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Submitted by Marcin Bąk on Thu, 12/19/2019 - 08:36

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During the days of communism, individual, foreign holiday trips were very difficult to come by, and it was only during the Gierek period (1970-1980) that the average Kowalski had an opportunity to leave the country. It was then, according to the authorities of the time, that "Poland opened up to the world". Due to the new opportunities for travel, thousands of Poles made efforts to obtain a passport and pursue such valuable and hard to get dollars, or any other convertible currency. They also tried to obtain foreign maps, road atlases and guides, without which independent travel was impossible.

In addition to their recreational value, trips abroad, whether to countries in the Soviet Bloc or the West, were in many cases economic in nature. Trade tourism of those times allowed one not only to pay for holidays, but could also be a significant source of income for a household budget. The most popular holiday destinations were Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary.


Looking at Polish tourism and its various aspects in the 20th century, one should pay attention to the tradition and approach of the Polish society to spending free time. Before World War II, rest was usually taken by representatives of the upper class, intelligentsia and liberal professions. For the majority of labourers and farmers, there was only room for work and holyday celebrations in any one year.

The latter were mainly associated with feasting or other traditional activities associated with them, and not with rest from work, which makes it difficult to classify them as ways of spending one's free time. In addition, doing nothing was socially condemned, and leaving one's village or town to see "the world" or to contemplate the wonders of nature was a rarity for the representatives of the lower classes of the time. In addition to providing childcare during school holidays, this had a pragmatic effect, as children, apart from playing, also helped with various types of farm work.

According to the authorities, post-war Polish tourism was supposed to be of a general and mass character. It was strongly linked with ideology and state propaganda. Employee trips were to have a cultural and educational character and were to be combined with courses and training, such as holiday courses or social camps. Up to the 1960s, the majority of employee trips were highly centralised, partly financed from the Employee Holiday Fund (FWP) or from company funds. At that time, the main holiday destinations comprised FWP holiday resorts, which were characterised by a number of imposed unquestionable conditions concerning many elements, such as portions of prepared meals or the repertoire of attractions. Membership in the Polish Tourist and Sightseeing Society provided another form for enjoying tourism.

Employees often faced a problem of obtaining holiday leave at the same time as their spouses, or were sent on holiday with complete strangers. It should be noted that at that time, most people could only dream of a foreign holiday because of the high requirements placed on candidates, especially those relating to the possible threat of staying abroad. It was not until the 1960s that the international movement, directed mainly to the socialist countries, began to increase slightly, but it did not have such an important character for social awareness as the one during the Gierek period.

The 1970s saw a breakthrough in individual family tourism, when more and more people could afford to buy a car and annual holidays became a popular undertaking. The availability of own transport broadened the tourist horizons of Poles. Renting private accommodation became popular, as well as the use of a base of campsites to which families came in a Maluch  (Fiat 126p) towing a trailer.