We would like to tempt you to spend an attractive holiday in Northeast Poland. This is intended especially for those who enjoy an active holiday: for those who like water sports, or close contact with nature, and for those who are looking for peace and quiet, for everything that can bring perfect regeneration of psychic and physical powers.
Northeast Poland is an area with many lakes and rivers, offering splendid conditions for sailing, wind surfing, canoeing, and water skiing. Amateur fishermen will find many smaller lakes and rivers teeming with various kinds of fish: eels, bream, perch, European catfish, crucian carp, burbot, bleak and much sought-after members of the salmon family, the lavaret and European whitefish.
Many Polish touroperators organise hunting expeditions in the extensive forests and woods, and also offer photo-safaris for nature lovers, and for bird-watchers the chance to observe many species of birds in their natural habitat. Many rare animals and birds can be found here (elk, roe-deer, European bison, foxes, beavers, wolves, lynx, cormorants, swans, grey herons, cranes, ruffs, double snipe, and wood grouse). The most important areas from the viewpoint of the natural environment are protected in numerous nature reserves and three scenic parks.
In Northeast Poland, they offer you holidays in fully furnished holiday chalets in the Szczytno region; summer and winter holidays at Mragowo; canoeing down the Krutynia river; boat trips through the mazurian lakes and the Elblag Canal; pleasure cruises on the Vistula Bay, with visits to the most interesting ports; excursions to the most attractive towns of the region; picnics, camp-fire excursions and britzka rides; visits to nature reserves and stud farms; arrangements to hire motor boats, sailing boats, canoes and ice-boats.
Although the wonderful scenery and natural environment bring most people to Northeast Poland for summer holidays, the region is equally attractive in other seasons of the year. In autumn, there is the hunting season and the opportunity to pick fruit and mushrooms in the woods. And in winter, when the smooth surface of the lakes is covered with ice, and a thick carpet of snow lies on the ground, there are excellent conditions here for ice-boating, skating and cross-country skiing. A few years ago the region hosted the world ice-boating championships and an international sailing competition, and, in 1984, also a great skating marathon, in which Dutch skaters took part.
In addition to the natural splendours of the region, you can also find here magnificent historic buildings, museums, and other sites linked with major historical events. There are also interesting cultural events organised here: the Festival of Sung Poetry at Olsztyn in July; the International Ballroom dancing Competition at Olsztyn in May; the "Country Picnic" which has already become a tradition at Mragowo in August; and many other folk and musical performances.
The Northeast region of Poland is very popular with foreign tourists, many of whom visit it each year.
The Polish lake district stretches in a long belt from the Vistula valley in the West to the Soviet border in the North and East. To the South the region borders on the Podlasie Plain and Mazovian Plain.
Indeed, the whole of Northeast Poland could without exaggeration be described as one great lake district, although it is subdivided into smaller units, each with its own scenic features. The changing relief of the land contours, the astonishing variety of the forms, the multiplicity of hills, ridges, depressions which are often prelate in shape - all this has been left by the last period of glaciation in Polish territory. These are forms which are still relatively young and have not been much eroded by later processes. The best preserved post-glacial relief contours can be found to the North of Suwalki, in the area of the Suwalki Scenic Park.
The second typical element in the scenery of this district are the lakes, which are also relics of the Scandinavian glacier. There are more than 3,000 of them, and half have a surface area of more than one hectare. They are usually beautifully set among hills and forests, like jewels against a dark green mounting. They are extremely varied in shape, their shore broken up by a multitude of inlets and peninsulas. Gully lakes are very common, filling the elongated depressions that were washed out by the glacial waters. Lakes of this kind, and in particular the large lakes of the Great Mazurian Lake District, are especially popular among sailors. Many of the lakes are linked by rivers and canals to form a whole system of water routes that offer superb conditions for water sports and holidays.
They are not, of course, spread evenly over the area. The major districts are: the Ilawa-Ostroda Lake District; the Brodnica Lake District; the Olsztyn Lake District; the Great Mazurian Lake District, the Elk Lake District, and the Suwalki lake District.
Forests form a third important in the make-up of the scenery of this part of the world; there are coniferous and mixed forests, containing a wide variety of types of trees. There are three principal dense and extensive forest areas: the Pisz Forest, the Augustow Forest, and the forests which lie between Olszynek and Szczytno. The beautiful Romincka Forest which reminds one of the Siberian taiga, the Borecka Forest and the wonderful woods in the Ilawa-Ostroda Lake District are all much smaller wooded areas.
