Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Wolf's Lair, Poland

My long-haul bus riding days are over (I hope). Yesterday I caught a bus to town and a second bus to Gdansk. It was supposed to be 4.5 hours, and it was about five. Near the end, I felt like crawling out of my skin. I'm traditionally a good bus rider, but after over two months of public transport, I'm not enjoying it as much as the first week. No surprise there.

On Monday, I made a pilgrimage to Wolf's Lair. Hitler lived here mostly from 1941-45, and chose the area as a good location to plan and execute the invasion of the Soviet Union. In 1944, many of Hitler's high ranking German officers tried to assassinate him here. Obviously failed. When the war was over in 1945 as the Red Army was approaching, the Germans blew up most of the bunkers.

The woods are like Northern Minnesota. I found it surreal to feel so at home in a place where so many evil things were planned, but the idea that there were still people trying to stop him made me feel good about humanity. If this were in Germany, it would be crawling with tourists, but often I found myself walking among the ruins and the woods alone. I heard no English and the staff at Wolf's Lair barely spoke any either, which sort of added to the experience making it less like a tourist attraction and more like walk through the woods of history past.

Here is the cute bus driver on the way to Gierloz (where Wolf's Lair is located). Even though it was only 40km from the town I was last in, it took from 10.50 until about 14.15 to get there. This is why I will be happy to not be so reliant on public transport pretty damn soon.
So in Wolf's Lair, Hitler's top generals tried to assassinate him, (unsuccessfully, damn it) and when they were unsuccessful, Hitler and Co. executed about 5000 people who might have been related to the plot. Others were taken into "kinship custody" and some survived the war. There was a building with an exhibit and photos in the complex. Sadly the movie was in Polish but the signboards were all also in English and Deutsch.

The ruins are in a beautiful location, like northern Minnesota. Even with mosquitoes. At one point there were 2,000 people living here, but only 20 women. They even had a cinema, sauna, etc.

Hitler's personal bunker. The signs say no entry to the ruins, but no one is monitoring and everyone was going in. I walked through Hilter's bunker. It was dark.
It is not Minnesota.
I'd wondered if it would be worth it to go out of my way to get to Wolf's Lair, but it was certainly worth it.

You could pay 5Zl and practice shooting but I don't really like to even look at guns let alone shoot them. In my world they would not exist. But it is not my world.
It is pretty though. And the bottles look tempting.
The person who was given credit for the main part of the assassination attempt (he carried the briefcase in) was Claus von Stauffenberg. They blew up the building that Hilter was in, but unfortunately Hitler was only mildly hurt and one person was killed. This plaque says approx: Here stand the barracks where Claus von Stauffenberg, an assoc of Hitler's, and many others went against the nationalism/socialism/dictator and they paid with their lives.
My hotel 70zl ($25). It is simple and comes with breakfast and was a former barracks. I would recommend staying here. It's really peaceful after the tourists leave. And it also includes entry to the ruins. (Which is normally 12zl). So, quite handy.
They have decked out Hitler's headquarters into an inexpensive beautiful restaurant with good food.

I was obsessed with the similarity to Minnesota. Even the ground looks like Bemidji to me. The wet sandy dirt. The road that gradually slopes into the edge. The sparse grass.

I think there are blueberries and black bears in there.
The sign gives away that it is not Minnesota but without that, I'm sure you would not know the difference. To me this was lovely.

Waiting at the bus station to head to Gdansk.

Ok so then Poland morphed into North Dakota...
Here is North Dakota, taken as I came in on the Amtrak from Portland, OR in 2009.
Poland, from the bus 2011... slightly better camera.

So maybe Poland was the perfect place to end. With its similarities to North Dakota and Minnesota, I can almost taste the Midwestern air. It's only seven days away from being real. It's not that I want to get out of here, but the transition is as important as the change itself. These two plus months have been the transition from Germany to the States. To end here is to go home, in more ways than one.

After Gdansk I'll be staying with friends in Poznan and Berlin, so it's also my last bit in hostels, which is a nice thought too. There comes a time when you want to wake up and walk around in your underwear, throw laundry in when you feel like it, open the fridge to things that are yours, go to bed when you like without others coming and going all night. Not that they are big issues, but when they are gone, I won't miss them. Until the urge comes for the next trip, that is.

This fall I'll be making a USA tour: Chicago, the Midwest (Iowa, MN, ND), Portland & Seattle, New Orleans, New York City. So the adventure is not over- just changing. Besides, there is the adventure of a new hometown and new way of life... with fresh roasted coffee beans around the corner, black bicycle rides, arts and culture, and family a day's drive away. Let the stories continue...


Anonymous said...

Interesting journal, thank you for sharing with all your travel experiences.
Haven't make it to the Wolf's Lair yet and maybe this january will.
Keep on traveling.
Cheers from NYC!


Sara said...

Thank you for your kind comment.

If you get to Wolf's Lair, it's kind of fun to stay in the hotel there-- not many people stay on site, and it's quiet and a bit weird... I really enjoyed the solitude there-- especially in light of its place in history.