Poland is not a country one would normally associate with jolly travel destinations but think again! This country is rich in folklore and history – and surprisingly, not all of it is dark. Certainly, this is what globe trekker, Megan McCormick, discovers on her traipse across Silesia, Pomerania and Warmia Masuria for this very insightful Globe Trekker in Poland.
Megan arrives in Poland via the Czech border town of Czermna, where in the crypt of a humble church once served by a young Pope John Paul II, she confronts several thousand skulls of dead Poles killed over centuries of battle.
In Wroclaw, Megan goes a-hunting for ‘krasnale’ – dwarves, albeit the sculpture kind – which proliferate the quaint town square. She interviews National Museum art historian, Malgorzatta Nawotka, about a 1970s anti-communist sculpture made by renowned artist, Jerzy Kalina called “The Anonymous Pedestrians”. She also enjoys a plate of Pierogi – a classic Polish dish of potato pasta stuffed with cheese and topped with fried onions.
Megan jumps on a train and now heads north to Kashubia, where her guide Andrzej illustrates how Kashubian folk revel in their own language and in the ritual of snuff taking – a nasally-ingested tobacco which reduces Megan to tears. Megan then takes to the Pomeranian coast and goes hunting for amber – or Baltic Gold as the locals affectionately coin it – with a gang of professional lapidarists. She explores the baroque streets of Gdansk and joins restauranteur Damian Robiakowski for a glass of a gold-flaked liqueur called ‘Goldwasser, before boarding a galleon – yes, a galleon – to take a tour of the River Motlawa, where the first shots were fired in the Second World War.
It is battle that sends her next to Malbork castle, impregnable fortress of the crusading Teutonic Knights. The castle’s curator, Marek Stowinski tours Megan around the various castles and illustrates how the Knights regaled Kings and Popes with sumptuous banquets whilst keeping strictly to their monastic ideals of abstention and penitence. In Gniew, located some twenty five miles south of Malbork, Megan joins the Pomeranian regiment of Hussars to re-enact the cavalry charge on the Ottoman troops in the Battle of Vienna (1683). This was Poland’s greatest victory against the mighty Muslim Sultans and a turning point in the fortunes of Christian Europe.
Megan heads east and travels to Ketzryn to explore the ‘Wolf’s Lair’ with her guide, Hedwig Korowaj. The lair was Adolf Hitler’s expansive command post which lay concealed under the canopy of the Mazurian forest, and where the most heinous German Nazi war strategies were thought up, including the death camps. Here, Colonel Claus Von Stauffenberg also made a botched attempt to assassinate the fuhrer in 1944. Megan leaves the dark bastions of Poland’s history behind her and kayaks the tributaries of the Augustow canal. It is a wistful trek that leads her to the Belarussian border, where her journey ends.
Places Mentioned - PolandShare the series
View Destination Guide