I was born, raised and educated in Poland, so there's not much any foreign travel writer could teach me about the place. I read books like Michael Moran's A Country in the Moon: Travels in Search for the Heart of Poland for reasons different than most of the English-speaking audience. I don't want to learn about Poland, I want to study an outsider's perception of Poland. Inevitably, I mentally warn each author: I know what you're talking about, so you better watch out...
Some writings about Poland drive me up the wall. Poland is NOT all about the Pope. Poland is NOT all vigorously Catholic, nor is it unanimously jubilant about the free market. Not all Polish women are blondes and we're not as fond of cavalry charges against tanks as the rumour would have us - in fact, there are hardly any horses left on Polish fields.
Compared to all the rubbish written about Poland and the Poles in the foreign media, A Country in the Moon actually looks good. Moran has lived in Poland for many years and took time to get properly acquainted with the country, its history, customs and character. He explores Polish literature, music, architecture, cinema, politics, traditions, sounding really sympathetic and appreciative most of the time. He did not make a single spelling mistake in Polish place names and phrases - an accomplishment that none other foreign writer about Poland (that I know of) managed to achieve. Overall - a friendly and well research account of how Poland once was.
Oh yes. There's not much of contemporary Poland in A Country in the Moon, and what's there doesn't really match what I remember. The book is full of dusty anecdotes about Polish nobility from years ago, of glorious past of sparkling carriages and romantic poets. Sure, that's part of our heritage, the picture it paints is mightily enchanting and deserves better publicity, but does it represent the country as it is now?
Still, Moran's book reads well, is accurate in its intended scope and has some potential to improve Poland's image on the international stage. Good enough for me.