After the death of King Jan III Sobieski, Rzucewo changed hands a number of times, belonging over the years to the aristocratic families of the Radziwills, the Przebendowskis and the Keyserlingks. The present castle at Rzucewo was built in the Tudor style in the years 1840 - 1845 by Major von Below, who had married a Miss Keyserlingk. The von Below family owned the estate up till 1945, when it was nationalised and turned into a school. The family grave is somewhere in the park surrounding the palace, but it is said to be overgrown so that we couldn't find the tombs.
Nowadays, the castle houses a luxurious hotel, with conference rooms, a restaurant and a children's playground. The terrace at the top of the tower offers a fantastic panorama of the Bay and the Hel Peninsula. A recent addition to the spacious park going down to the Bay is a pier. To find it you must turn right before you get to the main gate. There is a small car park nearby. We went there recently on one of the loveliest days this September, walked down to the pier and sat on a bench. I looked up to the park and realized what a magical spot it was with the huge ancient park trees on the embankment sheltering it from the north and the waves of the bay breaking on the jetty. Some day we must take the path along the coast to see how far it will take us.
The pier at Puck must be a favourite place of the local people - one day we could see many of them dressed in their Sunday best parading along it with whole families, probably straight from Sunday mass. It certainly is a great place for watching the yachts and the sailing boats. Last time we were there we could watch children from the local school of sailing practising on the bay in their small sailing boats. I wished someone had taught me sailing but I have only been on a sailing boat a few times and on a lake not the sea. There is a round-shaped restaurant towards the pier's end, which commands a great view of the bay. The prices, however, deterred us from ordering anything. Even the use of toilet there, if you are not a customer, costs 5 zloties, i.e. nearly a pound, the most expensive toilet in Poland!
As you walk, you can see the Hel Peninsula right across the bay and, past the restaurant, you can feel the cool sea breeze, very refreshing on a warm day. On one of the side piers you can now see the colourful wooden statue of an angel, whose task must be watching over the boats and protecting them from the storms.
Slawutowko is a small village not far from Puck that is well worth visiting for just one thing - the Below Palace. Built around 1912 by the Below family, it is now in their hands again and has been turned into a hotel. The place witnessed a great tragedy in 1945: the widow of the pre-war owner of the estate, which included also Rzucewo (see my previous tip), Henny von Below, was hiding there from the wildly victorious Soviets. The soldiers dragged the 85-year-old countess out of the cellar ( other sources say from the old mill nearby where she had escaped together with her staff) and shot her in the palace park. Being a countess and of German origin (in fact, she was of Scandinavian descent) was an unimaginable crime to them.
The palace is beautifully situated in a large park, with a river running across its grounds.
Update:The hotel used to offer numerous attractions for adults and children alike but it seems that it has recently been turned into some kind of club as a locked gate has been provided. I have just found out it now houses something called the Wake Park, with a lift for surfboarders on the river. It is such a shame that this gorgeous and wonderfully peaceful place has been turned into yet another vulgar attraction for pleasure-seekers. Has it changed hands again? The good old countess must be turning in her grave.
The Below Palace has now been turned into a hotel with a restaurant and numerous attractions not only for its guests but for anybody who happens to visit the place. It is a must-see for travellers with children or animal lovers, who will be overjoyed to visit their farm with Scottish cows and Asian pigs, feed their exotic poultry, which, unfortunately, wouldn't pose for the photo, and visit the stables with such interesting horses as tarpans. The animals are all very friendly and sociable: a cat and a horse grazing nearby both accompanied us on our tour of the park. We had never had a horse for a guide before! Apparently, a museum of witchcraft is about to open in the half-timbered old mill. I can't wait to see it.
Update: I visited the place in 2012 and it seems to have been turned into an exclusive club or something of the sort as a locked gate has separated the palace park from the rest of the village. I wonder if the Below family have sold the place perhaps? Anyway, the public can now only view the beautiful palace and its park from afar, which is a great pity.
