Written by marif on 20 Dec, 2004
Along the Baltic coastline, two wonderful national parks where the environment is in pristine condition and wildlife is remarkably rich are waiting to be discovered. The Slowinski national park, almost 200 square kms in area stretches between the coastal town of Leba and the fishing…Read More
Along the Baltic coastline, two wonderful national parks where the environment is in pristine condition and wildlife is remarkably rich are waiting to be discovered. The Slowinski national park, almost 200 square kms in area stretches between the coastal town of Leba and the fishing village of Rowy while the smaller Wolin national park occupies an area of 50 square kms along the westernmost coastline of Poland.
1. Stretching for a length of 33kms along the coastline, the Slowinski national park is nowhere wider than 10kms. The park comprises two large lakes, two smaller lakes and a number of tiny villages scattered here and there along the forested countryside. Besides a diversity of trees, the park contains within its boundary an abundance of marshes, a couple of wonderful beaches and a variable number of shifting sand dunes.
Lake Lebsko, 16kms long is the largest lake within the park but shallow enough to support the growth of weeds, reeds and grasses, making it an ideal natural habitat for reptiles and birds. It is a top place for bird watching since 250 different species of birds inhabit the area surrounding the lake. The lake is separated from the Baltic Sea by the shifting sand dunes, an accumulation of sand thrown up on the beach by the waves. The sand is slowly moving south burying trees, destroying wildlife and filling up the lake which in the process is getting shallower and shallower.
Lake Gardno about 30 square kms in area lies along the westernmost edge of the park. There are no sand dunes here but between the lake's north shore and the Baltic's coast stands the small picturesque village of Rowy, formerly inhabited entirely by fishermen but nowadays undergoing a rapid transformation with the aim of becoming one of Poland's best beach resorts. The shores around Lake Gardno are fertile and wonderful in summer and a walk around the lake is recommended.
Set between Lake Lebsko and Lake Gardno within an area characterized by lush greenery, the portrait-pretty villages of Kluki and Smoldzino are worth visiting. Kluki to the west of Lake Lebsko boasts an excellent open-air folklore museum (Skansen Slowinski) that contains traditional well-preserved houses inhabited long ago by the Slovincians. Inside you can still see and admire an entire collection of original furniture and furnishings. Smoldzino, halfway between Lake Lebsko and Lake Gardno has a natural history museum that contains numerous exhibits connected with the flora and fauna found in the park. About 1km away from the museum, you can climb Mount Rowokol, a small hill topped by an observation tower from where the gorgeous view over the lakes, the park and the Baltic Sea is unforgettable.
You can reach the Slowinski national park either from Leba, the easternmost town or from Slupsk which lies southwest of the park. Leba is best reached by frequent bus or train from Lebork that lies 30kms south. From Leba's train or bus station, take ul Kosciuszki, the town's main street that runs down to the harbour and is bisected by the Leba river. On the east lies the town of Leba while the west side stretches down towards the dunes. From Slupsk, you can easily reach Kluki by taking one of the six daily buses that cover the 40kms distance in about one hour. Kluki is right on the west shore of Lake Lebsko. To Smoldzino, buses from Slupsk are frequent and take about 40 minutes.
2. The Wolin national park occupies the central part of Wolin Island and stretches 15kms along the coastline to the east of Miedzyzdroje. It is a thickly forested region comprising 10 shallow lakes that support the life of numerous species of birds, reptiles and mammals. Lake Czajcze located close to the southeast corner of the park is surrounded by the most fertile habitat while Lake Turkosowe at the southwest end is the most picturesque. The best way to visit the park is from the town of Miedzyzdroje which you can reach by train from Szeczecin or by frequent buses from Swinoujscie (see my former entry: The Baltic west coast).
The town of Miedzyzdroje lies exactly on the westernmost edge of the park and from here you can take one of three marked trails. The green trail runs through the central area of the park and passes close to the shores of Lake Czajcze before finishing off near the village of Kolczewo. The red trail runs along the coastline also ending near Kolczewo while the blue trail runs south passing around the shores of Lake Turkosowe. The PTTK travel agency at ul Kolejowa 2 in Miedzyzdroje can help with directions, further information and maps of the region.
