Poland lies in the heart of Europe - it is the geometric center of the continent. Warsaw is not far from other European cities: Paris and London are 2 hours away by plane, Vienna and Berlin not much more than an hour. You can get to Poland quickly by international roads and railway connections. Poland boasts half a million places to stay, thousands of restaurants, hundreds of forms of leisure and entertainment - all waiting for visitors. Poland is a country that is safe and friendly for visitors from abroad, a statement confirmed by official international statistics.
You can find more or less everything in Poland: alpine mountains, wide beaches, clean lakes, deep forests, world-class historic monuments, and friendly people. The climate is temperate, and the people warm and hospitable. Polish cities with a thousand-year history invite their visitors to experience the culture. Poland's villages and small-time towns offer the opportunity to get away from the bustle of modern life. All of this comes with a backdrop of breathtaking landscapes. Poland's natural grandeur is its greatest attraction. Wild, untouched and more diverse than most countries in Europe, what's more, its easily accessible. Whether on a extended holiday or a weekend getaway, tourists continue to discover, delight and explore all the wonders of Poland.
The Churches of Peace in Jawor and Świdnica, erected in the mid-17th century, are the largest timber-framed religious buildings in Europe, each seating a few thousand people. However, these are sacral buildings that transcend their religious function, and their architectural value is less important than the message that they carry. The churches of peacewere built to commemorate the end of a devastating religious conflict that ravaged large parts of Europe. They are testimony to an unprecedented act of tolerance on the part of the Catholic Habsburg Emperor towards Protestant communities in Silesia in the period following the Thirty Years' War.
Under the Peace Treaty of Westphalia (1648), the Emperor of Austria permitted the Lutherans in the Roman Catholic parts of Silesia to build three Evangelical churches. However, there were a lot of restrictions that they had to follow. The temples were not supposed to be reminiscent of traditional churches and they had to be built without steeples or church bells. They had to be constructed from low quality materials like wood, loam, and straw - even nails were forbidden. They were to be located outside, but within the range of a cannonball from the city walls. They had to be built within one year.
And this is how two Europe's biggest wood-and-clay shingled constructions were built. Despite modest looking outside walls, they both have rich baroque decorations inside. Since 2001, the two remaining churches are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The third church, erected in Głogów, burned down in 1758.
The Church of Peace in Świdnica is located on the old Protestant cemetery, away from the oldest part of the city. The paintings covering the walls and ceiling depict visions of St John the Evangelist describing the Apocalypse. Other paintings show coats-of-arms of the most prominent members of the church community as well as views of the local towns and residences. The Church of Peace in Jawor is also richly decorated with 180 paintings representing scenes from the Old and New Testaments, as well as coats-of-arms of local families and guilds.
Jawor and Świdnica are small towns in Lower Silesia situated about one hour's drive of Wrocław. They are located 20 miles from each other. Both have an exceptionally rich history reaching back to the Middle Ages. Świdnica was even the capital of an independent principality in the 14th century.
The legend of the Wieliczka Salt Mine began with a love story. Prince Boleslaus wanted the beautiful, virtuous and wise Princess Kinga of Hungary as his wife. Upon hearing of the pure heart and wise spirit of Prince Boleslaus, Princess Kinga agreed. Princess Kinga wished to give the people of Poland a great gift that would benefit all—salt. Kinga took her engagement ring and threw it into a salt mine shaft in Hungary. When she arrived in Poland prince Boleslaus and Princess Kinga were married. After the wedding feast was over, Kinga informed her new husband that they must travel the Polish countryside to find her dowry. As the legend goes, when her heart fluttered they dug up the soil, recovering her engagement ring and with it, discovered salt. Thus the mine of Weliczka was uncovered.
Aside from the legend, the mine is a well-known tourist destination in Poland. In 1976 it was entered on the Polish List of Historic Heritage, in 1978 it became a UNESCO World Heritage site and in 1994 it was recognized by President Lech Walesa as a historic monument.
Within the mine there are 9 floors, ranging from a depth of 64 up to 327 meters. The salt in the mine began forming roughly 13.5 million years ago. The Wieliczka Salt Mine has been a tourist venue since the 1400’s. Today there are multiple tours offered of the mine, but be warned there are 380 steps to walk down. Your tour will also take you through miles of chambers that combine to create the extensive framework of the mine. Over the centuries miners not only carved out numerous chambers but also expressed their creativity through the carving of beautiful statues, including Princess Kinga. If you are traveling to Poland this destination is a MUST.