The Town Hall in Puck has been as beautifully restored as the other houses in the market square. Nowadays it still remains the seat of the local authorities. But the market square is not the only place where you can encounter interesting architecture. When we walked from the pier to the car park on our last visit to Puck we discovered a lovely building which now houses the local court of justice. I strongly suspect that Puck may have more architectural treasures and is worth exploring in more detail.
Not far from Puck we come across a place that is a reminder of the area's glorious past.
If we approach Rzucewo from the direction of Oslonino, the road suddenly turns into a beautiful avenue lined with four rows of ancient linden trees planted here at the turn of the 16th/17th centuries by the then owner of the land, Jan Wejher. The larch manor that stood at the site of the present castle is no longer there, burnt down by the Napoleonic army preparing for their invasion of Russia, but the trees are still there. Some ascribe their planting to King Jan III Sobieski, who acquired the property in 1685, but it is more likely that the king just had the park planted around the manor. In fact, the king himself stayed at Rzucewo only once, but his beloved wife Marysienka visited the place more often after his death. Not long ago there were two trees in the park: a beech "Jan" and a linden tree "Marysienka" clinging to each other like two lovers with their arms entwined, symbolic of the love of the royal couple. Unfortunately, in 1956 a gale brought both the trees down. But the ancient park is there, sloping down to the Pucka Bay, inviting loving couples to stroll among its fantastically gnarled trees.
The Museum of the Land of Puck, which has been active since 1973, comprises a number of buildings. On the corner of Walowa and Boguslawa St they have their ethnographic department - a small 18th century hospital with a museum of traditional folk remedies, an old forge and a blacksmith's house. The building in Pl. Wolnosci that you can see in the second picture houses an archeological exhibition, with some exhibits dating back to 7000 - 1700 BC and another one of life in Puck in the Middle Ages. There is also a Skansen Museum at Nadole near Lake Zarnowieckie which constitutes part of this museum.
Admission: 3 zl
The forest between the two villages, Piasnica Wielka and Piasnica Mala, both along the road Krokowa - Wejherowo, was witness to Nazi mass murders in the years 1939-1940. Twelve thousand people, mostly representatives of the Kashubian inteligentsia, doctors, teachers, priests and many others are all buried in mass graves in the Darzlubie Forest. The memorial erected there tells us of their terrible fate. The mass graves of the victims can be found to the west of the road.
Famous as they are, the grottoes at Mechowo have one great drawback - only very agile and preferably rather short adults can squeeze through them. Out of the total of 61 metres of these underground corridors only a small part is accessible to tourists. Children would certainly enjoy a visit to this maze, adults - only if they can move around them at all. You'd better not try if you think you might get stuck in the middle!
Admission: 2 zl
Mechowo is an ancient village, which in 1300 already belonged to the Cistercian Monastery in Oliwa (now Gdansk - Oliwa). It can boast a charming half-timbered church dating back to 1742 with an interior in the baroque style.
St Peter and Paul's Church is the eldest building in Puck, dating back to the times of the Pomeranian princes who ruled this land until 1309. This originally one nave church built in the 13th century was later extended by the Teutonic Knights. Inside don't miss the beautiful 16th century chapel founded by the Wejher family with a baroque altar and a painting of Christ dating back to 1597.
Puck has a beautifully restored market square - Plac Wolnosci - with some lovely colourful 18th - 19th century houses. I wanted to take photos of them all, some with beautiful pinnacles and wrought iron balconies but the light wasn't right. The little streets leading off the market square reflect mediaeval town planning.
The Puck's pier is rather long and have been renowated recently. Popular place for walking, meeting with friends and taking some relaxation.
There is a restaurant in the middle of the pier and a harbor for yachts at its side. Many stall of local merchants stay in the places where the pier touches beaches.
The center of the town is where it has always been. Former Market Square today is called Liberty Square. There are the hall town and a few nice tenement-houses. You can also find here tourist-information and the regional museum with antique shop and the archeological exhibition.
The Puck's main church is big and old. It has
big gothic cathedral form: height inside almost 40 m, you can climb the tower. Fragments of building even from 13th c., also some of insides - e.g. altair.