Poland's coastline stretching from the Vistula Lagoon in the east to the atmospheric border town of Szczecin in the west is a mixture of sandy beaches, national parks, fishing villages and recreational areas. The average temperature of the Baltic sea around the east shores is…Read More
Poland's coastline stretching from the Vistula Lagoon in the east to the atmospheric border town of Szczecin in the west is a mixture of sandy beaches, national parks, fishing villages and recreational areas. The average temperature of the Baltic sea around the east shores is rarely more than 20C even during hot summer days, making water-sports a challenging feat. However, the average sea temperature is two or three degrees more when measured anywhere along the shoreline west of Ustka and even five degrees more around Swinoujscie, making swimming more enjoyable and the resorts more popular.
A large inland city that can be used as a stepping stone to reach two wonderful beach resorts on day trips is Koszalin. This town can be reached easily by regular train from Slupsk (67kms) or by bus from Darlowo (34kms). All west-bound fast trains from Gdansk pass through Koszalin. Except for the Gothic cathedral which somehow or other survived World War II, there's nothing noteworthy to see in town. However, there are a couple of good hotels where you can stay overnight if you intend to travel to the beach resorts on day trips. The central Hotel Turystyczny at ul Glowackiego 7 is a good bet; better is Hotel Arka, ul Zwyciestwa 20/24 near the train station. The receptionists at the Tourist Office, located a stone's throw away from the train station at ul Dworcowa 10, go out of their way to help; don't hesitate to ask for directions, maps of the area and brochures.
One of the prettiest stretches of coastline along the Baltic is Kolobrzeg, 44kms west of Koszalin from where it can be reached by frequent bus or train in one hour. Add to this the relatively warm sea temperature, the variety of beach facilities available and the spas that have filled up the coastline and you will understand why so many Poles come here to spend their summer vacations. The train and bus stations are next to each other. Before walking towards the beach, it's better to go south towards the town's historic centre. Walk along ul Dworcowa for 40 metres or so, turn left on ul Armii Krajowej and continue southeast for about 50 metres. Soon you'll reach the town's centre dominated by the colossal cathedral. Although Kolobrzeg was almost totally destroyed by war like most other towns in the north of Poland, it was luckily partly rebuilt according to the original plans. The town's massive cathedral was reconstructed from scratch and now looks much the same as it did during the 14th century. Note its impressive multi-windowed facade and the striking row of leaning columns that are particularly unusual for a cathedral this size. Inside the cathedral, there are a couple of splendid works of art that you shouldn't miss.
After strolling around the streets and walkways that run through the Old Town, walk north towards the beach. The main attraction here is the molo, an extensive pier jutting 200 metres into the Baltic. Always full of activity and besieged by crowds of onlookers, this pier offers a gorgeous view over the entire coastline. You can also walk along Aleja Nadmorska, a beautiful 1km avenue that links a medieval fortress on its easternmost side with a lighthouse that stands on the west side. Climb to the top of the lighthouse for a wonderful view of the Old Town.
If you are based in Koszalin, there are two other towns smaller than Kolobrzeg that you can visit on the same day trip. Kamien Pomorski was a 14th-century town and an important religious and trade centre before World War II, but like Kolobrzeg, it was almost completely destroyed. However, for what remains, it deserves a short visit. From Koszalin, two direct buses cover the 110kms distance in about two hours or if the time is not convenient, you can go to Kolobrzeg by train and then take the frequent bus from Kolobrzeg to Kamien Pomorski. The 14th-century Gothic cathedral survived the war and inside there are numerous works of art worth seeing. Don't miss the tryptych above the high altar, an artistic work by Veit Stoss. The highlight however is the beautiful organ whose rich tone is impressive. Short organ recitals are held in the cathedral every Friday. You can also visit the adjoining cathedral's museum which houses various ecclesiastical treasures and sacred artistic works. If you walk southeast from the cathedral, you'll come across the 14th-century Gothic Town Hall which like all medieval Town Halls in Poland occupies the central area of the Rynek. If you continue west from the Rynek, you'll reach the massive Wolin Gate, the only surviving gate cut into the town's medieval defensive walls.
There's no beach in Kamien Pomorski but after seeing the town, you can take one of the several buses that travel 42kms west to the seaside resort of Miedzyzdroje. Here, the coast is lined with golden sandy beaches equipped with water-sports facilities and so it is much popular with Poles and Germans who cross the border in summer to spend weekends near the beach. If you are a water fanatic, you can stay here as well in one of the numerous private homes, pensions or hotels that have cropped up everywhere. If you still have spare time, walk east towards the sandy coastal cliffs that offer a gorgeous view over the town and the Baltic. Going back, there are direct trains from Miedzyzdroje to Koszalin but it's better if you take one of the six daily buses to Kolobrzeg from where you can take the frequent local train to Koszalin.
