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From the Wolfs Lair to Czestechowa - en route stop??

We are planning a fall trip to Poland, beginning in Gdansk and ending in Krakow. From Gdansk, we would like to visit the Wolfs Lair and would stay 2 nites in Reszel (one the nite after the Lair and a second so we have time to visit Swieta Lipka) and then head to Czestechowa. But - it is a 5-6 hour drove from Reszel to Czes. - a bit long for us. Could you suggest a nice stop en route? We enjoy quaint/interesting hotels, villages/small towns, history, churches and good food. (note - we would prefer to avoid large cities).

Thank you!!

Posted by
12000 posts

Very close to your starting point is the city of Olsztyn, which I've heard has interesting architecture, but I haven't visited it. Judging from the font size on the ViaMichelin map, it's a rather large place.

I enjoyed Płock, which is farther down the road. It has a pretty historic center and a very nice Art Nouveau collection in the Museum of Masovia. I think the pronunciation of the city name is something like "Pwotsk". I traveled by train and don't know whether getting in and out of town would be unduly challenging. The population of the city is over 125,000.

You'll also pass quite near Lodz, but that certainly falls in the "large city" category.

Posted by
103 posts

Thank you! I had noted Olsztyn as a possible stop on our second day (it looks like there is a castle with info on Copernicus) but it;'s not quite far enough fore an overnight stop. Ploch, however, looks like a good possibility! Half way on, with some interesting sites!

Posted by
483 posts

One of the potential routes (hr 6:12) from Reszel to Częstochowa goes through Toruń about mid-way. While Toruń is a smaller city, the walled inner medieval district (where most of the sights are) makes it feel like a smaller town rather then part of a larger city. The medieval architecture of the historic district managed to escape bombing in WWII, and has thus been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Toruń is also the birthplace of the famous astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, one can visit a museum dedicated to him as well as his 15th century house.

Posted by
103 posts

Torun looks lovely, as well - and I found a 'palace hotel', the Hotel Palac Romantyczny - this forum is wonderful! Many thanks!!

Posted by
12000 posts

I can confirm that Toruń is even lovelier than Płock, having had the opportunity to compare the two last year. However, Płock gets very few tourists and Toruń has clearly been discovered. Both are very much worth a visit, and I think if 100 tourists voted, well over half would prefer Toruń.

Posted by
483 posts

Since you appreciate historical sites, another suggestion, if one does a small detour (adds 10 min) en-route between Reszel and Toruń, one can make a quick stop at the Grunwald Battlefield. The Battle of Grunwald was one of the most significant battles during the middle ages, it pitted the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania versus the German Teutonic Knights during the Northern Crusades. The battle plays a big role in Polish national identity.

The atmosphere of the place is really something, even though for the most part it is an open field (intentionally preserved) with a few memorials, I felt the underlying atmosphere was palpable. Adjacent to the battlefield, there is a small museum with artifacts, as well as some ruins of the original 15th century chapels commemorating the battle. As this is a bit off the beaten-path, when I was there in 2015, all the signs were in Polish, but the shop by the entrance to the battlefield has informational brochures in English and German.

Posted by
6 posts

In my opinion, Toruń is the most beautiful city in Poland. And if you decide to visit, please do try "pierniki"! You're gonna love them!

Posted by
103 posts

We now have some options and I've outlined a possible itinerary - loaded with history, castles and churches --

