July 4, 2014
Pomerania province in northern Poland is one of the most attractive regions in the country and has a developing rural tourism sector that supplements other forms of local tourism.
Stretching along the Baltic Sea and south towards central Poland, Pomerania province is a top tourist destination, with some of Poland’s finest seaside resorts and a wealth of vast sandy beaches and bathing sites. The province’s most popular coastal towns include Ustka, Łeba, Rowy, Jastrzębia Góra, Władysławowo, Jastarnia, Jurata, Hel and Krynica Morska. The town of Sopot, wedged between the cities of Gdańsk and Gdynia, is an internationally famous resort whose chief attraction is a 512-meter long pier—the longest in the country and one of the longest wooden piers in Europe.
One of the province’s standout geographical features is the Hel Peninsula, a 34-kilometer-long sandbar deposited by waves and sea currents over thousands of years. The Hel Peninsula is less than 200 meters wide at its narrowest point but expands to 2.9 kilometers at its tip in the town of Hel.
One of the most remarkable natural sites in Pomerania province is the Słowiński National Park, famous for Europe’s largest shifting dunes that move 6-10 meters a year. The national park was established in 1967 and 10 years later UNESCO designated it as a biosphere reserve. More than half of the park’s surface area is covered by Lakes Łebsko, Gardno, Smołdzińskie, Dołgie Wielkie and Dołgie Małe. Łebsko and Gardno are shallow lakes that are separated from the sea by sandbars and are a distinctive feature of the Polish Baltic coast. The lakes and their neighborhood provide nestling and feeding grounds for many bird species, including ruffs, calidrids, ducks, seagulls and terns, in addition to various birds of prey.
The central part of Pomerania province is called Kashubia (Kaszuby in Polish) and includes the Kashubia Lake District. This comprises a section of highly varied landscape nicknamed “Kashubian Switzerland.” A large part of this picturesque hilly area is covered by woods. The local tourist highlights include Lakes Raduńskie and Ostrzyckie and the Wieżyca peak in the hills near Szymbark.
Somewhat eclipsed by the Baltic coast but no less appealing are the Tuchola Forest and the Kociewie region in the south of the province, in the drainage basin of the Wierzyca and Czarna Woda rivers. One of the largest woodland areas in Poland, the Tuchola Forest was designated as a national park in 1996. The forest is a sanctuary with over 300 natural monuments, including 400-year-old oaks and 300-year-old pine trees that stand as relics of the area’s primeval landscape. The Tuchola Forest National Park is also home to Poland’s largest concentration of inland dunes and its geological features also include tunnel valleys stretching from the north to the south. The most well-known lakes in the Tuchola Forest are Wdzydze and Charzykowskie with well-developed sailing and ice-boating facilities.
Areas known as Żuławy and Powi¶le along the Vistula River make up a flat region crisscrossed by manmade ditches and canals. The local sites of interest include a range of hydraulic engineering structures, such as drawbridges, locks and pumps.
Apart from its beautiful and lush nature, Pomerania boasts many places of historical interest, especially in the province’s principal city of Gdańsk. The historic highlights of Gdańsk include the Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is the largest medieval church in Poland and the largest Gothic brick church in Europe. The church can accommodate up to 25,000 people at a time. Gdańsk is part of a metropolitan area known as the Tricity, which also comprises the seaside resort of Sopot and the city of Gdynia, separated from Sopot by a strip of forest.
Places of historical interest in Pomerania province also include several castles built by the Teutonic order of knights, whose state once occupied a part of present-day Poland. The most impressive of the castles stands in Malbork, the former seat of Grand Master Ulrich von Jungingen. This is the largest Gothic castle in the world, while smaller Teutonic castles are also located in Sztum, Kwidzyn, Człuchów, Bytów and Gniew.
Folk customs and culture
Pomerania province can be divided into several distinctive regions, with Kashubia being home to one of the largest ethnic groups in Poland. The locals, known as Kashubs, have preserved a distinctive culture with their own language, literature and folk traditions and outfits. Kashubs observe a range of traditional everyday customs, in addition to folk arts and crafts that they practice at small studios in their homes. Many Poles are familiar with Kashubian embroidery, a handicraft dating back to the 18th century. Just like centuries ago, local housewives continue to embroider elaborate patterns on linen tablecloths that they later put on festive tables. Other local crafts include glass painting and items made of plaited pine roots.
