Long overlooked by travelers to Europe, Poland has found its place on the maps of countless explorers. One thousand years of history stand behind its vibrant and diverse cities. Founded as a kingdom in 1025, it was closely tied to Lithuania for more than 700 years. The nation benefited greatly from the mercantile trade of the late medieval and Renaissance periods, erecting great trading halls and burgher houses that still stand today. In the late 18th century, Prussia, Russia and Austria moved in to divide Poland among themselves; the close of World War I gave it back its independence. Later, Poland found itself in the middle of World War II. Monuments and memorials to this turbulent period are everywhere—not the least in Warsaw, where architects and craftsmen rebuilt the ravaged Old Town to mirror its glorious original. Today, the nation is an inviting mix of rolling hills reminiscent of Tuscany; hilltop castles where kings and Teutonic Knights once held sway; modern-day cities preserving their past in delightful Old Towns; and the slow and mesmerizing flow of the Vistula River. Come mealtime, Polish cuisine is hearty and simple and drawn from the earth; even the dumplings are filling here, stuffed with potato and perhaps cheese.