You can download the Poland report here. Please be patient when waiting for the file to download as it’s quite large.
Welcome to the Borders Exploration Group Poland 2008 page.
Back at the BEG committee meeting in April I put forward Poland as a proposed expedition destination. It’s a country I have visited before and each time I go it offers new surprises. It offers magnificent mountains, beautiful forests, lakes and beaches. It is home to European bison, wolves, beavers, storks and bears. It’s history is one of the most dramatic in Europe, and it’s culture vibrant and it’s people friendly. Check out the picture gallery to see for yourself!
The trip will have 3 distinct phases: Adventure, Community and Culture. Although nothing is confirmed yet some of the possible activities include:
- Trekking in the Tatra mountains
- Canoeing along the Narew river
- Mountain biking along a trail of ruined castles and fortresses
- Getting up close and personal with some European bison
- Getting down and dirty on a swamp trek
- Spending the night with some beavers
- Repairing footpaths in a national park
- Attending early morning prayers at a monastery
- Planting some trees to help the trip stay carbon neutral
- Visiting sites of international historical significance
- Exploring cavernous underground saltmines
- Soaking up the atmosphere and culture in a historical town square
- Teaching some Polish young people how to have a Scottish Ceilidh
But of course to make it a successful expedition we need YOU!
The estimated cost of the trip is £450 including travel, food, accommodation and activities. Looking forward to hearing from you,
Here are the leaders and venturers for the Poland 2008 expedition!
Name: Ruth Norman (group leader)
Date of Birth: July 1982
Occupation: Graduate Civil Engineer
Bio: I’m from Hawick and was a venturer on the BEG expedition to Mongolia in 1999. After finishing 6th year at Hawick High School in 2000, I spent 6 months teaching English at a convent boarding school outside Warsaw and I was bitten with the Poland bug! I’ve been back a couple of times since then, and each time the country offers new surprises and places to explore. I studied Civil & Environmental Engineering at Edinburgh Uni and am now working in the river engineering team of a consultancy in Edinburgh. I also got involved with the Duke of Edinburgh’s award at school, and have been an award group leader in Edinburgh for almost 6 years now. I’m not very good at doing nothing, so I also play fiddle in a ceilidh band and teach Saturday morning music classes. And in my spare time (?!) you might find me doing a spot of DIY as I’ve recently moved to a house that’s still in need of a wee bit of TLC.
Hobbies: Reading, cooking, Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, ceilidh-ing, trying to improve my Polish!
On my iPod: Five for Fighting, Kate Rusby, Taylor Swift, Mika, Paul Simon, Dougie MacLean, Myslovitz and 2,000 words of intermediate Polish vocabulary
Favourite form of Relaxation: Making soup or lying looking at the sky in the countryside on a sunny day
If I was an animal, I’d be…: A sheep – they can’t possibly be as stupid as they seem – I suspect they are trying to lull us into a false sense of security before unleashing their supreme intellect and staging a global coup. Only joking about that bit, but I do think they’re kind of cool.
Name: Adam (venturer)
Name: Ailsa (venturer)
Name: Aimee (leader)
Date of Birth: March 1989
Occupation: Student – Biological Sciences
Bio: Don’t take anything seriously (as you can
see). I have just moved up to Edinburgh from Hawick and am in my first
year of university. I’m studying Biological Sciences and my Honours is
in Neuroscience. Last summer I went to Zambia with BEG as a ventuerer
and had an ace time. It was a once in a lifetime experience. And that’s
why I’m back this year for a second expedition!!
people, making a mess and just having fun
On my iPod: Too much random
music to even start listing it.
Favourite form of Relaxation: Just
sitting around chilling out, maxin’, relaxin’ all cool, and y’all
shootin’ some b-ball outside of the school….
If I was an animal, I’d be…: Kangaroo – because I’m a wee bit excitable and literally a bit
Name: Charis (venturer)
Date of Birth: March 1991
Occupation: Student at Selkirk High School
Bio: Currently in 6th year, taking Maths, Biology, Chemistry and Survival Cookery (as dramatic as it sounds, believe me). Hoping to study medicine at uni later this year.
Hobbies: Walking Talla (mon chien), playing various instruments and a recent convert of cardio-boxing. Speaking franglais. Not adverse to the odd rave.
On my iPod: Everything from Rammstein to Mika via Pink Floyd and Prodigy, my music taste is best described as eclectic.
Favourite form of relaxation: Watching so-cheesy-it’s-funny movies or reading a good book in front of the fire.
