We want to go to Poland, a country near and far away at the same time. What adventures are waiting there? Today we visit the Malbork, a giant castle made by long forgotten knights, the holy grail of the knight time.
Not far from the picturesque Malbork (read about it here), that headquarters of German knights in the Middle Ages, lies another enchanted place. Off the Baltic coast of Poland stretches for about 70 kilometers a peninsula that is only two kilometers wide and ends at the edgeof the world currently accessible to Westerners.Behind the Iron Curtain: This is Russia
The Vistula Lagoon (Polish: Zalew Wiślany) is a part of the Baltic Sea southwest of Kaliningrad, separated from the Baltic Sea by the Vistula Spit, that narrow tongue of land that ends in the middle of nowhere it in a very amazing way, as we will learn on our todays hike.The start of the trail
The first German tribe
The name of the peninsula has nothing to do with "freshness", but with the Frisians, a German tribe who were the first to settle the spit. Many centuries later, the settlers, as well as many other Germans who lived even further east, paid bitterly for this decision. When the soviet Red Army advanced westward at the end of World War II, it cut off the land route for East Prussian refugees, so tens of thousands took the route across the then frozen Frische Haff.Only me and my friends in the water
It was winter. A very cold winter. Many froze to death or died in air raids. After that, the Soviet Union kept the part of the peninsula that had belonged to the German Königsberg. The south, on the other hand, fell to Poland, the country from which we are approaching the edge of the world these days.At the last meters of the tourists beach
The trip passes by the Stutthof concentration camp, which was built after the Germans attacked Poland. Today there is a memorial there with a museum containing the data of about 110,000 former prisoners. The entire place can be visited. In addition, documentary films showing the martyrdom of the victims are shown in the exhibitions.Years ago someone lived here
Too nice weather
But the weather is too nice, the sun is shining, we prefer to continue today on the "Vistula Spit" towards the Russian border. Even though the European border to Russia can only be found in Estonia, the Russian enclave around Kaliningrad borders on Poland.The last remainings of the last fishermen
Behind a tour on narrow but well-maintained roads, the route continues to Nowa Karczma on the spit. Then it's over. The street has an end. Three kilometers before the Russian border, the last beach parking lot in the middle of the forest awaits curious explorers and people who shun the crowds at other Polish beaches and prefer plenty of solitude.The edge of Europe: A simple fence, not an Iron Wall
They are sure to find it here: for 20 zloty you can park here for a whole day. It goes without saying that overnight stays are also allowed. There are even toilets. A few ruins tell us that fishing used to take place here, and that some people used to live here. But they are gone by now - and we too disappear and set off on our Russia expedition.The fisher men left what they no more needed
Close to the Kremlin
How high might the new wall be? How close can we get to the realm of the Kremlin? What does it look like, the Russian restricted area (in Russian: Baltijskaja Kossa), which could hardly be entered for 55 years, because the Russians are said to have stationed a lot of military there?Can you imagine: Behind this "fence" is your greatest "enemy" (so they said)
In any case, the coastline on the Polish side becomes more and more rugged the further one moves towards Russia. We later learn that beaches are only to be found on the Polish side, while over there, in the Russian exclave, everything is natural and untouched. And inaccessible of course.At the south of the spit you can find the real polish beaches
On the end of the narrow strip of sand, a dense forest grows, there are high sand dunes and here and there indications that military forces were once stationed on the Polish side. Today, this area of the spit is designated as a national park. But hardly anyone visits it.Why they do this zick zack to the fence? No glue
It is too remote, too inconvenient to drive there and back the same way again. The isolation has preserved the original nature: there are no kiosks and no hotels, no discotheques and no snack bars. The wet forests are preserved in their original state and also the coastline follows its natural course.The man in the wagon (left) is living here for longer it seems
A paradise for birds
Millions of migratory birds find undisturbed resting places here on their way south. Green, silent forest, which is said to reach the early settlements of Strauchbucht and Scheitschhaken, where the spit has the greatest width of almost two kilometers and the village of Schvyte is buried. The mighty shifting sand dune that buried it rises there unchanged, dominating, luring and threatening the sky. It is almost two kilometers long and 26 meters high, almost as high as the one near Leba.A plate and no one who read it
But you can't see them. In the middle of the forest comes the end of the world. The hiking trail, the only path across, there is no road, is closed, warning signs demand that no one is allowed to go further. But there are no guards in sight, no border path to be seen. The West and Russia collide here like two garden neighbors who don't like each other very much, but have no quarrel either.The border
A small fence on the beach
There is a fence only on the beach, which apart from that looks quite normal. Just like every garden fence: it is not high or topped with barbed wire, it is not secured several times or monitored with cameras. Instead, the EU ends here with a few wires, as if nailed to wooden posts by children's hands, waist-high and to be overcome without effort.Real Russia with watch tower: Is there anybody up there?
Only one does not know what comes behind it - there is nobody to seen on the Russian side. But a watchtower is to be guessed, on which perhaps watchful soldiers stand, who observe us exactly now by binoculars.
So rather into the water, which is particularly clear here. No one is to be seen far and wide, the Baltic Sea beach is so lonely here as on the 600 kilometers from Lübeck to here not.
A few more pictures for you:More sticks and more wire for more fences Stop here The gull flies from Russia to Poland and back We are in shades, Russia (in the back) seems sunny