The land that bears the name Żuławy is nearly completely flat, a feature without parallel in Poland. Driving through the delta area of the Queen of the Polish Rivers, the Vistula, we can admire the multi-coloured rectangular fields that stretch as far as the eye can see. Occasional willows, bending over canals, add variety to this landscape. What seems simple and monotonous, however, turns out to be a land that surprises the visitor with its dynamism and perfect marriage of man and nature. The agricultural character of Żuławy can be seen in villages located according to Teutonic plans, while the beautifully-situated Mennonite graveyards evoke the memory of the Dutch visitors that once came to this land.
The area of Żuławy exceeds 1740 sq. km, 450 sq. km of which is located in a depression. The town of Raczki Elbląskie houses a spot situated 1.8 m below sea level – the lowest in Poland. In the area of Żuławy and its vicinity there are large towns and cities, such as Nowy Dwór Gdański, Tczew, Malbork, and Tri City. A characteristic feature of the Żuławy area is its location in a depression, which makes it susceptible to inundations. The excess of water is regulated by canals, levees, drainage ditches, and pumps.
Settlement in the Żuławy area probably dates back to the Bronze Age. The centuries that followed saw no increase in settlement, which was thwarted by natural conditions. The marshy terrain and a constant threat of floods scared away potential settlers. This changed under the Teutonic Order. They began draining the terrain, and building levees and canals. Consequently, the Żuławy land became populated. Forests were cut down and land was cultivated. Land melioration was obligatory for residents from the 15th Century. In the 16th Century the Mennonites came to Żuławy from the Netherlands, bringing their tradition and culture as they settled. Many other cultures developed in this land – Pomeranian, Teutonic, German, Polish, and after World War II, also Ukrainian, brought here by visitors from the southern lands of pre-war Poland. The end of World War II was a disaster for Żuławy. In 1945, the retreating German forces destroyed most of the levees and pumps, which resulted in the flooding of this land. Post-war years was a time of great effort put into draining the Żuławy land, which became a destination for settlers from the country’s interior.
The highlights among Żuławy’s historic structures are the picturesque churches, with typical wooden towers, characteristic arcade houses, beautifully-situated Mennonite graveyards and the layouts of village buildings hailing from the Middle Ages. Żuławy’s tourist attractions include a historic narrow-gauge railway, river and canal cruises as part of the Żuławska Loop, the Żuławy Historical Park and the Mennonite route.
The Żuławska Loop
The Żuławska Loop is an attractive waterway for tourists and nature lovers, connecting the courses of the Vistula, the Martwa Wisła, the Szkarpawa, the Wisła Królewiecka, the Nogat, the Wisła Śmiała, the Wielka Święta Tuga, the Motława, the Jagielloński Canal, the Elbląg and the Pasłęka, and the waters of the Vistula Lagoon. It provides 303 km of unforgettable adventure, to be experienced in a canoe, yacht, motorboat, or houseboat.
It is worth pointing out that the Żuławska Loop also forms part of the E 70 Inland Waterway, which runs from Rotterdam, through the Berlin junction of inland waterways, and northern Poland, to Kaliningrad, and further along the Niemen water course (the Pregoła and the Dejma to Klaipėda).
Finally, the Żuławska Loop is a network of ports, marinas and premium-quality mooring piers created as part of the "Żuławska Loop - the development of water tourism. Stage I" project, which was recognised as one of the key tourist undertakings of supra-regional significance within the framework of the Innovative Economy Operational Programme 2007-2013 Measure 6.4 "Investments in tourism products of supra-regional importance". The project is implemented by Local-Government partners from the Pomeranian and Warmian-Masurian Voivodeships.
Besides the waterways surrounding the Vistula delta and the infrastructure for water tourists, the Żuławska Loop combines in itself the attractions connected with Żuławy Wiślane's cultural heritage. The area is rich in unique historical objects - Gothic castles and arcade houses, and also hydrotechnical monuments - drawbridges and sluices.
The Żuławska Loop undoubtedly offers great rest, active leisure, wonderful landscapes, and captivating nature.
It covers most of Żuławy Wiślane, the Vistula Spit, the subregion of the Vistula Lagoon, the Elbląg Upland (Tolkmicko, Frombork, Suchacz, Elbląg), and the Old Prussian Coast (Nowa Pasłęka, Braniewo), as well as Kociewie (Tczew, Gniew, Pelplin) and the Kwidzyn Valley, and Powiśle with Sztum and Kwidzyn.
Żuławy Wiślane, centred around the Vistula Delta, has acquired a shape of an inverted triangle, the tip of which is where the Vistula branches out into the Leniwka and the Nogat, while the base is lined by the Vistula Spit.
The Vistula Spit, which stretches from Gdańsk to Baltiysk in Russia, separates the Vistula Lagoon from the open waters of the Gdańsk Bay, providing a closure to the estuary of the Vistula. It is a large dune created by sea waves, sometimes as much as 30 metres high. Once populated with fishing villages, it is now a place of holiday resorts. The most important cities and villages on the Vistula Spit are Gdańsk, Stegna, Sztutowo, and Krynica Morska.
The Vistula Lagoon is a bay separated from the Baltic Sea by the Vistula Spit. The border between Poland and the Russian Federation runs through its waters. The internal seawaters on the territory of Poland cover 382 sq. km.
The Elbląg Upland is a moraine plateau in Pobrzeże Gdańskie, which falls steeply towards Żuławy Wiślane, the Vistula Lagoon, and the Warmia Plain. The highest rise of the Upland is the 198.5-m-high Srebrna Mountain. The most important towns in the area include Elbląg, Frombork, Tolkmicko, Kadyny, and Suchacz.
The Castle in Malbork
The landscape of Żuławy
The Vistula Spit
Nowy Dwór Gdański and its environs
The narrow-gauge railway
The Arcade houses
The Żuławska Loop
Cittaslow w Pomorskiem