La dénomination "Żuławy" littéralement « Marais » désigne un terrain à la superficie presque complètement plate, unique en Pologne. Le long du delta de la Vistule, reine des rivières polonaise, s’étendent à perte de vue des champs multicolores, mais de temps à autre, le paysage est agrémenté par des saules pleureurs, se penchant au-dessus des canaux. Le caractère agricole des Żuławy est accentué par les villages placés selon les plans des Chevaliers Teutoniques, et les cimetières mennonites magnifiquement situés rappelant ces immigrés des Pays-Bas qui vivaient sur ces terres.

La superficie des Żuławy recouvre plus de 1740 km², dont 450 km² au-dessous du niveau de la mer. Dans la ville de Raczki Elbląskie, se trouve un point situé à 1,8 mètre en-dessous du niveau de la mer, c’est le point le plus bas de Pologne. Dans la zone des Żuławy et ses environs, se situent également des grandes villes comme Nowy Dwór Gdański, Tczew, Malbork et les Trois Cités c’est à dire Gdańsk, Gdynia et Sopot. Une caractéristique des Żuławy est leur situation géographique en dessous du niveau de l’eau, ce qui les rend inondables. L’excès d’eau est régulé par les canaux, les digues anti-inondations, les fossés de drainage et les pompes.

Les premières habitations dans la région des Żuławy datent probablement de l'Age de Bronze. Cependant, peu d’habitants s’établirent durant les siècles suivant en raison de conditions naturelles difficiles: les marécages et le risque constant d'inondation avaient un effet très dissuasif sur les habitants potentiels. Cette situation a changé grâce aux Chevaliers Teutoniques, en effet, ceux-ci ont commencé à assécher les terres, construire des digues et des canaux. Ainsi la région s’est peu à peu peupler. Les habitants ont commencé à couper les forêts et à cultiver la terre. Déjà au XVe siècle, les habitants étaient obligés de drainer les zones. Au XVIe siècle, des Mennonites venus des Pays-Bas se sont installés ici et ont apporté avec eux leurs traditions et leur culture. En plus d’eux, d’autres cultures étaient présentes sur le territoire des Zulawy comme celles : de Poméranie, des Chevaliers Teutoniques, allemande, polonaise, puis après la IIe guerre mondiale, la culture ukrainienne apportée par les migrants des confins septentrionaux de la Pologne de l’entre-deux guerre. Les destructions de la fin de la IIe guerre mondiale furent catastrophiques pour la région : en 1945, l’armée allemande en débâcle détruisit la plupart des digues anti-inondation ainsi que les pompes, inondant ainsi toute la région. Les années d’après-guerre furent celles d’un intense effort pour assécher ces zones, sur lesquelles s’établirent des colons venus de l’intérieur des terres.

Parmi les monuments caractéristiques des Żuławy, nous pouvons citer : les églises pittoresques au clocher caractéristique en bois, les maisons à arcades, les cimetières mennonites magnifiquement situés, ainsi que les constructions des villages datant déjà du Moyen-âge. Vous pouvez également profiter d’autres attractions.

Vous pouvez également faire un tour en train historique à voie étroite, effectuer une croisière le long des rivières et des canaux de la boucle Żuławski, visiter le Parc Historique Żuławski ou découvrir l’itinéraire Mennonite.

From the Teutonic chicken to Mennonite sausage

- People worked hard in the past in  Żuławy (low land), so the food was greasy and in big quantities. There was also an alcohol – beer and strong vodkas. Many times in old memories there is  a story of a bottle of Machandel put at the end of the field – so the work in the field would go faster – says Marek Opitz, expert and the passionate of Low Land, the director of Nowy Dwor Passionate Association, called “Klub Nowodworski”, the owner od the arcaded house “Little Dutchman” in Zelichowo.

Pomorskie.tarvel: - Today, we want to talk about the Low Land kitchen…

Marek Opitz: -   To know more about he kitchen in Low Land , We have to know more about the Low Land, the youngest part of Poland, development first. We can treat this area as a big opened book where every generation left something from themselves.

 

Pomorskie.travel: - So, let’s start form the Teutonic times.

Marek.Opotz: - I would mention a black chicken (chicken rubbed with gingerbread, roasted black and turned into ashes) served, along with medieval tradition with spices. But poultry is one just thing. Second is fish. The Vistula Lagoon was controlled by the Teutonic Order and the Fishing Master.

Fish always have been part of Żuławy cuisine, on the photo  herring prepared for smoking, fot. Marek Opitz

In the castle of Szkarpawa he checked the catch of fish and divided them. For example, sturgeon was transported to Gdansk markets and Malbork castle, where it was marinated, smoked and salted. The records prove that there were special sheds where the sturgeon masters worked… What’s more the village names show that there were really a lot of crayfish here as well – Rakowe pole (Crayfish Filed), Rakowiska (Crayfish Area) or Rakowo (Crayfish Place).

