Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Excerpts from a 1937 travel brochure for Poland

This promotional travel brochure for Poland was published in 1937, two years before the Invasion of Poland marked the start of World War II.

The brochure was printed in Poland and appears to have been jointly produced by the League for the Promotion of Tourism (Liga Popierania Turystyki) and Polish State Railways. This copy was once kept on file at Ridgeway Tours, managed by Christian H. Shenk, at 32 Penn Square in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Pictured at right is the cover of the brochure, with a colorful illustration of a man in a traditional Polish outfit. The back cover (shown further down in today's post) features a similar illustration of a Polish woman.

The opening section of the brochure is bittersweet, when you consider what Germany and the Soviet Union did to the country soon thereafter:
"Draw a line from the southern most tip of Portugal to the northeastern most tip of the Ural Mountains and another from Scotland to the Caucasus and they will cross Warsaw, Poland's gay capital -- the geographic center of Europe. Warsaw with her 1,300.000 inhabitants is among the most colourful cities in Europe. It has the mellowness of bygone centuries and the quick tempo of the 20th. Those who seek that which gives travel fascination will find it there.

"Situated at the heart of Europe, Poland with its 150.000 square miles and 34,000.000 inhabitants offers an amazing variety of quaint folk customs, dramatic natural scenery, and lovely old cities, filled with the relics of her ancient glory. In contrast she has airways reaching all Europe, torpedo trains that go 93 miles an hour, the world's most powerful broadcasting station1, fine roads, fine hotels and abundant natural resources, such as oil, zinc, lumber, coal."
Here are some excerpts from various sections of the brochure:
  • THE NATIONS CRADLE: "Leaving your port of entry2, you will pass in your motorcar over the rolling country of the Kaszubs (Cashoubians) [and] several picturesque towns of Polish Pomerania3 (Pomorze -- The Land By The Sea). ... Pomorze is a prosperous agricultural province of reborn Poland. Full of picturesque villages, towns, forests and lakes, it forms that access to the sea, without which there could be no Poland. It will interest you to know that it is one of the oldest parts of old Poland, the very cradle of her civilization. ... If you go south from Poznań, you will reach Upper Silesia, a network of foundries, mills, mines and factories. At times it will seem to you that you are passing the industrial or coal mine region of Pennsylvania or Ohio.4 And yet, even here you will find dense forests, picturesque hills and modern health resorts."
  • FORESTS AND SHOOTING: "Half way between Warsaw and Wilno is Poland's largest national park containing one of the oldest virgin forests in Europe, Białowieża.5 This forest has an area of approximately, 1.000 square miles. A herd of European bison, the only surviving specimens of this animal, lives there in freedom and immune from the hunter's gun. In the Białowieża vast forest reservation one can find the stag, the wild boar, the European elk, the roebuck, the wolf, the lynx and almost every kind of bird."
  • A WEALTH OF TRADITION AND PAGEANTRY: "If you are a lover of old traditions and colourful customs, based on rich folklore, you will not miss these in Poland. ... On Easter Monday the old custom of 'Smigus' is observed. It consists in pouring water over the first person you meet in the morning and is more fun than most old customs. ... Christmas Eve is a holiday closely connected with family life. The chief meal, at which no meat is served, is partaken in the evening as the first star appears in the sky. Care is taken that the number of guests at the table is always even, the superstition being that an uneven number means death to one of the party. ... Hunting in Winter is traditional in Polish country houses. After early breakfast the hunters start off in sleighs for the forest. At noon special dishes are brought to the hunters and eaten after being reheated. This meal consists of a stew called 'Bigos'6 and 'Krupnik', a combination of spirits and honey."
  • OLD CUSTOMS PRESERVED: "One of the most picturesque peasant groups can be found in the Cracow region. Peasant weddings are celebrated here in an elaborate manner. Marital rites are started by mounted youths, dressed in long navy blue and red coats and hats studded with peacock plumes, arriving at the house of the bride. They are the 'best men' and they seize the bride, bundle her into a carriage and rush her to church. She is crying, for she must pretend, according to custom, that she is greatly worried. After the wedding there is a dance lasting three days."
  • SPORTS: "Physical training, sports and games are very popular in Poland. The coming generation is as proficient in athletics as the youth of America. All schools in Poland are equipped with gymnasiums. ... Winter sports flourish in Poland, thanks to the opportunities for training in the Carpathian mountains. Czech and Marusarz are the best Polish ski-ers. ... In 1934, Captain Bajan won the European Challenge. Poland won three times in succession Gordon Bennett International Balloon race [pictured at right]."
  • SOME PRACTICAL HINTS: "The Polish zloty, divided into 100 groszy, is worth approximately 20 american cents or 10d. For conversion of dollars into zloty multiply by five. The English pound is worth roughly 25 zloty, a penny is equivalent to 10 groszy.7 ... Cafés usually charge 1 zloty for coffee, while an excellent pastry costs 30 groszy. Tips are abolished in restaurants and cafés, a service charge of 10% being added to the bill. ... When crossing the border into Poland it is most important to declare the total sum of monies carried, as it is not permitted to take out of the country more money than brought in."

Read more about the brochure in this followup post.

1. What they claimed as "the world's most powerful broadcasting station" was the Raszyn-based transmitter for Polskie Radio. According to Wikipedia: "Before the Second World War, Polish Radio operated one national channel – broadcast from 1931 from one of Europe's most powerful longwave transmitters, situated at Raszyn just outside Warsaw and destroyed in 1939 by the invading German Army – and nine regional stations."
2. The brochure suggests that travelers enter Poland through Gdynia.
3. Ruth Manning-Sanders retold a number of folk and fairy tales that originated in Pomerania.
4. This might be the only tourism brochure in existence that happily compares an area to Pennsylvania's coal-mine region.
5. I had never heard of the Białowieża Forest until I read Alan Weisman's fantastic book "The World Without Us," part of which takes a look at the environment in parts of the planet that are mostly untouched by humans.
6. According to Wikipedia, typical ingredients in bigos include white cabbage, sauerkraut, various cuts of meat and sausages, whole or puréed tomatoes, honey and mushrooms.
7. You're on your own with that paragraph.

1 comment:

  1. Always find this sort of thing very fascinating especially if added railway interest as there is here. I have some spare communist era travel leaflets for Poland available if anyone wishes to contact me I will email a link.