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)  

Olsztyn – Allenstein again

I went to Olsztyn to prepare the next tour.

Nothing special, nothing new one might say. But viewed differently. Always differently 🙂

I like the place, and most of all I love their pierogi (dumplings).

HERE is a link to the newest photo gallery….

Published in: on 08/08/2013 at 18:36  Leave a Comment  

Gongoozlers :)

As I had a day off today, I decided to start tidying mess in my photographic archives. And by accident I found pictures of the lock in Miłomłyn. I took them a month ago, while travelling through Poland with one of my groups.

So HERE they are – enjoy 🙂

Published in: on 28/07/2013 at 19:35  Leave a Comment  

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.


more on:

Pass the salt please….

I have been visiting Wieliczka Salt Mine for many years. I always have admired the entire splendid job Nature had done as well as the one done by People. I walked the underground tracks and licked the walls… But I never had any opportunity to visit the Salt Works Castle. It was because I always had Wieliczka on tour on Monday! All the Museums in Poland are closed on Mondays – due to a traditionally “interior day” (whatever it means)… This time however it was Sunday! So – I bade my group farewell, saw them off – taking the elevator down to the mine, and went to visit the Castle.

I know now that I shall definitely return there. I had only two hours (this is how long the tour of the mine takes) – so I did not have too much time to penetrate the whole museum thoroughly.

I took some pictures of the salt shakers – presented there, as I thought it was a charming exhibition.

“Pass the salt please” we say at the table. Never (or seldom) we think of the great importance salt had and still has to mankind. I shall not write about salt itself – as you can find the description HERE, as well as some history… However it is necessary to mention how important it was (and still is)to many. Most often we hear not to use salt – as it rises the blood pressure. It is called the “white death”… But way back in the history it was a very important trade article.

From the middle ages, the merchants of Gdansk were importing salt from Lüneburg Saltworks. Later, the greedy eyes turned to the Polish salines in the south. Wieliczka was one of such titbits. Unfortunately the Loitz family of Danzig (Gdansk) failed in the race for the shares in the Wieliczka Salines. Unfortunately, the Polish king died in the meantime, and the Polish Diet didn’t want to pay the king’s private debts (see the detailed history of the Wawel tapestries). (Note – the Loitz Family was called the Fuggers of the north).

In the 18th century Poland lost independence. Many Poles were exiled to Syberia, (from the late 18th to the 20th century) many of them died there – marking the landscape with graves. However many managed to save themselves. Those who were lucky to have returned home (if home was still existing…) gave the evidence of the tragedy. And often – proudly showed a sack of salt they managed to get somewhere in the middle of the Syberian nowhere. Such pouch full of salt could save life – sold for a good amount of money…

Today, we usually notice salt only when we cook, or need it at the table… “Pass the salt please”… Very often we do not even notice the little pieces of art salt is kept in 😉

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  

The beauty of May on the Lakes and the Canal :)

I sailed today 🙂

The Oberland Canal (the inclined planes) is undergoing some very needed maintenance works, so the sail was a real sail… No riding the boat today 😉

But – Oh My!!

What views there were!

For me it was not new – as far as the route is concerned. I sailed it once in my lifetime – the whole Canal route – with my Dad.

Years ago…

For five days.

And they were wonderful five days.

So today I took the photos even more eagerly – trying to hear the distant long faded voice of my Dad saying: “row, girl row, I want to feel the wind in my hair” (especially that he did not have too much hair to feel the wind in 😉 )

Today the day was perfect – sun, and a delicate wind, birds waking up after a long and gloomy winter. The water in places was still, like a mirror 😉

HERE are some photos I took on the way from Małdyty to Miłomłyn.

I may say – I launched my internal batteries 😉

Published in: on 06/05/2013 at 22:11  Leave a Comment  

Elbląg / Elbing – some thoughts in the early afternoon…

I have just returned from Elbląg.

Nothing surprising, as I visit this town quite often with a great pleasure. Today I went to the guides’ training about the royal visits in the town’s glorious past. It was due at 5 p.m. so I had time enough to walk around, taking some photos (I don’t recall how many do I have already!!!).

I went (as always) to the part of the town, which was once owned by the Dominican monks.

Of course, the monastery buildings do not exist anymore – due to the fact that the “liberation” in 1945 as well as “new organization of life” after the war left nothing but ruins, and empty quarters. Only few years ago the rebuilding of the once flourishing Hanseatic town started.

