SUMMARY It is extremely difficult to talk about Poland when its new form has yet to take its final shape. With the help of scraps of memory of places, events and acquaintances, we could try and compose a mosaic bearing the title Poland, but noMoreSUMMARY It is extremely difficult to talk about Poland when its new form has yet to take its final shape. With the help of scraps of memory of places, events and acquaintances, we could try and compose a mosaic bearing the title Poland, but no matter how meticulous the arrangement of these bits and pieces, the picture would remain somehow incomplete.
Believing ones country to be an exceptional place on earth is not particularly original. A Greek, a Frenchman or a Spaniard would probably also start their stories with the words my country is something special. Nevertheless, that is how I am going to begin this tale, perhaps slightly perversely so, since the conviction of Polands uniqueness comes from our feeling of her undefinable character, of her variety.
Both in a geographical sense and in our consciousness Poland has always existed on the borderline of different worlds and cultures--and this kind of borderline existence is always ambivalent. Poland occupies the patch of territory between the western European lowlands and the vast expanses of eastern steppes (one is tempted to call them Asian since the Urals seem to be merely a conventional boundary), and stretches from the northern slopes of the Carpathians to the southern coast of the Baltic.
Hence the variety of her landscape with mountains, highlands and the Dutch scenery of the Vistula estuary. In prehistoric times, receding glaciation formed thousands of picturesque lakes, small and large, and left behind huge erratic boulders--due to their mysterious origin often called Devils or Witches rocks--which add variety to the monotony of the lowland landscape.
In different parts of the country you find different vegetation: reddish-brown beech and oak trees, golden larches and green spruces and pines, all of them looking particularly striking during the Polish golden autumn. The mountains and forests are the habitat...