Day 1 Gdansk Arrive and walk the city (see Rick), St. Mary’s Church, Uphagen house, St Nicholas,
Royal Chapel, Monument to Defenders of the Post Office

stay at Podewils or Radisson Blu (we have points)
Day 2 Gdansk Museum of 2nd WW
Day 3 Gdansk The Shipyard - Solidarity Center, Cemetery of Lost Cemeteries
Day 4 Gdansk Visit the Oliwa area/Cathedral OR Stutthof OR Gdynia
Day 5 Gdansk Westeplatte and National Museum of Gdansk.
Day 6 Gdansk Malbork
Day 7 Reszel Pick up rental car in Gdansk, drive to (3 hrs)/tour Wolfs Lair
stay at castle hotel Zamek Reszel
Day 8 Reszel Reszel castle, church of St Peter and Paul and Święta Lipka church
if time - visit Ketrzyn - St. George Basilica
Day 9. Drive On/Plock/Torun Drive on (5-6 hrs) or stop in Plock/Torun (3.5 hrs). Stop at Grunwald Battlefield.
if stopping in Torun, stay at the Hotel Palac Romantyczny (??)
of driving on,on, stay at the Palace at Naklo, 45 mins E of Czestochowa
Day 10 Naklo Czestochowa/Jasna Gora monastery and Church of St Andrew/Barbara and Zamek Bobolice
stay at the Palace at Naklo

Day 11 Pszczyn Pszyczyna Castle (11-2)
stay at Pałac Bażantarnia
Day 12 Kraków Drive to Krakow, stop at Auschwitz en route - drop off car.
Stay at Sheraton (points).
Day 13 Kraków Walk The Old Town (see Rick) andHome Army Museum
Day 14 Kraków Wawel Hill — Castle and Cathedral
Day 15 Kraków Pick 2 - Rynek Underground Museum, Collegium Maius Museum, National Museum, and/or

Czartoryski Museum OR Monastery of Camaldolese Monks
Day 16 Kraków Jewish Quarter and Schindler Museum
Day 17 Kraków Depart Poland

Either Plock or Turun would make lovely en route stops - but would either warrant an added day? Torun looks gorgeous but it seems that it's primarily a beautiful city - or are there places we should really see?

Any thoughts on our draft would be most appreciated!

Posted by
483 posts

I think your itinerary looks great! Nothing negative really jumps out at me. I'm glad to see that you have Pszyczyna Castle down, I was also there a couple of years ago and it's a great (and historic) little palace with a richly decorated interior, almost no foreign tourists (other than some German pensioners).

I was just at the National Museum in Kraków too, about a week ago, and I really enjoyed it. The have a lot of interesting exhibitions, besides their famous Da Vinci "Lady with an Ermine", they have Polish post-modern art to medieval armour and everything in between, I think I spent a total of about 2-3 hours there.

Toruń is mainly a beautiful city just to walk around and explore, kind of like Toledo in Spain. It does have sights related to Copernicus, as well as various medieval buildings like the Leaning Tower and Gothic Town Hall. Toruń is also well known for its traditional gingerbread, which has been made there since the middle ages, one can actually bake this traditional gingerbread for one's self, in the original medieval style, at Gingerbread Museum in town. Here is their website in English: https://muzeumpiernika.pl/en. During peak season (I'm guessing summer?) they recommend you book tickets in advance.

Have a great time in Poland! :)

Posted by
103 posts

WOW!!! What a wonderful comment! I cannot thank you enough - and look forward to the fall...

Posted by
12000 posts

This summer the Lady with an Ermine was at the castle, so check ahead of time to be sure you know where to find her. There were also a couple of Rembrandts in the same gallery.

Try to find the hours mass is celebrated at Oliwa before scheduling a visit there. I failed to take that necessary step and wasn't able to see the church. The walk from the train station was not totally without interest, but there are lots of higher priority things to do, for sure.

I went to Gdynia primarily to see the Emigration Museum, and in the end that's really all I did. I remember quite a walk--either from the train station or the nearest bus stop. The museum is excellent and full of English. However, Poland has many fabulous, English-accessible museums, and I think if you are not either of Polish extraction or someone who identifies with the immigrant experience in general, this might not be a top priority for you. I would certainly be sure I had seen all I wanted of the WW II Museum and Solidarity Center before heading to Gdynia. Those are two incredible museums, and the first one can take more than a full day (20 hours for me). I recommend getting an early start on those museum days. One other tip: Sometimes there's a line at the WW II Museum ticket booth. I think I waited 20 minutes one day. That probably won't be an issue if you get there for opening time, but you might check into buying a ticket online.

