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The Warsaw Voice » Travel » April 25, 2013
Rural tourism
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West Pomerania: Province with Potential
April 25, 2013   
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The West Pomerania region has substantial potential in terms of rural tourism. For now, however, this plays a secondary role compared to other forms of tourism.

West Pomerania province is in northwestern Poland and includes the cities of Szczecin and Koszalin. The Pomerania Lake District is also part of the province. West Pomerania is attractive for tourism because of its proximity to the sea, its many lakes and rivers and its extensive forests. Broad sandy beaches and dunes on the Baltic coast create excellent conditions for the development of recreation and various sporting activities. The local rivers, lakes and forests are a paradise for nature-loving vacationers. The province’s national and scenic parks as well as nature reserves provide an opportunity to catch a glimpse of many animal and plant species not available in other areas.

West Pomerania has a lot to offer to tourists interested in culture. The region’s cultural landscape is testimony to its rich history, a result of an interplay of Western European, Polish and Scandinavian influences. Sites popular with tourists include surviving historical fortifications, old churches and remains of medieval villages as well as beautiful cities including Świnoujście and Kołobrzeg, in addition to Szczecin and Koszalin.

West Pomerania has excellent conditions for the development of rural tourism. However, under the Strategy for the Development of Tourism in the West Pomerania Province until 2015, rural tourism is expected to play a supportive role in the development of the region, secondary to programs focusing on relaxation, recreation and cultural attractions. Poland’s Marketing Strategy for the Tourist Sector 2012-2020 sees the development of rural tourism in a similar way.

“There are several hundred farms in West Pomerania that cater to the needs of all those who seek peace and quiet as well as close contact with nature and country life. For these people, however, getting to know the West Pomeranian countryside is not the main reason why they come here,” says the Expert Analysis of the Potential of Rural Tourism Products in Poland and Their Competitiveness by the Polish Tourism Development Agency.

Nonetheless, those who choose to stay in one of the region’s several hundred tourist farms are likely to be satisfied. Many of the region’s farms are attractively located amid lakes and rivers. Some have their own ponds and offer excellent fishing opportunities for anglers. And anyone keen to acquire a tan will be impressed by farms nestled just 50 meters from the Baltic shoreline.

Vacationing in the countryside is also appealing to those who are partial to mushroom and berry picking. Guests can also rent bicycles and aquatic sports equipment, go horseback riding or play tennis. Horse-drawn carriage and wagon rides as well as sleigh rides in winter are another big attraction. In the evening, bonfires, pig roasting and other events are held in which guests can take part.

Focus on German tourists

Rural tourism services in West Pomerania are especially attractive to tourists from neighboring Germany. Many of them find vacations in West Pomerania relatively inexpensive. However, tourists from both Germany and elsewhere are interested in a broad range of activities during their free time, which means that tourist facilities and infrastructure need to be developed.

Much has already been done thanks to projects carried out under the Rural Development Program for 2007-2013, especially when it comes to improving the quality of public infrastructure and developing social, cultural and tourist facilities. Experts say more emphasis should now be placed on carrying out strictly tourist projects designed to create new tourist products and services and to develop existing attractions.

The so-called Local Action Groups (LAG) are ready to help develop rural tourism in West Pomerania. There are 14 such groups in the province. Other institutions supporting the development of rural tourism in the region are the West Pomerania Regional Tourist Organization and local tourist organizations in towns such as Mielno, Sianów, Rewal, Świnoujście, Goleniów, Czaplinek, Drawsko, Kamień, Barlinek, Szczecinek, Trzebiatów, and Łobez. Rural tourism in the region is also supported by the Baltic Agritourist Association and the Wiatrak Agritourist Association.

Flagship tourist products

The Dworek Tradycja country estate in the village of Bełczna, 90 kilometers east of Szczecin, holds a special place among rural tourism products in West Pomerania. This old house, with a history dating back over 300 years, had many functions in the past. It once served as an inn and a pastor’s home, housed county records and was also a local school several decades ago.

Hiking in the countryside, jogging, Nordic walking, mountain bike riding, canoeing trips down the Rega river to the Baltic Sea, angling, mushroom picking, paragliding, offroad vehicle rides, hunting with a camera, and visits to local churches and old country houses are some of the attractions offered by Dworek Tradycja.

The estate’s owners organize cooking courses for vacationers interested in traditional culinary arts. They also organize wedding parties and other events. Additionally, all year round the place hosts schoolchildren coming to school camps with their teachers. The hosts provide their young guests with opportunities to get to know the tradition of the region and local cuisine, and learn about its cultural heritage. Special meetings-cum-classes are held that focus on a “return to the past” and old customs. Participants in these classes have a unique opportunity to discover healthy food products and learn how to make bread and bake it in a wood-fired stove—or how to make the local variety of gingerbread cakes named after the province’s capital Szczecin. There are also classes during which the students find out about traditional methods of making food preserves and storing food.

