A Gentle Land, which has many places waiting to be discovered. We invite You to visit Kociewie!

Kociewie. Ethnical-cultural land of Pomerania spreads from  Gdansk county to Chojnice on the line of Tczew-Starogard Gdanski – Swiecie.

- It was winter, 1807. There were fights between Polish and French troops fighting with the Prussians to get part of this land back. Lieutenant colonel Hurtig was informing gen Jan Henryk Dabrowski about moving the soldiers “towards Gociewie”. This fragment of a letter sent February 10 from Nowe, near Wistula River was the first time, the name of this area was mentioned – says Piotr Konczewski, a director of the Local Tourists Board KOCIEWIE.

There are 340.000 inhabitants living in Kociewie. They are called “Kociewiacy”, along with Kashubians, one of the most important social group in Pomerania. Let’s focus more on the practice, not theory. In our conversation We shall ask Piotr Konczewski about the things what characterise Kociewie and why it is worth coming here…

Piotr Konczewski: - It is worth coming to Kociewie for the several century tradition which testimony is the folk art, the dialect and local food. For unforgettable landscapes, historical heritage and original folk food. But first and foremost for people in Kociewie always welcome You with serenity.

Vistula bridges in Tczew, fot: pomorskie.travel

Pomerania.travel: - What we have to visit in Kociewie?

P.K.: - Kociewie is the land, which You can visit at any time of the year. It is really worth visiting Tczew to see the bridge from XIX c built by Carl Lentze, famous at that time architect. There is the only in Poland river museum here, Vistula River Museum, where in Wreck Conservatory Centre You can see boats from all over the world. For art fans there is a Art Factory, where You can visit different kinds of art exhibitions.

One more place important on the map of Kociewie is Pelplin, the spiritual capital of the region. There is a massive construction of the Basilica church with a famous painting by Herman Han “The coronation od St. Virgin Mary”. The Cistercians, while building the monastery did not forget about the citizens and the Holy Spirit church was built for them. You can find different styles of the interior there, form gothic to neo - baroque.   In a Diocese Museum there is the only in Poland piece of Gutenberg Bible. It is one of the most precious book in the world. A very special place in Pelplin is a hill near the city. June 6 1999, pope  John Paul II celebrated a mass there. Today a lot of pilgrimages come there.

Cistercian abbey in Pelplin, fot: UM Pelplin

Pomorskie.travel: - Kociewie is also associated with the ancient settlements and medieval constructions…

P.K.: - Fans of medieval tournaments should visit Gniew and the former Teutonic Castle, which was built in XIII/XIV c. It was a seat of a House Commander and later a Polish foremen, including, the most famous one,  - John III Sobieski. Today, there are tournaments and historical show’s organised here. While visiting the city, go and see the Old Town, where the square has remained its medieval shape.

Following the tradition of medieval nights, we have to also mention Johannites, whose castle was in Skarszewy and today You can see its remaining. Have a look also at the market square and medieval city walls.

Owidz Settlement is situated  close to the capital of Kociewie and also offers meetings with the history. There is reconstructed  settlement from IX c. where old Slavic tribes used to live. There is a Mythological Slavic Museum there too, where in a modern way You can learn more about people who lived here in the past.

Owicz settlement, fot: pomorskie.travel

Pomorskie.travel: - What about the capital of Kociewie?

P.K.: - Of course, it is worth going to Starogard Gdanski, the capital of the region. This settlement was built on the former ancient Amber Route and St. Mathew church still remembers those times. The church was built in XIV c. and impresses us with the number of sacral artefacts. Walking around the city pay your attention to the touristic trail, called “The crown and the cross”. Following it You will see the most important places in the city – for example the square market in the Old Town and three towers: Gdansk, Triangle and Tczew. There are also two history and cultural facilities here. Museum of Kociewie Land where You know more about the history and the culture of the region and the Musuem of Rokitna Chevau-leger, where You can have a living history lesson.

Pomoreskie.travel: - Kociewie is also a place for the active tourists.

P.K.: - There are over 800 km of cycling paths in the region, called Cycling Trail of Kociewie. They lead through the most interesting and most beautiful areas of Kociewie. The fans of water sports can go canoeing down the two rivers. Wda – a calm river where You can admire the nature of Wda Landscape Park or Zurski Lagoon. Those, who need adrenaline choose Wieżyca River, which is very curly and can offer us some surprises.

Canoeing down the Wieżyca river, fot: LOT Serce Kaszub

Pomorskie.travel: - Kociewie has extremely rich culture. There are famous embroidered table cloths and napkins here with flower, wheat and poppyseed patterns. There is also a typical kind of tree shaped laces on vest typical for the women folk clothes tradition.