These forest, lakes and hills combine to provide scenery of great charm, which is never monotonous, and indeed is always surprising in its veriety. At every step, the beauty of nature is evident here, in a form which has been little changed by the activities of man.
From ancient times until the early Middle Ages, the region was inhabited by the tribes of Prussians and Jatzvingians, who gradually came to present a growing threat to the area of Mazovia. It was for this reason that in the first half of 13th century, prince Conrad of Mazovia invited here the Order of Teutonic Knights, with their characteristic white robes and black crosses. Under the guise of a campaign to convert the heathen, the shortly began a bloody conquest of the Prussian and Jatzvingian areas, which was to last until the end of the century. A powerful religious state with its headquarters at Malbork was thereafter set up on the territories that the Knights had thus won. At the same time, many newcomers from the Chelmno, Mazovia and Podlasie areas came here to settle. The eastern part of the region, which had been almost entirely depopulated by the activities of the Teutonic Knights, was to be covered with forest for several centuries.
The battle of Grunwald, fought in 1410 between the Teutonic Knights and the joint armies of Poland, Lithuania and Rus, under the command of the Polish king, Ladislaus Jagiello, was of major significance for the history of the region. The defeat which the Teutonic Knights suffered at Grunwald marked the beginning of the fall of one of Poland's most dangerous enemies. From this time on, anti-Teutonic sentiments increased, and led to the outbreak of an uprising and a further war between Poland and the Order. Under the terms of the Treaty of Torun (1466) which concluded this war, the historic region of Warmia became part of Poland. The last war with the Teutonic Order lasted from 1519 to 1521, and finally in 1525 Albrecht Hohenzollern paid homage at Cracow to the King of Poland, Sigismund I the old, and the Knight religious state became a secular unit.
From the second half of the 16th century until the third partition of Poland in 1795, the bishopric of Warmia remained in Polish hands, while Ducal Prussia passed to the rule of the Hohenzollernes of Brandenburg. After the Peace of Torun, Polish settlers began to make their way into Mazuria. From the early 18th century, Polish settlement was restricted by an order of the King of Prussia, but nonetheless the Polish element in the population remained predominant for many years to come, especially in the countryside. After the first partition in 1772, Warmia was also absorbed into the Prussian state. Various measures were thereafter taken by the partitioning power to increase Germanisation; these affected in the instance the teaching of the Polish language in schools, and the saying of mass in Polish.
The second half of the 19th century was a period of particularly strong attempts at Germanisation, although the large numbers of the Polish population, and the resilience of national traditions reinforced by the activities of a large number of social and cultural organisations, considerably reduced the effectiveness of this campaign. In this period, Olsztyn, Elk and Gizycko were the main centres of Polish nationalism, and the greatest services in the cause of a Polish Warmia and Mazuria were performed by Krzysztof Celestyn Mrongowiusz, Gustaw Gizewiusz, Wojciech Ketrzynski and the Pieniezny family.
During the First World War, a great battle was fought near Olsztynek between the German forces and the army commanded by the tsarist general Samsonov. In 1920, a plebiscite was held in Warmia and Mazuria, as a result of which these areas remained part of Germany, although the Suwalki and Augustow regions were within the Polish frontiers from 1918. In the inter-war period there was renewed enthusiasm for the organisation of activities of social, cultural and economic associations which were fighting to ensure that the local population retained its Polish character. During the second world war, leading Polish activists were persecuted, and the majority were killed in concentration camps and prisons. The Soviet army liberated these territories during the first months of 1945.
After the major war damage suffered by he region, it has been completely rebuilt and is undergoing an economic revival. Many of the towns have become major industrial centres, and agriculture produces good results, despite the fact that soil and climatic conditions are not ideal. And alongside these developments, tourism has also played an important role, making use of the unique scenic and holiday possibilities of the lake district region.
