A special attraction for a Dutch tourist can be a trip to Żuławy in the footsteps of Mennonites (Protestant faction of Anabaptism), that is immigrants from Friesland and the Netherlands, who settled these lands in the 16th century.
They were invited to transform the flood-prone areas of Żuławy into fertile lands (read: Netherlands in Żuławy), and several centuries of their presence left a clear mark on this area. And although they have not been here for a long time, every Dutchman will recognize in the local landscape something familiar – flatness of the area, numerous canals, embankments and embankments protecting fields against flooding and planted dense willows (excellent soil dehydrators!).
Żuławy Gdańskie, around Steblewo
The Żulawy landscape perfectly harmonizes with the village settlements, often originating in the Middle Ages, including numerous villages founded around a characteristic rural square with the shape of an elongated rectangle. A characteristic element of this area are also the arcade houses and Dutch-type homesteads, cemeteries, churches and houses of prayer, hydrotechnical constructions and – very few existing nowadays – windmills. Unfortunately, many of these monuments have fallen into irreversible ruin; some cemeteries are covered with dense thickets. This is because for years no one has seen the need to take care of “post-German” remnants. Fortunately, something positive has recently started in this area, because the hosts of Żuławy appreciated the great attractiveness of the Mennonite heritage for tourism and made the Mennonite Trail the main tourist route of the region. This is followed by the renovation and maintenance of buildings and cemeteries. Sometimes the descendants of the former inhabitants of Żuławy help in their restaurant.
Wandering around Żuławy can be done in several ways: driving a car or a bicycle, because the distances between Mennonite villages are not large, and flat terrain is not tiresome. Experienced cyclists suggest that due to the strong wind from the east the trip should go from east to west. There are several route variants that are related to the large cities of the region: Gdańsk, Nowy Dwor Gdanski and Elbląg. You can also designate yourself, based on a special map and hints, where are places of particular interest.
If someone sets off from Gdańsk to Malbork, he has an excellent opportunity to ride around Żuławy on this occasion. He can choose a shorter version (Gdańsk – Malbork) or longer (Gdańsk – Elbląg – Malbork). The longer one allows you to visit the extremely interesting village of Tropy Elbląskie, and also to include the lowest point of Poland in Raczki Elbląskie (-1.8 m), not to mention an interesting visit to Elbląg (read: Malbork – Mazury).
The following route variants are presented based on information from the Nowodworski Club – the New Dwór Gdański Lovers Association.
Route I GDAŃSK – MALBORK
Gdańsk – Olszynka – Krępiec – Mokry Dwór – Wiślina – Lędowo – Wróblewo – Wocławy – Miłocin – Trutnowy – Cedry Wielkie – Kiezmark / Żuławki – Drewnica – Cyganek – Nowy Dwór Gdański – Orłowo – Lubieszewo – Stawiec – Gniazdowo – Nowa Cerkiew – Palczewo – Lichnowy – Nowy Staw – Stogi – Malbork
The more important attractions of this route are:
Gdańsk – a Mennonite church built in 1818/19, the largest preserved Pomeranian building in Eastern Europe; it has a “biblical style” of the old building that is clearly visible in many places, clearly referring to the good tradition of Mennonite culture.
Gdańsk, old Mennoite chapel
Wiślina – Mennonite wooden belfry from 1792, standing in the cemetery once associated with a non-existent already Gothic church, on one of the gate poles there is the name of the gate’s contractor: Jakub Jentzen 1792.
Wróblewo – a tiny church with a checkered wooden beams built into a brick wall, erected in the 16th century as a chapel of the Scheweke family, expanded in the 18th century.
Wróblewo, dawna kapilca rodu Scheweke
Trutnowy – a very impressive arcade house from 1720, covering a high hall with a gallery and a large room with a rococo wardrobe; when it is opened for tourists, they can see a model of miniatures of the historic Żuławy architecture, including Mennonite type.
Trutnowy, arcade house
Cedry Wielkie – a gothic church from the mid-16th century; its brick, three-aisled body from the mid-14th century with the front tower rebuilt in the 17th century for pseudo basilica.
Cedry Wielkie – church in basilica style
Kiezmark – the former place of crossing the Vistula, there is a church from 1727, one of the most original and interesting sacred monuments in the scale of the entire Żuławy, the mannerist and Baroque interior decoration is preserved in its entirety.
The church from 1727 r.
Żuławki – the largest group of five arcaded houses in one of the architectural types in Żuławy Wiślane.
Drewnica – open-air museum of Żuławy building, Dutch type homesteads, a “koźlak” windmill from 1718.
Cyganek – cemetery of 11 villages from 1639, on which Lutherans and Mennonites were buried, now there is a lapidarium with about 60 gravestones, and near the Tuga river there is a Mennonite cemetery; arcaded house from 1843, Greek Catholic church of St. Nicholas from the mid-14th century.
Nowy Dwór Gdański (formerly Tiegenhof) – Museum of Żuławy presenting interesting ethnographic and historical collections as well as thematic exhibitions (Mennonites). More important exhibits include photographs, drawings, models of houses, bridges and windmills, Mennonite costume from the 19th century, former kitchen and a unique larch gravestone stela from 1876 r.
