Chapter three: Lötzen

And there comes the host, laughs at us and says "Just the guests have gone so new ones come". He speaks a very good German for he was there at work some time ago. And moreover this was at Braunschweig where we come from. The German language is a fortune here for he drives a taxi and leads the people to their places: "Heimatgucken" (Look for their former Home). His wife Anna speaks German too and we can talk without signs of hand and feet.

And now we recognize: a fine house and garden, a nice room for us so we decide to stay for 5 days. Shall I tell you the address? Of course I do, for if you come to Lötzen you should have a nice time there and look at Eugen (Georg) Lubas, Slowanskaja 27. "At Sunday my wife has her name day celebration - then we all drink vodka" Georg furtheron promises. Then he offers to bring us to the beach of the lake.

We feel splendid about all this. At the ride to the beach the 4 years old sun Michael accompanies us. He is a "gift of Lettland" where they once had a holiday in harmony as to be seen. We reach the Löwentin-See at a campground. As so many people have a swim here we hope we can do the same without danger to our health. The problem is the nearby dairy (milk and cheese) factory. We cannot understand this for the lakes and their water quality should be the fortune for this area. But remember what they have done to the Mediterranean Sea and other jewels off the world...

It is not as bad and if you get away from the shore the water is clear. So after all this heat this morning we have a nice afternoon finally. As the heat decreases we walk back to our family. In the evening we cycle to the center of Lötzen and deposit the bikes at Hotel WODNIK. This is occupied as well. A Schwabenbomber (a big bus full of Swabians) from Ludwigsburg just arrives. Then we look at the church which is Protestant here and there is a long history. They have translated the story to English and German so everyone can understand.

It all starts in the year 1000 and tells of all the wars and conquests, epidemics and destructions, the crual knights, Napoleonian and Russian armies, and it all ends with the World War II. At a book shop we look for local literature and find a booklet of the Wolfsschanze. This was the place where Hitler had his secret headquarters in the woods during the War II some km west of here near to Rastenburg. Another attraction of the region is the pilgrims church Heiligelinde (Swieta Lipka) of baroque style south of Rastenburg.

We have dinner at a restaurant named Mazurka. In the evening we have soon to go inside for a fall of temperature occurs. I read about the Wolfsschanze while Heidi discovers some older journals from three years ago.

As we nearly sleep Georg knocks at the door, he has arranged a telephone call at home. We speak to our daughter Annika and tell her where we are. That's it and this costs DM 8.- most of it due to the connection arrangements.

Thursday: By Ship: Mauersee - Wegorzowo (Angerburg)

At 5 am the cock as the chief of the neighbour's hens and chickens team awakes us. At 8 am we go to breakfast and meet two girls from Swabia (Schwaben) who have arrived yesterday. They drive by car on the trace of literature after they have read the novel Heimatmuseum by Siegfied Lenz. They look as we for the loneliness, the endless woods, clear forest lakes, the roaring moose (Elch) and things like that.

If you think about this: you will find the woods, the lakes (though not always clear). But the times have changed and things described 50 and more years ago have changed as well. We see the same at our home, think of the overwhelming motorization and what was changed by this. With such a discussion we have our breakfast. This is excellent for besides the usual food like bread, cheese and sausage Anna offers a Polish speciality every morning.

Thereafter we go to an Orbis office (Orbis is the official touristic association in Poland), where you can change money or travellercheques, buy traintickets and reservations, book hotels and accomodations. We ask for the occasion to make a tour with the "White Fleed" which are the traveller ships for one day tours. They offer a tour to Wegorzewo, but the ship will go off in 5 minutes so we must hurry. Breathless we enter the quay and hear that the ship will leave 30 minutes later.

So we can stay cool, buy the tickets and look for a nice place at the panorama deck. And then the crowds approach, a Polish youngster group seems to be Baptists, a German group from Holzminden-Elligsen (or so) seems to be a chorus. A German biker couple load their weighty bikes to the front deck. As the ship leaves off at first the Polish youngsters accompanied by a funny guitarplayer sing some songs. An old lady aside us sighs: "If young people sing there nothing can be bad" - may be she never visited a footballgame with Hooligans (who like to sing as well).

