The Order of Camaldolites came to Poland from Italy in 1605. Of their seven monasteries here, the one on Lake Wigry was the richest. The monastery in its present form was built in 1704 - 1745 when a fire destroyed the pre-existing wooden buildings. The complex consisted of a church, the monastery with a dining-room, the monks' house and a hospital, and the hermits' houses. There was also a clock tower, which can now be climbed to get a view of the lake and the area around. To prevent landslide, as the monastery is situated high up on a hill, enormous cellars were constructed under the building for support. Those were used by the monks to store wine, mead, beer and, according to a legend, may still hide the monks' treasures. The monastery was dissolved in 1800 by the order of the Prussian government. The monks are said to have left, despairing, walking on their knees in a procession. Local people say the track they made with their knees has been bare ever since. The buildings of the monastery were badly damaged in the course of the numerous wars. Re-built from ruin after WWII, it now houses a hotel. On the lower terrace, from which you can admire the view of the lake. there is an inn serving local dishes, quite expensive from what we have heard.
This may seem odd but one of the most interesting aspects of Suwalki are its cemeteries and by far the most moving is the Jewish Cemetery. Prior to World War II there was a large Jewish community and consequently a large cemetery. From what was explained to me, aside from rounding up the living, the Nazis were also intent on eradicating the memory of the past. To this goal the cemetery itself was bombed to destroy the remains of Jewish ancestors. The words "Przez HITLEROWCOW" on the memorial, mean "by the Nazis (or supporters of Hitler)" which describe this atrocity.
Special thanks to Virtual Tourist Ewa (evaanna) for help with the translation.
Immediately next to and in stark contrast to the Jewish Cemetery is the Old Believers Cemetery and the Molenna, a small timber church built at beginning of the 20th century. It was locked and shuttered up tight, and apparently is rarely open except for services. It is said to contain several very old original icons. As open and barren as the Jewish cemetery was, this cemetery was equally dense and dark with trees and foliage often obscuring the moss covered grave markers. This place was made for a full moon.
After the bombing, and obviously after the war, little remained of the Jewish Cemetery. In fact, today it is simply an open field. Nazi efficiency made the graves impossible to locate. What could be found, however, were the broken fragments of the tombstones. These were gathered up and respectfully built into a wall of memory, some pieces fairly complete, some with barely a letter or two, but all of equal value.
St. Alexandra Roman Catholic Church is a sparkling white neoclassical church in the center of town. Across from the church is a very nice park with a band shell at one end. The interior includes several contemporary stained glass windows including one which depicts a holocaust prisoner with a blue and white striped outfit and a red triangle patch denoting political prisoners.