Exhibition: “On the Polish polder. History of Mennonites “, Żuławski Historical Park, Nowy Dwór Gdański
Orłowo – a gothic church and an arcaded house from 1802, erected by the esteemed builder Peter Loewen. An interesting fact is that the columns that support the arcade, though wooden, have Ionian capitals (capitals) that are popular in the classicist architecture of that time.
A gothic church
Lubieszewo – a gothic church and arcaded house.
The Gothic church
Stawiec – a well-preserved Mennonite cemetery.
Gniazdowo, Nowa Cerkiew – beautiful arcaded houses.
Palczewo – a wooden church from 1712, inside which there are extremely valuable Baroque organs from 1687 and an altar from 1754, also a Dutch windmill from the 19th century.
The church z 1712 r.
Boręty – arcaded houses, a catholic church with skeletal structure which was built in 1841-1842 with a tower from 1907, formerly serving as a Mennonite and Protestant chapel.
Old Mennonite chapel
Lichnowy – a ghotic church
Nowy Staw – a well-preserved medieval marketplace, a gothic basilica, a former Protestant church with a characteristic pencil-shaped tower, an arcaded house from 1820 (Gdańska St.).
The former Protestant church
Stogi Malborskie – the largest Mennonite cemetery in Żuławy, where about 100 Mennonite stelae from the 19th and the first half of the 20th century have survived, some of which are of great artistic value; Dutch type homesteads.
The Mennonite cemetery
Malbork – Teutonic castle from the 14th century.
Elbląg – Fiszewo– Stare Pole – Krzyżanowo – Kławki – Rozgart – Markusy – Jezioro – Balewo – Jurandowo – Żurawie – Tropy – Raczki – Elbląg
The biggest attractions are:
Elbląg – Museum of Archeology and History, containing collections related to the oldest and the newer history of the city and its surroundings; the most interesting are items from excavations in the legendary shopping center Truso, there is also Elbląg and Dutch white ceramics, decorated with cobalt (dishes, tiles, stoves).
Some item / photo: Aktron / Wikimedia Commons
Fiszewo – Mennonite cemetery, ruins of a Gothic church from the 14th century, belfry from the 19th century.
Krzyżanowo – a Ghotic churg from the 14th century.
Kławki – arcade house from the end of the 18th century.
Rozgart – village with traces of Mennonite settlement architecture, several very interesting wooden buildings, one of them, arcaded, comes from 1749; old Pomeranian cemetery (in very poor condition).
Markusy – arcaded houses from the beginning of the 19th century.
Jezioro – locality located on the drained Druzno Lake, which in the 13th century occupied ten times more space than today. Monuments: Mennonite house of prayer from the 19th century (very neglected, but a Mennonite center is to be established here), cemetery of the Mennonite community with a beautiful alley of old linden, on the Tina river there is a two-span historic drawbridge.
Tropy Elbląskie – typical Dutch village with a canal, which until the end of the 19th century replaced the road, now heavily overgrown; Dutch type homesteads, school building from 1861 (very neglected), remnant of the cemetery from the 18th century, which was used until 1945, now very overgrown and it is difficult to find graves on it. Tropy Elbląskie is a place that arouses the greatest emotion during the migration in the footsteps of Mennonites, because it is so very Dutch in its character, moreover, it raises a reflection on those who once lived here. Unfortunately, he also takes deep sadness due to the current state of neglect (written in July 2012 – rg).
Tropy Elbląskie, the old transporting channel
Raczki Elbląskie – the lowest point in Poland: –1,8 m.
A new city hall
Worth seeing are the arcaded houses situated also outside the above-mentioned routes:
Klecie (east of Malbork) – there is a magnificent arcaded house, one of the most monumental and picturesque arcaded houses on the whole Żuławy, built in 1750. It is a two-storey building, covered with a roof with two-beam and half-timbered arcade supported by 9 pillars.
Nowa Kościelnica (to the south of the road connecting Gdańsk with Nowy Dwor Gdanski, around Kiezmark) – there is one more arcaded house with columns in the Ionian style.
Flooded Żuławy required the construction of not only drainage systems, but also drainage devices, such as windmills typical for polder. In the 19th century, however, there was a need to build new types of equipment, such as steam pumps. One of these pumps, dating back to 1911, is located in Różany (Gronowo Elbląskie commune) and is considered a pearl of the old Mennonite technique. The steam pumping station has been preserved in its entirety and could be a great attraction for tourists interested in hydrotechnical equipment. There is a good chance of taking over the facility from its owner (Żuławski Board of Land Reclamation and Water Facilities in Elbląg), restoring and making it available to tourists.
So far, enthusiasts of all kinds of water devices can be content to see numerous objects not directly connected with Mennonites, like drawbridges (Rybina, Nowy Dwór, Jezioro), locks (Gdańska Głowa, Biała Góra and Elbląg Canal, which is one of the largest tourist attractions of Northern Poland. Tourists can sail by boat from Elbląg to Małdyty and Ostróda.
Zdjęcia: Vikimedia Commons, Tomasz Pluciński, Renata Głuszek, http://zph.org.pl