Słowiński National Park – I’ve been thinking of visiting it since March this year. Finally, I managed to give it a go in September. This trip was also quite special, since I celebrated an anniversary with my boyfriend, Wojtek. What is more, Słowiński National Park is a really unique place and I bet you will be surprised to see the photographs later in this post. Yes, we have a desert in Poland. And sand dunes!
Welcome to the ghost town!
I love the Baltic Sea, especially in the low season when the crowds are long gone. I am also particularly crazy about Słowiński National Park. Although I don’t usually swim in the Baltic Sea, since it’s just way too cold, I feel an irresistible urge to visit it at least once a year. Nevertheless, it has never stopped to amaze me how the same town can change when the high season is over.
Wojtek and I arrived in Łeba on a Saturday morning. The weather couldn’t be better. It was pleasantly warm and sunny – a perfect day to stay outdoors. Despite that, the streets of Łeba were completely empty. On our way to the guest house, we encountered only one dog. All the restaurants, cafes, even grocery shops were closed! Our guest house also didn’t look too inviting. The interior look as if the time stopped back in the communist times. I was wondering why the owner of this place does not renovate it to make it look more cosy and modern.
I soon found out why. Before we went to explore the sand dunes in the Słowiński National Park, we wanted to grab some coffee. And there was only one open restaurant, even though we walked through the whole city centre and the main pier. The owner of this restaurant told us we had lots of luck, because he wanted to close the restaurant down the next day. Why? Łeba is inhabited by approximately 3000 people. From May until August it was visited by 130 000 tourists. It’s around 43 times more than its population. People running businesses such as guest houses and restaurants manage to earn SO MUCH MONEY within the spring and summer months, that they can have holidays throughout autumn and winter.
As a consequence, the whole city, Łeba, looks abandoned already in mid-September. Also, the quality of food and the standard of many guest houses is not too great, because the tourists are coming ANYWAY, so why bother investing money? That’s, unfortunately, the Polish way of thinking.
Let’s explore the sand dunes! Słowiński National Park from my childhood vs. now
Plan for the day was simple: visit Słowiński National Park and spend as much time as possible on the sand dunes. We set off around midday. The first part of our trek was around 8 kilometres through a forest. If you are not the biggest fan of walking, you can rent a bike. Don’t do it at the entrance of the park, it’s way more expensive than if you rent a bike somewhere in the city. and it’s better to rent it for the whole day than for a few hours. If you don’t like cycling, you can take a melex. Once you hike through the forest, which actually is very pretty, you’ll reach the famous sand dune called Łącka.
When I first saw the sand dunes in Słowiński National Park, I felt as if I travelled back in time to my childhood. My family lives in the south of Poland, almost in the neighbourhood of the famous and beautiful Tatra Mountains. Yet, for holidays, we would always go to the seaside. I actually visited the Słowiński National Park twice before but my memories date back to when I 10 years old.
The sand dunes in Słowiński National Park are constantly moving. The Łącka sand dune used to be much higher than it is right now. Also, not sure if the park changed that much or if kids just perceive things differently, but I remembered the park to be huge. Now, it seemed large, but way too small to properly hike there. On the other hand, I can’t remember if I hadn’t visited this park from it’s other side, Czołpin (where you can also sightsee an amazing antique open air building museum in Kluki village.
The ultimate thing you MUST do in Słowiński National Park
There’s one thing everyone has to do in Słowiński National Park. I did that too. Find the biggest available sand dune, climb it, and roll down it! I rolled down a few times which still surprises me because it actually wasn’t THAT pleasant. :D Actually, once I rolled down, I was close to puking and sand was basically everywhere in my clothes, ears, and nose. Wojtek rolled down even faster than I did, but I suspect he has some sand-super-powers.
Things you can find on the sand dunes and on the beach. No, these are not sea shells
It would be absolutely perfect in the Słowiński National Park if I hadn’t found a highly strange object on one of the sand dunes. A used diaper. Initially, I thought I was looking at some huge sea shell that somehow, using special magic, jumped out of the sea and flew to the sand dunes. Only with a closer look, did I notice this was a used diaper.
