Mamerki is a village in the Warmia/Mazury region of Poland. Nobody lives there; it is home to one of the largest bunker complexes in Poland.
You probably think that this is not an ideal place to take two small children to on a Sunday afternoon, one aged 20 months and the other, 4 years. It was our last day in the Warmia/Mazury region and my son wanted to show me the bunker complex. As it is situated in a dense green forest we thought the children would like a long walk through the many paths that lead to bunkers made of reinforced concrete. They are both too young to understand why these bunkers were built so we didn’t see any harm in the trip.
The bunker complex isn’t very well sign posted with only one triangular sign pointing to a waste piece of ground before the opening to the forest. This is where you park the car.
There is an admission fee of 6zloty per adult and half price for children. Two men dressed in army gear have a caravan at the entrance, this is where you pay and are given an admission ticket. We didn’t have to pay for the kids, they were too young.
My son lifted Alex on to his shoulders, Alicja held my hand and off we trotted under the cool umbrella leafy shades of the trees. It had been raining the night before but the floor of the forest was dry enough to walk on. The forest covers a vast area, something like 250 acres and there is a wide variety of trees. It’s strange that the only time I ever walk through a Polish forest is to see something in connection with the Nazis and the Second World War. You can take any of the paths as they all lead to the complex which is quite remarkable to say that 30 bunkers and two heavy air-raid shelters are still standing and are in excellent condition. Other buildings were built made from wood and brick but these are now dilapidated.
2,000 workers were employed from 1940-1944 to construct the headquarters for the German High Command including top generals, field marshals and many officers and soldiers. The complex is split into three zones; ‘Fritz’ – named after the King of Prussia, Frederick the Great, ‘Bridgitten Stadt’ and Quelle. The Quelle zone is the best for viewing with bunkers having walls 7 metres thick. There are also tunnels which are covered by triangular shapes formed by thick logs to stop people falling down.
The first bunker we entered was very dark; my son went in using his mobile phone light to show him the way. Alicja and I stood in the central corridor. It was damp and cold inside here and she didn’t want to follow her Daddy inside. Alex was okay sat on his Dad’s shoulders but he’s a toughie and not scared of much. We did go into some of the other bunkers but there wasn’t a lot to see except concrete, the odd rusty pipe, some sort of peep hole in the wall, I think this may be for defensive purposes, somewhere to aim a crossbow from.
Some of the bunkers looked camouflaged. At first I thought it was just the way the moss had grown on the concrete but later read that the plaster covering the concrete had been mixed with seaweed to give the impression of moss. I thought the texture and appearance was actually very attractive especially where some people had scrawled their names on top of the surface.
Apparently, Adolf Hitler made three visits to the complex from his own bunker headquarters known as the, "Wolf’s Lair." He travelled on a motorised underground vehicle.
We really liked the forest and Lake Mamry which unfortunately is fenced off but we managed to peep through the holes in the wire. There is a wooden hut here with a guard who I noticed was giving us a stare. Interesting to note that a railway line from Kętrzyn to Węgorzewo runs through the forest and from 1975 – 1998 this area was part of the province of Suwałki, an area that always has the coldest temperatures in winter. The thought of staying in one of these bunkers when the snow is thick on the ground, doesn’t fill me with happiness.
It started to rain on our way back through the trees to the car, a time to put on our hats and cagoules. Inside the bunkers were a bit grim but we loved the forest and the way the sun slithered its rays through the tops of the trees on to the mossy patterns of the outside of the bunkers. I’d say, the kids enjoyed their excursion to the uninhabited village of Mamerki.