Poland is steeped in history, with a tricky language for outsiders to learn, home to breathtaking scenery and some truly idyllic old towns. The country prides itself on preserving its culture and heritage – however, is there anything about Poland that the locals don’t know? Here are 10 facts that even Polish people might be unaware of.
Vodka originated in Poland
Russian readers will cringe at the thought that vodka may not have been invented in Russia, but instead originated in Poland. The world’s first written mention of the drink and of the word “vodka” was in 1405 Poland, from Akta Grodzkie recorder of deeds, in the court documents from the Palatinate of Sandomierz in Poland. The spirit has been produced since the early Middle Ages.
On average Polish people marry the youngest in the EU
Time for a wedding invite! If you meet any Polish people in their early twenties, quite often they are already in a steady relationship, they are ready to get married and probably ready to have children. Factually, Polish people get married younger than any other country in the European Union, 25 – 27 year-on-year is the average. Only non-EU countries like Serbia, Belarus, Ukraine and Albania have a chance of “beating Poland” to this honour! Finally if you get invited to a Polish wedding, be sure to go prepared.
Poland were the best team in the 1974 World Cup
Everybody who watched the 1974 World Cup assumed that West Germany were the best team because they won it. They were wrong because they forgot to check the stats. Even though West Germany triumphed, with the Netherlands coming second, Poland were the best team in the tournament on statistics! Here is the proof:
The Polish National football team played seven matches, winning six of them, scoring 16, giving them a superior points tally to the Dutch and also a superior goal difference to eventual winners West Germany. Their six wins came against the mighty Brazil, Sweden, Italy, Argentina and Yugoslavia as well as a drubbing of minnows Haiti. The team was led by captain and hero Kazimierz Deyna (who hails from Starogard Gdański) and Grzegorz Lato (who comes from Malbork). Lato scored seven goals in the tournament and won the Golden Boot.
The guy that invented Fahrenheit was Polish
While the debate rages on between whether to use degrees Celsius or degrees Fahrenheit, here in Poland a monument marks the fact that Daniel Fahrenheit was born in Poland, in Gdańsk. His home is here and his original Fahrenheit thermometer is on permanent display in a cabinet on Gdańsk’s cool Ulica Długa. You need to check this out as most tourists neglect it.
The Second World War started at the bridge in Tczew
Realistically, most Polish people probably still assume that the Second World War began either in central Gdańsk, or at Westerplatte, on the coastline of Gdańsk. But the fact remains – the small town of Tczew in Poland’s Kociewie region was where the Nazi Germans first attacked. At 4 a.m. on September 1, 1939, they attacked the bridge here and despite its torn history, locals will not hesitate to remind you of this crazy fact.
Pope John Paul II attracted more people to the Nou Camp than Lionel Messi
You’ve heard the Beatles claim they were bigger than God. But there is no doubting the fact that Pope John Paul II attracted more people to the Camp Nou than the strongest FC Barcelona teams down the years. On November 7, 1982, Pope John Paul II gave a Catholic Mass inside the Camp Nou. It was his first time to present a Mass in Catalonia and a historic moment for the club and the region. The mass attracted around 120,000 people, which is 20,000 more than current FC Barcelona home matches. It is an attendance only ever matched three years later for the European Cup quarter-final between Barcelona and Juventus on March 5, 1986. The Pope’s legacy lives on and the record will not be broken in the foreseeable future, since the current capacity of the Camp Nou is 99,354.
Poland rescued more Jews than any other country in World War II
Polish Jews were the main victims of the German Nazi war machine during the Second World War. Thankfully despite the outrageous number of German death camps and means of extermination during the Holocaust, Polish people came to the rescue – saving the lives of thousands of Jews. Before the Second World War there were 3.3 million Jewish people living in Poland. To date, 6,706 Christian Poles have been awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations by the State of Israel – more than those of any other nation by far and no surprise there. Some estimates state that around three million Poles were involved in rescuing Jews. Figures are of course disputed and hard to judge 100%, but it has also been estimated that the number of Jews sheltered by Poles at one time might have been as high as 450,000.
Pelplin houses an original Gutenberg Bible
The little town of Pelplin in Poland’s Kociewie region houses an original Gutenberg Bible. It is one of only nine copies of the Gutenberg Bible that survive in their original 15th-century binding and you can see it for real in a glass case inside the town’s Diocesan Museum.
170 Cats “work” at Warsaw’s famous Palace of Culture and Science
Cats don’t work surely? But here the irony is lost on no-one as these cats are pivotal in this building’s maintenance! While they won’t be receiving a “pay cheque” once a month, cats are roaming the building daily to fight the invasion and reproduction of mice. Warsaw’s Palace of Culture and Science is an iconic centrepiece, sitting opposite the city’s main train station and the swanky shopping mall złote tarasy. Views from its peak are sensational but don’t forget – without those cats, the building would be full of mice.
Poland had the world’s first upside down house
An upside down house? Indeed! The Polish village of Szymbark only has about 500 residents, yet it still manages to be a magnet for tourists because back in 2007, it unveiled the world’s first upside down house that was open to the public. This wooden building, the wrong way up in a pleasant forest setting, attracted worldwide media attention and somehow started a craze for all things upside down, with Germany and Kaliningrad following suit. But here in Szymbark, the Poles did it first, and it is well worth a trip to check this place out!