As part of the environmental and cultural education program, there are screenings of films on environmental issues, meetings with foresters, hunters, and local folk artists. Other attractions include angling competitions organized by the hosts.

The Siedem Ogrodów (Seven Gardens) tourist farm in the village of Łowicz Wałecki, near the city of Mirosławiec, is another flagship rural tourism site in West Pomerania province. The estate is composed of a number of small houses, each surrounded by a beautiful garden. Ultimately, there will be seven such houses on the estate. Five have already been built: Miller’s House, Gardener’s House, Hunter’s House, Feast House, and Windmill. There are also several gardens, including the Garden of Fragrant Dreams and the Garden of Whispering Waters. The farm offers comfortable accommodation and relaxation amid nature, in addition to homemade meals and many cultural and recreational attractions. The area’s picturesque lakes invite visitors to go swimming and angling, while the fragrant meadow flowers and picturesque forest paths encourage them to go hiking and biking, try mushroom picking or simply admire the sunset.

Regional dishes

West Pomerania’s stormy history, to which the region owes its cultural and ethnic diversity, means that the local cuisine is also varied. Many of the province’s residents have come here from various other parts of Poland in the prewar and postwar years.

One of the region’s traditional products is the piernik szczeciński gingerbread cakes whose tradition dates back to 1845. These cakes are made of wheat or rye flour, almonds, honey, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg and lemon peel. This sweet and spicy product is baked in distinctive shapes, usually those associated with the sea, like ships, sailors, seagulls, fish, anchors, sailing boats and lighthouses. The cakes are covered with sugar or chocolate coating glaze. They are served during various holidays, fairs and competitions.

Another famous regional product is paprykarz szczeciński, a canned fish paste with tomato sauce, vegetables, chili pepper and spices. Its recipe was developed in 1965 by a local deep-sea fishing company. Initially, the main ingredient was fish from various African species and hot African pepper was added to the paste. The tomato pulp was imported from Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania. With time, the producer started to use cuts from deep-frozen fish blocks as the main ingredient and add rice to the product.

In the communist era, paprykarz szczeciński was popular not only in Poland, but also in other countries. It was exported to 32 countries, including the former Soviet Union, Denmark, the United States, Japan, Jordan, Liberia, Hungary, the Ivory Coast and Togo.

Ogórek kołobrzeski (Kołobrzeg cucumber) is another product typical of the region. Cucumbers and other ingredients used to make this traditional product—including garlic, horseradish and dill—are grown locally in keeping with organic farming rules. What is special about this product is that natural brine from an ancient Kołobrzeg saltwater spring—discovered in the 7th or 8th century—is used to make it. The specific content of the brine minerals gives the Kołobrzeg cucumbers their unique taste and flavor. The pickled cucumbers have been made in a traditional way according to a recipe passed down from generation to generation. The cucumbers are placed in a barrel in layers with horseradish, garlic and dill. Then, brine is poured over them.

The recipe for baking a bread called wiejski chleb wojenny (war-time countryside bread) was developed during World War Two: First, you make leaven from rye flour and water in a pottery dish. Then, you have to cook rye grains. The addition of cooked rye grains to the bread gives it a moist and spongy texture. The bread remains fresh for around a week. The ingredients—leaven, cooked rye flour, rye flour and salt—are mixed together and kneaded. Then, the dough is left to rise. This takes at least one hour, depending on the temperature and flour quality. The bread dough is put into oblong baking tins and into a stove.

The tradition to make grzyby marynowane z szyszką (pickled mushrooms with a pine cone) started in West Pomerania in 1955. In those days mushrooms were widely used to add variety to the diet of the local people.

In order to give the mushroom preserves a milder and different taste, honey and green pine cones are added to the vinegar marinade. Wild mushrooms, for example the boletus, are used to make the preserve. Cleaned, washed and cooked mushrooms are rinsed in cold water. Then, they are put into jars with carrots, onions and mustard seeds. The vinegar marinade is made of vinegar, sugar, water, honey, a green pine cone and salt. When cold, the marinade is poured over the mushrooms in the jars. The jars are then put into a pot with water and boiled. To acquire the right taste, the mushrooms have to stay in the jars for around three months. Mushrooms prepared according to this recipe make game, pork, beef and even poultry dishes more interesting and give them a unique flavor. They are served at family and holiday celebrations. A.R.

The Tempting tourists: Rural tourism in Poland special section is published by WV Marketing sp. z o. o. in association with Warsaw Voice SA in a project co-financed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

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