Tracing back to the North

Personal, Travel

Summer is so beautiful up North, and this blog witnessed many times the short intensity of the season, which I explored in different locations over years. Living all the way South of Europe, it is exciting to pack light and experience the hot and sunny weather also thousands of miles away. This is the tribute to my recent trip to Poland, where I re-visited the Northern landscapes, starting in Pomerania, travelling through Warmia, Mazury, and ending up in Sejny, bordering with Lithuania and Belarus. 

I have returned to Suwalszczyzna region regularly over years thanks to my partner and his family. Each time I discovered something new, and mysterious about this remote, green region spotted with lakes. Since there is no airport nearby, we mostly choose travelling by train to get there from main cities of Poland, as I find it very relaxing to window-watch the landscapes and its inhabitants. Summertime is also a great season to spot birds of prey, waders, among the emblematic bird of the Polish summer: a white stork. It is interesting how welcome are storks, while egrets or ospreys are not. It may be a good metaphor about how certain refugees are welcome in Poland, while others are not.

While visiting the Foundation Borderland in Czesław Miłosz’ Manor in Krasnogruda, besides witnessing some impressive art exhibitions of its residents (currently hosting Ukrainian painters and poets), we could see how children are discovering the stunning, local nature through their senses. Because of its remoteness and forestal density, the region hosts hundreds of bird species, and this educational centre teaches even the youngest children how to distinguish, and protect the fellow inhabitants. 

On our way through the region, we visited Wigry National Park, full of well-prepared hiking and bike trails. Last year we almost completed a 70 km ride, failing only to immerse our bikes onto a full-on downhill ride through dense forest. Nearby, there is a famous old monastery of Wigry, with a fascinating exhibition of a daily life of its monks, including the catacombs where some of the buried ones are on display.  

Wandering through the woods, one may also find the memorials of the past. Inhabitants of various origins, religions, which settled in and then vanished throughout the past centuries. However, the traditions prevailed in language, gastronomy, and remnants of the architecture. Thanks to the work of the Foundation Borderland, we could witness the Klezmer Orchestra, performing at the White Synagogue of Sejny. Their sounds brought joy, sadness and all the emotions at once. 

Sailing on different types of vessels and boats, swimming in the refreshing, ice-cold water of the deep, post-glacial lakes, we enjoyed this short trip a lot. And quite recently, given the updates from the well-known ancestry platform, I found out that my intertwined family roots may be tracing back all the way to the borderland of Poland, Lithuania and Belarus. 

Moving sand, ebbs and flows

Personal, Travel

Last month I visited Poland for an extended period of time and a series of family reunions, wedding celebration of my friends, and spending quality time after all. The timing was sensible too, as a lot of important matters happened in my family during this period. Even more so, I was so happy to stay with them for a few days in the magical place: Słowiński National Park on the Baltic Sea coast.

In June, it was still a fairly reclusive place and I managed to walk more than 30 kms on the fantastic trails next to the dunes, sea and divine forests. Słowiński National Park is a vast coastal area including the surrounding lakes Łebsko, Gardno and Dołgie, which were created from the bay areas by the ‘moving dunes’ formed by the currents, winds and erosion. There is nothingness and so many things to see at the same time. Like a perfect meditation.

Walking towards a 16 km beach trail to Rowy, you can spot remnants of the forest inundated by the moving sands and there is evidence of having at least one village, Boleniec, covered entirely by the migration of sandy dunes. I managed to explore also the forest trail towards the lighthouse of Czołpino. It offers fabulous panoramic views towards the Rowokół mountain (known for Pagan rituals), the sea and all of the surrounding lakes and forests.

Słowiński National Park means a lot to me: it is a place where my father used to take me as a child and there was literally no one in the area, as it was a remote, post-military terrain with a lot of protected areas. I saw the beauty of nature, my first bird sightings and the Baltic coast covered in the snowy and icy layer, too. It was a magical place for all my family where I spent a good portion of my summer holidays and always felt the mystery of the abandoned villages, fantasising about the life under the sand.

This made me think about the nature of life and death, and the passage of the sand, as in the time capsule. Nowadays one can wander around the swampy Łebsko lake and discover the restored village of Kluki where all the roads end and the lake water ebbs and flows to the historically preserved housings. There is nothing left from the time where the native inhabitants, Słowińcy, used to live there – only a heritage museum. Now, it’s been over 11 years that my father passed away and I didn’t dare to revisit the place which connects me so much with his memories. I felt very connected and complete going there once again, reconnecting after the grieving period.

I also managed to visit Słupsk, a town where my parents met and we had a lot of friends, so I naturally spent time with them during my childhood. Now most of them are gone, too, but the town is flourishing with culture, lively city centre and I did not feel sad for most of the stay. Naturally, it was always a beautiful town but riddled with problems.

I was really impressed how green, cheerful and beautiful restoration it underwent from the time that I remember the town as post-industrial, unemployment-ridden town not living to its full potential and fantastic location close to the sea, national park and lake district where eagles, owls and wading birds nest during the summer. I do believe the recent

I only spent four days in the area, and still realized how many memories rest within my brain for this special place. The memory of the smells of the pine forests, the feeling of the sand under my feet and blowing to my face, and the music of the sea wind, choppy waves brought up the best, childhood happiness time to me, what I needed now.