Majówka in Mazury (words)

With public holidays in Poland on the 1st and 3rd of May, it is very popular to join these days together with the 2nd as well as an appropriately close weekend and make a short holiday of it. This holiday period is known locally as Majówka. Many people stay in Poland for this holiday and either go home to visit parents/friends or go to spend some time in the mountains, lakes or seaside.

We like the Polish lake area and tend to favour this time of year for a visit. Depending on the severity of the winter, everything should have thawed out and spring should be in full flow making the countryside a refreshing change from the Warsaw air and concrete blocks. This year was no exception and we booked a villa, or cottage, at a “resort” somewhere between Nidzica and Ostroda, about 170 km north of Warsaw. Here’s a link.

This is a place we’ve never been to before but we fancied a break from the 4-5 hour drive needed to get to our previous favourite guest house in the Suwałszczyzna area, which is about 300 km away, close to the Lithuanian border. We booked at the end of January, which is about the latest you can leave it if you want to get your first choice.

Much as we like Mazury, I think next year we’ll use the time to do a city break somewhere outside Poland. There are two things that annoy during this holiday and they are starting to grate. One is the weather. I always have this romantic notion that the weather will be glorious and it hardly ever is. This year was no exception, fine days at the beginning and end (travelling days) and in the middle we had clouds, wind and rain. The other is the traffic. With so many people hitting the roads and with the roads being so pathetic, the jams can be pretty awful. On the way home we tried the A7 a few times as it was the most direct route but every time we came back to it we managed about 10 km before we came to a halt and this wasn’t close to a junction or anything, this was in the middle of nowhere on a long stretch of what should be clear road. I have to say the sat-nav came into its own and we just drove off down the nearest dirt track and let the nav lady work out another route. It’s a pity these things don’t have a setting called “a really twisty route on country roads that nobody uses but ends up back at home”. In the end, what should have been 1.5hrs on a clear road took 3hrs and a lot of close shaves with drunken village folk!

Adding to the frustration this year was the place we chose to stay at. It was a beautiful estate, no problem there, but it was one of those places where they get you in with sort-of-okay prices for the accommodation and then, because you’re a captive audience, try and skin you with the prices for all the other stuff. As examples; this place makes a big deal of the food and there’s no doubt the food was good but for our first dinner we paid 569 PLN. That was for three starters, two main courses, three deserts and a tiny bottle of wine. We have probably paid that amount for dinner twice in the last X years, both times in swanky restaurants in Warsaw. There’s no way we should be paying that in the middle of the countryside, no matter how good the food is. By comparison, the following evening we ate at a restaurant outside the complex where we all had tons of perfectly good food for 69 PLN, a whole 500 PLN cheaper! We didn’t have the “white glove” service and they didn’t have flambéed pigeon’s gonads on a bed of wild rice with a raspberry mint sauce on the menu but it was plenty good enough for us.

Another example, they had a basement with a bar and games area. The games were mostly coin operated ones (making a profit) but there was also a pool table. No signs by the pool table and nobody, that we saw, watching us and yet mysteriously on the bill appeared a charge for using the pool table. You want to take a rowing boat on the lake? You pay for it. If we’d paid dirt cheap prices for the accommodation, I might be able to justify it, but we didn’t. I find those sort of things annoying, cheap money grabbing tricks that might work with some people but simply ensure that we never return.

Still, despite the weather, the traffic and the greed we did manage to enjoy ourselves! The air was clean, the countryside was green and fresh. The frogs were hopping around (had to eject one of them from the lounge!), the Storks had returned as they always do this time of year. We walked, we rode, we rowed, we visited castles, we slept well.

I’ve decided that the Mazurian countryside that can be found closer to Warsaw is not as good as that further away. It’s good enough, make no mistake, but it’s just not quite as wild or unspoilt. I think when we do go back to the lakes we’ll stick with the 4hr drive option.

Nevertheless, next year is Barcelona, Venice or some other place we need to go. Probably won’t cost much more, will certainly be better weather and less traffic.

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