For the thousandth or more time – my LowLands ;)

Once again I was stricken by the simple beauty of my piece of the world.

I was driving from Gdansk to Malbork – for the night sightseeing. And as usually it took me almost 2 hours, despite the fact that there is quite a good road shortening the route significantly. 😉

However I took my time, amazed by the sunset, and autumn colors on the way.

So HERE are some pics I took en route – enjoy.

Published in: on 07/10/2013 at 10:05  Leave a Comment  

There and back – the LowLands again

Recently I was asked to prepare a tour in the LowLands for a group of Friends and their followers. I was given freedom in choosing the route. So I did…

We had wonderful weather, with sun and wind and clouds forming beautiful patterns in the sky.

First of all we visited the church in Palczewo (Palschau).  It is the only existing example of a wooden church architecture here in the Delta of the Vistula. It was built in 1712! and still exists! After all the turbulences of history, and the unfriendly post war conditions – it still pleases the eyes of the visitors!

It was built as a protestant church first – so the pre-war pictures show the pulpit in the place of today’s high altar. Also the polychromies on the wooden walls were not visible then. Or maybe the quality of the prewar pictures did not allow seeing the beauty of the place…

Nevertheless, the interior of the church today shows how the Past luckily survived till Present.

Palczewo was first mentioned in writing – in 1321. It was granted privileges in 1344 (in the times of Ludolph Koenig, the Grand Master in Marienburg), and was a very important village – as a ferry across the Vistula operated there. After the 13 years’ war Palczewo was incorporated to the Polish Kingdom as one of villages in the Gdansk domain.  In 1772 Poland lost independence, in the First Partition (this was also the year when Capt. Cook set off onto his second “voyage around the world” as G.R Forster of Dirschau wrote later). In 1773 this part of formerly Poland was named now West Prussia. And new outlines of districts were organized by the German-Prussian occupant. So now – Palschau was situated in the district (Kreis) of Marienburg. Such situation lasted till the end of the I WW, when Poland regained independence BUT without its main port – Gdansk (Danzig). This was turned into the Free City of Danzig in 1920 by the decision of the League of Nations.

Still in the 19th century – out of 289 inhabitants there were 31 Mennonites. Among them were: a Claasen, Peter Dau, Isaak Dyck, Adolf and Jakob Harder, a Wiebe and a Wiens, all noted as land owners, and Johann Nickel, noted as a merchant. The Flemish Congregation of Palschau belonged to the Ladekopp-Orlofffelde Mennonite Church.

When Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, at the same time annexing Gdansk – Palczewo fell under the control of Nazi Germany until 1945. In the harsh post-war times nearly no one was left in the village, as nearly all the original dwellers were either expelled or they fled before the approaching Red Army in the last stage of war… New people were settled here by the post-war Polish Communist authorities. Not all understood the simple beauty of the land, neither the rich and diverse history of the region… However it seems that they managed not to spoil what the past left them…

Today it is a little village in the Pomeranian Region, with little more than 200 inhabitants, . The place is neat and clean, and the church has lived to a renovation of the interior, partially financed by the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage (partially forced by the growing number of foreign visitors). Unfortunately ONLY the interior. The outside of the church – still cries for renovation. As it is timber, better the funds are found before it is too late….

We also went to see the amazing water gates in Marzęcino (Jungfer)… This must have been an enormous undertaking.

The water gates were built in late 19th century, to prevent the waters from Frisches Haff bursting into the land during the north and north-east winds. So it was decided to shelter the land – with the water gates. They were built within a huge action of protecting the Delta from the floods. Within few years after the construction the bed of the Frisches Haff retreated, and then in 1940′, Germans dredged the Pillau Strait (in preparation for the aggression on the Soviet Union) which lowered the waters even more.

Today the construction still amazes, even though it is situated in the … dry field 😉

HERE are some pictures of the whole trip as well as a short PRESENTATION  of the church in Palczewo, I made in youtube.

Published in: on 24/09/2013 at 21:30  Comments (1)  

A lazy day in the LowLands

Today I had a day off…

So, I went on a private tour (with friends) – of course to visit the LowLands. It seems that every time I go there I find something new, something I did not see the previous time… And so it was today.

