Poland

Driving Directions Poland

POLAND situated on the North European Plain with a Baltic Sea coastline. It shares borders with Germany to the west, the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south, Russia (Kaliningrad) to the north and Belarus and Ukraine to the east.

Poland consists mainly of lowlands. In the north, a low-lying narrow coastal plain of sandy beaches and dunes forms most of the Baltic Sea coastline.

The low-lying wooded hills and valleys of the Baltic Heights region lie further inland and then come to the extensive central lowlands, which are crossed by numerous rivers and streams in a series of shallow valleys. In the south, there is a region of uplands and valleys, and then the land rises more steeply to form the Sudeten Mountains and ranges of the Carpathian Mountains.

The Plain of Silesia lies in the southwest beyond the Sudeten Mountains.

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Poland is drained by numerous rivers, most of which empty into the Baltic Sea. The most important is the Oder (Odra) in the west, which forms the boundary with Germany, and the Vistula (Wisla), which flows through Warsaw (Warszawa) and empties into the Gulf of Danzig (Zatoka Gdanska). Both have many principal tributaries, and, together with canals, they go to make up the country’s 4,000 kilometers or 2,500 miles of navigable waterways. There are numerous freshwater lakes, particularly in the Masuria region, in the northeast.

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The northwestern coastal parts of Poland generally experience more temperate conditions than the inland areas where an eastern European climate prevails. Summers are usually warm to hot and winters can be very cold inland and in the mountains but are milder on the coast. Rainfall occurs throughout the year, particularly in summer, and there is considerable snowfall in the mountains.

Poland’s capital and largest city are Warsaw, situated on the River Vistula in the central part of the country. About 62 percent of Poles live in cities or towns, where problems caused by high levels of unemployment, social deprivation, and poverty make life difficult for many people. Conditions were particularly challenging in the early 1990s during the transition to a market-style economy but are now fast improving.

Agriculture plays an essential part in the country’s economy, with almost two-thirds of the land area suitable for farming and over one-quarter of the labor force involved in agriculture. Most of the farms are small, family-owned enterprises, but many need modernization and lack the necessary equipment.

Crops grown include cereals (rye, wheat, oats, barley), vegetables (especially potatoes and sugar beet), fruits (blackcurrants, raspberries, strawberries, and apples), tobacco and rapeseed. Livestock animals include cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry, and horses. Poland’s forests cover over a quarter of its land area and provide valuable timber resources for its paper and furniture industries.

There are both marine and freshwater fishing industries. The main species caught are cod, pollock, herring, sprat, and squid. The freshwater fishing industry has declined in recent years because of a drop in fish stocks caused by pollution.

Fish processing is quite an important industry, and about 12 percent of the total catch exported. The country has valuable reserves of both hard coal and lignite, sulfur, copper, silver, iron ore, lead, zinc, magnesium, gypsum, and rock salt. Still, it has very little oil or natural gas, so it is heavily dependent upon imports to supply its domestic needs.

Industry and manufacturing were taken under state control during the communist years and expanded, with particular emphasis on iron and steel. These enterprises are now returned to private ownership. Other industries include food processing, engineering, shipbuilding, textiles, and chemicals.

The country has serious environmental problems due to factors such as untreated sewage, industrial discharges, air pollution, and soil contamination, although some progress made to rectify matters.

Tourism is of increasing importance to the country’s economy.

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