Poland is situated in Central Europe. It has an area of 311,900 square kilometres of which 60% is used for agricultural purposes and 28% is covered by forests. Poland borders Russia, Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine in the north and east, the Czech and Slovak Republics in the south and Germany in the west. Its borders extend for close to 3,600 kilometres, including 530 kilometres on the Baltic Sea. Poland's capital, Warsaw, is inhabited by 1.9 mln people. Along with Warsaw, Cracow, Lodz, Gdansk - the largest port, Poznan, Katowice and Wroclaw are Poland's largest cities. Poland is mainly a lowland area with 75% of land less than 200 meters above sea level. The countryside is neverthless varied: with lake regions, forests and mountains. Poland's highest peak, Rysy, in the Tatra mountains, rises 2,499 meters above sea level. The Vistula, Poland's longest river, measures 1,080 kilometres. The second longest, the Odra (850 kilometres) flows along Poland's border with Germany. Both rivers are used as transport routes. Poland's climate is prone to abrupt changes during the seasons and from year to year Average temperatures range from -5C to 0C in January to 17C - 20C in July, with minimum and maximum temperatures ranging from -20C to 35C. The average rainfall amounts to 600 millimetres per year, predominantly in the summer months. Poland is in the Central European time zone and is thus one hour ahead of standard GMI: It switches to daylight saving time between April and October.

At the end of 1997 Poland ranked 8th in Europe by size of population with a total 38.6 million people, 51% of which are women. Over 98% of the population are ethnic Poles. Over 62% live in towns. Poland's workforce is one of the youngest in Europe with about 60% under the age of 40 in 1996 (approx. 23 mln). The vast majority (90%) of Poles are Roman Catholics. Polish is the official language, but most educated Poles speak one or more additional languages.

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