If I were an animal I’d be…: A mountain goat – likes climbing and a kid at heart (heh).
Name: Charlotte (venturer)
DOB: November 1990
Occupation: student to be
Bio: having gap year to make up for the last 6.
Favourite form of relaxation: listening to music.
What’s on your ipod: fall out boy, foo fighters, killers, manic street preachers, hoosiers, mika…
If I was an animal I would be…: a cat (no cliche)
Name: Dan Simmonds (leader)
DOB: Aug 1960
Bio: Grew up in Hertfordshire, joined the Royal Navy at 16. Fireservice at 19. Moved to Scotland in 2001.
Hobbies: Walking, mountain biking, running and motorcycling.
What’s on your ipod: Arcade fire, Air, Pink Floyd, anything Rave/Trance
Favourite form of relaxation: Walking in the hills
If I was an animal I would be…: a mongoose
Name: Hannah (venturer)
Date of Birth: December 1990
Occupation: Student at Hawick High School
Bio: Just moved up from England, and loving the Borders so far, despite the weather.
Hobbies: Dancing and singing around the bedroom, watching endless movies, and making computer graphics.
On my iPod: The Shins, Doves, Coldplay, Sigur Ros, Snow Patrol, Mark Ronson, Kanye West, Foo Fighters, Fightstar and so much more.
Favourite form of relaxation: Snuggled up on the sofa with my water bottle.
If I were an animal I’d be…: a wild horse… running free in the forest… away from all harm.
Name: Jessica (venturer)
Name: Nancy (leader)
Date of Birth: May 1956
Occupation: Paediatric Ocupational Therapist
Bio: Born and brought up on hill farm in Perthshire. Studied in
Edinburgh. Married to Les with two grown up children. Member of Peru
leader team and chief leader on the Norway expedition in 2006.
Hobbies: Hill walking,swimming, keepfit, skiing, reading, travel, meal
at home with good friends
Favourite form of Relaxation: A good hill walk or a gin and a good book
If I was an animal, I’d be…: I would be a golden retriever – not particularly clever but soft and
Name: Rachel (leader)
Date of Birth: February 1985
Occupation: Biology Teacher
Bio: Currently I am working as a Biology Teacher at Jedburgh Grammar School. I have however also been turning my hand to English, Maths, French, Home Economics and Religious Studies! A former Hawick High School pupil,
I graduated from Stirling University in 2006 with a degree in Biology and Education and spent my first year of teaching at Linlithgow Academy. At the moment I’m trying to save up enough money to go to a Film School in Africa so I can make wildlife documentaries. I blame too much Really Wild Show as a child.
Hobbies: Mountain biking and running, although lately it seems I spend more time
washing mud off my bike and trainers than actually using them! On better
days I like taking pictures. Of anything and everything. I also like board
games but have scared everyone off by being far too competitive!
On my iPod: This week, I have mostly been listening to bands beginning with the word “the”. The Kooks, The Feeling, The Magic Numbers, The Fratellis, The Young Knives, The Zutons and The View. Also on my iPod are Razorlight, Franz Ferdinand, Scouting for Girls, Rifles, Frou Frou, Regina Spektor, Angus & Julia Stone, Klaxons, Mystery Jets, Royksopp, Switchfoot and Wallis Bird. To name but a few!
Favourite form of Relaxation: Going out for a run with my iPod. Failing that a bottle of
Grenache never goes wrong! (I had a great Fresh Prince lyric lined up for this answer but, well, Aimee beat me to it.)
If I was an animal, I’d be…: A Raccoon. They have it sorted. Eat for half the year, sleep for the rest! They also have stripy tails. And inspired a cult 80’s cartoon show!
Name: Robbie (venturer)
Date of Birth: November 1991
Occupation: I go to Selkirk High School. Its a strange place.
Bio: I’m Robbie. I love music, my friends, my baby (he’s my dog btw not an actual baby..no, i’m not insane!), and Dave Grohl (mmm). I’ve just forgotten my Bebo password. I think I’ve developed an allergy to my dog. I’m gonna read this later on and just think “why did i write that?” I don’t understand people that like tomatoes in sandwiches – they total ruin them! and i don’t understand people that don’t like cheese. it. is. AMAZING! o yeah and I use that word far too much. Everything is “amazing”. I need new shoes. But not new laces! And now im warbling… my hero is David Attenborough (but I didn’t know how to spell his name haha I had to Google it) and my favourite song is my hero by Foo Fighters.
