Peace in Poland’s Lake District

The Sunday Telegraph - Travel - - Poland -

Tran­quil wa­ters, pris­tine forests and charm­ing hosts... it’s easy to re­lax in this gen­tle won­der­land, says Adrian Bridge

With hind­sight, this week was pos­si­bly not the ideal time to launch a new air link be­tween Bri­tain and Poland, but that was far from my mind as the in­au­gu­ral Wizz Air ser­vice from Lon­don Lu­ton to Ol­sz­tyn-Mazury be­gan its de­scent into the re­gion of Poland known as the “land of a thou­sand lakes”.

I could see pretty clearly why it has that name as I spied them from on high, twin­kling in the sun­light – great reser­voirs of wel­com­ing blue rip­ples break­ing up the oth­er­wise end­less swathes of pris­tine for­est and marsh lands.

In fact there are more than 2,000 lakes in this part of the world, a wa­ter won­der­land much loved by Poles and Ger­mans long aware of its spe­cial charms. Un­til now, how­ever, it has been al­most un­known to Bri­tish hol­i­day­mak­ers de­terred by the fact that, with no di­rect flights, the re­gion has been dif­fi­cult to get to.

Not any more. The flight I was on last week­end marked the start of reg­u­lar ser­vices to Ol­sz­tyn-Mazury, a mi­nus­cule air­port lo­cated in the vil­lage of Szy­many, deep in the Ma­surian for­est.

How they cheered as we landed, the ar­rival of a plane car­ry­ing 160 peo­ple be­ing still some­thing of a nov­elty in th­ese parts. And the hope is that with three flights a week from Lu­ton, Warmia-Mazury – known more broadly as the Ma­surian Lake District – could now claim to have reg­is­tered on the Bri­tish trav­eller’s radar.

It will cer­tainly ap­peal to all who like nat­u­ral beauty and wildlife and the peace and space in which to ex­plore it; to all in­ter­ested in the past (this part of the world may be Pol­ish now, but not that long ago it was the ter­ri­tory known as East Prus­sia and, go­ing back much fur­ther, was a strong­hold of the Teu­tonic Knights); and to all who love wa­ter and wa­ter sports – swim­ming, kayak­ing, sail­ing, fish­ing or just qui­etly con­tem­plat­ing life and the lap­ping of the wa­ter.

But where to start? The re­sorts of Gizy­cko and Miko­la­jki – sit­u­ated within the re­gion called the Great Ma­surian Lakes – sit on the largest ex­panses of wa­ter and of­fer the most ho­tels, bars, cafés and shops. They are good bases for ex­tended sail­ing trips (many of the lakes are linked by canal) and the places that come clos­est to be­ing what you might term bustling.

I wanted some­thing qui­eter and chose what looked like a very stylish ho­tel – Galery69 – on the shores of Lake Wulpin­skie, just south of the re­gion’s prin­ci­pal city, Ol­sz­tyn. I wanted time to com­mune with na­ture (the bird life is par­tic­u­larly rich), to swim and to walk in forests, to re­lax –

A labyrinth of is­lands on Kisajno Lake, right; boats at an­chor on one of the re­gion’s wa­ter­ways, left; and Ol­sz­tyn Cas­tle, be­low

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