Peace in Poland’s Lake District
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