On the Lakes

As the Polish youngsters become silent the German chorus starts (Horch was kommt von draußen rein, Hollahi, Hollaho...). Then one song follows the next and the applause of the beginning breathes out. But we nearly forget to watch the landscape outside. May be it looks like many other places of the world if you ship on a lake, in northern Germany (and Scandinavia) all those lakes have their origin in the ice age.

At the shore of the lakes there are wide belts of reed. Nowadays they must take care that this reed does not grow all over the lake for the waters are too much fertilized. At the landside you see fields and woods (as usual). At last we cross the Mauersee which is the greatest lake of Mazuria.

Angerburg (Wegorzowo)
We then reach Wegorzewo and the German chorus at once enters a waiting bus to visit the Wolfsschanze. We guess which songs they will sing at that place. We talk to the biker couple who want to head towards Danzig. Thy have cycled at the Russian frontier and found the loneliness and the endless woods there, as they say.

We have two hours for a visit of the town. Angerburg was destroyed in the war (at Lötzen they have capitulated without fights). We walk into the church (as usual) and then look for a snack bar. We have "Rozen" that is fried chicken what we consume by our bare hands. Our biker couple appeares as well and enjoys the Rozen.

The return tour of 2 1/2 hours is boring for we have no singing youngsters nor a chorus with us. Some guests sit at a table together with some members of the ship's crew and consume high-proof drinks. The sun has gone and the weather is mixed.

For the rest of today nothing spectacular is to be told. We have our dinner at the Hotel WODNIK and watch a bus from Solingen. Another group of Bagwan adherents stroll through the streets and monotonically sing: "Hare Krishna...Hare, Hare...".

While we have our dinner the bus group comes in. They have champaign, sit in an extra hall and are the most important guests from now on. We individuals look somewhat sore.

The both girls from Swabia offer to share a tour with their car tomorrow. Later a new guest appears, we will meet him at the breakfast table.

Friday Steinort - Rastenburg - Heilige Linde

Today we are five persons, the new guest has come from Oberhausen and accompanies his mother and brother who have a room at the hotel. They stem from Goldap and his Mama gets enthusiastic when she remembers as she swam across the lake there. "But today this is over - she is 84 years old".

Our guest gets his nickname (excuse me): "Der Heimatguck" (The Home Watcher or so).

Now we start with the car, it's a Nissan Micra. We ride at the eastern shore of the Darginsee. The smaller lakes flash deep blue between the green of the meadows and woods, the corn fields just before the harvest are yellow. Everywhere there are storks, the youngsters sit in their nest and wait to be fed by their parents. We cross a bridge at Kirsajty and come to Steinort. There is a large estate at a peninsula between Dargin- and Mauersee.

The estate seems to be unhabited except a large nest of a stork family. They are very keen to fly for five of them strain above and then sit down at the roof of the barn buildings. At the road there is a sign and when I study this my eyes get wide. "Do you know where we are now?" I ask the others. "This is the estate of the Lehndorfs" I declare. The last of them, Heinrich Lehndorf, was involved to the assassination (Attentat) against Hitler at the 20. July 1944 and executed. The current owner would be Hans Graf von Lehndorf who is well known by his book Ostpreußisches Tagebuch.


We ride on and soon find a chain of children across the road, we must stop and they say "Kauhmi, Guhmi, Kauhmi!!" (Are you international or polyglot and do understand this?) Our girls know about it already and have some chewings in their equipment. Some time later we see the biker couple of yesterday and we drop our heads that they won't recognize us sitting in a car.

Now we come to this mysterious place, the Wolfsschanze. The Germans have choosen this area for their headquarters for it is a very remote place and hidden by the woods. At this place the assessination mentioned above by Graf Stauffenberg had happened. But Hitler with his divine (his own words) precaution survived nearly unhurt. So this is a historical place and today you can observe the ruins of the bunkers which the retreating Nazis tried to dynamite in vain. So much I have learned from the booklet.

