The country is largely low-lying, except in the south, which includes the Carpathians, the Sudeten Mts., and the Małopolska Hills. The highest point is Rysy Mt. (c.8,200 ft/2,500 m), located in the High Tatra Mts. near the Slovakian border. Poland's main rivers (including the Vistula, the Oder, the Warta, and the Western Bug) are connected to the Baltic Sea and are important traffic lanes. The country has three important Baltic ports (Gdańsk, Gdynia, and Szczecin) and a dense rail network. There are many lakes, especially in the north. About 40% of Poland's land area is arable (with the best soil in the south), and about 30% is forested.
In addition to the capital and important ports, the country's major cities include Białystok, Bydgoszcz, Bytom, Częstochowa, Gdańsk, Gliwice, Katowice, Kraków, Łódź, Lublin, Poznań, Radom, Tarnowskie Góry, and Wrocław.
As a result of World War II, of the 1945 boundary treaty with the USSR, and of the emigration of most of the German-speaking population, the country has considerable ethnic homogeneity. Nearly the entire population is Polish-speaking and the vast majority of those affiliated with any creed are Roman Catholic.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.