Hobbies: Moooosic! (playing and listening). Hanging about Selkirk/Gala/Hawick with friends and randoms. and Bebo, sadly. It just becomes kinda ingrained into weekly routine eh?
On my iPod: MUSE! who im just minorly obsessed with. Foo Fighters, Nirvana, Radiohead, Bloc party etc etc + Missy Higgins, Damien Rice, Elliot Smith blah blah blah + dancey stuff too actually…like Mylo, Ddaft Punk, lcd soundsystem, Pendulum, HADOUKEN! *rave* :D:D OH! and u know what I want? did anyone hear The Feeling in the Radio 1 live lounge a little while ago? They did that Kelly Rowland song, Put It In. It was soooooo amazinn! So camp and they were really feelin it. haha so to speak. I’m luvvin snoop dogg’s new song too. s’well gud!
Favourite form of relaxation: cuppa tea + duvet + skins/peep show/love actually
If I were an animal I’d be…: a big blubbery seal! one of them that looks like they’re always smilin away… skimmin though the water, happy as a clam… until a shark comes. but i wouldn’t live in shark infested waters. that’d just be silly.
Name: Ron (leader)
DOB: Once upon a time
Occupation: The instruction of youngish people in the geomorphological scheme of things.
Bio: It makes me itch if it’s the Ariel kind.
Hobbies: A piscatorial waste of time.
What’s on your ipod: A couple of batteries.
Favourite form of relaxation: Three whiskies in a row.
If I was an animal I would be…: A medium sized giraffe that would never eat off the ground because that is when the lions can get them.
Name: Sophie (venturer)
Date of Birth: November 1990
Occupation: Student at Selkirk High School. As disorders go its fairly temporary. And hopefully there won’t be any nasty long term affects.
Bio: It begins on the 10th May. (And some people accuse me of being pessimistic?)
Hobbies: Listening to music on repeat. Walking round in circles. Writing ‘novels’ without any endings. Reading novels without any plotlines. Having conversations I’ve had ten times before for the eleventh time. Having conversations I’ve had eleven times before for the twelfth time. Watching 15 minutes of a film just so I can complain all the way through the next ten minutes. Having to get someone else to explain to me what’s happened in the ten minutes I was talking through. Complaining about that…Really I never get bored. Apart from in the advert breaks. And when somebody else has had the cheek to do the complaining for me. Or when actually it’s not that rubbish a film…
Oh wait – this is supposed to be an ‘outdoor’-y-kind of expedition…
Today, also, I cycled down a hill just so I could cycle up it. Sometimes I walk up even bigger hills just so I can get sore feet walking down the other side.
On my I-pod: It was decided long ago – back when the earth was smaller, colder, slimmer and unbothered by roaming celebrities and those people that complain about other people being politically correct all the time – that I am never to be trusted with any form of technology more complex than a kettle (and I even broke one of them today), least of all a technology that prides itself on being more losable, more breakable, more expensive and more awkward than any other. So I don’t have an i-pod. I have a fluorescent pink CD player. No laughing. It’s been six months and its still working. On my Fluorescent pink CD player (I often play) (in no particular order of embarrassment): Foo fighters, Linkin Park, Razorlight, Amy McDonald, Amy Whinehouse, Snow Patrol, Artic Monkeys, Mika, Evanescence, KT Tunstall etc. etc.
Favourite form of Relaxation: Finding a spot (like the spare room) far, far away from mankind or any other kind that constitutes the human race, and the rest of the world, where I can contemplate what a marvellous thing the human race, and the rest of the world, is, and how I really should make more of an effort to go see it occasionally. While walking round in circles. Listening to music on repeat.
If I were an animal I’d be: …a salmon, that secretly wants to be a butterfly, but knows it’ll never be more than a caterpillar, and more often than not ends up feeling a bit like a slug.
- Geographically, Poland isn’t in Eastern Europe, it’s at the very centre of Europe.
- The most popular Polish dog name is ‘Burek’ which means a brownish grey colour.
- The national symbol of Poland is the white tailed eagle.
- Poland is the 9th biggest country in Europe and the 63rd biggest in the world.
- The Polish alphabet consists of 32 letters.
- After Bulgaria and Romania, Poland is the next poorest country in the EU.
- The co-founder of Marks & Spencer was Polish.
- Marie Curie was Polish.
- Poles drink their tea with lemon, not milk.
- Like the Scots, Poles celebrate St Andrew’s night. For them it is a night of fortune-telling: unmarried girls traditionally pour melted wax into buckets of cold water and search the cloud like shapes formed for clues about their matrimonial prospects.
