conference there and was impressed not only by the hotel catering team but also the size of the room. It was very spacious, recently renovated, and within walking distance to the old town. A top contender for any group that needs meeting space, but also has some time built into the agenda to explore the city.
4. Off the Beaten Path
Probably my favorite part about visiting Poland was that it was honestly somewhere I would have never thought of traveling. That was the beauty of this beautiful place. There are countless exciting things to see, such as a visit to the salt mines, a trip to Schindler’s Factory, or even hiking in the Tatras Mountains. From the language to the unique food, to the culture, there really is much to entertain your more well-traveled guest who has already hit the major Western European cities on their bucket list.
Needless to say, I had much to report to my confused friends and coworkers upon my return. One look at my beautiful photos, and they were sold on the idea that Poland is one fantastic incentive travel destination. Underrated yes, but I have a feeling it won’t stay that way for long. So here is to learning new things, visiting new places, and never being too full to finish your Zapiekanka!
If you’re looking for more bucket-list incentive travel destinations, take a look at some of our itineraries for more bright ideas!