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 Arcade houses
The Castle in Malbork
The landscape of Żuławy
The Vistula Spit
Nowy Dwór Gdański and its environs
The narrow-gauge railway
The Żuławska Loop
Cittaslow w Pomorskiem