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The southern border of Poland in its eastern and central part is occupied by Carpathian Mountains. Carpathians mark the natural boarder between Poland and Slovakia and other countries. They are second largest mountain chain in Europe stretching from Poland and Slovakia to Romania.
The most eastern part of Carpathians which border with Ukraine consists of mountains Bieszczady. Bieszczady belongs to Eastern Carpathians and are build out of mild sandstone. They are covered mainly with grass and forest, the highest peak ~ 1,3 km high. Bieszczady belong to very few enclaves in Poland which conserved their pristine landscape and atmosphere. Bieszczady are the perfect place for hermits and people who want to relax. This place was almost completely deserted after the WW II. The ethic minority of Lemk were resettled to other regions because of fights for their independence after WW II.
Granite alpine-like Tatra stretch on the boarder between Poland and Slovakia. Tatra is the highest part of Carpathians. The highest peaks are about 2,5 km high. There are also beautiful, cold and very deep lakes in Tatras created by glaciers. Below are some photographs:
* click at the image to see it magnified *
The Tatra draw always many tourists. The valleys in this mountain area are inhabited by mountaineers that deserve an article on their own because of their very interesting culture, uniforms, language, traditions and talents. The mountaineers' houses are beautiful and adapted to harsh weather conditions; they have steep roofs and are built in the special Zakopane style that is very picturesque. Below are photographs of two Tatra peaks - Giewont on the top and Kasprowy on the bottom. Please, see the legend by moving a mouse in the area of the pictures. Giewont that is good seen from Zakopane, the center of Polish Tatra activities has an unusual shape of the sleeping knight according to the legend.
Pieniny is another chain next to Tatra, not that tall but very picturesque. Pieniny (built of limestone) offer wonderful rafting down the Dunajec gorge. The other mountain chains in this area have milder peaks, lots of forest full of mushrooms and berries, they offer relaxed vacations on many tourist routes with tourist shelters.
Going west and north from Tatra we pass Beskides. Beskides are characterized by milder character of the slopes and peaks, they are built of Carpathian flish. Beskides are divided into many chains, every chain has its specificity. For instance Beskid Wyspowy (Island's Beskidy) consist of many isolated mountains (not connected by passes), Beskid Slaski (Silesia's Beskidy) contains the source of the biggest Polish river Vistula (Pol. Wisla).
In general Carpathian peaks provide an excellent setting for myriad activities, be it horseback riding, hiking, biking, skiing, bird-watching, or whatever else suits your nature-loving fancy.
The very South West corner of Poland (also Czech and Eastern Germany) is occupied by Sudeten Mountains. Sudeten do not belong to Carpathian, it is a completely separate mountains crust. Sudeten are older than Carpathian and consist mainly of metamorphic rocks. Sudeten are very versatile, some parts of Sudeten are very rocky, another (Gory Stolowe i.e. Table Mountains) are very flat. The highest peak, Sniezka, on the boarder with Czech is 1602 m high. Sudeten are also very polluted and its vegetation is partly destroyed by industrial centers of Poland, Czech and Eastern Germany.
The oldest Polish mountains, Gory Swietokrzyskie (Holy Cross Mountains) lie near Kielce (South-Central Poland). They were formed in Caledonian period. Although their absolute high is low (below 1000 m) these mountains are attractive to see because of their deep valleys, interesting rock forms and steep slopes. Besides, if you want to see the real Poland - it is just located there, near Gory Swietokrzyskie in a region called Kieleczczyzna from a main city Kielce.
All mountains were shaped by glaciers. Glaciers significantly changed the shapes of the peaks and valleys and created deep lakes, especially beautiful in Tatras.
Read earlier articles about Polish places worth to visit:
Towns in Poland
Money and other Tips for Travelers
written by Jagoda Urban-Klaehn, April 2001 (article #32)
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