A map of Poland Much of Poland is low-lying and agricultural. The northern coast is flat and features sand dunes, spits and lagoons. Inland lie low hills and the lake districts of Masuria (Mazury) and Pomerania (Pomorze). The remnants of an ancient forest that once stretched across the whole of central Europe still grow here. South of the Vistula (Wisla) and Oder (Odra) valleys the land rises to the Tatra Mountains (part of the Carpathian range) in the southeast and the Sudeten in the southwest. Poland has a temperate climate: winters are cold, while summers are mild. Poland has a long history of invasion and occupation by its neighbours, and its borders have been redrawn many times. Ruled by the Communist Soviet Union for 45 years, Poland became an independent democratic republic in 1990.
Over half of Poles live in cities or towns, including the capital, Warsaw, Lódz, Wroclaw, Poznan, the university city of Krakow and the port city of Gdansk. During World War II, so many people perished or fled the country that Poland’s population actually fell by about 9 million. The ethnic make-up of Poland (almost entirely native Polish) has remained mostly unchanged, although today there are small numbers of immigrants from Germany, Ukraine and Belarus. The Roman Catholic church remains central to Polish life: around 90% of Poles follow the religion.
There are estimated to be over 9000 lakes in Poland. Lakes make up around 1% of the country’s total area.
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