(HERE are some pictures I took today – enjoy – may they bring some bright memories)

As usually, I went through Nowa Kościelnica (Neu Münsterberg). There I traditionally took photos of the house, which is shown on the cover of Prof. Peter Klassen‘s book (Mennonites in Early Modern Poland and Prussia). It was built in 1840 for Wilhelm Classen, and then it was owned by Dyck family… Today it is being very well cared for by the present owners, who have a lot of patience and understanding for every group of Mennonites visiting the place and wanting to take a photo there. 😉

There are good things going on in the village!! The half timbered arcaded house which is situated on the curve of the road, (once belonging to the Wiebe family) is under restoration now. Or should I rather state – is being reconstructed. The present owners finally got some refinance from the Ministry of Culture to rescue the building. It is a great success, especially that very little funds are being transferred to the LowLands for restoration of the historical heritage. 😦 I wish the owners all the best – especially that the house was in the last stage of destruction by time, and weather (as the last renovation of this splendid building took place in… 1933 !!!).

Nowa Kościelnica was founded in the medieval times (1352) by my favorite Teutonic Grand Master (Winrich von Kniprode) and had an area of 50 hufen (1 hufe = 17,955 ha = 179550 sq meters). Mennonites appeared here in the 16th century, and among the most popular surnames were: Brecht, Dick, Ens, Epp, Fehr, Harder, Isaac, Claassen, Matis, Penner, Peters, Regehr, Thiesen, Welcke, Wiens, Willms. In 1820 there were 560 inhabitants – in it: 106 Mennonites. In 1868 a petition was signed by the farmers from Nowa Kościelnica. Among them were: a Bergmann, as well as land owners: Johann Ens, Epp, Joann Harder, Joann Classen, Aron Penner, Aron Peter, Abraham van Riesen, J. Wiens.

Then I drove through Ostaszewo (Schöneberg). It was founded in 1333 and had an area of 60 hufen. In the 16th century the dikes on the Vistula river broke, and 200 people drowned in their sleep, and next 85 drowned trying to mend the broken dike. The flood of 1526 took lifes of about 5000 people, 1800 horses, and 400 cows. 15 LowLand villages suffered, and it took almost 5 years to repair the dikes. From the 18th century there were Mennonnite families listed there: Ens, Kopp, Kroecker, Mieretz, and van Roy operating the ferry on the Vistula River. In 1820 there were 775 inhabitants with only 15 Mennonites. In 1936 the noted Mennonite surnames were: Bergmann, Claassen, Dück, Epp, Friesen, Harder, Makelburger, Nickel, Purwin, Wienss.

Today – a small exhibition in memory of the past time is being organized in the Old School building. I sure will often return here, to observe the progress. 🙂

My next stop was in Stawiec (Neuteichsdorf). This little cemetery always brings back the memory of a special tour years ago… I had travelled with a lady who remembered the Ladekopp community from the former times (before 1945). She talked about her ancestors burried in this graveyard. By accident I found graves of her greatparents… Then we found the terp where her parents’ house stood (till 1945). The now huge cherry tree, she had long ago planted from a stone, was still there, and the two lilac bushes (remembered by her from childhood) were in blossom. Today – although many of the graves were destroyed by the post-war settlers, it still is a quiet little place though loaded with personal histories of this land.

After visiting Stawiec, I drove to Lubieszewo (Ladekopp).  Although the village was mentionned already in 1255, the location took place between 1315-1324.  From the 18th century such Mennonite surnames were mentionned as: Claassen, Dick, Elias, Ens, Epp, Essau, Fiegeth, Jantzen, Kroecker, Peters, Rigehr, Suckau, Toews, Wieb; Wiens, Wilms, Nikolaus Bergen, Jacob i Peter Classen, Kliewer, Joann Quiring, Jakob and Joann Wiebe. Among 640 inhabitants, 97 were Mennonites. As stated in the notes of – in 1868 the village possessed 150 hufe, 66 houses, with 288 Catholics, 326 Protestants and 114 Mennonites. Among the richest land owners were noted: Jacob Claar, Kornelius Dyck, Herman Friesen…

And today ? Today it is a village en route to Malbork, or into the heart of the LowLands, with an interesting medieval church and definitely hidden history. Even the house where the saddler had lived untill 1945, is in agony…

Tuja (Tiege) – was my next stop. The architecture of the church is so peculiar, that I always stop there to take some more photos… The tomb stones by the northern wall of the  church are in decay now, and it seems that nobody is interested in even lifting them up from the ground. The once flourishing area – after the long years of Comminust brain wash – now has nothing to offer, except memories of the visitors, and rather harsh kindness of the locals. Unemployment and lack of interest from the local authorities placed the dwellers outside the frmae of society. Maybe that is why they happily welcome everyone who drives off the beaten track, to stop by and chat about the long gone days.