Four times closer to Berlin than to Warsaw, Szczecin located on the westernmost corner of Poland is a historical city whose past is mirrored in the diversity of its architecture. Some buildings survived the Russian invasion of April 1945; others were reconstructed or restored afterwards.…Read More
Four times closer to Berlin than to Warsaw, Szczecin located on the westernmost corner of Poland is a historical city whose past is mirrored in the diversity of its architecture. Some buildings survived the Russian invasion of April 1945; others were reconstructed or restored afterwards. Although several historic buildings were left in ruins and were later replaced by rows of apartment blocks, what remains deserves a close look.
The best way to come here is from Berlin from where there are three fast trains daily covering the 130kms distance in about two hours. You can take a LOT flight from Warsaw to Szczecin Goleniow Airport located 50kms to the northeast of the town centre. It's better and cheaper to take one of the three daily express trains from Warsaw Central covering the 525kms distance in somewhat less than six hours. There are also fast trains daily from Gdansk and Kolobrzeg.
Very probably, visitors will arrive by train at the Szczecin Glowny train station on the north bank of the Odra River and south of the town centre. From here, walk 500 metres north along Aleja 3 Maja which leads towards the Harbour Gate. There's nothing to see here but if you're looking for accommodation, turn left on Plac Zwyciestwa and in the vicinity of the Orbis office, you'll find four big hotels. The sights and attractions are confined to the area east of the Harbour Gate. The street exactly opposite the Harbour Gate, ul Wyszynskiego leads towards two Gothic churches: the massive cathedral reconstructed after the war and the smaller, historic Church of St.John which didn't suffer any major damages. There's nothing noteworthy inside the cathedral except for the large bell dating back to 1681 but don't miss the splendid interior vaulted architecture of St.John's Church. Northeast of the cathedral, the Town Hall houses the Historical Museum of Szczecin with interesting exhibits about the history of west Pomerania prior to the Swedish invasion of 1630. There are also exhibits from the Prussian era when Szczecin was a main harbour city and a large trade centre.
Continue north until you come across the huge 'Castle of the Pomeranian Princes'. The castle that suffered major damages in 1945 but was carefully restored later, today houses an opera hall, a good restaurant and the famous Castle Museum worth visiting for its permanent exhibition about the castle's history. The highlights of the exhibits are the restored sarcophagi of the former Pomeranian dukes. Pay particular attention to the artistic sarcophagus of Boguslaw XIV, the last one in the Pomeranian chain. There are also other exhibitions worth seeing housed inside other parts of the castle. In summer, musical concerts and cultural activities are held frequently inside the castle courtyard or inside the castle chapel. West of the castle at ul Staromlynska 27, an 18th-century palace, formerly occupied by the parliament of Pomerania, today houses the Szczecin National Museum. There are numerous artistic works to see inside ranging from ecclesiastical treasures and wood sculptures to 18th-century Polish paintings.
An enjoyable 1 hour activity is a boat trip around Szczecin harbour. Boats leave frequently from Dworzec Morski, northeast of town just in front of Zeromskiego park. You can also take one of the numerous ferries that operate from Szczecin to Swinoujscie, a trip that takes about two hours. Or if you're pressed for time, there's also a hydrofoil that operates between the two towns three times daily taking about half the time. There are also local trains which cover the 116kms distance in about two hours.
Besides being a large fishing town, Swinoujscie is also a top beach resort. The town is made up of two islands separated by the Swina river which empties into the Baltic sea. Whichever means of transport you take to come here, you'll always arrive on Wolin Island where there's nothing of note except the harbour and its numerous side-by-side terminals used by fishing vessels. From here, use the ferry shuttle service to cross to Uznam island, a free-of-charge trip that lasts only 10 minutes. From the arrival terminal, walk about 50 metres west along Wybrzeze Wladyslawa IV until you reach ul Armii Krajowej. Walk straight ahead along ul Armii Krajowej past the Empik stores for about 40 metres and you'll reach the excellent Sea Fishing Museum on your left. The interesting exhibits connected with the fishing history of the town and the beautiful collection of sea creatures are both worth seeing. The street opposite the museum, ul Monte Cassino leads north towards ul Boleslawa Krzywoustego that leads further north towards a wonderful area of hotels, pubs and restaurants. You are now a stone's throw away from the most beautiful beach along Poland's coastline. The beach is wide and clean and the water in summer is relatively warm and excellent for swimming and engaging in water-sports activities. You can stroll anywhere on the sandy beach or along the wonderful promenade Ul Zeromskiego lined with an abundance of bars, cafes, ice-cream parlours and restaurants.