Wolf’s Lair (Part 1)
Poland Day 21. I ventured east of Gdańsk to the site of Hitler’s main HQ during WW2.
I saved the girl at the apartments the bother of hauling my breakfast upstairs as I needed to get to the station early. This one was a four hour journey so I booked ‘first class’ to find it was a compartment wagon and I’d be sharing with two others. Apart from when we trundled through the odd small town, the views were rural, most of the scenery seeming to be ploughed fields getting ready for next round of pastures or crops.
I hopped out at the town of Kętrzyn (the pronounciation vs appearance of the word bamboozled me) in the region formerly known as Eastern Prussia. From here it’s very roughly 30km north to the border of Kaliningrad (Russia), and 150km east to Lithuania.
From here I needed to get to the village of Gierłoż 8km away and after pacing around for a bit, decided that getting a cab was in the way-less-hard basket than trying for a bus.
A short drive later along leafy tree-lined roads and falling leaves we arrived at the facility known as Wolf’s Lair (aka Wolfsschanze in German or Wilczy Szaniec in Polish). Hitler gave himself the nickname Wolf when he found that it was an old German version of Adolf.
Wolf’s Lair was home to about 80 buildings across several kilometres and 2,000 people. Hitler lived here for 2.5 years of WW2.
The area is separated into three zones, the first is where Hitler and his entourage was based so is where the prime sightseeing occurs. It is also where the now-hotel is. I checked in for my two night stay in what was the cheapest accommodation of my trip. This gave me a small and extremely basic room but it had a bathroom and wifi (dodgy though it was) which are my main requirements.
When I arrived there were several tour buses in the carpark so safe to say it’s a popular place, many making the day trip from Gdańsk or Warsaw. Hardly anyone else was staying in the hotel though I imagine it’s busier in summer – there’s also a big campground.
They’re set up quite well for tourism and at the other end of the hotel is the restaurant. I went there promptly for some overdue food before setting out to explore.
Zone one is marked out with a trail for which you need the accompanying map. I completed a couple of circuits during my stay, the second time was better as it was early morning when very few others were around.
The site is predominantly ruins. This isn’t from Allied bombing raids (one theory being that while they knew the site existed, it was beyond the range of their aircraft) but from when the Germans attempted to destroy the complex during their retreat in 1945.
Some sides of the enormous bunkers dotted around the place are still intact and it is incredible to see their size. Concrete ceilings could be up to 8m thick, built to withstand bombing raids should they come.
The next day I investigated zones two and three, the less frequently visited parts of Wolf’s Lair but no less interesting.
Distance walked: About 6km