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Sunday – LowLands and Mennonites

Today is the 539th anniversary of Doctor Nicolaus Copernicus’ birthday…

I celebrated it in Malbork Castle. I had a group there and it was a marvelous one. I should say – marvelous as usually. I surely am lucky with my groups. 🙂

But to get to the Castle, I had to drive through the LowLands. My beloved LowLands. It is a place on the map of Poland which I would never change for anywhere else to live. This is my favorite flat piece of land, situated in the Delta of the Vistula River, and full of a very special history. Also full of many Mennonite traces. For we have to remeber WHO created this land.

Mennonites came here, invited by the authorities of Gdańsk (Danzig) and Elbląg (Elbing) in the 16th century. After the series of floods in the half of the century, the citizens of the two said towns decided, they were not capable of coping with the results of the catastrophy. So they called the experts. And the experts were the people from the Netherlands. They were not numerous, but it is not the quantity that counts. It’s the quality that matters…

And the quality was perfect. The result can be clearly seen in the pattern of the fields, as well as the road system.

I am lucky, as I have a pleasure and honor to be the guide of many Mennonnites when they visit Poland 🙂

Well, this is all. Just to think that I wanted only to post some pictures here.


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Published in: on 19/02/2012 at 19:42  Leave a Comment  

The Lowlands – the Vistula River Delta (The Werder)

I remember saying once that there is nothing to see in the Lowlands. That they are low, dull, flat and uninteresting…

And then by accident I first found an ancestor among the Lowlanders, and then I became a guide. 😀

Now I can say, I found the key to the Homeland for Strangers (this is how Peter Klassen calls this piece of the World).

Words can not describe the beauty of this huge piece of land which comprises about 2,5 thousand hectares (c.a. 6 177,63 acres).

And it all started around 1540-ties when two huge floods destroyed the area near rich Gdansk (Danzig). The city council decided to invite the experts to help with the flooded land. And who could have done it better than the people from the Low Countries? So, the council of Danzig sent their representatives to meet probably Menno Simmons and to urge him to send some of his followers to the far country on the Baltic, to settle down in the Delta of the Vistula River.

And this is how the history of the Mennonite settlement on the Vistula started.

I found in the Internet a very interesting book by Peter J. Klassen: Mennonites in early modern Poland & Prussia. Definitely worth reading!!!!

I am among the great admirers of the Mennonites’ work and echoes of the grandeur in the Delta…

Not to speak of the magnificent landscapes – here are only few pictures of this amazing piece ofPoland!

A misty morning – in a hurry to Malbork castle

It just appeared to me, that for a long time now I have not posted a single word here. Well, the touring season has not come to the end yet, so I scarcely have time to write. But I take pictures… Few of them are HERE, just as a reminder how beautiful are the LowLands, and how magic they can be – especially in a morning mist 🙂

The quality of the photos is bad, but I took them from the train to Malbork Castle, through a dirty train window, and with a mobile phone 😉 I was on my way to meet another wonderful group ready to follow me through the wonderful Biggest Pile of Bricks in the World…


One day off…

I love my work, but finally I became eager to get a day off. I wanted to share it with my family 🙂

And I did.

After a splendid (royal – both in form and service) breakfast at the Gothic Cafe in Malbork Castle – we went for a drive into the heart of the LowLands…

We drove through Klecie (Klettendorf ), and then Kławki (Klakendorf) – where we saw the ruin of the once marvelous half-timbered porched house. It is outrageous and shamefull to everyone who cares (except of course the authorities, who are always self satisfied and in an excellent mood…). We stopped in Szaleniec (Tchőrichthof), where the Mennonite cemetery is sinking in high grass, and our next stop was Stalewo (Stalle) – the birthplace of eng. Eduard Wiebe (the maker of Gdansk’s sewage system) to admire the splendid half-timbered house built in 1751 by Georg Poeck; in vain we tried to find the protestant cemetery (another shame to the locals). Afterwards we drove through Zwierzno (Thiergart) – a village, like many other, founded by the Teutons in mid 14th century.