However the surroundings of the former Dominican monastery and church (now an art gallery…) is still awaiting its better time…

Below there some information about the place – which I translated from )

St. Mary’s Church

History of St. Mary’s Church Elblag is almost as old as the history of the city. As early as January 13 1238r. The Domestic Master  of the German Order – Hermann Balk issued a privilege allowing Dominicans to settle in Elblag. Therefore on April 24, 1246 – when Elbląg was grnated the Lübeck Law, the Dominicans were given permission to build a church and a monastery. The Dominicans were the only mendicant order, which received the privilege of settling in Elblag.

As in Gdansk, the monastery received an area on the edge of the city, in the north – western part. The church could have tower.

Construction of the chancel began in 1248. A temporary church and housing for the monks were built then.

At the beginning of the fourteenth century, the temple was expanded – receiving the two-aisle form. At that time, the chancel was  also modernized.

As early as the fourteenth century St. Mary’s Church received the shape – as seen today. From 1504 to 1514 (after a fire) some changes were made – the building was heightened.

Reformation was  approaching Elbląg from the West. The Dominicans started to lose their significance. In 1542r. the last two monks left the monastery. From that moment on – St. Mary’s Church became the main temple of the evangelical community in Elblag.

After the war it stood in complete ruins until 1959. Despite many requests it was not given to the Catholic community. Instead it was taken over by a group of artists who organized a Laboratory of Art “Gallery-El”. In 1980, again there rose an idea to hand the church over to the Catholics.

Again the idea returned in 1992. This caused a huge stir in the artistic community. Gallery-El for 30 years of its existence became famous in Poland and Europe. Currently, the building of the former church, as well as existing gallery within – are owned by the local government. It is a place of some art exhibitions, symphonic and jazz concerts, and sometimes entertainment events.

Of the rich furnishings of the church the high altar has survived in parts (now reconstructed), the altar of the Magi (both are in the St. Nicolas Cathedral), the altar of St. Lawrence (in Elbląg’s Archaeological-Historical Museum, the altar of shoemakers apprentices (in the Cathedral) and the Renaissance pulpit of 1588, which since 1955 is in St. Nicolas Cathedral.

The walls of St. Mary’s Church, the floors, its inner and outer walls are decorated with epitaphs and tombstones of the most eminent families in Elblag. The crypts and right under the floor of the church there are the remains of monks and nobles – patrons of the church.

 It is worth noting that among them there are the remains of the English and Scottish merchants who were the representants of the Eastland Company. And…Unfortunately the place is not that optimistic as the above description might have suggested…

HERE are some photos I took today…



Scotland’s Queen – Saint Margaret

I am a great and dedicated fan of the web site.
They publish a lot of interesting articles, which I would have never run into, because I wouldn’t even know where to search…

So when I found the below article, I read it with interest. Especially, that I also visited the Edinburgh castle, and also wondered who was St. Margaret of Scotland 🙂

enjoy the lecture.

Published in: on 27/03/2013 at 19:55  Leave a Comment  

Sopot – a walk in the sun

On Sunday I went to the beach in Sopot to take some pictures. The day was nice, and sunny.

Sopot is a small town situated halfway between Gdańsk and Gdynia. And it is an interesting place – not only because it is Poland’s summer gossip capital (winter gossip capital of Poland is Zakopane)

For the history of Sopot – see HERE. Even though it is Wikipedia – it’s quite well written. Sopot was a birthplace of such known people as: Fritz Houtermans, or Klaus Kinski (born Klaus Günter Karl Nakszynski) – (which in fact is a disputable honor – if should be any at all). Sopot however became famous between the two world wars when a famous Casino was opened here. Soon accompanying the Casino – a splendid hotel was built. It resembled (some said it had the same design) the Grand Hotel in Szczawno (Bad Salzbrunn – where Daisy von Pless visited often). The Sopot Casino Hotel was built to accommodate visitors coming eager to try their luck in gambling. Many lost their fortunes, many lost their lives too, comitting suicides, stricken with grief after losing everything at the green table. Up till today one of the park lanes nearby bears the nickname of the “lane of the hanged men”. Not only fortunes were gambled here. After Hitler gained power also the strategic information was of value. After Hitler attacked Poland in 1939 – the capitulation of the Hel Peninsula was signed in the Casino Hotel…

Today – Sopot is struggling to return to the pre-war glamor. For many years now it has been a known spa in Poland.

So whatever one would think of Sopot – it is worth coming here. See the place, walk around, feel the atmosphere. When visiting Sopot in summer – go to the nearby forests – to see the amount of shades of green… maybe to hear the music 🙂