The culture of Kashubia thrives in the towns of Kartuzy, Ko¶cierzyna and Bytów, where museums have large collections of Kashubia-related items on show while folk ensembles keep Kashubian music and dances alive. A good way to explore this heritage is to visit the Kashubia Ethnographic Park in Wdzydze Kiszewskie, the oldest open-air museum in Poland. Buildings displayed in the park include cottages furnished with vintage furniture such as kitchen cupboards hand-decorated by woodcarvers. An open-air museum with historic cottages is also located in the village of Kluki.
In the drainage basin of the Wierzyca and Wda rivers south of Kashubia lies the region of Kociewie, where a local dialect of Polish survives to this day. The locals are referred to as Kociewiacy and form a mixed group that has lived here for centuries. The region stands out with its distinctive traditional culture that is cultivated by folk ensembles.
An Analysis of the Potential of Rural Tourism Products in Poland and Their Competitiveness on Regional, National and International Markets for Tourist Services, a document compiled by the Polish Tourism Development Agency, describes Pomerania province as one of Poland’s top regions in terms of tourist appeal, mainly owing to its location on the Baltic coast. The appeal is further enhanced by the cultural diversity of Pomerania’s regions, Kashubia and Kociewie in particular.
Hundreds of thousands of tourists come to the province every year and some of them also choose to spend vacations in a rural setting. However, this form of tourism is not very popular in Pomerania and, according to experts, rural tourism in Pomerania province is only supplementary to other forms of tourism that focus on culture and active recreation.
Rural tourism in Pomerania has potential to develop in the Vistula Valley, the Tuchola Forest, and the Słowiński National Park. These locations offer beautiful lakes, rivers and woodlands. Rural Pomerania could also draw visitors with its cultural and ethnic diversity.
Farms that offer accommodation and services to tourists in Pomerania are supported by the Pomerania Regional Tourist Organization, local tourist organizations, and a number of organizations that specifically deal with rural tourism.
Pomerania province is home to many recommendable farms with accommodation for tourists and inventive products and services. Two of these have been put on a list of “the greatest hits of rural tourism” compiled by the Polish Tourism Development Agency. One is the Agroturystyka u Chłopa rural tourism farm in Chmielno in the picturesque neighborhood of the Radunia River that cuts through the “Kashubian Switzerland.” Run by a traditional Kashub family, the farm presents guests with many opportunities to explore the local folk culture and try local delicacies served by the hosts. The farm also offers a Kashubian steam bath as a special treat.
The other top “hit” is the Pasieka Wędrowna Barć (Traveling Beehives) farm combined with a mobile apiary in Krzemienica. The farm owners started the apiary in 1996. In spring and summer, they take their bees in a truck to fields within a 50-kilometer radius from the farm in order to obtain different varieties of honey.
The farm is a typical homestead from the first half of the 19th century with wattle-and-daub buildings. The farm produces many kinds of honey, including canola, linden, buckwheat, heather and wildflower honey. The hosts also provide educational activities using a special Beekeeping Hall that they opened in 2004. This facility houses an exhibition of vintage beekeeping equipment and two beehives made of glass—the farm’s main attraction. The house specialty is Onisiówka, a strong liqueur made of a blend of honey and elderberry syrup. In 2006, Onisiówka was put on the Agriculture Ministry’s list of Regional and Traditional Products.
Not on the “greatest hits” list but also worth a visit is the Ola rural tourism farm outside the village of Słajszewo, Choczewo district, just 3.5 kilometers from the Baltic Sea. The farm specializes in traditional Polish dishes made from meat, cold cuts, dairy products, fruit and vegetables all grown and produced on the site. Many of the dishes are made by the lady of the house, who also treats guests to cakes and pies she makes herself. Nearby attractions include a historic lighthouse, a palace in the village of Sasino, and a yew tree reserve. The forests in the neighborhood abound in forest fruit and game.
