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Walking through the Kampinos Wilderness

An elk in the Kampinos Wilderness An elk in the Kampinos Wilderness

Granica – the Kampinos Wilderness

Just outside the gates of the lively capital lies the Kampinos National Park, established on 16 January 1959. It is the second largest national park in Poland. It was established to protect the best preserved complexes of European inland dunes, natural forests and swamps. More than three thousand species of animals inhabit the park, including the moose, beaver, lynx, lesser-spotted eagle, black stork, the crane. There are many places of national remembrance from the years 1863, 1939, 1944 in here. The Kampinos Wilderness is located northwest of Warsaw in the Vistula proglacial stream valley.  The forest landscape is dominated by sand dunes and marshes. This area was formed during the glacier period by waters from a melting glacier flowing into the sea through a 18 km wide riverbed of the Old Vistula. The sandy shoals are currently dune areas, mostly covered with pinewood. The old areas where water used to flow now make up swamps with alder-birch forests, sedge areas and meadows.

The world of animals in the forest is very rich. Apart from elk, which represents the fauna of the Kampinos (its image appears on the emblem of the park), the forests and meadows of the park are full of large mammals such as deer, wild boars, foxes, deer and badgers. Noteworthy are the numerous anthills, while marshy areas trouble tourists with mosquitoes, that is why one should not forget to take some deterrent measures. One should also look under his feet, so as not to step on a viper.

We go to the town of Granica, where we will start our tour of the forest trails. We can here from Warsaw by route no. 580 towards Sochaczew. After about 40 km we stop at the town of Kampinos to see a wooden church. It is clearly visible from the road, therefore no one should have problems getting there. It was built of fine-ringed Kampinos pine in 1783. The facade resembles stone churches built in the Baroque-Classicist style. Across the street is a parsonage. The cemetery is the burial place of insurgents from 1863 and the soldiers of 1939. Next to the church is a classical mansion. In 1863, the rebel headquarters of Zygmunt Padlewski stationed here. During the last war there was a border police outpost here. The frontier between the Reich and the General Government ran through the Kampinos Wilderness.

We enter the Kampinos National Park right outside Kampinos. We get to a parking lot in the town of Granica. The parking lot is well maintained. It features a catering spot, camping, playground, fireplace, toilets and a ticket kiosk where you can buy guide books. There is also a possibility of horse-drawn carriage rides through the wilderness. Prices are negotiated individually. Next to the lodge is the Kampinos Museum, one of the many facilities under the supervision of the Didactics and Museum Center - an educational entity of the Kampinos National Park founded in 1990.

The museum consists of two rooms, one showing plants growing in the forest, and the other the world of animals. A special place is devoted to historical events which took place in the wilderness and to memorabilia associated with these events, mainly from the period of the January Uprising and World War II. Opposite the museum is an open-air exhibition presenting all Polish national parks. In the vicinity of the museum you will see an open-air museum of the forest building- three old peasant farmsteads, with thatched and shingled cottages.

Graves of the fallen soldiers of the Polish ArmyTo take a longer walk through the forest we initially follow yellow signs, but only for a short while, then we move along a common blue and green trail. We pass the oldest area of strict natural preservation called 'Granica', established in 1936. It comprises a fragment of the southern part of the dune belt bordering on the southern belt of marshes. The area features pine forest mixed with oaks. Wetlands also boast hornbeam, dark (black) birch dark and aspen. The undergrowth is lush and the underbrush is varied. The predominant species are those typical of forests. As we continue into the forest we encounter a grave of a soldier from 1939, which reminds of the bloody events, which took place in mid-September 1939. After the Battle of Bzura the Polish army withdrew to the east and northeast. Part of the army "Łódź", which was commanded by General Thommée, passed the Kampinos Wilderness from the side of Leszno and Zaborowo to the north - to Modlin. At the same time,  after the battle of Bzura, the Greater Poland Cavalry Brigade under the command of General W. Abraham, with the surviving remnants of the Army "Poznań" (Gen. W. Bortnowski) forced their way through the woods, sands and marshes to the east - to Warsaw. The enemy attacked from the south, north ... and the air.

The trail runs close to the edge of the strict protection area. We get to the old town of Narty. We approach the reserve 'Nart' established in 1940, which is now a strictly protected area. Exceptionally beautiful, noble and simple mast pines, as well as oaks and hornbeams grow here.  In May, one can smell the wonderfully fragrant lilies of the valley, and Turk's cap lilies add to the diversity of the landscape. When the trails split we continue to follow the blue signs.

We reach the area of strict protection called 'Zamczysko', where a medieval stronghold of the thirteenth century is located. One should come closer and see a tall, cylindrical hill, surrounded by two belts of ramparts and moats. The wooden stairs lead us to the place where there was a castle centuries ago. All we can see today is the landscaped changed by the old moats. The stronghold is covered by over a hundred years old mixed forest. All species of trees and shrubs, that one can expect to see in a forest, can be found here. There is a grave of an AK's soldier from 1944 on the rampart of the stronghold.

During the occupation (1939-1944) many centers of resistance emerged in the Kampinos Wilderness.  Warsaw troops drills and cadet training took place in the forests. Armed clashes often occurred.