Polish travel agencies offer you a holiday in this small town, lying in varied countryside, between two lakes, Czos and Juno. The surface area of the former is c. 280 hectares, and of the latter c. 380 hectares; they are c. 40 metres deep. Their banks are mainly high and are not forested. Both of these lakes provide - as do others in the area like lakes Kiersztanowskie, Lampackie, Juksty, Salet and Pilakno - excellent conditions for water sports. Mragowo is also a good starting point for trips to the largest mazurian lakes, and to the beautiful and extensive Pisz Forest.
This has 206 comfortably furnished double rooms with bathroom, and four two-room suites. In addition, there are eight bungalows, each for four guests. There are two restaurants in the hotel, the Blekitna and the Carmen, and an aperitif bar, a club, a disco, a hairdressing and beauty parlour, an art gallery, a shop, a swimming pool, a solarium, a sauna and a gymnasium.
The "Orbis-Mrongowia" Hotel can offer you an active holiday al the year round. There is a bathing beach and a point where water sports equipment (rowing boats, sailing boats, canoes, water bicycles, wind-surfing boards) can be hired on the lake. There are also tennis courts, courts for team games, a squash hall, a mini-golf course, a marked jogging footpath through the grounds, and a playground for children. In the summer and autumn the opportunities offered for horse-riding provide a special attraction, and there are also britzka rides and in winter, excursions on horse-drawn sleighs, ending with a campfire and roast sausage (a "kulig"). Those who are interested in cross-country skiing, skating and ice-boating will find splendid conditions here. A skating rink and ski lift are provided for guests, and equipment for winter sports can be hired; there are four marked skiing routes. A three-day skiing excursion is organised from the hotel, covering picturesque routes through the forests, and including many extra attractions. The "Orbis-Mrongowia" hotel organises an excursion to Swieta Lipka (to visit the basilica and attend an organ concert); and to Gierloz (to visit the ruins of Hitler's bunker); and there is also a boat trip through the Mazurian lakes.
This is one of the most attractive and beautiful tourist areas in Poland. One fifth of the whole surface area of the region is covered by lakes, which are inter-linked by rivers and canals to form an extensive, branching water route system. These lakes are situated in widely varied countryside, and their banks are full of inlets and peninsulas, islands, and sometimes surrounded by forests.
Two of the largest Polish lakes are in the Mazurian region: Sniadrwy (surface area of 109.7 sq.km., depth of up to 17 m.) and Mamry (surface area of the whole complex is 102 sq. km., while Lake Mamry proper has a surface of almost 27.1 sq. km. and a depth of up to 44 m.). There are several other fairly large lakes: Niegocin (26 sq. km.), Nidzkie (18.3 sq. km.), Talty (11.6 sq. km.), Beldany (9.4 sq. km.), Jagodne ( 9.4 sq. km.), Dejguny (7.6 sq. km.) and several dozen smaller ones.
Thousands of tourists come here every year, as do those who want to practice water sports and angling and those who like to spend their holidays near water. There are excellent conditions here for sailing, rowing and canoeing; fishing conditions are ideal; and in winter those who enjoy ice-boating and skating will find the lakes covered with long stretches of smooth ice. Boat trips are a great attraction. These take you through the most picturesque sports and to all major towns on the banks of the lakes. In the season the larger towns and holiday resorts become crowded tourists centres. For years, Gizycko, Mikolajki, Mragowo, Ruciane-Nida, Ryn, Wegorzewo, Wilkasy and Zgon have been always popular.
The most beautiful and most popular canoeing route in Poland begins at Sorkwity on lake Lampackie (West of Mragowo) and ends on Lake Beldany (a bay of Lake Sniadrwy). The whole route is 91 km. long and the greater part of it is through the waters of fifteen lakes. The little rivers that link the lakes are winding and often run through forests, especially the Krutynia, giving the impression of passing through a splendid green tunnel. We invite you to make a canoe trip along this lovely route. The area is a protected reserve, lying within the Mazurian Scenic Park, which covers several large lakes and beautiful forests. There are the woods of the Pisz forest, which covers almost 1000 sq. km. Wonderful pine woods, with an admixture of spruce and deciduous trees form a dense complex stretching between Pisz, Szczytno and Mragowo. The thick undergrowth provides plenty of opportunities for picking berries and mushrooms. The area of the forest is broken up by the beautiful lakes which fill the post-glacial gullies.
Lake Nidzkie (18 sq. km.) is the largest of them, lying in the very heart of the Pisz Forest, and there are many centres for holidays and water sports on its banks.