Markusy (Markushoff) welcomed us with some village Sunday rush. I shall always remember my first visit to this rather sleepy village – tracing the history of the Kroeker family. The history of Markushoff is very interesting: it was (as most of the villages here) founded by the Teutons in mid 14th century, and there was a mansion with a chapel here. In the late 16th century an agreement with Simon Bahr (a wealthy Gdansk burgher) was concluded, allowing him to settle the Dutch people. The Mennonites living in Markushoff belonged to the Frisian congregation of Jezioro (Thiensdorf). In 1791 a split in the congregation occurred – and it resulted in rise of an independent congregation with own house of worship. The congreagations united in 1888, and took the name Thiensdorf-Markushoff. Among the most popular Mennonite names here – were: Allert, Bastvader, Boll, Dau, Froes, Froese, Land, Harms, Holtzrichter, Jantzen, Lambert, Martens, Neysteter, Nickel, Pulse, Penner, Peters, Philipsen, Quiring, Ridiger, Schroetter, Siebert; In 1885, the village had 54 households, there were five large farms, 76 houses, inhabited by 689 Protestants and Catholics and 139 Mennonites (according to

Maybe they were not numerous here – but it is worth remembering what a great influence they had on the whole land ! Those words are especially worth reading by those in Poland – who not knowing the history of this land – are nowadays strongly rejecting the Mennonite impact on this land.

Coming back to our today’s trip – we drove through Żółwiniec (Wengelnwalde) which was founded only in the late 17th century by the Mennonites.

And then we finally stopped for a while in Raczki Elbląskie (Unterkerbswalde). It is famous today for being the lowest natural depression in Poland (-1,8 m). But in the medieval times the area of today’s Raczki was a forest – which belonged to the Teutonic castle in Elbing. Today the village is losing its historical character very quickly, and has nothing to offer, besides the land mark of the depressed land.

Emerging from the depression – we drove to the cemetery in Różewo (Rosenort)… The village was founded by the Dutch settlers in the late 16th century. And was one of the most important religious centers in the LowLands and exerted great influence on the lives of other centers and communities. In 1754 a first Mennonite church in the Vistula LowLands was built here. Today this cemetery – as most of the non-catholic ones – is in sad ruin.

However there is a group of young people (locals) who – wanting to repair what was destroyed by the new settlers after 1945 – are now trying to restore what still remains and what still can be restored. In many places they are doing a marvelous job (without any financement!).

As we did not have enough time to see everything we wanted – therefore I shall need another day off 😉

Here is a GALLERY of photograhs I took enroute

Published in: on 02/06/2013 at 20:46  Leave a Comment  

4 seasons – autumn

For the past 10 years I have been taking the same route to and from the night sightseeing in Malbork Castle.

Therefore the 4 seasons for years have been „dropping into” my camera lens. However every time differently.

This is what we call here – the magic of the LowLands.

Because it is a land which demands unconditional love. With its mud, wind or burning sun. With Indian summer (called here Ladies’ summer) spinning through the freshly plowed earth, shining in the autumn sun. With mists taking the world away unexpectedly and for many miles…

It is a land for connoisseurs, as somebody once said.

It is a land for the ones having time and will to notice the flock of geese overhead, or a sparrow on a tree branch… For maniacs taking several hundred photos one day – during the departure of storks…

I myself have several places, where I often stop to take pictures. Those are usually: the same row of old weeping willows, or the same row of poplars, or the same field track, and the same Vistula dike, often the same people… But every time – different. And every time differently.

And at the end – the view of The Castle, night view… Like a reward.  A valuable prize.

Unfortunately, the pictures I attached here – are not perfect. My camera lens was dirty … And I only noticed the lint – when I watched the photos on my computer.

Therefore HERE are the pictures of autumn in the LowLands with lint and … sugar beets 😉


Published in: on 12/11/2012 at 21:33  Leave a Comment  

Today :)

Here are some pics I took today – while waiting for my group. The last ones were taken just outside Gdansk – before the rain came to the LowLands.

What a lovely day it was 🙂


Published in: on 09/06/2012 at 23:00  Leave a Comment