In the summer of 1944, in the eastern part of the Kampinos, AK troops gathered in the number of 1300 people. In time, the group grew to over 2500 people. Major 'Szymon' (Józef Krzyczkowski) took command. On August 2, a troop consisting of about 1,000 soldiers under the command of 'Szymon' was supposed to take over the Bielany airport. The attack failed as a result of overwhelming enemy fire.  Later, the 'Kampinos' group took part in the insurgent fighting in Żoliborz, particularly in the bloody assault on the Gdańsk Station. After the withdrawal of the remaining group to the woods there was a period of fighting in the vicinity of Sowia Wola, Brzozówka, Pociecha, Sieraków, Truskawie. The insurgents were in control of the area between Wiersze, Roztoka, Cybulica and Małocice. This area, entirely free of the occupiers, then came to be called the 'Independent Republic of Kampinos'. In late September, under pressure of the predominating enemy forces the 'Kampinos' group, commanded by Major "Okoń" (Alfons Kotowski) withdrew from the Kampinos into the Świętokrzyskie Mountains. Most of this group was defeated when crossing the Błonska highway and the railway line at the battle of Jaktorów.

After leaving the stronghold area we get the trail junction again, which is exactly to the same place where we left off to get to Zamczysko. This time we will follow the red signs. The trail passes through the wetland area. After the rain one must have suitable footwear, whereas in the spring and summer - an insect repellent. A more dry area is located near the Pine of Insurgents of 1863. In 1984 it fell due to age; very little fragments of the tree survived, but it is an important historic monument. It is located on the outskirts of Górki. The tsarist soldiers to hang insurgents members of the troop participating in the Battle of Zaborów Leśny used this pine tree. In spring 1863, Jarosław Dąbrowski, who was imprisoned at the Warsaw Citadel, put forward a plan to take control over the fortress during the Easter period (according to Old-Rite Church). The attack was to be carried out by an insurgent group from the Kampinos Wilderness led by Walery Remiszewski. The insurgents arrived to the outskirts of Warsaw, but the enemy - forewarned - increased vigilance, reinforced posts, and Remiszewski was ordered to withdraw into the forest. The troop marched from Babice through Lipków and Truskaw to the Zaborów forests. They were closely followed by Tsarist troops. On 24th April, near the village of Zaborowska Gać (now the ‘Zaborów Forest’ Strict Protection Area) a battle with the overwhelming forces of the enemy took place. It killed 72 insurgents along with the commander Walery Remiszewski. Dead bodies were buried in a common grave on the top of a dune located in the vicinity of the forester’s lodge (now the ‘Zaborów Forest’ Strict Protection Area). The remains of the Remiszewski troop were defeated in the skirmishes near Górki and Stara Dąbrowa. Survivors wandered in the forests for long time. They were caught by the Cossacks and hanged or shot without a trial. It was the pine tree on the edge of Górki which served as a gallows. More and more numerous graves appeared on the roadside dunes. Local people buried the dead at night in the cemetery in Kampinos.

Apart from the pine tree one can see crosses and a shrine on the edge of the village. There are also shelters and benches. After a short rest one can begin the way back.

At the Insurgent Pine the trail has to be changed again; this time the green signs are to be followed - first along the path, then through a narrow path in the woods, and after some time we find ourselves on the road again. We finally come to the known "Nart" area of strict protection. We continue along the trail route common to both the green and blue trails. Just before the Granica village we enter the yellow trail and come to the parking lot.

If we decide to stay in the forest at night, we can leave Granica the next day for another trip.

Leaving the parking lot, turn left. On our way we pass a military cemetery in the shape of a stylized eagle with the graves of 800 soldiers, including the regimen of the 7th Greater Poland Mounted Riflemen, who died on 16-17 September 1939. Cemeteries in Babice, Borzęcin, Kampinos Kiełpinie on the Vistula, Laski, Leszno, Pociesze, Wiersze, Wiktorów, Zaborów - hide the graves of many thousands of those who died in the Kampinos Wilderness during the September campaign, the occupation and the Warsaw Uprising.

The trails behind the cemetery lead in two directions; we choose the one going west. Initially, it is also a walking path we can meet some persistent tourists, but after a distance of about 1 km it is getting empty. We go towards the Insurgents Oak. The route passes through a beautiful mixed forest. You can hear the sounds of many birds every. We come to the oak, on which Tsarist Cossacks hanged the participants of the January Uprising.

Just behind the oak the route leads along the edge of the forest. We see a great clearing, with a solitary clump of trees. These are the extensive mud bogs of Bieliny. It is worth to stop here for a moment to admire the vast expanse. Forests were cut here in the second half of the nineteenth century.

After a short contemplation we entering the forest again. This is perhaps the prettiest stretch of the trail. Signposts lead us through a varied terrain, we pass the dunes. We have to either climb or descend the hill all the time. That brings us to the purpose of our journey, that is, to the oak of St. Therese. The name of the oak and of the dunes comes from a shrine hanging on the tree with the image of St. Therese. There is a shelter here and - unfortunately - a forest road used by cars and motorcycles. After a short rest we return along the same route. The whole trip takes more than three hours. The route is about 12 km.

Practical information:

Warsaw - Kampinos: 50 km. A total of 100 km.
Visiting the museum in Granica - 1 hour, a guided tour of the wilderness - 8 hours.


Agritourist farm, Krystyna Perkowska, Kampinos, ul. Dolna 8 a, phone: (22) 725 02 64

Agritourist farm, Halina Brzezińska and Zofia Gawlak, Kampinos, ul. Chopina 16, phone: (22) 725 03 73,

Other agritourist farms:


Czyściec Bar , ul. Chopina 17, Kampinos

Niebo Cafe, ul. Chopina 11a, Kampinos

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