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The Warsaw Voice » Real Estate » June 25, 2008
Expo 2008
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A Land of Clean Water
June 25, 2008 By Michal Jeziorski   
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Poland is an excellent destination for water-sport vacations. Every year, sailing, kayaking and swimming enthusiasts are attracted to the clean Mazurian lakes in the northeast of the country.

Over the years, recreation facilities in the Mazurian Lake District have been developed to the highest standards. Accommodation ranges from simple camp sites to luxury hotels. Numerous sporting and cultural events ensure fun and restful holidays.

One of the goals of Poland's participation in the Expo 2008 exhibition in Saragossa, Spain, is to promote Poland as a country full of beautiful lakes and rivers. Mazuria is without a doubt the most popular region of Poland for lakeside vacations. The district lies in the northwestern part of the country in an area that is sometimes referred to as "the green lungs of Poland." The area is also called "the land of a thousand lakes" because 15 percent of the region is covered by water.

Mazuria has the largest water network of all regions in Poland and can boast some 4,000 lakes. The largest lakes are ¦niardwy, Mamry, Jeziorak and Niegocin. ¦niardwy covers an area of 113 sq m. To sail across ¦niardwy is for many people an unforgettable experience. Not without reason is the lake dubbed the Mazurian Sea-in a strong wind you cannot see the other side.

Lake Łuknajno is a biosphere reserve and part of UNESCO's Aqua project. This lake is home to the largest swan sanctuary in Europe, with some 2,000 swans, in addition to birds of prey on the shores and numerous colonies of nesting water and wetland fowl. You can see cormorants, cranes, grebes, numerous duck species and many other birds. Near Lake Łuknajno is the Czapliniec reserve.

Mazuria is a popular vacation destination among Poles. In summer the Mazurian lakes teem with life and are overrun by visitors. A well-developed infrastructure enables visitors to each find suitable accommodation. They can rent a vacation home or a room in a farmhouse; stay on a campsite, in a guesthouse or in a luxury hotel. The clean Mazurian lakes are ideal for swimming. Most of the beaches have qualified lifeguards on duty to ensure safety. The Mazurian lakes are an excellent place to learn to windsurf, water-ski and take a ride on jet skis.

Another excellent place for these sports are the bays on the Baltic coast. Poland can boast international successes with regard to sailing. There is also an abundance of traditional equipment such as boats and kayaks. Sailing skills can be honed under the watchful eye of instructors and all necessary equipment can be rented. Meanwhile, their clean water renders the Mazurian lakes a paradise for fishermen. Most often European whitefish and eels end up on the frying pan.

The towns dotted around Mazuria are well-known sailing centers. Among the best known are Mikołajki, Ruciane-Nida, Mr±gowo, Węgorzewo, Giżycko and Pisz. An important part of the Mazurian water network is its canals. These have significantly increased the number of sailing routes so that they now cover almost the whole area of the Mazurian Lake District and measure some 200 km in total, including inlets. Sluice gates connect lakes of differing heights and also provide an additional attraction. The Mazurian lakes and scenery can also be admired from boats sailing from place to place and providing people who do not sail with a chance to be on the water.

Importantly, the Mazurian lakes are a safe place. There is a well-developed and coordinated system of emergency and medical services. Water ambulances are stationed in Węgorzewo, Giżycko and Mikołajki.

Canals and rivers provide an excellent venue for organized kayak trips. The Krutynia river is considered to be one of the most beautiful kayaking routes in lowland Europe. It is varied and runs through the Piska Forest and also through the Mazurian Scenic Park from Lake Mokre.

Attractive kayaking routes are also found in northern Poland, in the Augustowski lake district. Kayaking can be done solo or in organized groups over a few days or a few weeks. Kayaks can be rented from many places where you can also stay overnight. This area has no lack of camp sites. In the Suwałki region, the most beautiful kayaking routes are Czarna Hańcza, Rospuda, Marycha, Blizna, and the Augustowski Canal.

Unforgettable scenery can also be admired in the Western Pomeranian Lake District. Kayaking is a sport in which Poles have achieved huge successes, winning world championships 24 times.

