Mazovia lies in the very middle of Poland and is the heart of the country. One of the first lands to be incorporated in the Piast territory in Poland's beginnings, the historical Mazovian duchy was an independent domain from 1138 to 1526, and for a lot of that time it served as a battlefield for different forces. At the turn of the 17th century, Warsaw became Poland's capital, but there was no lasting peace: Swedish wars, insurrections, and then two world wars left their marks on the region.
Mazovia—like the whole of Poland—is full of polarities. The flourishing capital city of Warsaw and revitalized, fashionable Łódź contrast with underdeveloped, traditional agricultural regions, sleepy little villages, historical palaces, and churches in the smaller and less densely populated regions.
Some of the most interesting sights within easy reach of Warsaw include Chopin's birthplace at Żelazowa Wola; the Radziwiłł country estate, which encompasses a palace and two wonderful parks at Nieborów and Arkadia; and Kampinoski National Park. Łowicz, with its colorful folk traditions, can be visited as a day trip from Warsaw. Better still, it can be a stop en route to Łódź, and on the way you can see the magnificent Tum basilica.
If you have a bit more time, why not go a bit further east, into Podlasie (near the border with Belarus); a mere 2½-hour ride by train or by car. There you will find unspoiled nature and heartwarming hospitality in a still largely undiscovered, surprising corner of Europe.