P.K.: - Yes, indeed. What’s more – along with the embroidery and the traditional clothes people in Kociewie has got their characteristic dialect, which is registered as a part of the greater Poland dialect. The culture of Kociewie that is also its kitchen and food, which is very varied  because the food was different at the lakes and rivers and different in the low lands and forests. There were mainly vegetables, fruits, forest fruits and fish. Meat was served usually during festivals.

Pomorskie.travel: - People from Kociewie, Low Lands, citizens from the Tricity. Shared life is in peace and symbiosis…

P.K.: - Of course, it is… We are aware of the fact that people come to Pomerania to visit mainly the Tricity with Gdansk and the sea side. Kociewie has got many advantages from that as well. More and more tourists, during summer time, organise loser and further trips away from the beach … to Kociewie.

Castle in Gniew, fot: Castle in Gniew

I can admit, we are less popular that Kashuby region but popularity is not the same as the attractiveness and the touristic potential. The last one is on our side. I am sure we have far more to offer when the cultural tourism is concerned: artefacts, such as Pelplin or Gniew, the Owidz settlement, an arboretum in Wirty, the complex of the Art Factory in Tczew, Vistula River Museum and the Centre of Wreck Conservation. We have to also remember about the Nowe near Vistula , Swiecie or Tlen. All that, plus the attractions of the active tourism: cycling or canoeing and the offers of the holiday resorts and guesthouses with good food can become an alternative for the nearby Kashuby and even the sea side resorts.

The Cistercian Abbey in Pelplin

The Cistercian Abbey in Pelplin

That monastery (...) possessed such splendid and ornate edifices that it inspired the admiration of all people”      Jan Długosz, Dziejów polskich ksiąg dwanaście (Twelve books on Polish history), Volume IV, Book XI/
The Cistercian Order managed the Pelplin Land for nearly six centuries. The Gray Monks, as the Cistercians were once called, erected a magnificent monastery in this place thanks to the endowment granted by Duke Mściwoj II in 1274 who gave them Pelplin and the land between the rivers of the Wierzyca, the Janka, and the Węgiermuca. The convent, led by Abbot Werner, arrived in Mecklemburg two years later.
According to the legend, the location for the monastery was chosen by a donkey, who was released from the temporary seat of the Cistercians in Pogódek. When it reached Pelplin, it brayed and refused to go any further. The monks, enchanted by the vistas of the beautiful valley of the Wierzycy, decided to stay here. Abbot Werner supposedly said "Bonum est nos hic esse", i.e. "It is a good place for us to be".
The friars must have come across earlier buildings in the area - the earliest traces come from the turn of the 14th Century.
When Cistercians were building a monumental church on the Latin Cross plan upon the Wierzyca, the Devil, who anxiously waited for sinful souls, grew greatly exasperated. Seeing the extraordinary beauty of the edifice erected to the glory of the One True God, he felt the desire to destroy it and oppress the Gray Monks. Under cover of darkness, he roamed around Kociewie to find a stone big enough to destroy the cathedral. When his evil plan was nearly complete, dawn took him by surprise. As the rooster crowed, the dark power left him, and the enormous boulder grew so heavy that it fell into the Wierzyca and sank to the bottom, where it remains to this day.
The two centuries of erecting the Pelplin temple saw many more extraordinary events that might have been caused by the Devil's envy, as reported by the Pelplin Chronicle. Despite all the misfortunes and adversities the edifice was eventually completed with the use of innovative technological solutions - a special lift, wheel and axle, and balance systems - employed to elevate the wooden elements of the roof truss. To this day they are admired by visitors to the cathedral's attics. The completion date is assumed to be 1557, however, when the last vaults were placed.
South of the church a monastery was built with its wings centred around cloisters surrounding a rectangular garth (inner garden).
Beyond the monastery walls, in the early 14th Century, the "Chapel in front of the gate" was built to serve converts and laymen (today it is the Corpus Christi Chapel).
The 14th Century saw the construction of fine farm buildings, as the Pelplin abbey successively received new land from the Dukes and Kings of Poland: Przemysław, Wacław II, Wacław III, and Władysław I the Elbow-High.
The monastery developed its writing culture, including the local scriptorium. It gradually expanded the collections of the monastery's library, a large part of which has survived in the Diocesan Library. The abbey was ravaged during the Hussite invasion (1433) and plundered several times during the Thirteen Years' War (1454-1466) and during the 17th-Century Polish-Swedish wars. However, it was also the time of the abbey's intensive development, largely thanks to the numerous foundations.
A view of Pelplin Abbey is encountered in the townscape of an unknown painter from 1774. The layout of the monastery complex has remained unchanged.
In 1823 the Prussian King Frederic William II issued a decree to dissolve the abbey. The Cistercian heritage was taken care of by the Chełmno Diocese which chose Pelplin as its Capital (since 1992 the Pelplin Diocese).