Now an attendant of the car-park approaches and informs us about the charge for parking, charge for entrance, charge for guidance... So somewhat charged we get off, I have read enough of it and the others are not interested to pay so much charge for this.

Ketrzyn (Rastenburg)

We come to Ketrzyn (Rastenburg). The car is parked near the church and we go in (as usual). As we leave a woman speaks to us. Her daughter suffers from an operation, they have no pension, could it be possible... But this woman looks so dirty and scruffy that we do not believe in anything. The activities of beggars as everywhere in the world are spread over all tourist areas and you do better not to support this.

In a building like a fortress there is a museum for Local History where you can see results of archeological research or old photographs of the town. An exhibition is dedicated to a famous researcher of culture and history and he was the man to give his (unspeakable) name to the town: Ketrzyn (may be it sounds somewhat like kitchen..?). At another room there is an exhibition of Mazurian carpet arts (compare the novel of S. Lenz: Heimatmuseum...).

Open Air Galleries

Some time later we arrive at the baroque pilgrims church Swieta Lipka (Heilige Linde). May be you would expect the location of this attraction rather at Bavaria than within the landscape of Mazuria. May be it is the contrast that makes the charm, so lots of tourists come here. As we deposit the car some children run with buckets and brushes to clean the glasses of the car, but they are all clean already. Then there is a shop offering baskets and wicker articles (Korbwaren). Aside you find crochetware (Häkelwaren) handmade. And then there are lots of open-air galleries offering the collected painted arts of Mazuria. There are sunsets, torn birch trees, rising wild ducks and more of such typical motives (I forgot the views of the lakes...). If you neglect the numerous automobiles you finally find the impressive pilgrims church.

There is a legend of someone condemned to death but later they gave amnesty and therefor after the rise from death the somebody blessed a lime tree (Linde)... This legend stems from the 13 th century and has originated the glory of this place. The lime tree has gone, there is a chestnut tree nearby but this also is dead already (excuse me to be somewhat sarcastic sometimes...).

Heilige Linde

At a shield beside the portal you can read of all attractions inside the church. It is a combination of kitsch and arts. So you see a holography which shows the holy father (who is a local hero here) threedimensional at any blessing activity. You can buy this article at a kiosk (if you want to know more about the interieurs of the church you should read a travel guide or visit this place yourself).

We are tired and have a coffee. Finally we ride back to Lötzen. Georg seems to prepare the name celebration of Anna next sunday. He drags a huge bottle with a clear liquid in it. "Woda mineralna ?" we ask (wow, it's Polish speech). Georg waves at me to smell a bit. But it sharply hurts for there seems to be pure alcohol inside. This was arranged as a "Bypass" somehow from a factory producing potatoe spirits.

We invite our girls for dinner at the RODNIK again but cannot observe something remarkable today. But thereafter we walk to a small old house at the main road with an arts gallery. There are old photographs of Lötzen or exhibition pieces of jewelry. At the entry one can read a philosophic citation of our author (known meanwhile?) Siegfried Lenz in Polish and German:

Vergangenheit, sie gehört uns allen, man kann sie nicht
aufteilen, zurechtschleifen; das verwächst doch miteinander,
verschränkt sich, das bestätigt sich gegenseitig in Habgier,
Macht und Niederlagen - manchmal, aber sehr selten, in
Vernunft; und wer versucht, die Dinge und Beweise zu
trennen, die uns hinterlassen wurden, wer sich einen reinen
Ursprung zulegen will, der weiß, daß er Gewalt braucht.

(Heimatmuseum, S. 420)

It is not up to me to destroy this wonderful poetry by a stupid translation. S. Lenz speaks of the past, its historical meaning to the present and the hopeless attempt to change the past to fit to own conceptions... (does he mean the adaption of history to their own theory by the Communists or the Nazis or the Revengers as well or am I wrong?) .

