Escaping Into the Unknown

Poles love their beer
Lovely downtown eateries

Ever dreamed of really getting away? Problem is that others have the same desire, so there are lots of other people also trying to get away, meaning you don’t actually get the peace you sought.

Here I offer one approach to increase the possibility of truly getting away: go to a foreign country’s resort where locals mainly go. You won’t be able to communicate with others there unless you speak their language or they speak English.

My recent travels brought me to one unlikely option for doing this, Augustow, Poland, a remote lake resort and spa in far northeastern Poland. To get there you fly into Warsaw and drive about three and one-half hours. Once there, you’ll be surrounded by beautiful lakes and wonderful people in a small town environment. The prices will be about half what you’d pay at the cheapest place in the U.S. for food at restaurants, drinks at the pubs and for accommodations.

Parts of the downtown will look like a Swiss ski resort in summer, but you’ll probably spend most of your time in a lakeside accommodation away from downtown.

If you choose to interact with the locals, most of the younger folks speak some English. Everyone I spoke with was super friendly. If you show any interest in them, they are very interested in learning all they can about America and to practice their English. If you’re interested, they’ll teach you a bit of Polish.

Activities in the area are numerous. Kayaking is very popular. The favored place to do this is a canal built nearly two centuries ago that connects Poland to Belarus, not a recommended place to go, but you can stay on the 80 kilometers of the canal that is in Poland.

Another popular sport in this resort town is water skiing on Lake Necko where Augustow installed an eight-person water ski cable in 1999 to increase the opportunities to practice even without a boat tow.

Numerous small cruise ships plow the waters. Some offer concerts on board. The ship season begins in April. Alternative boating opportunities exist in gondola and catamaran ships, which can get into areas too small for the cruise ships.

Fishing in the crystal clear waters of Augustow offer some outstanding possibilities in summer and winter. Anglers fish here for vendace, pike, catfish, eel, roach, pike perch, whitefish, carp, perch and tench.

Off the water, bicycle though the heavily forested areas nearby. Courses range from leisurely to challenging. For long distance bicyclists, Poland has a marked 2,000-kilometer trail that runs through the Augustow area.

Horseback riding is a Polish tradition that dates back ages, and in Augustow, there is a horse riding trail that extends about 400 kilometers, the second longest in Poland. Horse-drawn vehicle rides are offered when weather conditions permit.

Of course, a spa must have health treatments, and Augustow is no exception with sanatoriums using various techniques, from therapeutic mud and cryotherapy. There are also camps focused on slimming down. Specialty treatments include Russian steam baths and salt cave dry or steam saunas.

Hiking is quite popular for those who want to work on their bodies by themselves. The embankment of the Netta River is popular with trails up to 10 kilometers.

A unique activity here is mushroom picking. The local forest has exactly the right climate for a mushroom paradise in autumn. Not being into mushrooms myself, I don’t even know what these varieties are, but I am told people come from all around to pick boletus, bay bolete, chanterelle, suillus, yellow knight, macrolepiota and procera.

So, consider this foreign spa lake resort an option for your next exotic getaway vacation. There’s certainly a lot to do!

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