The Polish city Olsztyn is the kind of chocolate-box town you would expect to find in an old children’s fairytale book – all carved steeples and painted houses, set around vast cobbled squares. But beneath its beautiful façade, Olsztyn conceals an extraordinary and brutal history. Formerly known as Allenstein, it was under the control of the Kingdom of East Prussia and then the Russian Empire, before becoming one of the first cities to be occupied by the Germans during the Second World War. Today, Olsztyn is one of the largest cities in Poland and undergoing an economic revival as a result of its new-found tourist appeal. But expats living in Olsztyn will nevertheless find it difficult to dismiss the past – its history is everywhere, from the Old Town, with its Market Square, the City Hall and the Upper Gate, to the 14th century Gothic castle of the Bishopric of Warmia. Get a head start by researching the city before you move, and enjoy living in one of the most fascinating and picturesque places in East Europe.
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Olsztyn is located in the northeast of Poland, approximately 130 miles north of Warsaw, and just a few miles west of the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad Oblast. The nearest airport is the Frederic Chopin airport outside Warsaw, so expats moving to Olsztyn from anywhere other than the immediate area should prepare for a reasonably long journey to their new home. For any expatriate who is unfamiliar with Polish life, moving to Olsztyn will be a bit of a culture shock – unlike Warsaw and Krakow, Olsztyn is still very much a traditional Polish city, although its expat community is on the rise. Familiarize yourself with Polish cuisine before you leave, and learn as much Polish as possible to help you get by. For more details on what to expect from life in Poland, get in touch with other expats living in Olsztyn or in other parts of Poland through the InterNations forums and discussion groups.
Olsztyn has a well-serviced bus network, but expatriates in Olsztyn may find it helpful to have access to a car or a bicycle. With a car, you can use the weekends to take advantage of the stunning lakes which surround Olsztyn, although you may find it quicker to get around the cobbled city center by foot during the day. Since Poland joined the EU, global corporations have flocked to set up in Polish cities, and the tire firm Michelin has become one of the single largest employers in Olsztyn. As a result, many Polish employees have worked with English-speaking expats in the past, and will speak at least a few words of English. It is nevertheless highly advised that anyone planning on working in Olsztyn learns as much Polish as they can before they leave. For tips on picking up new languages quickly, read Expat Magazine or join in with the InterNations discussion groups and forums.