Pomorksie.travel: - Going forward while talking about the Low Land kitchen, we have to mention Mennonites…

Marek Opitz: - Along with the religion tolerance development in XVI c. Low Land became the place where Mennonites settled. Thanks to them the cheese and alcohol production develop.

Stobbes Machandel - juniper vodka produced by the mennonite Stobbe family. Fot. Marek Opitz

Those who came from the Netherlands were famous from special cheese production, called “podpuszczkowy cheese”. Those, who came from the Northern Germany, especially Stobbe Family, were famous form producing famous juniper drink – “Machandel”.

Sampler with cheese werderkase. Fot. Marek Opitz

Mennonites were also sausage experts. They added the best pork and beef meat. There was an old saying that is something is really good, it is as good as the Mennonite sausage. Thanks to Mennonites there are also so many kinds of fruit trees here (so unusual for this part of Europe). Mennonite leaders ordered to plant the fruit trees, so people had a lot of jams and marmalades and famous apple butter – made in a similar way as the lump jam. Till today there is a apple butter competition organised in Canada.

The variety of flavors of Żuławy cuisine was also apreciated by Karol Okrasa. Fot. Marek Opitz
 

Pomorskie.travel: - After eating such Mennonite sausage, You had to drink something probably…

Marek Opitz: - Since the Teutonic times every farmer brewed his own beer, we know that from old drawings. In a household registers there are usually a copper boiler to brew beer. The local beer production was so huge, that Gdansk and Elblag forbidden to brew beer at home, except the harvesting time. Reading the old XIX c. newspapers, We know that in Nowy Dwor Gdanski, called before the WWII Tiegenhof, there were “Kozlak” beer competition organised. It was strong 6, 7 % alcohol beer, known from XVII c from Einveck in Lower Saxony.

Brewing beer at home was the domain of almost every host. On the photo old beer bottles.  Fot. Marek Opitz

Pomorskie.travel; - What about the Low Land deserts?

Marek Opitz; - We have to mention the marzipan and the gingerbread. Till today in the Marzipan Museum in Lubeck, You can admire the cake forms from Low Land and in the Ethnographic Museum in Torun, a gingerbread form from Nowy Dwor Gdanski – the capital of Low Land.

 Marzipan cookies from Żuławy. Fot. Marek Opitz

Pomorskie.travel: - Is the Low Land kitchen still alive?

Marek Opitz: - Today, as more people, who live here are ware of their local identity, they want to have their kitchen, too and as You see we have ready recipes and inspiration. There are culinary books being published, for example “Low Land Culinary” by Artur Wasilewski as well as regular culinary competitions organised by the Low Land Association in Trutnowy. A very good inspiration are alos books by Bogdan Galazka from “Gothic” restaurant in Malbork Castle or Low Land climate in Cedrowy Dworek restaurant oi Cedry Wielkie. A big promotion of a local kitchen is done by the Rural Ladies Associations, who offer their food during the festivals, fairs and harvesting time. “Zulawskie Smaki” concentrate the Low Land food producers, which are “as good as Mennonite sausage”. Important role has also Low Land Museum, promoting the food with the kitchen and machandel exhibitions. For many years, we also have a feast of “The day of Settlers”, organised by the Nowy Dwor Club.

Old kitchen in Museum of  Żuławy in Nowy Dwór Gdański. Fot. Marek Opitz

Pomorksie.travel: - Many restaurants appreciate now the old recipes and traditional Low Land kitchen. You, as the owner of “The Little Dutchmen” think the same.

Marek Opitz: - “The Little Dutchmen” appreciate old tradition and promotes the Low Land kitchen. In a saved and moved old, arcaded house for  Zelichowo, we have a restaurant, where every dish has its history and inspiration. Starting from the baked sturgeon, goose form the bread oven, dumplings with geese, Werderkase cheese, kings meat and meat soup according to the recipe of our former neighbour, Mr. Andreas and the cheesecake recipe of our grandmother Agata from Brzesc. When we add 15 kinds of local beer and the machandel, we have a typical, traditional Low Land kitchen, a combination of different history generations. It is a big satisfaction to bring the Low Land its food tradition back – like for example the story with the Werderkase cheese, which original recipe we tried for two years. Our effort was appreciated during the culinary market in Lodz, but he most important for us are our clients opinions’  - elderly Mennonite ladies, who recognised among many others, our Werderkase cheese, as the one they remembered form their childhood. We managed to reconstruct the recipe of that cheese thanks to our hard work in archives, simplicity and the processional support of the cheese master, Krzysztof Jaworski and dairy in Skarszewy.

Tasting regional cheeses in  Mały Holender. Fot. Marek Opitz

We invite You to the “Little Dutchmen”from May till November. Food for the groups we recommend to book in advance, as well as the culinary lessons of making cheese, beer and how to recognise wild growing plants.