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Baltic Coast

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Trip List by Phil765


3 Sep 2006  Interest
3.0 of 5 stars based on 4 votes

A short journey which gives a flavour of the Baltic coast.

  • Explore locations featured in this Trip List: Leba, Gdansk, Malbork
  • Category: Recent trip
  • 1. Leba
    Leba, Pomerania Province

    How the coast was in the UK before cheap airfares; charming family beach holidays, at least thats what they look like from the outside; not that I would know I grew up on the coast so it can look like a swarm of grockles. In reality it all looked like great fun for families and the Polish crowd were very good natured.

    Fantastic beach and the Baltic seemed to always be changing mood and look. From millpond to good breakers. Nothing too stunning to see, but the old harbour had some post industrial charm. Sadly decent fish & chips went down well! The draw for me was the closeness to the Slowinski National Park.

  • 2. Gdansk
    Gdansk, Pomerania Province

    A historic and beautiful city; it was a great pleasure to sit outdoors in streets of fine buildings or along the wharf with a good beer and good food after an interesting day spent seeing the sights. Flemish design, like the Grand Place Brussels.

    An international Hansa port with lots to see; massive medieval crane; biggest mill in europe. Lots of amber; superb Bazylika Mariacka where you can see Flemish Triptrichs in context (eg side chapels). The Memling is superb; a man from Florence paid for it; painted in the Flanders; shipped on an Englsh ship; stolen by Hansa pirates!

    We had a superb guide, which is well worth it, we got charm, sweets if we remembered things; poetry and a glimpse of the romantic polish soul. If you are not impressed that the Poles rebuilt this after a war which flattened Gdansk and over 80% of all Polish buildings then you have a heart of stone, especially when you consider the loss of life suffered. It's not suprising they did not rebuild the German era (not that I do not feel sympathy for ordinary Germans who used to live here). Interesting place to read up on, there are still 200,000 people who speak Kashubian the old Pomeranian slavic language which predates Poland and the Teutonic Knights who brought their own interesting brand of missionary work. If you visited some years ago, go again lots of art works brought back, great restoration and good standards of resturant etc has changed hings for the better. The people are really lovely, and I look forward to visiting again. Its Golden Age was an international age with many nationalities living together in a trading city, its kept some of that spirit.

  • 3. Malbork Castle
    Malbork Castle (Muzeum Zamkowe w Malborku), Malbork, Pomerania Province

    Fantasy Tutonic Knight castle; Gormanghast for real. A must see; which has been rebuilt since the war, an incredible job. Shame we did not do a bit more of the same in the UK. Not convinced of its military role much more a statement of power. Stay at the Hotel Stary its excellent.

  • 4. Slowinski National Park

    The shifting dunes are superb, at just under 40 metres high they are the biggest you can see in Europe, and as they move they swamp and cover large trees. Do not make the mistake in thinking that a day trip to the dunes from Leba gives you a good understanding of the park, as there is much more to see. For a start the size of the dunes make them hard to appreciate when standing on them, they extend for over 30 km of coast. A trip to Kluki is essential, if you go past the skansen the road ends at a car park. A short walk takes you to a viewpoint tower which gives a view of the dunes across the lake, this gives you a real sense of their scale.

    The landscape of the park is varied, its one of the few places in northern europe with an intact transiton between coastal and terestrial habitats. There are a wide range of different freshwater habitats which illustrate the degree of change in western europe in the last 50 years which has generally destroyed these habitats.

    By no means is it wilderness you drive through plantations which are being restored to more natural woodland by the park authorities. Through the remains of communist era collective farms, the blocks of flats people live in seem to my eyes so strange in such a rural setting. An older layer of landscape history is evident in the frequent victorian era model farms of the Junker estates. One of the most distinctive features of that period are numerous avenues of trees along many local roads.

    An older landscape can be seen with many pollard trees and old stones in fields. Forget the hedges of atlantic europe this is a mixed landscape of huge open arable fields, many woods, and wetlands. In the Kluki area elements of an ancient landscape are quite evident; woods and villages are on what were islands of old sand dunes in amongst marsh. This is very similar to other coastal fen landscapes such as the Somerset Levels, but here there has been much less change.

    At Kluki you can see a fascinating example of an old village with some distinct fenland elements such as marsh shoes for horses. The timber frame houses are similar to English ones with a distinct difference. Its really clear here that you are in an island surronded by fen and wet fields near the lake. Nearby woods are also on sand dune islands and show evidence of having been coppice in the past. The amount of native grassland and scrubby areas here, despite the big areas of more intensive farming illustrate clearly how in the UK intensive farming has reached a damaging level for wildlife. Virtually everywhere we stopped there were red backed shrikes.

    The flora is similar to the UK so a UK fieldguide is useful, the areas of wet woodland and fen / aquatic habitats are excellent and cover an extensive area which few UK nature reserves can equal.

    Even people not interested in nature will enjoy the numerous white storks nesting in local villages. I enjoyed the cranes, white tailed eagle, and other wildlife seen including one of europes nicer butterflies the purple emperor.

    The history here is fascinating, slavs turned into Germans mainly deported after the war replaced by people from what is now Belorussia. On a more general level the similarity of how people made a living in the same environment type over europe is perhaps a reminder of a history which is less violent than the better recorded one of war.

    Carved stones made by Goths from Gotland record a journey which took them to the Danube, then Rome and eventually into Iberia, mind you they took some time to do it.

    From what I could gather some of the quite large wooded local hills are terminal moraines; these are massive amounts of rock and muck shoved into place by vast glaciers from scandinavia in the last ice age. The scale of the ice which made this entire landscape is incredible. Presumably the carved Goth rocks are granite from scandinavia dumped by glaciers and found in fields and used for building, carving etc.