OK, it is a difficult citation and everyone may discuss about it. Meanwhile Heidi has bought some brooches as gift for the children at home. The both girls find two metal pins... and so on, the sellers soon look very friendly at us. This house is an old bakery and you can observe from a photo its state before the war: nearly the same as today. One of two lime trees disappeared, the other has grown up meanwhile. In front of the house there is a ballustrade where you can sit, drink your beer and watch everything happening at the street.

The Old Bakery

The chief of this gallery is continuously involved in any business deal. So he tries to sell a small car for a million Zl. or so. If someone is interested he is allowed to climb on the top of the car body to prove the stability. It's a sort of happening moreover or may be a kind of modern motion arts? You see: we like this place.

Back at home Georg waits for us and whispers suspiciously "50 Gramm, come in, 50 Gramm!". The word 50 Gramm means the quantity of a small glass for spirits. He comes on with a vodka bottle and a light yellow liqid inside. He will not tell us the recipe how he mixed this drink but we are right that this comes from the pure alcohol mixed with honey and some water. After one or two glasses we resign. Now our Heimatguck appears. He will not drink a single glass and tells his story - as usual once nearly down by spirits and then the consequence to save oneself not to drink anymore. Everyone should accept this attitude.

Saturday: Swimtime

At breakfast the Heimatguck tells his next plans. He will go with Mama to Goldap again, she is very enthusiastic - you know. They want to produce a video film. But he doesn't like the tourist group, everything is organized and ordered.

Georg tells us another place for a swim at the Kisajno See. There are wide gras areas and a wooden ramp to get into the water. You have a nice view to the lake and can watch the vessels. This is what we were looking for and we have a day of pure recreation.

At the way back we visit the fortress: "Große Festung Boyen" as Georg said. This is a citadel of the 19th century with circle walls and water ditches. This all is hidden in a dense wood and one can not see much. We nearly get lost and return to known tracks.

At the pension we meet the two girls who made an excursion to seek the loneliness and crystal clear lakes. They have found a forest and a lake in there. The waters were not as clear but a wonderful silence around. But then a car with German tourists arrived and they were busy for a while to shoot photos of each other - especially of aunt and grandmother...

In the evening we meet at the hotel again and for today I can tell you another story. A woman at the table aside gets curious and asks us where we are from (remember: it's me with three ladies). I stumble "Well, it's different, we are from Braunschweig,and ..." But she interrupts: "No, I meant have you come with this or that bus?".

You can imagine the reaction of those three ladies, moreover the Heimatguck appears. He says something trivial and then wonders "Are you so much delighted from my words?" I look embarassed. Another news: they have stolen two cars from the hotel car-park last night. We then watch a biker couple outside who appear, disappear, appear again and so on. They seem to look for an accomodation.

After we left the hotel we soon meet this couple, they come from Freiburg. We inform them of Georg's pension and I go with them to show the way. Meanwhile the three ladies have found a place at the eagle's ballustrade of the old bakery. Some time later Georg arrives with his taxi and brings an older married couple, former inhabitants of Lötzen. They thoroughly watch the photo collection of views before the war. We speak together and tell the motif of our tour. We are Heimatgucks as well but the two girls from Swabia on literary expedition? And the old lady states: "The books of S. Lenz may be nice but he does not tell the truth all the time". And then she whispers: "We were above all no Pollacken!" (this is a cuss for the Polish). We look at each other but cannot understand what she really means.

As we return Georg's time has come again and he spends this or that 50 Gramm portion. The two girls will leave tomorrow and we are sad about this.

Sunday: Swimm Time and Anna's Name Day Celebration

Instead of the two girls who left with the cock's cry, we meet the biker couple at the breakfast table. The cyclists will go south towards the Carpate and Bescide Mountains. The Heimatguck has his free day (from his Mama) today. We go for a swim again at the old place.

A group of soldiers "go marchin in" right on to the swim stage and immediately undress. Without their uniforms naked in the water they look and behave like normal human beeings. At a snackbar nearby a television informs about the beginning of the Olympic Games. As usual they start with the swim disciplines so much folk sits before the tv and watch others to swim (they do it very fast of course). We prefer to swim ourselves, but not as fast.