Until a few decades ago, relatively little was known about these tribes, who like the Lithuanians, were part of the balt group of peoples although archaeological excavations have provided much valuable evidence, the history of the Jatzvingians is still full of secrets and mysteries. They have left few clues behind: only a few dozen ruins, burial grounds and...the names of a few places and lakes. Today the Suwalki Lake District is rightly famed as an area of wonderful scenery, the most important parts of which are preserved within the territory of two scenic parks: the Suwalki and Wigry Scenic Parks. The first of these lies to the North of Suwalki and is in a way a miniature lake district. The most widely varied forms of postglacial landscape relief compose a harmonious whole with luxuriant nature, in which are studded charming lakes with the clearest of water. We can also find here traces of the Jatzvingians. The ruined fortified settlement on the banks of lake Szurpily constitutes, according to the archaeologists, the remains of the most important settlement of this tribe. Nearby one can see the intriguing regular talus called Cisowa Gora, which tourists have christened the "Polish Fujiyama". On Lake Hancza, at the mouth of the Czarna Hancza river, there is an astonishing view: a large area over which thousands of erratic boulders have been scattered by glaciation. During the last war, stones from here were used to build Hitler's bunker at Gierloz. Suwalki is the largest town in the area, and is a convenient centre for visiting Lake Wigry and other areas of the Suwalki Lake District. Lake Wigry (21.7 sq. km., depth of up to 73 m.), which has a very interesting shore lines within the Wigry Scenic Park. There are many holiday and sailing centres on its shores (Stary Folwark, Gawrychruda). A beautiful canoeing route along the Czarna Hancza river begins here. Further East, there is the small town of Sejny with a late baroque monastery built by the Dominicans, and the vicinity has many picturesquely situated lakes.
The Augustow Forest is one of the largest forest complexes in Poland, with an area of nearly 1000 sq. km. It stretches from the border with the Lithuania in the East to a line drawn between Suwalki and Augustow; in the North it goes up to the shores of Lake Wigry; and in the South it runs to the Biebrza river. This is the remains of the ancient forests which once covered this area and stretched into Lithuania. The trees are mainly pines, which sometimes are of impressive size and age. The forest undergrowth is luxuriant and there are many species of animals, birds and insects. resinous trees create a healthy microclimate, and the air here is very clean - indeed, research has shown that it is the cleanest in Europe. The most interesting parts of the natural environment are protected in reserves.
The forests of the region provide a wonderful setting for the many lakes. The group of Augustow lakes are among the most beautiful, and attract many water sports enthusiasts, especially sailors and canoeists. There is a landing stage at Augustow for the excursion boats making trips on the lakes and the Augustow Canal. The letter was built in the first half to the 19th century, and is 82 km. long within the birders of Poland, with eighteen locks to deal with differences in water level. The Augustow Canal was designed and built by General Ignacy Pradzynski, and is an out standing monument to Polish technological skills.
The Augustow forest is cut through by the Czarna Hancza river, which provides one of the most popular canoeing routes. From Lake Wigry to Augustow (the last part of the route is on the Augustow Canal), it is c. 120 km. long.
To the South - West of Augustow there is the small town of Rajgrod (on the picturesque Rajgrodzkie Lake). Nearby are extensive areas of marsh, which has been partly drained, but where rare wildlife can still be found; for example, one can see here elk, and black cock, wood grouse, black storks and many other species of water fowl. This area is often visited by nature lovers, on "photo-safari" trips.
This small area lies in the neighbourhood of two large towns on the banks of the Vistula; Torun and Grudziadz; and there are two lake districts here: the Chelmno and Brodnica Districts. Although these are rather small, they are beautifully sighted in varied territory. The small towns of the area, while not as famed as Torun or Grudziadz, are worth visiting and contain some interesting historic buildings. At the edge of the Vistula valley lies the of Chelmno, which in the past played an important role. In the 13th century, the Teutonic Knights planned it to be the capital of their state, although finally Malbork was chosen instead. The town charters granted to Chelmno (and at the same time to Torun) provided a model for those granted to other mediaeval towns. The original layout of the town has been preserved, and there are some splendid historic buildings, including a late Renaissance town hall, Gothic churches, and large sections of the town walls with seventeen towers. In the centre of the Chelmno Lake District lies the town of Chelmza, which for several centuries was the seat of a bishopric. The Gothic church here deserves attention.
