Poles kick off summer season with long May weekend

Poland's bigger towns and cities where virtually deserted this week as the country kicked off the summer season with a customary long May weekend. Throughout the many decades of Communist rule, Poles celebrated May 1 with parades, picnics and concerts. Today, just like in most countries in Europe, it remains a national holiday but one on which Poles relax away from home.

With May 2 designated as Flag Day and May 3 Constitution Day, three state holidays usually fall close to the weekend, and it has become customary for many a Pole to bridge the gap by taking one or two days of leave, and create a long leisurely May weekend.

This year the long weekend can become a 9-day holidays for those who were clever enough to take just 3 days of leave in between the public holidays. So, what are Poles going to do with this time?

"Usually I go to the Mazury region, to start the yachting season. I take a yacht with my friends and we set sail. It's the best place in Poland for sailing. There is a long way from Wegorzewo to Ruciana Nida, where you can just take a yacht and sail. But unfortunately this year I have to stay at work."

"Usually at long weekends I spend my time at home or close to home. I work in Warsaw but I am from the Warmia and Mazury region, which is a region of many lakes and there are a lot of tourists every year, so being at home is like being on vacation. I don't practice any organized long journeys, I like to relax, read books, spend time with my wife and my little children. My family miss me when I am at work, so the long weekend is a time for them."

Nearly a quarter of Poles leave home for the long May weekend and may spend as much as 4 billion zloty, that is 1 billion EURO on tourist attractions. It is most often the younger generation, aged 18 to 29, who choose not to spend these days at home.

So, the May weekend is a time of great profit for the tourist industry. Six million Poles decide to travel somewhere within Poland and over 800 thousand is going abroad. Magdalena Bialek of the Agenda tourist agency in Poznan:

"Most often Poles choose Greece, especially Crete, but also Tunisia, Egypt and Majorca. However, this year probably the most popular destination is Turkey, because of good prices. I think the weather is going to be OK, this year."

To relax effectively, you have to make sure that you stay away from the types of exercise that you do normally at work, advises psychologist Magdalena Szwarc-Gajewska:

"For example, if someone is a physical worker, they should try to find some time for intellectual exercise - reading, or thinking - to change the type of activity from physical to intellectual. And if someone is a white collar worker, he should find time to relax by doing some physical activities. This helps us restore our powers."

However, the weather this year does not seem to be good for holiday makers. Temperatures, recently as high as +25 degrees Celsius, now dropped to between +10 and +15, which can at least be some sort of consolation for the 67% of Poles, who for some reason, decided to stay at home anyway.