As I once after a nap peer to the sky a black wall of clouds is coming up, the first wind gusts rush around. The soldiers jump into their uniforms as if a war just has begun. The vessels come back from the lakes and we jump on our bikes to go back. As the rain comes down we find a snackbar and have a coffee and a sausage. From out our dry place we can watch the vessels without sails as they row along the canal between the lakes. As the rain lets up we hurry home and can do nothing than to enjoy a bad-weather-afternoon.

As we go for dinner Georg lies in wait for us to remember: "From 6 pm we have our nameday celebration". We can't go there without a gift so we enter a crowded shop. After 30 minutes we finally can buy some sweets (confine). Our dinner is better not too voluptuous for the celebration thereafter.

At 7 pm we go there and find us amidst of friends and relatives of the family. There is another German couple, they just have wanted to buy a glass of honey and immediately were invited to share the celebration. Now Georg explains who is who though we will not remember anything after a while. The table bursts of delicious dishes: smoked fish, bacon, roast, chicken etc. We do hard to eat as much as they urge for. From now and then we hear Georg crying "Hello Chief, everything OK?" or "Hello Chief, what's the matter". This is the signal for a vodka and we answer "You are the Chief, nastrowje". It is important to drink a mineral water just after the vodka and to avoid beer and vine otherwise you get drunken immediately. But today we have a regular vodka and not that dubious mixture of honey and spirits. Only one uncle - the Jeweller - seems to have enough or too much respectively. "His wife has died, now he doesn't stand so much" they say.

Once the Heimatguck appears but he doesn't want to stay. We shall continue, he says, and if it gets too loud to sleep he would use some absorbent in his ears. So we continue and by the time get friends to one after the other.

At the end we embrace and kiss and say farewell to all the friends of this evening. We write into the guestbook: "We will never forget this day with you - thank you for the hospitality" - or something like that.

Monday: The Last Day

In the morning we have a headache so we rise some time later. But the Heimatguck sleeps even longer, may be his absorbents do their best...

We want to leave tomorrow so there are some things to organize. At first we buy a lead of leather for our dog (you must always have a gift for everyone left at home after a long journey). Then I make a copy of the citation above of S. Lenz, I hope they don't think that I am a member of the Secret Service or CIA.

Now we go to the Orbis office and start an activity which leads us to every counter of the bureau. At first we book a hotel at Warschau for two nights (counter 1). This works well by a Telex connection and soon the verification comes out of the printer.

Then we buy the tickets for the return from Warschau to Braunschweig (counter 2). This lasts some more time and the collegues of the office stick their heads together to find out how to arrange this matter. To pay the tickets we must change another traveller cheque to Zlotys (counter 3), and pay the money at counter 4. Meanwhile we got more experienced and work at different counters at the same time. We have to buy another ticket from Lötzen to Warschau (counter 5). As we turn around we find a prolonging queue of other guests who want to have their things processed.

One woman says to us "Why do you go via Warschau to Germany, this is a detour" I answer "We should have stayed at home because the tour was a detour at all". She looks sore but as I laugh she grins as well.

At last we have spent more than one hour at the office. We now visit a flea market near the main road. The people crowd around a player who pushes three cups around, one of them contents a marble. They bet with money on the cup with the marble and if one wins it seems he is a member of the player's team.

Then we go to the railway station to find out if we can send the bikes back home from here. But they do not understand anything and we buy bike tickets instead (you may say: WE do not understand anything for WE do not speak their language! But please try to learn Polish first...).

At the Seaside

At the afternoon we go swimming and in the evening we sit at the ballustrade of the bakery a last time. A Piwo (beer) in front, hands folded at the belly and a look up or down the main street. The evening sun twinkles in your eyes and you think "This was a nice time here".

Back at our room we arrange our things for tomorrow. We get some farewell gifts: a glass with honey, a bottle with a liquid of a light yellow colour and a 50 gramm portion on the fly. But we go asleep early for we have to get up at dawn time.

Chapter 4: Lötzen - Warschau