The Home Army Museum was the only disappointing museum I encountered during my 5 weeks in Poland. Not because of its contents, and again there's English everywhere. The problem was the very low lighting level on the lower floor. I'm 67, and I am not a bat. I wished for a flashlight. (I later realized that a flashlight app on my smartphone might have been all I needed.) There was no problem on the upper floor. I do recommend the museum, but I urge you to have a flashlight app on your phone if you don't commonly travel with an actual flashlight.
The museum is walkable from the main bus station (which is sort of behind the train station), but it's a bit tricky to locate. Even getting to the bus station on foot is a bit tricky. If you choose to go on foot, I highly recommend having an electronic map on your smartphone and making use of the "you are here" dot. This might be a good time to spring for a taxi. But after you visit the museum, it will be even harder to find your way back to the city center if you arrived by taxi. Decisions, decisions.

Looks like a fabulous trip.

Posted by
103 posts

I cannot thank you enough - this is wonderful information! We are 67 and 73, respectively, so things like English and walkability and lighting matter - rather a lot!! Based on your thoughts, I think we will skip Gydinia (it was on the list because of the Emigration Museum - but, yes, we have been to several others (if you ever get to Halifax, do try to see that one - really wonderful!) and it doesn't seen compelling., And, that will leave more time to return to WW2 and Solidarity - which I know will fascinate us. A flashlight.

My goodness, the Army Museum must be dim - but one - or two will now be in our suitcases.

Again - thank you SO much!!!

Posted by
12000 posts

Glad the info was helpful.

I have mentally written a number of letters to museum designers during visits to US as well as European museums. These are among my pet peeves:

  • Failure to adjust the font size when a decision is made to cut the light level to preserve vulnerable displays (paper, textile, etc.). This is made all the worse if the text is posted at the back of a display case rather than near the front.
  • Use of a smaller and/or less-bold font for English text. I do appreciate the English, but why do you think I have better eyesight than someone who reads the local language?
  • Positioning descriptive information at ankle or knee level--considerably lower than is necessary for someone in a wheelchair. This seems to be more common every year in decorative-art museums. I don't care how sleek it makes the display; I want to know what I'm looking at.

Unless you typically run down your cellphone battery before the end of the day, I suggest trying a flashlight app before packing a real flashlight. The app may be all you need. I don't know what it does to battery life, though; I'm not a big taker-of-photos, so I usually end the day with a lot of juice left on the phone.

Posted by
103 posts

Agreed. And - may I add -- poor English? We are very fortunate to live in a world where our language is often the 'lingua franca' - but, too often, there are mis-spellings, poor grammar - and placards that simply do not make sense... I've often thought of offering translation services to improve our collective museum experience...but all the museums would need to do is to invite a local language teacher (or Google translate)...

Posted by
12000 posts

The English in the Polish museums I visited was superb. I may have seen one or two minor errors, but it's equally possible that they were in a different country I visited on the same trip. The only country where I've seen English available but rather often clearly provided by a non-native speaker was Spain. It was still usually totally understandable, though.

In art museums I've often run into material written in what I think of as "curator-speak", but that happens in the US, too.

Posted by
10574 posts

Keep in the mind the distance involved here. To put it in historical terms, Gdansk, ie Danzig, at the mouth of the Vistula, was the capital of West Prussia, whereas where you want to go, the Wolf's Lair, near Rastenburg, now Ketrzyn, is in East Prussia.

I would go from Torun to Olsztyn, the terminus to transfer to Ketrzyn (Rastenburg). Better that you stay in Ketrzyn.

