Day 5-7 – Poland
After our stay in an AirBnB in Birstonas, near Kaunas in Lithuania, we set off for Poland.
We continued on the same typical gravel roads as before, ended up on some tractor trails through fields even. The New GPS has funny ideas about what is actually a road at times.
The Polish border crossing was just as uneventful as with Latvia and Lithuania. There wasn’t even a sign for Lithuania!
What stood out in Poland immediately, is that the roads were much more developed. Smooth, newly laid asphalt, and generally harder to find gravel roads.
We stopped in the small city of Suwalki to get some Polish Zloty (they don’t use Euro here), and to buy a new simcard (new record: 1.8 euro for 2gb of data).
We had planned to camp, but when coming down from a shortcut through a field, we saw an inviting sign that read “Agroturystyka” next to a road leading to farm. We checked it out and the farmer (who spoke no German or English) made it clear to us through sign language we could sleep there for little. The choice was easily made over camping, maybe mainly because there was just a wonderful strange atmosphere there again…
The old farmer was working on his tractor, he showed me a bent crankshaft, and then later went for a wild test ride in the field with it. Apparently it’s some old Polish “Ursus” brand tractor. After Norway, I was again reminded how much I like a farm like this, with a collection of old junk and tools, and a can-do attitude that almost everything can be fixed yourself. Maybe I should become a farmer some day.
The next day we didn’t have much distance to cover, so we got plenty of time to take in the Polish landscape.
In some ways, it’s much more like my native Belgium and much less like Latvia and Lithuania (both more similar to Sweden). Catholic faith is also much more present here with shrines and cr, osses along a lot of small roads we take.
We passed through an area with a lot of large lakes, I was surprised to even see sailboats there, but apparently, sailing in this area, Mazuria, is a common thing.
Finally, we then came upon one of the main sights I wanted to see. The Wolfsschanze, Hitler’s first Eastern Front headquarters. It’s not in Germany, but in Poland near the front with Russia. Hitler spent nearly 800 days here.
A very big complex consisting of up to 50 buildings, built by forced laborers of Organisation Todt, it was abandoned in 1945 just two days before the advancing Red Army arrived. The Germans tried to disable and sabotage as much of it as possible. Since the complex was so heavily fortified (against feared air attacks that never came), some structures required up to 8 tonnes of TNT to even damage them.
It’s an impressive place, despite being mostly in ruins (one or two buildings have been re-purposed as restaurant and hotel). The sheer scale of the chunks that came off some bunkers is nearly unbelievable. Some cracks and craters are like strange man-made canyons from another world.
The complex was also the site of the closest anyone got to assassinating Hitler, where Von Stauffenberg’s bomb went off only meters away from Hitler, yet merely wounding him slightly. The movie Valkyrie depicts the whole attempt pretty well.
There are a few chunks of concrete that lean at unnatural angles, like they would fall over any minute. Visitors have taken to supporting them with branches, as in trying to say that the legacy of those who built this place, will never be forgotten.
We camped in a field further from Ketrzyn, waking up next to the cows.
Since it would rain today, I had to improvise a raincover for the non-waterproof GPS.
We did some interesting roads, even came to a bridge that previous signs had warned us about (but we ignored them like always). Since we’re not as cool as Lyndon Poskitt, we didn’t go across and found a safe alternative.
We got to Skowrony where we started looking for the place we booked. Turns out the numbers here make no sense at all, and there are no street names. We asked almost the entire village for the number, and they all sent us different ways. Timmy made friends with a big drunk Polish guy that started hugging us and wanted to pour us some beer on the spot. He wasn’t much help…
Finally, when we mentioned the name of our host, Maryla, they all went “ahhhh” and showed us the way. Good thing they pointed it out us because we would not have believed there was a house down this little road…
Maryla’s place turned out to be wonderful, a restored old farmstead in the fields. She’s a feisty grandmother who had her 4 grandchildren and their mothers over, so I typed most of this out with drool-covered balloons being fired at my head and trying to answer what my favorite animal is.
Wow, the photo with the tree in the middle of the bunker wall is amazing! Great job and good luck!