Yet another attraction are rafting trips organized on the Dunajec river in the Pieniny mountains in the south of the country.

The deepest lake in Poland is Hańcza. It is 108.5 meters deep and because of its depth and high underwater sides it is a popular place for scuba diving.

You can water-ski in Poland too. In 1999, the northeastern town of Augustów launched water-skiing facilities on the beautiful Lake Necko, which are undoubtedly one of the biggest tourist attractions of the region. Each year thousands of tourists come to Augustów to try out their skills on water skis. Each year there are amateur sports competitions. Visitors are guaranteed good services, professional instructors, water-ski equipment rental, and a host of unforgettable experiences. The town's beach, Plaża Miejska, on Lake Necko, is some 500 m from the center. Guests have use of a monitored swimming pool, water-equipment rental, two beach volleyball nets, and an eatery offering local regional dishes and fish. Here you can relax, swim, play water sports and volleyball, eat a good meal, and go dancing in the evening.

Another place worthy of note is Lake D±bie in the northwest of the country since it is the only lake in Poland in which seagoing vessels can berth. The lake is located within the Szczecin city limits. It is the extension of the Regalica arm of the Eastern Oder river and is the fourth largest lake in Poland. There are many mooring points and marinas located along its banks.

Poland is also famous for its mountain lakes. The best known of these is Lake Morskie Oko not far from the winter resort of Zakopane. Polish 19th-century painter and photographer Walery Eljasz-Radzikowski wrote in 1873: "To be in the Tatra Mountains and not see Morskie Oko is akin to being in Rome and not seeing the pope. The lake's fame has spread far and wide and many tourists come to the Tatras just to see Morskie Oko." Poland's second largest mountain lake is Wielki Staw. With a depth of 79.3 m it is also the deepest lake in the Tatras and one with the biggest volume of water, or 12,967 cubic meters.

In the Sudetes Mountains in the southwest, on the other hand, Poland's most beautiful waterfalls can be found. The biggest of these, Wodospad Kamieńczyka near the ski resort of Szklarska Poręba, falls in three cascades from a height of 27 m. It is within a heavily protected area as part of the Karkonoski National Park. Below the waterfall is the 100-meter-long Kamieńczyk canyon. The canyon's walls reach up to 25 m in height. The waterfall was the site of filming for part two of The Chronicles of Narnia in July 2007.

Poland's climate provides enough rain to supply its existing river network. Because of the country's northwest gradient, the Vistula, Oder and many other rivers flow in that direction. The Vistula, the largest of Poland's rivers, is the last great European river that can be described as natural. From its source in the Silesian Beskidy mountains, where the Biała Wisełka and Czarna Wisełka rivers meet at the town of Wisła, through to its delta in the Bay of Gdańsk, it forms a varied biological and ecological corridor. The Vistula basin covers 53.9 percent of the country's area. Along a significant part of this natural and unregulated river you can see scenery that is the last of its kind in Europe. Numerous inlets, islands, sandbanks and old riverbeds provide a harmony and beauty absent from rivers that have been regulated and changed by man. The Vistula plays an important role in fish migration, and despite many routes being limited by the development along the lower Vistula, its role continues to be significant. Two-thirds of Poland's bird species nest and live along the banks of the river. These include many rare and endangered species that exist only thanks to the environment in the Vistula's central valley. For many species, the river's valleys offer a last and important place for refuge.

Poland's artificial reservoirs can accumulate some 2.7 billion cubic meters of water, or 5 percent of river water flowing into the sea. Manmade lakes are used to provide drinking water to cities where there is a shortage of water. Moreover, they regulate the flow of water, preparing it for navigation. They also act as reservoirs at a time when rivers are swollen and in this way prevent flooding. Today there are some 50 manmade lakes in Poland, most of them in the Carpathians and Sudetes mountains and in the Pomeranian Lake District. The best known manmade lakes in Poland are Włocławskie and Goczałkowickie on the Vistula; Czorsztyńskie on the Dunajec river; and Solińskie on the San river.
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