What the hell are people who leave their rubbish in such places thinking about? Does this diaper fit into the landscape? Nope, it doesn’t. Does it add to the aesthetics of this place? Nope. It’s a national park which also means this area is under special protection, so why the hell would someone leave their rubbish there? I am also surprised that the guardians did not clean it up.
Other things which I found on the beach near Słowiński National Park were: a small part of cabbage, few plastic bottles, a shoe, and a whole array of…..mushrooms. Special kind of mushroom. White from the outside, brown from the inside. In other words: shit covered with tissues. And the fag ends. The closer to Łeba, the more of fag ends were there on the beach.
As much as I love the Baltic Sea, I hate what people visiting it are doing. I simply can’t imagine why would anyone leave their own rubbish in a public place, and even worse, on a beach, in a forest, or in a national park. I try hard to believe that people who do that are usually friendly, hard working, “normal” people but they somehow forget hot to behave in a civilised way when they go on holidays. Or am I completely mistaken and most of my country consists of ass holes? Sorry for this vent, but I really can’t come to terms with such a mindless behaviour, especially that I travel quite a bit and know that it IS possible not to pollute while travelling.
Wojtek fighting with the waves
On the beach by Słowiński National Park, it was nearly as windy as in Icleand. I put on my lovely soft shell while Wojtek did the opposite – the undressed and jumped into the water. Very often, I watch Wojtek doing such extreme things and I am actually having fun only from looking at him. I am staying warm and comfortable looking at him doing things which are cold and wet. :D Sometimes I envy him his spontaneity and join, but this time I only went knee-high into the sea and my legs nearly froze.
Who’s waiting at the end of an 8 km hike on the beach? Achilles!
Taking a walk by the beach is romantic, the views are great and this was basically the thing I wanted to do during that weekend. The only drawback of this adventure is that my Achilles tendon got hurt and I’ve been walking with a harmed leg since that time. I can’t go to the gym any more, I can’t run, I basically can’t do any sports. And this annoys me, because now that I don’t exercise, I feel how many benefits being active has. I feel more tired during the day and get stressed or annoyed way more quickly than when I was working out on regular basis. I really hope November will be the month when I come back to the gym, because noticing how my fitness is decreasing is very demotivating.
The sunset will be ugly for sure
In the end, we did a 16 km hike through the Słowiński National Park and on the beach. As you can imagine, at the end of this hike, we were both hungry. I felt warm, because I was wearing a softshell, but Wojtek forgot to take his coat and was close to shivering from cold and wind. I didn’t want to make him wait for the sunset, although I love sunsets a lot. So I asked him: Will the sunset be orange or pink? He looked at the sky and assured me it would be orange. I can skip an orange sunset, but not a pink one.
Therefore, we went to a restaurant, ate a friend fish and chips, drunk local beer and chatted with the owner. Once we were done, sunset came. And guess what? It was bright pink and I couldn’t see it because trees were obstructing the view and it was a long way to the beach.
On Sunday morning we had to leave Łeba to go to Słupsk, from where we had our train to Lębork and to Poznań. Lębork is a cute town in the north of Poland but it has one main disadvantage. We couldn’t find a nice restaurant where we could eat a dinner without waiting at least an hour for the food. In one of the places, a waitress was clearly dissatisfied with the arrival of new guests (meaning us) so we wanted to save her from being unhappy and went out to look for another place. In the end, we ate some fast food, but at lest it was warm and tasty (the famous Polish zapiekanka). In Konin, our train stopped for two hours only to wait for three passengers from another train who had a delay. I guess I don’t have to tell you how angry people in our compartment (and the whole train) were?
Despite that, this weekend was really cool. I finally managed to visit the Baltic Sea and it was beautiful without all those crowds. The weather was amazing: a mixture of late summer and early autumn. Finally, I went there with Wojtek and we had some really good quality time.