Golub - Dobrzyn was formed from two separate towns, lying on the opposite banks of the Drweca river. In the 17th century, the 14th century castle built by the Teutonic Knights at Golub belonged to Anna Vasa, the sister of the Polish king, Sigismund III Vasa. Currently this houses a small museum, a period cafe and a tourist hotel. The famous knightly tournaments are organised here on 22 July.
The town of Brodnica also lies on the banks of the Drweca and boasts many historic buildings. These included the ruins of a castle of the Teutonic Knights, a gothic church, a baroque monastery complex, a town hall dating from the end of the 14th century, and fragments of the defensive walls. The Brodnica Lake District lies to the North of the town. Holiday recreation centres and waterside hotels are situated among the forests that surround the lakes. Bachotek, on the banks of Lake Bachotek, and Zbiczno are the best-known centres of this kind. There is also a waterside hostel on the banks of lake Wielkie Parteczyny.
The inland waterway route linking Elblag with Ostroda is an attraction unique in Europe, although there is another waterway of this type in the United States. The Elblag Canal, which is 81 km. long, was built in 1848-60. It runs through a long chain of lakes, lying at different heights above sea level, which are joined together by man - made cuttings. Overall the difference in water level is almost 100 metres. It is possible to sail through tanks to two locks and five slipways, though which ships are carried dry on rails on special platforms. The difference in levels joined by individual slipways varies from a dozen to more than 24 metres. The route of the Elblag Canal is picturesque, leading first through the large, but shallow and overgrown Lake Druzno, near Elblag, where an ornithological reserve has been set up, and then through the Ilawa-Ostroda Lake District. It is this area, between Ilawa, Ostroda and Morag, that is exceptionally varied in landscape relief, with a large part of it covered by lakes and forests. The inter-connected lakes form an attractive waterway route for sailors and canoeists. Anglers can find excellent sport here, and hunting expeditions are organised for those who shoot game. The Ilawa-Ostroda Lake District is one of the best-known areas for summer holidays and water sports.
On 15 July 1410, two powerful armies halted between the villages of Stebark, Lodwigowo and Grunwald (to the south-west of Olsztyn). On one side were the united armies of Poland and Lithuania, under the commanded of Ladislaus Jagiello, the King of Poland. On the other were the countless ranks of the Teutonic Knights, aided by knights from many other European countries, under the command of the Grand Master of the Order, Ulrich von Jungingen. The battle which resulted, and which lasted almost the whole day, was the greatest clash of arms of the whole Middle Ages. In total, almost 80.000 armed men fought in it. Jagiello met the well-armed Knights, in their steel armour, with better tactics, which finally brought him the victory. The subsequent destruction of the armies of the Teutonic Knights broke the power of the order, which had previously presented a growing threat to Poland.
In 1960, a memorial was unveiled on the site of the battle. This consists of an obelisk, a cluster of metal pennants 30 m. high, an amphitheatre that houses the Museum of the battle of Grunwald, and a relief map showing the disposition of the armies before the battle.
This runs through the towns connected with the life and work of the famous Polish astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus. The route begins in Torun, where Copernicus was born in 1473. Torun is a large town on the banks of the Vistula, which is a major cultural and academic centre. The oldest part of the town consists of a large complex of Gothic buildings. The route then goes on through Brodnica, Kurzetnik, Nowe Miasto Lubawskie and Lubawa, before reaching Olsztyn, which is the capital of this particular region. In the post-war period, many large industrial plants have been built here, together with two institutions of higher education, and many cultural establishments. In 1516-21 Nicolaus Copernicus was the administrator of Olsztyn and he was responsible for the effective preparation of defences of the town against the Teutonic Knights. The Museum of Warmia and Mazuria is housed in the old Gothic castle (the rooms in which Copernicus lived have bee preserved, and there are mementoes of his life, as well as an archaeological, ethnographic and natural science collection). A Gothic cathedral and Gothic town gate have survived in the town centre, together with what is called the Old Town Hall, which contains Baroque elements. Olsztyn also has a Planetarium of Space Flight. Tourists may stay at the "Orbis-Novotel" which is sighted in beautiful surroundings on the shores of lake Ukiel. The next town on the route is Dobre Miasto, which has an enormous Gothic church and fragments of the defensive walls. From here it is not far to Lidzbark Warminski, which used to be the Episcopal seat of the bishop of Warmia. One of these was Lukas Watzenrode, the uncle of Nicolaus Copernicus, with whom the future astronomer stayed as his physician - in - ordinary and secretary. All the old part of the town is of historic interest, especially the Gothic bishops castle, which is a splendid example of mediaeval defensive building, and which now houses a branch section of the Museum of Warmia and Mazuria in Olsztyn.
