How was Sobieszewo Island created?
Sobieszewo is a unique district of the city of Gdańsk, surrounded by the Śmiała Wisła river on the West, the Martwa Wisła river on the South, the Przekop Wisły on the East (all of these being branches of the longest Polish river, the Vistula – Wisła) and to top it all, the Bay of Gdańsk on the Baltic Sea on the North. The Island is a part of the Mierzeja Wiślana.
Sobieszewo Island was partially created as the result of the winter flood of 1840. Due to the ice obstruction near Płonia town, the swollen waters of the Vistula had broken through the dunes near Górki, thus dividing the village (now called Górki Zachodnie and Górki Wschodnie), and creating a new river mouth for the Vistula. Wincenty Pol called the new branch “Śmiała Wisła” in 1842. In this way, a new peninsula was formed – its western part being what now we know as Sobieszewo Island. The final shape of the island is the result of both natural phenomena and the human intervention in the Vistula’s hydrographic system.
How to tame the force of nature? The history of Przekop Wisły
To solve the problem of annual floods in Żuławy, on June 28th 1888 the Prussian Parliament passed the Bill 9303 including the directives on the Vistula dug-through, embankments regulations and construction of floodgates in Przegalin. An artificial canal was dug, measuring 7,1 kilometers from Szewce to the Bay of Gdańsk on the Baltic Sea. The official opening took place on March 31st 1895 at 3.45 pm (see the photo below).
The woods and the beaches of Sobieszewo Island
Sobieszewo Island is an area of about 35 km2 with more than 1000 ha of woods. The beach, 11 kilometers long, is the longest one in Gdańsk. It includes two guarded bathing areas – in Sobieszewo and in Orlinki.
On the Island there are two nature reserves: Ptasi Raj (Birds’ Paradise) on the western end of Śmiała Wisła and Mewia Łacha (Seagull Dune) on the East, near Przekop Wisły.
As an act of recognition of Sobieszewo Island’s natural beauty and unique value, the area has been granted the status of a legally protected nature park.
Historical floodgates, residences, wooden houses…
There is a variety of historical monuments and landmarks to be found on Sobieszewo Island. In Przegalina, there are floodgates built in 1895, perfectly visible from a viewing spot nearby the 2012 bascule bridge. In Świbno, Przegalina and Górki Zachodnie we can admire well-preserved wooden architecture as well as the island’s oldest, historical residences from XVIII and XIX century.
… and even seaplanes!
In the times of the Free City of Danzig (1920-1939), Górki Zachodnie was a home to a landing strip for seaplanes (also known as hydroplanes). The buildings of former passenger waiting rooms and the restaurant are now used by the University of Gdańsk for scientific and educational purposes.
The Water Tower and the Forster Residence
Beautiful view of the island and the surroundings can be admired from the top of the Water Tower in Orliinki (known as Zbiornik Kazimierz). Nearby we can find the Forster Residence (Forsterówka) – a wooden mansion built in the 1930s as a summer house to NSDAP gauleiter Albert Forster.
Culture, leisure and recreation on Sobieszewo Island
In the center of Sobieszewo, Gdański Archipelag Kultury „Wyspa Skarbów” runs Wincenty Pol Memorial Room. Wincenty Pol was a poet, geographer and explorer of the Polish lands. The Memorial Room hosts multiple cultural events throughout the year.
Sobieszewo Island is perfect for active leisure with opportunities of sunbathing, sea swimming, sailing, canoeing, fishing, Nordic walking and even backcountry skiing or just plain nature-watching.
Tourist can expect a variety of accommodation options, including hotels, guesthouses, camping areas and private rooms for rent. Multiple bistros and restaurants offer outstanding Polish and local cuisine, not to mention the opportunity to taste fresh Polish fish. Sea souvenirs can be bought in shops on virtually every corner.
The Island can be explored by walking, biking trips, horseback riding and sailing. The proximity of the Gdańsk’s Old Town (c.a. 15 km), makes the stay even more interesting.
The Sobieszewo Island residents welcome everyone to rest and relax in the surroundings of nature all year long.
English translation by Magdalena Szubstarska
Wincenty Pol Memorial Room
Wincenty Pol Memorial Room is a form of a museum, dedicated to life and work of a distinguished poet and geographer Wincenty Pol, also the author of the name of Śmiała Wisła, new Vistula branch created in 1840. The Memorial Room also serves to protect and popularize the heritage of Żuławy and Mierzeja Wiślana areas.
The Memorial Room is located at 3 Turystyczna Street in Sobieszewo, in one of the oldest preserved builidings on Sobieszewo Island which itself is the third largest Polish island.
The Memorial Room dates back 40 years, to 1974. Originally, it was located it one of the school rooms in local primary school. After few years it has been moved to the building at Turystyczna Street, which before WW2 used to be an elegant hotel “Lindenhof”. Thanks to the commitment of local activists and the very great grandson of the poet, late Adam Pol, a variety of exhibits connected not only with life and work of Wincenty Pol, but also with cultural and natural heritage of the Island and Żuławy Wiślane, has been collected.
Since 2007 the Memorial Room has been supervised by „Wyspa Skarbów” of Gdański Archipelag Cultury organization. After a thorough renovation and reorganization of exhibits, a new era of activity has begun. The younger audience is offered a variety of educational workshops to acquaint them with the culture and marine traditions of the area. The older visitors can find multimedia presentations a great way to get to know the history of Sobieszewo Island and Żuławy Wiślane. It has become a tradition now, for the Memorial Room to organize special exhibitions for the events such as the Museum Night or European Heritage Days.
Our work is highly inspired by Wincenty Pol’s ideals of spreading the knowledge about the local history of the Island and surrounding areas of Mierzeja and Żuławy Wiślane. We try to bring this knowledge and memory of his work to everyone who visits the Memorial Room.
Paweł Jaraczewski, GAK Wyspa Skarbów
English translation by Magdalena Szubstarska