Mazovia is situated in central-eastern Poland and is known as the country’s heartland. There are over eighty cities and large towns in the region and Warsaw reflects its rich and turbulent history in a stunning medley of historical buildings, the Socialist Realist architecture of the communist era and all the features of a contemporary urban landscape, including thoroughly modern skyscrapers.
At the same time, the sweeping Puszcza Kampinoska (Kampinos Forest) lies a mere twenty kilometres from the centre of the capital. Of all the regions of Poland, Mazovia is undoubtedly the most popular amongst filmmakers. Though it has no shortage of interesting sites, a key factor is the proximity to Warsaw and its many production companies, including the renowned Documentary and Feature Film Production Company (Wytwórnia Filmów Dokumentalnych i Fabularnych). All the national film institutions are based in Warsaw, as is the greater part of Poland’s film industry and her broadcasting companies.
The Mazovia region is dominated by flat lowlands, but also abounds in a variety of moraine hills, river valleys and sand dunes situated along the Vistula and Bug rivers and in the Równina Kurpiowska (Kurpie Lowland). The stretches along the Vistula River between the towns of Wyszogród and Płock are essentially wild, while the river itself is studded with islands which have become a habitat for rare species of birds. Although the region is not over-endowed with forests, several extensive forested areas apart from the Puszcza Kampinoska are worth noting, namely, the Puszcza Kurpiowska (Kurpie Forest), Puszcza Biała (Biała Forest) and Puszcza Kozienicka (Kozienice Forest).
However, Mazovia is also very much a land of rural areas, farms and smallholdings and its picturesque landscape reflects the many uses to which the fertile land is put in a glorious mosaic of ancient and modern crop cultivation techniques and sprawling orchards of an expanse rarely encountered across Europe.
Warsaw is home to the region’s greatest number of historical sites, the most prized of which are the Old Town, the Wilanów and Łazienki palace and park complexes and the Trakt Królewski (Royal Route), which is lined with numerous palaces, mansions and Baroque churches. The Old Town, which was razed to the ground during World War II and afterwards painstakingly reconstructed, has been granted the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city’s parks, gardens and open spaces make up twenty-one per cent of its total area.
Beyond the capital, Płock is famous for the complex of buildings featuring castle ruins and a Renaissance cathedral which stand on Wzgórze Tumskie (Tumski Hill). Gothic and Renaissance castles can be found in Czersk, Ciechanów, Liw, and Szydłowiec, as can well-preserved castle ruins. Some of the region’s most spectacular palaces are located in Stara Wieś, Jadwisin, Nieborów, and Teresin. The most beautiful of the dozens of manors in Mazovia are to be found in Chlewiska, Sucha and Czarnolas.
The town of Modlin is home to a fascinating example of military architecture; a fortress built by Napoleon. It was occupied and expanded by various armies; first the French, then the Russians, followed by the Germans and, finally, the Poles. As a result, it is now one of Europe’s largest and best-preserved military strongholds.