Orneta, which has a historic Gothic town hall and Gothic church, also has links with Copernicus.
The last point on the Copernicus route is Frombork, a small town on the Vistula Bay. In the period from 1512 to 1543, with only brief intervals away, Nicolaus Copernicus lived and worked here. He dealt with the management of the affairs of the Warmian chapter, but spent the major part of his time recording astronomical observations, and it was here that he worked out the principles of his famous heliocentric theory which he set out in his "De Revolutionibus orbium coelestium". The great astronomer was buried in the crypt of Frombork cathedral. The group of historic buildings on the Cathedral Hills is rated in the highest world class of historic buildings. It includes a monumental Gothic cathedral, defensive walls with the Copernicus Tower, and the bishops` palace (now the Nicolaus Copernicus Museum). Outside the defensive walls, there is a chapel with a marvellous polychrome depicting the Last Judgment.
Elblag, a large industrial, commercial and cultural centre, lies on the edge of a scenic highland region. Boat trips on the Elblag Canal begin from here. The town has the Gothic church of St. Nicholas, and the Gothic church of the Blessed Virgin Mary which is today a gallery of modern art. The beautiful wooded Bazantaria (Pheasantry) park is also worth a visit.
The small town Olsztynek lies on the E 81 highway, in an area of varied scenic attractions. The greatest tourist attraction in Olsztynek is the skansen in which many examples of the timber building styles of Warmia and Mazuria have been brought together; there are also specimens from the Vistula valley and Lithuania. The most interesting buildings include: a water mill, a mazurian farmyard, a cottage with a porch, an inn, a wooden church and three windmills. Some of the buildings contain their original furnishings and tools. The Museum of Folk Building in Olsztynek is continuing to expand its collection, and further historic are constantly being added. To the East of Olsztynek there is a large area of forest with many picturesque lake, on the shores of which there are holiday centres. Further on, in the Szczytno region, Polish touroperators run wooden holiday chalets in the following places: Miluki, Narty, Warchaly, Kobylocha, Marksewo, Nowy Zyzdroj, Polom, and Kierwik. These are sighted in beautiful countryside on the shores of lakes, and therefore offer happy holidays for the whole family, away from the madding crowd, and in close touch with nature.
This is what Hitler's war-time headquarters was called. It layies in the woods of Gierloz, 8 km. East of Ketrzyn. It consisted of a group of 80 strong bunkers built in the years 1940-44, a small railway station and an airfield; it had a direct telephone link with Berlin. In eight of the bunkers the thickness of the walls was from 1 to 6 m., and the thickness of the roof from 6 to 8 m. Hitler's headquarters was exceptionally carefully guarded. It was surrounded by a belt of minefields, with anti-aircraft gun emplacements; the buildings were camouflaged with nets holding imitation foliage, the colour of which was changed from season to season. Hitler used this headquarters from 24 June 1941 to 20 November 1944, although he was not of course constantly in residence there. It was here that on 20 July 1944 Colonel Claus v. Stauffenberg made his unsuccessful attempt on Hitler's life. "The Wolf's Lair" was destroyed by the German army as it withdrew in late January 1945. The area which housed Hitler's headquarters, with the ruins of the bunkers, can be visited by tourists. To town Ketrzyn is an important industrial centre with several historic buildings (a Gothic church, and a Gothic castle which today houses a museum). The village of Swieta Lipka lies 6 km. to the South-west of Ketrzyn. Here there is a monastery complex which includes the Baroque church of the Blessed Virgin Mary dating from the 17th century, and considered to be one of the best examples of sacral architecture in Northern Poland. The richly furnished interior houses the works of many outstanding artists. Organ concerts are organised in this church. Swieta Lipka is a religious centre and a place of pilgrimage.