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Anyone been to Suwalki in northeastern Poland?

I ran across some info on Suwalki while researching a future trip to Poland. It looks like its current greatest claim to fame is as the last major stop on the train line headed out of Poland at its northeast corner, but it also appears to...

  • work well as a base for Wigry National Park
  • have an interesting, well-English-labeled regional museum
  • be home to 1 of 2 Maria Konopnicka museums in Poland (children's author, novelist, poet, activist, multi-talented woman) -- exhibit is probably all in Polish
  • have an interesting cemetery divided into several sections, including a Jewish one with rare graves but a small Holocaust memorial + a wall built from grave stones destroyed by the Germans
  • have a Soviet memorial and cemetery at the edge of town
  • be surrounded by farm stays on lakes
  • offer access to Augustów

I searched the Forum and could find only 6 mentions -- mostly in reference to transportation in/out of the country, but there are a couple of cryptic Fred comments ("Very interesting that you are going to Suwalki.") in the search results, too.

Posted by
5985 posts

Dave, Fred is a historian of note. Suwlaki has some historical military significance, that probably wouldn't mean much if you weren't a student of post WWI Europe. There was a battle there during the Polish-Soviet War (1920-21) where the newly re-established Poland defeated the Soviets who were headed West to spread Bolshevism to the rest of Europe. The Suwalki Gap is currently a geographic weak point in NATO's eyes, as a potential invasion route.

Posted by
2597 posts

stan--

Thanks for the information. Interesting stuff, especially the Suwalki Gap, on which I did some additional reading. My 2-volume history of Poland barely mentions Suwalki -- it just tells to what power the town/city went during the three partitions of Poland during the 18th century.

Posted by
109 posts

In Poland Suwałki is not known for its historical significance. It's mainly a popular holiday and weekend destination for Poles and the Baltic states. When the weather is nice, there are lots of cars on Warsaw registration plates with bicycles on roof racks heading in that direction.

Posted by
12360 posts

If you want to see an area where Polish Jewish culture and history were concentrated, it was in this area, the Suwalki triangle.

Napoleon's campaign in Poland, continued by the Russians after the Prussian defeat at Jena, saw battles, eg., Augustow, in the Suwalki area, ie, what is known as the northeast corner

Posted by
2597 posts

Fred! Thanks for the insight. Suwałki is firmly ensconced on the Poland itinerary.

Posted by
12360 posts

@ Dave,,,,less "cryptic"..here, .hopefully. Going to Suwalki assuming you're doing this by rental car puts you easily within some fantastic sites in Prussian history...all depends on the depth of your historical interest and the time factor..

I would suggest the fantastic (you'll see what I mean ) bilingual map(s) published by "Hoefer Verlag" (www. hoeferverlag.de) These maps pertinent to you are in Polish and German, mostly written in German, with indexes of names in Polish, then the former German, and also vice versa, very convenient.

The map most pertinent to your projected trip is: "Polen/Südliches Ostpreußen" (southern East Prussia). Depending how much/how far you can legally access, you can go from Suwalki to Goldap ( the German name was retained here, known also Goldap in Polish) to access "Puszcza Romincka"..ie, the former Romitker Heide,....the Kaiser's hunting preserve.

Most of that is located north of the demarcation line, ie the Russians took that part of East Prussia.

Depending on your time constraint, there is further west, yes, that site... Ketzyn (sp?) / Rastenburg.

Posted by
2597 posts

Fred,

Thanks for the additional suggestions and the map recommendations. I had read about Goldap being a bit of a spa town now but had not read about it being part of the Kaiser's former hunting preserve. It looks like Ketrzyn/Rastenburg has a long history from the Teutonic Knights to Wehrmacht garrison town. I'll do some more reading on it. Thanks again for your advice, which is appreciated and valued.

Posted by
12360 posts

@ Dave....What I meant was that Goldap is one of the access sites to enter the Kaiser's hunting preserve, which in English was called Rominten Heath. Coming from Suwalki you could enter the part of it still in Poland on its eastern side without having to swing around to Goldap. A direct way is to go Elk/ Lyck (the former German name). Like Goldap, Elk is on the main road.

You'll be seeing and driving through (even by bus) some very interesting countryside, aside from the invaluable historical aspect in Prussian history and geography.

If you want to pursue more places in the former West Prussia, such as an undamaged town from 1945 , ie, Gniew/ Mewe on the lower Vistula as well as seeing Rastenburg, I would heartily suggest reading the pertinent parts of The Rough Guide Poland....lucid, informative, comprehensive.