Those who like active forms of recreation can come to the small village of Hejtus on the edge of the Kashubia Scenic Park, where a farm named after the village encourages visitors to stay active while vacationing. The area offers many Nordic walking routes and bicycle trails that take bikers on tours around the forests, lakes and meadows of Kashubia. Tourists who prefer to relax in peace and quiet can check in at the Kaszebskô Checz (Kashubian for “Kashub Cottage”) rural tourism farm in the village of Maks by Lake Raduńskie Dolne in the middle of the Kashubia Lake District. Sitting amid meadows and forests, this traditional farm offers room and full board to visitors. The house specialties include staple dishes of Polish cuisine, such as the bigos sauerkraut stew with sausage, mushrooms and spices, and bread with lard. This tidy farm and house are surrounded by a large, lush green garden. Guests are welcome to use the farm’s private fish pond, and if they like they can take the opportunity to give the hosts a hand with farm chores.
The Pod Lip± (Under the Linden Tree) farm in Kożyczkowo in the Kashubia Scenic Park is another working farm with accommodation for tourists. Local attractions include a fish pond and horse rides for visitors. On request, the hosts can arrange a party with music performed live by a folk Kashub band, in addition to rides in a hayrack wagon, bonfires and sledge rides in winter.
Regional cuisine and dishes
The cuisine of the Pomerania region offers a diversified range of specialties many of which are available at local rural tourism farms. Indigenous Kashubs used to eat a lot of fish and dishes made from potatoes that were never in shortage in rural areas. Meat was usually served during family celebrations and on church holidays. The most popular everyday dish was mashed potatoes with pork scratchings and buttermilk. Traditional Kashubia dishes also include a grucholec potato pie served hot with an onion and pickled cucumber salad. Visitors to the area should also try the kiszka kaszubska sausage-like product made from potatoes, buckwheat groats, eggs and smoked fatback.
In Kociewie, the locals like to eat a mushroom casserole which, when ready, looks a lot like bread with a crunchy crust. The staple dishes of the northwestern part of Pomerania province, in turn, include the Polish żur sour soup, rutabaga soup and Klitundplumen, which is German for plum soup with dumplings.
Some of the tastiest regional dishes in Pomerania province come from the Powi¶le region along the Vistula River’s lower section. The area is well known for its local plum varieties that are processed into a range of specialties, including marinated Powi¶le plums, Nebrowo plum jam, and Nebrowianka plum liqueur, all of which are listed as regional products.
The Agriculture Ministry’s list of traditional products features a total of 144 products from Pomerania province. Only Podkarpacie province has more. The most well-known product from Pomerania is truskawka kaszubska, Kashubian strawberry, which contains more sugar than strawberries grown in other parts of Poland. This is a result of the microclimate in the Kashubia Lake District where temperatures change dramatically between day and night. People in Pomerania also make different kinds of fruit preserves and dishes from cranberries. This dwarf shrub grows mainly in northern Poland, especially in the boggy areas and swamps of Kashubia. Cranberries are eaten raw with sugar and processed into jellies, jams and sauces. Raw cranberries from Kashubia are known to be very tasty and contain a lot of vitamin C. Folk medicine has long used the fruit to treat inflammations, scurvy, whooping cough, rheumatism and the common cold.
Fish used to be a key part of the cuisine of Kashubia and were served cooked, roasted, smoked and dried and eaten both as the main course and as a side dish. Villagers who lived near lakes and the sea caught fish for a living. Herring was the most popular sea fish in the area and in autumn almost every household had a barrel full of salted herring. Fish in Kashubia is prepared in a variety of styles, including marinated, fried, roasted over an open fire, salted and smoked, served with sour cream, oil and mayonnaise. It is also used as an ingredient of salads, mushroom dishes and pea soup. Several herring dishes are listed as traditional products and include ¶ledĽ bałtycki po rybacku (fisherman-style Baltic herring), sałatka ¶ledziowa po kaszubsku (Kashubia herring salad) and ¶ledzie marynowane w oleju (marinated herring in oil). Fish specialties from Kashubia also include fried roe and kotlety kaszubskie fish fillets with various flavors.