- Poland is the worlds biggest exporter of dried berries to the USA.
- In Poland there are approx 0.698 priests per 1,000 people. In the UK it is 0.099.
- Poland came last in both the 2003 and 2004 Junior Eurovision Song Contests.
- In 2000, foreigners accounted for only 0.1% of the Polish population. In the UK at that time they accounted for 4% and in Luxembourg a staggering 37.3%.
Poland, or Rzeczpospolita Polska to give it its full name, lies at the heart of Central Europe. To the west it is bordered by Germany, to the south by the Czech Republic and Slovakia, by Belarus and the Ukraine to the East, and in the north the Baltic Sea, Lithuania and Kaliningrad Oblast (a little oupost of Russia in Europe).
It covers an area of 312,683km2 or 120,728 square miles, making it the 69th largest country in the world. It’s population is around 38.5 million, and the majority of this is concentrated in industrial cities.
Poland has had a turbulent history over the years. Although it has some natural protection to the North and South of the country in the form of the Baltic Sea and the Tatra Mountains, to the east and west it’s flat rolling plains have made it an easy target for invading armies on several occasions, and it’s land borders have changed considerably through history.
In the beginning… the first Polish state came into being in 966 and was fairly similar in size and shape to Poland today. It became a kingdom in 1025, then in 1529 united with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to form the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. For the next couple of hundred years, Poland did some invading and appropriation of its own and its borders expanded to make it the largest country in Europe. As a country Poland was proud of it’s nobility, the freedoms of the people and the parliamentary systems it had developed.
The middle…. unfortunately after a good start, things started to go downhill pretty fast! In the mid 17th century Poland was invaded by Sweden and numerous wars with Russia followed. The Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth deteriorated from a major European force into a state of anarchy and the country was controlled by its neighbours. Unable to defend itself in its weaked political and military state, Poland was partitioned which ended up with Poland being entirely erased from the world map, and its land divided up between Russia, Prussia and Austria. Unsurprisingly, the Poles weren’t too happy about the disappearance of the their country and attempted to rebel against their rulers several times. Things began to look a bit better for Poland an 1087 when Napoleon recreated a Polish state, but in 1815 after the Napoleonic wars, Poland was shared out among its neighbours again. Russia got the east of the country, and although it was supposedly a relatively autonomous kingdom, Russia effectively annexed it and reduced the freedoms of the country and its people. During WWI, the Allies decided Poland should be reconstituted, and in 1918 it regained its independence.
The well known bit… WWII. On the 1st September 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland, promptly followed by the Soviet Union who made their invasion on the 17th September, thus Poland was under attack from both East and West. Warsaw fell on the 2nd October 1939, and Poland was again divided into two zones – the eastern provinces under the control of the Soviet Union and the western provinces under German rule.Over 6 million Polish citizens died during WWII – over 20% of the population. And 90% of the fatalities were non-military, largely due to deliberate actions taken by the Germans and Soviets. At the end of the war, Poland’s land borders were shifted westwards, and the country emerged 20% smaller than it had previously been, forcing the migration of millions of people. During the war, Poland was the location of the main Nazi death camps, and during the holocaust, 3,000,000 out of 3,300,000 Polish Jews were killed.
More recently… after WWII, the Soviet Union instituted a communist government in Poland. Conditions were notoriously poor across most of the Eastern Bloc. There were chronic shortages of food and material good, poverty was rife, and draconian government and abuse common. Communist oppression persisted into the 1980s, but resistance was growing. The shipyards of Gdansk and Gdynia were the birthplace of and independent trade union ‘Solidarnosc’ (Solidarity) which grew in strength and became a political force in its own right. In 1989, it triumphed in parliamentary elections and overthrew the Communist Party.
Present day politics… Poland has undergone enormous changes since Solidarity and the fall of Communism. Huge changes have taken place in industry, tourism, education and more fundamental areas such as human rights and free speech. Currently Poland defines itself as a liberal democracy, with a President as head of state. It’s government is centred around the Council of Ministers which is lead by the Prime Minister. The current Prime minister is Jaroslaw Kaczynski and the president, his identical twin brother Lech Kaczynski (no I’m not making this up!!!), although recent political scandals have unsettled the government and interim elections are likely. Poland joined the EU in May 2005, and is currently undergoing economic reforms to enable it to adopt the Euro to replace the zloty as its national currency in 2012/2013.