In 2005 en route to Torun from Poznan where we had transferred from Berlin, (we spent the night there after all day from Paris), the Mrs and her mother got into a conversation with a couple of Polish students talking in French since we were all sitting together. I never asked them if they spoke English, they knew we were from here, and everyone was fine speaking in French, except me. We told them we were heading to Torun.

One of the girls told us that they were going all the way to the terminus, Olsztyn, which meant nothing to me until she mentioned its former German name, thinking that might ring a bell, Allenstein. It most certainly did since I knew Allenstein was in the former East Prussia and the 1914 Russian invasion objective.

Even from Olsztyn it's still a distance to Ketrzyn (Rastenburg) but it's direct.

Posted by
10574 posts

It's probably since the 1990s that English gradually has become the lingua franca. In 2001 the train ticket (point to point) I bought in Poland was written in 3 languages...French, Polish, and German.

In Krakow there is not far, ca 12 mins, from Krakow main station a "plaza" with a big , big enough to be obvious, memorial to the Grunwald battle. Keep in mind too if you're in that area and motorized, you aren't too far from Tannenberg. The blown up ruins are still there. The Poles left the site as it was after 1944.

Posted by
103 posts

Fred, thank you for you note but I'm a bit perplexed with your reference to 'terminus' as we will be driving. Please help me understand...
Based on via Michelin, I think (though I could be wrong) that Wolfs Lair is 3-4 hours from Gdansk, which would allow us to visit the Lair late that afternoon (assuming we get an early start) - and to then head another 30-45 mins to Reszeli. Reszel is attractive to us because it has a well regarded ( Trip Advisor reviews) castle hotel - the Zamek Reszel Hotel where we would stay for 2 nites. (I've not found very interesting accommodations in Ketrzyn but can keep looking). Then, the next day, we would plan to visit the monastery complex at Sweet Lipka, the church at Reszel and/or Ketrzyn or Olsztyn (1 hr from Reszel). There are so many wonderful placers to go, I'm thinking that we may save Ketrzyn for another time and heads to Olsztyn which seems to have some unique sites (there are only so many churches we can visit...) and is (I think) an hour away from Reszel. Or - am I missing something??? Thank you so much!!

Posted by
10574 posts

Hi,

If I understand you correctly, I meant "terminus" pertaining to the Polish girts' train ride that we all were on terminated in Olsztyn, which was their stop. That was news to me, since I didn't know which town was the terminus of the train. We (the Mrs, her mom, and I) were getting off some ways before that...Torun. We arrived in the late afternoon, close to 17:00 or so, after spending most of the day (8 to 8.5 hrs. ?) on the train coming from Berlin and changing in Poznan. Just for the record, I was partially en route to Ketrzyn/Rastenburg, which I didn't know at the moment. Afterwards I found out that one can take a train from Olsztyn to Ketrzyn, which is how the Mrs and I would do this trip out there in the future.

Since you'll be motorised, these train routes would not apply to your travel plans as you would have more flexibility

"...so many wonderful placers to go." How true!

If you go only to Olsztyn, keep in mind that as Allenstein/East Prussia that place was in the path of the Russian offensives twice, ie 1914 and 1944, was especially wrecked in 1944. It was also burned in 1914. Still go and see and explore the town.

Posted by
10574 posts

You're welcome!!

Re: from Gdansk to Ketrzyn by train with one change in Olsztyn takes close to 4.5 hrs. Train wise this is the most direct route. By car it might take you presumably ca 30 mins less, depending on which route you take.

Historically, you're going from the capital of West Prussia to northeastern East Prussia. If you want to get a detailed explanation of the location of the Wolf's Lair (Wolfsschanze), ie, get to the ruins, I heartily suggest looking in "Rough Guide Poland, " which provides a pretty good coverage as to accessing the site. Keep in mind this place was out in the woods.

As you say, given your time constraint, you'll save this trip out to Ketrzyn/Rastenburg for the next trip. Then you'll be geographically within range of what used to be called "Rominten," the forest area in eastern East Prussia which was the Kaiser's hunting preserve.