The Slowinski National Park is a perfect nesting area for birds. The peat bog and reeds around the lakes make them completely inaccessible to man, thus making them birds' haven. 257 species of birds have been observed here, including sea eagles, eagle owls, shovelers, sheldrakes, ravens, swans and various kinds of wild ducks. There are a few bird reserves here: on the east shore of Lake Gardno, and two nature reserves in the vicinity of Kluki, in fact the whole south shore of Lake Lebsko and the area near Czolpino.
There are boardwalks that birdwatchers can use at Kluki and some viewing platforms at various places. The birds in the picture could be watched from the shore of Lake Gardno at Gardna Mala. We could also see a crane on the ground in the forest on our walk from Leba to the shifting dunes. If you are into birdwatching, don't forget to carry your field-glasses with you all the time. You never know when you might need them.
To learn more about the fauna of the area, visit the Natural Museum (Muzeum Przyrodnicze) at Smoldzino, Mostnika St. Opening hours: 10.00-17.00, off season 10.00-15.30. If you find it closed, knock on the house of the nice custodian, Mariusz Zielonka, who will be happy to open it for you and show you around.
The shifting dunes must not be missed when visiting the Slowinski National Park. You can approach them from Leba in the east or Czolpino in the west. We walked to them from Leba but it was in the pre-colour photography time. Because it was such a long time ago we can't agree on whether it was 5 or 10 km one way, but I'll check it out. It seemed a very long way to me. I remember waving my hands all the time to scare off the masses of mosquitoes and aggressive flies, which wouldn't leave us alone for a moment. The wetland forest we were walking across is ideal breeding ground for them. If I were to go that way again, I would hire a bike but make sure someone would look after it while I went to explore the dunes. The area was very interesting, at one moment we saw a crane standing in the forest but the insects could spoil all the pleasure of the walk.
Finally, we reached the dunes: they were enormous, some must have been about 30 m high. We could see some dead trees sticking out of the sand, marking the places where the forest used to grow not so long ago: the dunes cover the distance of 3-10 metres a year.
We climbed to the top of one and it was like being in a desert. The wind made an unpleasant swishing noise and you could see the sand being carried forward to kill more and more forest. You could see the bodies of small animals and insects that couldn' t find their way out of the sand. It may have been interesting - to me it was a disaster area. When my husband left me for a short time to go and explore more dunes I nearly panicked. It may have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience but not one that I would be willing to have ever again.
Kluki (pronounced klookie) is a very interesting village on Lake Lebsko. Its inhabitants are some of the last descendants of the Pomeranian Slavs, the autochthonous population of the area. The village boasts a Skansen Museum of local architecture, including traditional timber-framed clay cottages.
Kluki is said to lie on the lake but you will have to look for the lake to find it. Separated from the land by a large area of bog and reeds, the lake remains hidden in the midst of them and is not easily accessible. That is why a whole system of boardwalks has been constructed to let the locals and tourists near the water.To get a better view of the place, you can also climb the viewing platform. In the summer months you can take a boat trip across the lake to Leba, or so my map says. I couldn't find any information on the boats on the Internet. Don't forget to take your field-glasses with you - you will be travelling past a nature reserve and the shifting dunes.
One of the trails starting at Czolpino leads to the beach, which differs from the other beaches in the area in that it is almost completely deserted. Everybody gathers on the beaches at Ustka, Rowy or Leba, not many will be bothered to make the journey to Czolpino. Far from any villages and with difficult access - you have to leave your car a long way from it, it offers a lot of privacy. To get to it, however, you must scramble over a pretty high sandy dune. Once you are there, it is pure pleasure, the fine sand and the sea are all at your disposal. Well, there may be a few people there in the high season but, with so much space, their company should not be unwelcome.
Rowy is a port and a fishing village of only about 360 inhabitants at the western end of the Slowinski National Park. Situated between Lake Gardno and the Baltic Sea, it offers many opportunities of walks on the beaches or in the forest, close to the lake. Unfortunately, in addition to the private houses the place abounds in recreation centres, campsites and hotels of various sizes, the grounds of which are enclosed with wire netting, making large parts of the area inaccessible. However, this makes them safe for children, who can play in the hotel playgrounds.The main attraction of the place is of course the sandy beach, which is at places accessible to wheelchair users. If you want solitude on the beach, walk to the beaches east of the port, much less crowded and with nicer sand.
Many of the hotels or summer cottages at Rowy are situated in the midst of the dwarf pinewood and close to the sea. When we stayed there at the end of August, the wood was dotted with large purple patches of heather, in blossom just then.
Another interesting place at Rowy is the harbour and the area to the east of it, which I will describe in a separate tip.
To the north-east of Smoldzino lies Czolpino where a few marked trails start. One of them leads to the lighthouse Czolpino. Situated on a 55 m high sand dune, the lighthouse is very close to the sea and can be climbed to see the wonderful view of the sea, Lake Lebsko and the shifting dunes (see another tip). But to get to the lighthouse itself you must first walk along a road cut out in the forest and then up the steps to climb the dune. Altogether it's quite a long walk so if you have little time, go and see the shifting dunes instead. BTW, some sources say the name of the lighthouse is Czolpino, some that it's Czolpinko, which is the diminutive of the former, not that it will matter to you when, panting and sweating if the day is hot, you finally reach its top.
Rowy has a fishing harbour situated at the mouth of the Lupawa River, which first flows through Lake Gardno to find its outlet there. You can get to the port either walking along the beach or turning left from the main street. There is a restaurant there, serving fish of course, as fresh as can be. You can sit at the tables outside, watching the boats and enjoying the view. Mind you, don't forget to tell the waiter how much fish you want or you'll get a helping the size of the whole plate. It's a very common trick in Polish restaurants, which only the inexperienced are taken in by. Afterwards, take a walk to the east past the harbour. Cross the bridge and turn right to follow a country road into the forest. If you turn left here, you will get to the beach past Rowy. If you choose to walk straight on you will come to a viewing platform on Lake Gardno on your right. Here you can sit down on a bench, sunbathe or watch the birds on the lake. And, above all, enjoy the great peace, the only noise being the rustling of the rushes and the cries of birds in the distance.
115 metres high, Rowokol is the only mountain in the Slovinski National Park and used to be a landmark for sailors before the lighthouses were built. In ancient times the place was the Holy Mount of the Pomeranian Slavs and the site of their pagan rites. In the Middle Ages it became an object of pilgrimages to the sanctuary of the Virgin Mary erected at the top, which stood there for about 400 years. In 1534, however, during the Reformation, it was abandoned and later pulled down. Nothing was left of it, not even one of the valuable pieces of art or furniture that are said to have been inside. The place fell into oblivion for the next 400 years. Yet nowadays, again, at Easter Rowokol becomes the venue of the performance of Crucifixion, attended by crowds of pilgrims.
The mountain is easy to climb, the dirt road winds gently up through the ancient forest.
To see the magnificent view however, you must still climb the steep and narrow steps of the tower at the top. The tower is open from 1.05 to 30.09 at 9 - 21. You will be charged a small entrance fee. In the summer try to avoid visiting the place in the evening - it's much too mosquito-friendly.
Small village with etnographic heritage park.
You can watch, how were looking village houses and interiors of them in history.
It's the place, where you should surely go :)
The whole national park is situated on the sea shore :)