Poland (Polish: Polska), is a country in Central Europe with a rich and eventful history, colourful heritage reflected in the variety of monuments from different periods and very varied landscape, extending from the long Baltic Sea coastline in the north to the Tatra Mountains in the south. In between you will find lush primeval forests featuring fascinating species of animals including bisons in Białowieża; beautiful lakes and rivers ideally suitable for various watersports, the best known of which are in Warmińsko-Mazurskie; rolling hills; flat plains; and even deserts. Among Poland's cities you can find the perfectly preserved Gothic old town of Toruń, Hanseatic heritage in Gdańsk and evidence of the 19th-century industrial boom in Łódź.\nWhile today Poland has a very homogenous society in terms of ethnicity, language and religion, over the centuries (when the erstwhile Republics of Poland encompassed a much different territory than today) it had been a very multi-cultural and ethnically varied country, for a period known as Europe's most religiously tolerant. In particular, Poland held Europe's largest Jewish population, which has been all but wiped out by the events of World War II, yet the immense heritage remains. Poland's western regions, including large parts of Lower Silesia, Lubuskie and Zachodniopomorskie, as well as other regions, have been parts of neighbouring Germany at different periods of time. The natural border of mountain ridges separating Poland from its southern neighbours the Czech Republic and Slovakia did not stop the cultural influence (and periodic warring). Towards the east, today's Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine have centuries ago formed a continuum within a single political entity, and the cultural evidence of it can be found closer to the present-day borders. Lastly, while Poland now only shares only a small strip of border with Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast in the former's northeastern corner, the entire eastern half of Poland used to be controlled by the Russian Empire, leaving behind many traces in both culture and built heritage.\nDespite losing a third of its population, including a disproportionally large part of its elites, in World War II, and suffering many economic setbacks as a Soviet satellite state afterwards, Poland in many ways flourished culturally in the 20th century. Paving the way for its fellow Soviet-block states, Poland had a painful transition to democracy and capitalism in the late 1980s and 90s. In the new millennium, Poland joined the European Union and has enjoyed continuous economic growth unlike any other EU country. This has allowed it to markedly improve its infrastructure and had a profound effect on its society, who again became quite cosmopolitan but remained as hospitable as it has traditionally been. Creative and enterprising, Poles continually come up with various ideas for events and festivals, and new buildings and institutions spring up almost before your eyes, so that every time you come back, you are bound to discover something new.